Laminate Floor Installation

UPDATE: You can read about what we think about our laminate floors 2 years later in THIS post.

When we moved in we were 98% sure we wanted to rip the carpet out.. .. . . . It took about 5 months for us to get around to ripping it out and around a week of frustration, sweat, blood, tears, and anger to get the new floor in.  But it’s completed (minus the thresholds and baseboards)!!!

Here’s a shot of the before carpet:

We had about 860 square ft to install…  It would have cost us around $1720 to hire somebody to install it .. We spent about about $300 on installation tools/material (we bought way to much of some stuff).  In the end we are VERY happy that we installed it ourselves.  We learned a lot, and would feel confident tackling another flooring project in the future.

We went with Country Manor, Black Maple made by the T&A Supply Company:

It’s 12mm flooring and it comes with padding.  We learned that the thicker the flooring the better it sounds when walking on it; giving the illusion of real hardwood.
We were sold on this flooring after the salesman we were working with brought out real hardwood in the same black maple color to compare to the laminate black maple we were looking at.  I wish I had taken a picture because we could not tell the difference between the real hardwood and the laminate.

Tools:

  • Table Saw (Could have used a circular saw, but the table saw is easier)
  • Hammer
  • Caulk Gun
  • X-acto Knife
  • Tape Measure
  • Tapping Block
  • Pull Bar
  • Rubber Mallet
  • Jig Saw (We used our Miter Saw)
Materials:

  Step 1:  The Easy Part

 Buy your floor and let it acclimate inside for 48 hours.  Stack them 3-4 high log cabin style

Step 2: Floor Prep (The Worst)

We started by ripping up all the carpets.  The carpets were in fairly decent shape so I put them up on Craigslist for free.  I was surprised at the quick response I got from interested people.  We were able to have somebody pick the old carpet/pad up and haul it away for us.  It makes me happy that somebody else will get good use out of our old carpets instead of them being tossed in the dump!
Next couple steps:
  • Pull up carpet staples (so terrible)
  • Pull up carpet tack
  • Use floor leveling compound anywhere needed
Next on floor prepping we put down our underlayment  (a close second to being the worst). . .   We had to use underlayment as a vapor barrier because we have a crawl space.  We bought 10′ and 3′ sheeting and used sheathing tape to connect them.  Each piece needed to overlap by 18″ (What the box recommended).  Whenever we noticed a hole in the vapor barrier we used the sheathing tape to patch it.  We bought 8 rolls of the sheathing tape which was WAY overkill.. We only ended up using 2-3 rolls.

NOTE:  We had read not to install vapor barriers  over wood subfloor.. However, the directions on our flooring said since we have a crawl space that we needed to.. We called our flooring manufacturer and confirmed that we did indeed need to install the vapor barrier.

 Step 3: Figure out of your room is square

If your room is not square the rows against the far wall will end up being at an angle and not parallel with the wall.  To avoid having this problem figure out the dimensions of the room and if it is square.  We did this by measuring the diagonals of the room which told us that the center of the room was indeed the center of the room.  Fortunately for us our house was actually square.

Step 4: Make Spacers (don’t buy them)

We bought Pergo spacers which turned out to be worthless.  We ended up using the table saw to rip pieces of 2×4 for our spacers. The 8′ strips of 2″x4″ worked great and for added stability we nailed them to the wall. Nailing them held them in place and prevented them from being pushed underneath the drywall (the stupid plastic spacers kept being pushed under the wall) by the floor we were laying down.

Step 5: Trim the first row

Cut the tongues off the planks you’ll use for the first row.

 

You could do this with a jig saw or circular saw . . ..  But the table saw made this soo much easier.  This was actually our very FIRST time using our table saw!!   Up until this point we’ve always made cutting tracks for our circular when we needed long straight cuts.

 Step 6: Figure out your pattern

This was the beginning of our adventure up the STEEP learning curve. . .   We started off thinking we’d go with full plank, half plank, full plank, half plank, etc… . .  The guy who came and picked up the carpet from us (who happened to be a general contractor) . .  Told us in a VERY nice way that that was a terrible idea, and told us his method which was starting the rows off 2/3, 1/3, Full, and repeat.

Step 7: Start laying floor down!

We continued trekking up our treacherous learning curve. . .  We were still naively chipper and rearing to go at this point… .  Everyone had told us how easy tongue and groove flooring was to put in, you know, just snap and go!  It’s SOOO easy they said!  We started laying our floor and it was terrible!  We got about 4 rows in and every piece was a battle to get in.  It was absolutely terrible. In the back of both of our heads was “oh my gosh, we’re going to have to hire somebody to come do this”.   Que Craigslist Carpet Picker upper guy to the rescue again . . While he was over he pointed out that we were actually installing the flooring backwards. . . erm..  that’s embarrassing. .  So, we ripped it out and started over again. . .   And it was so much easier.

TIP: After pulling up our work a few times (because of gaps) JG remembered reading somewhere that using painters tape helped stabilize the board joints (to keep them from separating).   We desperately started taping boards, as far as we could tell it worked… But it’s hard telling if it was the tape, or if it was us being more careful.

We had one more major hiccup before things started going smoothly (see below photos).. After we got about 1/2 way through the big open area  (about 1/3 days work) we noticed a gap about 3 rows back… Not wanting to rip up 2-3 rows of hard work we decided we would try and hammer from the end of the row that had the gap. .  DO NOT DO THIS!!  Pounding from 1 end caused MORE gaps 5-6 rows back. . . .  DEVASTATING!!!  Instead of pulling up 2-3 rows we ended up pulling EVERYTHING we had put down that day.  SO DEVASTATING.  It was awful.  We can honestly say this was the last HUGE frustration.  It went rather well after this.  When you see a gap, pull the row up.  Don’t try and fix it by pounding from one end.  It is NOT worth it.

This was seriously DEVASTATING – The picture on the left was about 1/3 of the days work (We  were still moving at a snails pace at this point)… the picture on the right is after we had to tear it all out…. I can’t even write about it without shuttering.

Example of a terrible Gap:

After we were over the learning curve things went much faster, and became much easier.

Above you can see the main tools we used for getting all the boards into place.  Make sure to have some kind of cloth for the pull bar (without it you may dent or scratch your floor).  We found using a puddy knife at the end of each row we were hammering helped keep a little space between the laminate board and spacer.Wet Spots:

We glued boards together anywhere that had potential of getting wet aka the door and the kitchen.  We used this glue.

Cuts:
We used a miter saw and table saw for most of the cuts.  The majority of the cuts were straight forward.  Below is the toughest cut we made.  It was terrible, and took us 3ish times to get right… Don’t judge.

The finished product:

I promise I’ll show more pictures of the rest of the house when it doesn’t look like this:
Special thank you to Grandma B for babysitting for the first day!  I’m pretty sure we would have given up and curled into the fetal position if we hadn’t had the extra help!
Also, shout out to Baby H for being a fantastic helper 🙂
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