Flooring manufacturers continually refine the technology of snap-together laminate flooring, making it a good choice for DIYers.

Step 1

Determine How Much Flooring to Buy

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The first thing you’ve got to do is find out the total area of the room you’re covering so that you know how much product to buy.

Measure the length and width of the room. Multiply those figures and then add 10 percent for wastage.

Most laminate flooring is made from wood fibers and pulp bonded to a plastic surface. There’s a slew of style choices — from rustic-looking hardwoods to exotic finishes or classical decor. You’ll also have to decide on texture, color and plank size.

Some other things you may want to consider in the selection process: the type of room, the type of subfloor, traffic level, sound insulation and your home decor.

Install methods vary by product. For this project, we’re covering a vinyl floor using laminate flooring with an oak finish. This flooring is a no-glue system that installs with the standard locking tongue-and-groove process.

Step 2

Prepare the Room

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Before you start the project, you'll need to get the room prepared. First, out with the old. Remove moldings, wall base and shoe trim. This may be a good time to update molding with something that complements your new floor.

The new flooring may add height to the floor. In that case, you'll need to undercut casings and jambs where necessary.

To do this, first set a scrap piece of laminate flooring on some foam underlayment. Place this on the floor next to the casing or jamb, then draw a line. This will mark the height you need to cut so the new flooring will fit under the jamb or casing.

Place a handsaw or undercut saw on top of the laminate flooring. With the blade flat, make the undercut. When you’re done, thoroughly vacuum all sawdust and remove all debris.

Step 3

Lay Out a Layer of Underlayment

Install the Underlayment

Install the Underlayment

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With a clean space, the next step is to install the underlayment. Underlayment is a thin foam padding and it's needed for any installation of laminate flooring. This layer will also help correct some of the minor imperfections in the subfloor.

Starting in one corner, unroll a layer of the underlayment in the same direction as the new floor. You want to butt the edges — don't overlap.

The underlayment cuts easily with a utility knife so you can fit it around obstacles like door jambs and structural bases.

Step 4

Tape Seams with Duct Tape

Tape the Underlayment Seams

Tape Down the Underlayment

Tape the seams with polyethylene tape, like duct tape, to create a moisture barrier. This is an especially important step if you are installing the flooring over concrete.

Step 5

Check the Materials

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With your floor prepped, wood trim removed and the underlayment down, you're almost ready to begin the floor install.

But first, take the time to check out your stock. Unpack a few boxes of flooring and inspect each piece for damage. You’re looking for any chips, splinters or dust in the tongue and the grooves.

These types of small imperfections can prevent the locking edges from forming a tight seam.

Once you're satisfied with the condition of your stock, you’re ready to install.

Step 6

Planning and Cutting

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Now that you have checked out your stock, there are a couple things you'll need to know before installing the first rows of flooring. The first row should be placed on the most visible wall, and it should be placed parallel to the longest wall in the room.

When you install the floor, you'll need to leave a quarter-inch space between the flooring edges and walls or any other permanent floor spaces, such as the base of cabinets. This space will allow room for the flooring to expand and contract with changes in humidity. Most laminate-flooring manufacturers provide quarter-inch plastic spacers as guides.

You really shouldn't have to make many cuts when installing the flooring, typically just for the end pieces of a row. But if you need to make a cut, no worries, laminate cuts just like wood. Use a square to mark a straight cut line.

When using power tools you should always take precautionary measures. Use a dust collector or the appropriate dust facemask. Use a saber saw to make the cut. And it's a good idea to make cuts in another area to keep the sawdust away from the installation site.

Step 7

Hammer Planks into Place

Install Floor Planks

Install the First Rows

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Working from right to left, start by placing the planks with the tongue side facing the wall.

With the first board flat, angle the next board so that the tongue and groove fit together. Lay the second board flat to lock the pieces together. Install the first row completely.

Maintain a 1/4-inch space between the flooring and the wall. Most likely a cut will be made on the last plank of the row. Use the leftover from that cut to start the next row. That way the seams will be staggered for a cleaner, more symmetrical look.

Use a hammering block to gently tap pieces into place. You want tight seams.

Step 8

Install Rows of Planks

Install Rows of Wood

Continue Installing Planks

To ensure a close-fitting seam when installing the last plank, place the piece against the wall and use a small pry bar to gently force the last piece snug against its neighbor. You want the tongue to fit into the groove.

After installing several rows, check to make sure that your flooring is straight and that the smallest gap between the flooring and the wall is no less than 1/4 inch.

If it's a bit more, don't panic. Base-shoe trim will cover gaps of up to 5/8 inch.

And here’s a tip to minimize pattern repeats in the floor: Don’t use flooring from just one box as you go. Always pull from at least three cartons while installing.

Step 9

Cutting Around Door Jambs and Obstructions

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Although installing a laminate floor is fairly easy, you may come up on a few tricky cuts, like around a door jamb. In cases like this, you’ll want to make a template using a piece of stiff cardboard.

Trace the outline of the template onto a plank. Finish by carefully wedging the cut piece in place.

In some instances, it’s almost impossible to lock pieces together perfectly under jambs or in corners. If that’s the case, use a sharp chisel or utility knife to shave away the bottom of the groove, and install the plank with white glue. Clamp or wedge the piece in place until the glue sets fully — about 30 minutes.

Step 10

Install the Last Row

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Now that you have covered most of the floor, worked around irregular cuts and left at least 1/4 inch around the floor edges, the last row can be set. If the last row of the flooring is narrower than the width of a plank, you’ll have to rip it lengthwise to fit.

With a sharp chisel or utility knife, cut off the tongue of the plank you're installing against.

Butt together the flat ends of the planks with white wood glue. Clamp or wedge the pieces in place until the glue sets fully, about 30 minutes.

Step 11

Cover Gaps with Molding

Install Baseboard and Shoe Molding

Install Baseboard and Shoe Molding

Finally, add molding to cover the gaps. That’s it! Now you have a finished floor that has tight seams, looks great and is a point of pride for the DIYer.