Installing laminate flooring is one of the most popular home improvement DIY projects these days. While it can be easy to install, many factors can lead to an improper installation. Which often leads to problems in the not so distant future. If a new laminate floor is a project you’re willing to attempt, do your research and check out these common laminate flooring mistakes before diving into the installation process.
What is Laminate Flooring?
Before we jump into the common mistakes when laying laminate flooring, we thought it would be helpful to define what laminate flooring is. Laminate flooring is a composite material, not wood, ceramic, or cork, typically consisting of several layers including an underlayment, base layer, design layer, and a clear coat protective layer. All of these layers combine to give you an inexpensive realistic look while remaining durable and stain resistant. Alright, as promised, on to common mistakes to avoid.
1. Not Purchasing Enough Flooring for the Job
Whether you’re flooring 100 sq ft or 1,000 sq ft, buying the appropriate amount of flooring for the project is key. While this may not seem like an installation issue, it certainly will become one when you’re 80% done and on your last box of custom flooring.
For all DIY projects we recommend a 5-15% overage when ordering. This will help account for waste from proper installation, damaged flooring, and any miscuts. If your room is square without much to work around or you’ve installed laminate before, 5% will likely suffice. However, if your room is complex or your floor is special order, stick toward the 15%.
2. Selecting the Wrong Floor for the Space
Believe it or not, not all laminate flooring was created equally. You need to select the best high quality laminate flooring for the space you are installing it in. Some laminate is waterproof, while others are not. Some laminate can be installed like a real wood floor, while others require a floating floor installation. Take some time to think about where your flooring will be installed in advance, then choose the one that is the best fit for your space. If you are unsure what factors to consider or are having trouble selecting the right floor, we are happy to help. Simply call us, or visit one of our local locations today.
3. Not Sealing Your Floor or Subfloor
Depending on the laminate you have selected and your installation location, you may need to seal your subfloor, flooring, or both. If you are installing in a high moisture area like a kitchen or bathroom, take extra care in this step. Some laminate flooring even requires you to install the underlayment yourself, while others come with it built in. Check all of these things before you purchase your flooring. Doing so will help you pick the right floor and ensure it lasts a lifetime in your space.
4. Installing on an Uneven Surface
Before your first piece of flooring ever arrives check that the subfloor you’re placing the laminate on is level. Flooring installed on an unlevel surface can lead to breaks and spaces that allow moisture into the cracks. Not to mention it just feels strange to walk on as you will likely feel the unevenness of the floor. Luckily there are many different methods for leveling your subfloor including, grinding down high spots, installing new pieces where needed, or even using self-leveler from your local hardware store.
5. Miscalculating the Dimensions of Your Room
Hopefully if you’ve already ordered flooring you have measured, and remeasured your rooms. Even after that’s done and out of the way it’s important to run some calculations before you start your installation. Recheck the width of your room and length of your room, as well as the length of your laminate planks. Start by laying your first piece in a way that doesn’t leave a short piece at the end of your row of planks, or a short row at the other side of the room or doorway.
Most laminate flooring says not to cut any piece shorter than 12” in length or 2” wide. Therefore, it’s critical to ensure you won’t run into this situation when you reach the end of a run or your other wall. In some cases such as complex rooms or multi-room installations it may be difficult to stick to this rule. In that case consider adding a break in the floor between rooms, or get it as close as you can.
6. Skipping the Instructions
Even if you have installed laminate flooring in the past it is important that you read your instructions, possibly twice. Every manufacturer has different rules regarding the best way to install their floor. Some require larger edge gaps or have higher length requirements. Some floors even need to be glued. We know it is no fun to read the instructions, and you “know how to do it”, but it’s a simple step that will save a lot of headache in the future.
7. Not Checking for Damage
Just because your flooring is new doesn’t mean it’s not damaged. Pieces can easily get damaged during production or shipping, leaving you as the final inspector. Damaged pieces of laminate flooring look bad and may be impossible to install properly; if it’s missing part of the connecting tab system, for example. Although it can feel tedious, check your laminate flooring beforehand. The last thing you want is to have to take everything apart and put it all back together just because you missed a damaged piece.
8. Not Leaving a Gap Around Vertical Surfaces
Laminate flooring can expand and contract depending on the environment it is installed in as well as the time of year and weather conditions. Leaving a gap around vertical surfaces will keep your floor from pinching against a wall and buckling up in the middle of the room. Most manufacturers require a ¼ inch expansion gap against all permanent vertical surfaces. This includes walls, door jambs, pipes, vents, or anything else that comes through your floor. If you’re installing flooring in multiple rooms and the floors aren’t tied together, you’ll need to leave an expansion gap there as well.
9. Using the Wrong Tools
Installing laminate correctly requires specific tools to ensure it is not damaged in the process. A tapping block, pull bar, edge spacers, glue, and a rubber mallet will go a long way toward a successful installation. When cutting laminate flooring you will also want to use a utility knife, special saw blade, or oscillating tool to make your life easier. Using the wrong tools during installation can lead to damaged flooring or an installation that just doesn’t look great when finished. Prepare yourself in advance with the correct tools, you will be glad you did.
You’re Ready to Get Started!
That about sums up the most common mistakes when laying laminate flooring that we have seen. Remember, take your time and do your research. A quality installation job begins before you even step foot in the store to purchase your flooring.
If this article made you realize you are not confident in your ability to properly lay laminate flooring, please contact a professional. There is nothing wrong with getting a home improvement expert on the job, to ensure your project is done right and lasts a lifetime. We’d be happy to assist you. Simply request a quote, and one of our professionals will reach out to assist you.