Preparation and accurate measurements are key to the success of your flooring. Read on to find out how to get the best possible finish.
Preparing the existing floor
Laminate flooring can be laid on any smooth, flat surface as long as it is dry, firm and level. Make sure floorboards are firmly screwed down and flatten any protruding nails with a hammer.
A newly concreted floor must be completely dry. You can level an old, uneven concrete floor with self-levelling compound.
All sub-floors need to be fitted with an underlay before laminate flooring can be laid. Concrete, asphalt, vinyl, quarry or similar tiled sub-floors should be covered first with a plastic-film moisture barrier (a damp-proof membrane), in addition to any damp-proof course that may be present in the sub-floor. Never use carpet underlay under laminate flooring.
Poly foam underlay
This is the thinnest of the underlays used beneath laminate flooring, and is suitable for any firm, dry and level sub-floor, such as a wooden floor. Prepare the floor and if necessary lay a damp-proof membrane. Lay the poly foam underlay over the entire floor area. Trim to fit with scissors or a knife, cutting a 10mm gap around pipes. Lay lengths side-by-side and secure them with masking tape.
Combined underlay and damp-proof membrane
The obvious advantage of combined underlay is that whatever your sub-floor, you only have to fit one layer rather than two. It is thicker than poly foam underlay so will absorb very slight irregularities in the floor, and it provides good sound insulation. Tape the joints to keep the product damp proof.
Wood fibre boards
This is the thickest of the underlays and the one you will need to use if you have a slightly uneven sub-floor. It gives good heat and sound insulation. Prepare the floor and if necessary lay a damp-proof membrane. Acclimatise the boards in the room for 24 hours. Stagger the joints and leave a 10mm expansion gap around the edge of the room and 5mm between the boards.
Fitting locking laminate
Locking laminate flooring
LOC flooring boards have long and short tongues on the sides and the ends that lock together. It’s easy to unlock the floor again if you want to move it. Condition the boards before fitting: lay them horizontally in their packing in the room where they are to be used for at least 48 hours.
Laminate flooring expands and contracts naturally, so you need to leave a gap of 10mm between the boards and the skirting-board when fitting it, using fitting wedges or expansion spacers.
Lay boards lengthways towards the light source. Lay the first board in a left-hand corner over the underlay, the end with the short tongue against the wall. Fit wedges at intervals between the board and the skirting, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the board is square with the wall.
Lay the next board end-on, placing the short tongue of the second board into the long tongue of the first board at a 30° angle. Lower the board and lock it into place. Lay more boards in the same way until you reach the end of the row, where you will probably have to cut a board to make it fit.
To measure the last board, turn it 180° and lay it next to the previous one. Draw a line across the last board level with the end of the previous one. Cut and position it to complete the first row. The joints should be staggered: if the off-cut is between 300mm and 900mm it can be used to start the next row; otherwise, halve a board.
To start the next row, angle the cut board against the board in the previous row, cut end next to the wedge. Press forward and fold down at the same time to lock its long side.
Place the short end of the next board at an angle against the previous board and fold down, making sure the board is on the locking strip in the previous row. Angle the boards by 30° and push them against the row in front. When the boards are tightly together, push them down.
For the last row, place a board at a time over the previous row. Place a third board on top with the tongue touching the skirting and use the edge to mark the cutting line on the board beneath. Cut the board and ease it into position, remove wedges.
Once the flooring is laid, you can remove the fitting wedges and cover the gap around the edge of the room with laminate flooring trim, chosen to match your floor. The trim should be fixed to the skirting - not the floor - with adhesive.
Measure and cut lengths of laminate flooring trim. For a neat and professional finish, use trim cutters that cut the trim in a straight line or at angle to fit into a corner.
Apply trim adhesive to the back of a length of flooring trim (not the base) so that it will stick to the skirting-board rather than the floor.
Press the lengths of trim in place and if necessary secure them with some heavy weights, such as books, while the adhesive dries.
Laying flooring is very hard on the knees, and can lead to painful injuries if you accidentally kneel on sharp objects. Let a pair of knee pads take some of the strain.
Project and image courtesy of B&Q