Laminate flooring planks are
glued to each other; they're not nailed, stapled, glued, or otherwise
fastened down. They "float" on the subfloor, held in place by gravity. Even
the underlayment and vapor barrier, if there is one, are loose. When the
flooring swells and shrinks with changes in humidity, it will move as a
unit. The movement is imperceptible, but enough to ensure the floor won't
warp or buckle. To accommodate expansion, leave a 1/4-inch gap between the
edge of the flooring and the walls; the shoe molding will hide it.
You can install laminate right over many existing surfaces.
COVERING WOOD Wood subfloors usually need only underlayment— even if they're covered
with some other type of flooring. Solid panels (right) are butted and
loosely taped. You could also use foam, cork, or any other underlayment that
your flooring manufacturer recommends— but only one type per floor. Solid
panels, though more expensive than the others, do the best job of
Even after it's
installed, laminate flooring will expand and contract with changes
in temperature and humidity. To keep those changes to a minimum in
the installed floor, it's important to let the newly bought
flooring adjust to its new climate conditions. Lay the flooring
flat in its original, unopened cartons and leave it in the room
where it'll be installed for at least 48 hours before you install
Because concrete always gives off a bit of moisture, do a
moisture test to see if your floor
is suitable for laminate . Either solid underlayment or foam may be used,
but foam is less expensive. Always use a vapor barrier when you're
installing flooring over concrete, even if there's a surface floor such
as ceramic tile on top. Remove any wood glued to concrete. Check the
manufacturer's specifications for other restrictions.
The rules for stairs are different. In this case only, you glue the
flooring down; it doesn't "float." Don't bother using a vapor barrier or
underlayment here, either. Cover the treads, risers, and exposed tread
edges with planks cut to fit. Glue and screw edging pieces to each tread.
You may need to trim the last flooring plank to make room for the first
nosing and the 1/4 -inch gap between the nosing and the floor. It's
easiest to plan for this as you install your floor. Be sure to follow the
manufacturer's directions carefully.
can look good on enclosed
staircases when either the floor above or the floor below is
also covered with laminate. If you're covering the upper floor with
laminate, make sure you leave room for the nosing at the top of the
stairs. If you're covering the bottom floor with laminate, glue shoe
molding at the foot of the bottom riser. Let a pro take care of
staircases that are open at one side. The exposed sides of the treads
and cut edges of laminate are hard to handle.
ALLERGY SUFFERERS REJOICE!
Because it's made of large, solid, smooth pieces with tightly butted
joints, laminate flooring offers allergy sufferers a bonus: no cracks to
trap dust and no fibers to hold allergens. And unlike some other types of
flooring, laminate planks emit very few gases as they age.
Whether you install the flooring over a wood subfloor, a concrete
slab, or existing flooring, you'll need to leave a gap at the walls
for expansion. Recommendations vary, but a 1/4-inch space is typical.
Maintain the right gap with temporary spacers sold by the flooring