Goodbye Old Carpet, Hello New Laminate

It took us less than eight hours (not including acclimation time) and about $200 to remove old wall-to-wall carpeting and install new laminate floors. Laminate flooring is economical, very durable and easy to install. It is a great choice for almost any room with the exception of bathrooms and laundry rooms because laminates can buckle and warp in rooms with high humidity and moisture. They work well in kitchens as long as you clean up spills as soon as they happen and only use a damp mop not a soaking-wet mop. Laminates can work in foyers if they're not going to regularly encounter a lot snow and rain.

Step 1

Pull Up Carpet

Start by cutting the existing carpet between rooms if you aren't doing the whole house. Use a sharp utility knife and make one straight cut through the carpet across the doorway.

Carpet on padding (most common) is held down with perimeter tack strips. Gently pull the carpet at the doorway up and away from the wall. Once the carpet starts to come off the tack strips it will be easy to remove.

Step 2

Remove Carpet Padding + Tack Strips

Roll the carpet up in the short direction and remove it from the room. Carpet is recyclable if you live in an area with collection facilities. You can find out if there is a facility near you by checking Then remove the padding the same way. The padding may have some spots directly glued to the substrate. Use a metal putty knife to scrape these spots up.

To remove the tack strips, use a small pry bar and hammer. For wood subfloors, use the pry bar directly on the attachment nails. For concrete slabs, start by removing the wood portions of the tack strips so you can remove the hardened nails without chipping the concrete too much.

Step 3

Remove Baseboard

You can completely replace the baseboards or leave existing baseboards and just install new shoe mold over the new flooring. Since this room had cheap and short builder's-grade baseboards, we elected to replace them. To remove baseboards, score the caulk joint between the wall and the trim with a utility knife.

Pull the baseboard away from the wall with a metal putty knife to prevent damaging the wall surface or tearing the drywall paper. Then use a pry bar anywhere the baseboard is nailed.

Step 4

Level and Clean

Because a floating floor is not attached to the subfloor, it is very important to  make sure that the subfloor is perfectly level. Scrape up any remnant glue or paint with a metal putty knife.

Then sweep clean the room being particularly diligent to find loose tack strip nails.

Step 5

Check For Levelness

Use at least a 6' level to check for variations in the subfloor. Consult the manufacturer’s specifications for the maximum variation allowed. Generally accepted numbers are in the 1/4” to 3/16” range over 10'. In some cases, using a string line will be easier than using a shorter level or for odd shaped rooms. Installing a floating floor over a poor subfloor can lead to noise and product failures. The number one complaint of floating floors is that they can feel “spongy” in spots, which is likely caused by underlying variations. If your subfloor is not even enough, level it out by sanding the high spots (in the case of wood subfloors) or using a leveling compound.

Step 6

Acclimate the Flooring

Allow the flooring to acclimate in the room where it will be installed. Again follow the manufacturer's directions but since floating floors are more dimensionally stable than wood, generally accepted time frame is 2-4 days.

When selecting flooring, consider the look, thickness, warranty and pre-applied padding. Single plank floors with V-edges will look more realistic. Thicker floors (10-13mm) will feel more substantial to the foot and generally carry a longer warranty. Flooring with pre-applied underlayment will also save you a step.

Step 7

Determine Layout + Do the Math

Before installing, check the width of the room. Generally, installing the planks parallel to the main view of the room will make the room appear larger, so check perpendicular to this angle.

Measure the finished face of one plank. Divide the room width by the plank width. This not only will tell you the number of rows but also the last row cut width. Generally you want to keep cut pieces at a minimum of 2” to 3” in width. In our case, the last row would be just over 2”. If you need to, cut down the first row on a table saw to make the last row slightly wider.

Step 8

Prep Door Frames

Under-cut door frames and any locations where shoe molding cannot be used. Flip over a spare piece of flooring on two pieces of spare underlayment and use a vibratory saw to remove the lower portions of door frames. Alternatively, you can use a hand pull or trim saw which takes a bit more technique to make a clean cut.

Step 9

Install Underlayment

Install the underlayment according to the manufacturer's instructions and be sure to tape the seams.

Step 10

Lay First Piece

Layout the first row checking to see how long the last piece will be. Generally, you want this piece to be at least 12” on the first row. Trim the first piece in the row if necessary to make the last piece longer. Because floating floors will expand and contract some, use a spare piece of flooring vertically against the wall to create a gap.

Step 11

Make First Cut

To make the first cut, flip the last board over and use a square to mark it even with the previous full piece.

Then mark which side is the “drop” so you don't cut on the wrong side of the line.

Use a small circular or jigsaw make the cross cut on the “drop” side of the line. A speed square can also help you make the cut straighter than just free hand. If the dropped piece is large enough, save it for the next row.

Step 12

Snap Together

When you have all the pieces for the first row, assemble them by rocking the end tongue and groove joints together. Be sure to use even and firm pressure when pushing them together.

Avoid off-angle or not flush conditions because these will weaken the joint and will cause alignment issues on the next row.

Step 13

Transitioning Doorway

When you get to a doorway, measure the length of board that needs to slider under the trim.

Use a pencil to mark the top of the board in the area of the cut.

Notch the board using a table saw or jigsaw. If the doorway is close to your starter row, join the boards out from under the trim. Then slide the whole assembly back under the door.

Step 14

Joining Boards

When joining the next full piece, be sure the long edge is tight but the short edge isn't overlapping.

Step 15

Attaching Length

Rock the board down while tapping a rubber mallet against a spare piece of flooring. Depending on the thickness of the flooring, you may need to repeat this down the length of the board.

Step 16

Attaching Width

Close the gap at the small edge by tapping the opposite end again with a spare piece of flooring to prevent damaging the tongue and groove edge.

Step 17

Staggered + Systematic

Continue installing rows in a pyramid pattern. This will help keep the installation nice and straight.

Step 18

Closing Gaps

When near a wall, use a pull bar to close up the short gap. The pull bar allows you to strike with the mallet away from the wall while still transferring the force into the board. A makeshift pull bar can also be made from a pry bar and piece of wood. When measuring for the boards that are close to wall, be sure to take into account the gap needed at the wall. Since we were installing new baseboard, having too large a gap is less critical. If you are installing against existing baseboard, be sure to keep the gap smaller than 1/2” so the shoe mold covers it completely.

Step 19

Under a Doorway

The next tricky spot will be the leading edge of a doorway. Since you can't slide a board under the door with a U-shaped notch, break this section into two different boards. We chose to install the closet board first and then slide it back under the door trim using a pry bar.

For complicated cuts, make a drawing with dimensions so you can prevent cutting the piece backward which is a very common mistake.

Then an L-shaped board can be cut to slide in from the other side.

Tap this piece into place and then slide it under the door trim by tapping it until it joins the previous piece.

Step 20

Install Baseboards

If you are installing new baseboards, use a stud finder to mark the locations of all studs around the perimeter of the room. Install the baseboard level so that the corners line up all the way around the room. The shoe molding will hide any small gaps.

Use two 2” 15-gauge finish nails at each stud. Shoot the top nail first to ensure that the baseboard is as tight at the top as possible.

Step 21

Install Shoe Molding

Shoe molding will cover the small gap between the baseboards and the flooring. Install it with the short side down.

Use one 1-1/2” brad nail every 16” to fasten the shoe molding to the baseboard.

Finish up by caulking and painting the base and shoe molding.

Install Laminate Flooring 02:33