How to Lay Laminate Flooring and Get It Right the First Time!

Laminate flooring is a hugely popular flooring option for many households. It’s a durable and long-lasting type of flooring that can be used in many rooms of the house. Laminate flooring is also a great choice if you are looking for a cost effective flooring solution.

There have been many advances in laminate flooring over the years, and it is now easier than ever to install laminate yourself. Sophisticated modern forms of laminate that do not require glue are a great choice if you want to quickly complete a project. However, there are many different types of laminate on the market. Read our guide to find out what type of laminate is right for your home, and top tips for laying laminate flooring.

What Equipment Will I Need?

You will need several products to successfully lay your laminate flooring. Below is a list of the essential tools you will need to use:

  1. Your choice of laminate flooring (make sure you choose a suitable type of laminate for you particular project)
  2. Floor spacers
  3. Adhesive (this might not be necessary if you are using a glueless laminate system)
  4. A saw (hand saws often work, however, you might need to use a circular saw depending on the project)
  5. Dust mask
  6. Goggles
  7. A set square

Laminate flooring in a living room

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Different Types of Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is suitable for most rooms of the house. However, kitchens and bathrooms need a particular type of laminate that can withstand significant amounts of water. The list below explains some of the most popular types of laminate available and their key advantages.

Glueless Locking Systems

LOC system panels are extremely simple to lay. They are a great choice if you want to avoid messy glue and if you don’t have enough time to wait for it to dry.

Once they are locked in place, you can walk across them immediately. The panels are locked together using small joints at either end.  It is also very easy to remove glueless laminate panels when you want to replace them.

Realistic Wood Laminate

Cheaper laminate can sometimes have the disadvantage of looking less realistic. The wood print on cheaper laminate can appear too uniform. However, more expensive laminate flooring brands produce more realistic styles.

For important rooms of the house such as the living room, you might want to consider investing in more expensive laminate flooring. Brands such as Pergo and Quick Step produce high-quality laminate panels that will provide an authentic and homely feel. Bare in mind that opting for a more expensive brand will significantly raise the overall cost of your project.

Glued Laminate

The key benefit of opting for glue laminate flooring is that it is incredibly hard-wearing and long lasting. If you are looking for a durable flooring solution, glued laminate could be perfect for your project.

However, installing glued laminate is more time-consuming than other options, especially compared to glueless locking laminate panels. You will also need to factor in the drying time. So, if you hire a flooring specialist to install glued laminate in your home, it will cost you more than LOC laminate.

Pre-Glued Laminate

If you are interested in installing hard-wearing flooring, but you want to speed up the installation process, then pre-glued laminate could be a great choice for you. Essentially, pre-glued laminate has already been treated with an adhesive that allows you to join the panels together. The glue is usually activated with water.

AC Rating System

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What Is the Laminate Flooring AC Rating System?

One of the most important things you need to bear in mind when you are buying laminate flooring is how much pressure and traffic it will be able to withstand. For example, there will be less foot traffic in a bedroom compared to a living room, so you will need to select a different type of laminate for each room.

Laminate panels are graded using the AC Rating system. Laminate manufacturers tend to grade laminate on a scale: AC1, AC2, AC3, AC4 or AC5. The AC Rating system explains what type of building and what level of use the laminate is suitable for.

AC1 Rating

This grade of laminate is suitable for residential use and moderate traffic. This type of laminate will work well in adult bedrooms or guest rooms.

AC2 Rating

This grade of laminate is suitable for residential use and rooms with general traffic. It can withstand heavier footfall than AC1 laminate. This type of laminate is a good option for dining rooms and living rooms.

AC3 Rating

This type of laminate is suitable for residential use with heavy traffic. It is highly durable so it will be suitable for any room in the home. You will also find AC3 rating laminate in some commercial settings with moderate footfall, such as offices.

AC4 Rating

This should only be used in commercial settings with moderate levels of footfall. It can be found in shops and offices.

