DIY Laminate Flooring Installation: My Experiences!

32 Replies

I have installed laminate flooring in 3 homes now.  I am talking about the type of flooring that looks like wood planks, but it is actually a type of pressed micro-board material (something to that effect).  I am a huge fan of laminate flooring!  It is fairly easy to install and you do not have to be a professional.  Just do your research first.  Watch videos and make sure you have a good grasp on the requirements.  

Here is what I have learned about it...

Pros:

  • It is excellent for DIY.  It is fairly easy to cut with a table saw and jigsaw.  I also use a Dremel to do intricate cuts or sanding down to increase space in complicated areas.
  • No glue or nailing required.
  • Interlocking pieces just snap together.
  • Typically cheaper than hard wood or bamboo.  Great for middle class or lower class homes.
  • Comes with a pretty good warranty.
  • Looks just as beautiful as hardwood if you buy a decent style.
  • Quiet when walked on.
  • Slightly flexible so you can bend it into places you could not with hard wood.
  • Durable.  Not as much as hardwood or bamboo, but holds up quite well.
  • Easy to clean.

Cons:

  • Can be a bit fragile during installation or package transportation.  The edges that snap together can be easily broken off if banged around when not snapped in place.
  • It can sometimes be difficult to get 100% proper alignment of all edges.  You may have to fuss with it a little to get it right.
  • Planks can sometimes be a little warped horizontally, but so can hardwood.  A little finesse or using a different plank will work it out.
  • Should not be used in bathrooms, due to the high moisture and water contact probability.  This material is not made for wet areas.  If exposed to too much water, it will expand and deteriorate, leading to breakage/warping/peeling of upper layer.  I have not experienced that myself because I would never do that, but I have read about it.
  • Not considered a high grade material, so not something you would really want to put in a million dollar home.
  • There have been some incidents where some brands have contained physically harmful chemicals that off-gas into the home and make people sick.  This is supposed to be better regulated, but you just never know these days.  Do you research.

My recent installation was in a home that had animal urine soaked carpet and minor urine soaked subfloor.  We tore out and removed all carpet, debris, staples, and removed any raised bumps that were in the floor.  We hammered down any nails where the floors were squeaky.  We added screws to reinforce squeaky areas.  We replaced a small section of water damaged subfloor.  We pulled up the quarter round.  We coated the entire subfloor in Kilz Original which is the BEST method for sealing in foul odors!  I undercut around the stair case, room divider railing, doorway trim, and stone fireplace to allow the floor to slip under. We removed all of the floor vents.  We used floor leveler on uneven concrete areas.  Then we lay down underlayment and installed the flooring.

Backside of old carpet! EEEW...

Stinky room now smells clean with the walls and subfloor coated in Kilz Original:

You can do all your cuts with one of these, if you don't have a saw.  Pretty easy!

Undercutting so the floor will slip under...

Dremeling out the leftover bits of the extra layer of subfloor that extended under the cabinets...

Apply concrete gap filler/floor leveler as needed:

Undercut the stone fireplace.  Then slipped a layer of underlayment, a laminate floor plank, and another top layer of underlayment under the lip.  Then, I used mortar to fill in any gaps where the old stone/mortar broke off.  The top layer of underlayment served as a removable barrier between the mortar and temporary flooring I slipped in there.  Allow the mortar to dry. Gently pull out the temporary flooring and then peel away the top layer of underlayment from the dry mortar.  Use a Dremel to sand down any ugly spots.  Voila!  Now you have perfect mortar/stone alignment when you install your new flooring!  PS... I used Valspar Stone/Concrete Stain to paint my stone.

Note:  The color of the new mortar will match after painting it.

Nice clean undercut around the stairs and railing...

Looks brand new!

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Thank you so much for sharing! I've recently been debating on installing laminate myself. Figured it seemed easy enough but I hadn't done it before. Nice to hear first hand from a fellow DIYer

YouTube has taught me quite a bit too!

Thank you, everyone!  I am glad you like it!

@Ramone Reese There are some tricky moments, but it is easy for the most part.  The only times you run into trouble are when you need the floor to slip under something, if your walls are crooked, if the floor is really uneven, or if you end up with a tiny piece where you shouldn't have a tiny piece (like at an end).  But all of those things can be worked out one way or another.

@Jessica Bolin, What brand of laminate do you use? In the last few years as tenants have moved out of my rental properties I have been replacing all the rugs with laminate flooring. It definitely holds up much better than carpets do. I like to use Traffic Master and it has held up well for me. 

@Daniel Guas  This is the flooring I used...  https://www.flooranddecor.com/laminate-laminate/ba...

Thank you, @Lashonda Jones !

@Braden Downs  Thank you!  I am not particular about spacers.  I will usually just cut some pieces of wood or something to that effect.  I have gotten pretty good at eyeing it now and don't use spacers half the time.  But if you are rough with the install, you should use spacers or you may inadvertently shift the whole floor too close to the wall.

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Good job! Great of you to doc it.  Couple of comment about tools: It looked like you were using a rotary tool to undercut, an oscillating saw is MUCH easier. Can be had at Harbor Freight for $20. http://www.harborfreight.com/oscillating-multi-tool-68861.html  Just lay a piece of scrap laminate down and the blade on top of that. Once it's cut then use a narrow chisel to remove it.

I've installed thousands of feet of laminate, and I leave my miter & table saws home. Your jigsaw is the perfect tool, and since laminate destroys even carbide blades, the blades are much cheaper. One great trick is to mount the saw upside down to a sawhorse or small worktable, then you can crosscut or rip right on your marked line easily without straining to see the line through the dust or control the tool. Mine is similar to the one below, but it can be done DIY too.

Originally posted by @Jessica Hood :

@Daniel Guas  This is the flooring I used...  https://www.flooranddecor.com/laminate-laminate/ba...

Thank you, @Lashonda Jones !

@Braden Downs  Thank you!  I am not particular about spacers.  I will usually just cut some pieces of wood or something to that effect.  I have gotten pretty good at eyeing it now and don't use spacers half the time.  But if you are rough with the install, you should use spacers or you may inadvertently shift the whole floor too close to the wall.

 
Jessica Hood, your pictures look better then the ones on floor and decor's website.

Thank you

nicely done.

This looks excellent.  I have a floor which is very uneven - it bows down in the middle.  I don't want to level the sub-floor.  Will this product work?

Originally posted by @Mike Nelson :

This looks excellent.  I have a floor which is very uneven - it bows down in the middle.  I don't want to level the sub-floor.  Will this product work?

 Within reason, yes. I've done it on some pretty uneven floors. Sometimes it sags perceptible when you step on it, but it doesn't fail. You can install it and if it's floating off the floor too much, disassemble it, bite the bullet and level the floor.

Your install looks really good!  I've installed two different laminates in my own house, plus some engineered bamboo that I got for a song on Craigslist.  While I really liked the laminate for a long time, I've found that it doesn't take much moisture at all for the edges to start to bubble.  For instance, maybe the dog is left unattended overnight because somebody forgets to put him in his crate :P and he pees in the hallway...and it's not discovered until the morning.  Yep, bubbles around the edges.  Dog pee bubbles, at that.  If I were looking to make a huge impact for not a lot of money to get a place fixed up for sale, then absolutely YES, laminate is great!  If you're looking to floor a rental, then I would expect to have to replace it rather quickly.

One alternative is click-lock vinyl flooring planks that look like wood.  I know someone who did that and it looks fantastic, and isn't all that much more expensive than MDF type laminate.  And it will never, ever, ever bubble up around the edges!

Again -- really, really nice work!  Your floor looks great!

Great work! Love the pictures! My husband and I eventually want to start learning how to do these simple things. We planned on buying a really cheap home here for like 12k that needs updating and using that as our practice home. I love reading about all the simple tools you can use to really upgrade a home. 

@Mike Nelson  Our floors are not 100% even either.  The house I bought had foundation issues which caused some shifting in areas.  Time and wear have also made some dips in the flooring.  It was nothing severe though.  This flooring I used did really well forming to the shifts in the flooring.  Without seeing the severity of the dips/rises, it is hard to say.  It is slightly flexible, but it has it's limits. 

You can buy floor leveler that is in liquid form.  You spread it out across the dips and smooth it out.  It dries solid.  Just make sure it can be used on your type of subfloor.

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