AC5 Rating

This laminate is also only suitable for commercial settings. It can withstand heavy traffic.

Foam underlay for laminate flooring

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What Type of Underlay Do I Need to Use?

One reason why it’s very simple to lay laminate flooring is that you do not usually need extensively prepare the surface before you begin. However, you need to make sure that you have selected the appropriate type of underlay for your particular project. Underlay is essential as it helps to absorb noise, retain heat, and it creates a softer surface for you to lay your laminate flooring on.

Foam Underlay

Where can it be used? Most rooms in the home excluding bathrooms and kitchens. Ideal for living rooms, bedrooms, and dining rooms.

Why is it a good option? If the floor is going to stay dry and the surface is level, foam underlay can be used. However, it will not work if it gets splashed.

Polystyrene Underlay

Where can it be used? Any room in the house where you want noise to be reduced. A good option for upstairs rooms if you are looking to avoid noise travelling downstairs.

Why is it a good option? This is a thicker type of underlay. That means it can absorb sound as well as evening out any bumps or uneven surfaces before you lay laminate flooring.

Fibreboard Underlay

Where can it be used? This type of laminate is also good at reducing noise and creating an even surface. It will be suitable for most living rooms and bedrooms.

Why is it a good option? This type of underlay is a great solution if you are environmentally conscious and you want to choose sustainable flooring.

Cork Underlay

Where can it be used? Anywhere in the home, before you lay laminate flooring panels.

Why is it a good option? Cork underlay smoothes the surface of the floor. It will also help your laminate flooring to last a lot longer and avoid damage.

Sponge Rubber Underlay

Where can it be used? This type of underlay is moisture resistant. Therefore, it is a perfect option if you need to lay laminate flooring in a bathroom or kitchen.

Why is it a good option? Sponge rubber underlay helps to absorb sound and heat.

Floor spacers

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How to Use Floor Spacers

One of the first steps that you need to master once you have applied the first panel is inserting floor spacers. The temperature of the room and the humidity of the air can make an enormous difference when it comes to wood floors. After you lay the floor panels, they will start to soak up the moisture in the air. The panels will expand. So, you need to factor this process in when you are planning and laying laminate flooring. The easiest way to stop this from happening is to use floor spacers.

Floor spacers are sometimes included with the laminate flooring. Always check the packet before you start. Apply the floor spacers before you lay the laminate panels. Usually, you will need to leave a space of around half an inch between the edges of your final floor panels and your wall.

Lay the first board in the top left-hand corner of the floor. Insert expansion spacers against the end of the board and at intervals along the wall, including at the point where boards are joined.

How to Lay Laminate Flooring

Again for drop lock laminate flooring, slide the long edge of the board into place and use a downward action and push the tongue of the second panel down into the first panel’s groove. Listen for the click to make sure the boards are connected.

Using a try square and pencil, draw a line across the board, level with the end of the previous one. Check the fit, then cut to size and insert to complete the first row.

To start the next row, angle the cut board against the first board of the previous row, with the cut end against the wall. Press forward and down to lock it in place. Repeat along the row.

Alternatively, if you are laying laminate in across a smaller area, you might be able to use an easier method. Start by connecting a row of boards together before laying them onto your underlay. Make sure they are clicked together. This method is likely to save you a lot of time.

Cutting End Pieces

With most modern laminate flooring systems you simply need to lock the panels together, as explained above. However, things get trickier when it comes to the end boards. You may find that the final board needs to be cut down to size in order for it to fit against the adjacent wall. Carefully measure the gap that you need to fill (remember to allow some space for an additional floor spacer).

Using a try square and pencil, draw a line across the board, level with the end of the previous one. Check the fit, then cut to size and insert to complete the first row.

Further Reading

Why stop at laminate flooring? We have a whole range of guides that are designed to help you begin new D.I.Y. projects! From interior painting to wallpapering, and plastering to tiling, we have a step-by-step guide to suit you. Click on the links below to for more home improvement projects that you can perfect yourself.

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