All About Laminate

Choosing Laminate Flooring

» Flooring Material
» Flooring System
» Finishing Up
» Design Decisions

Stuff You'll Need

» Calculating Flooring Needs
» Tools for Laminate Flooring

Getting It Done

» Preparing the Room
» Smoothing The Subfloor
» Dealing With Moisture
» Installing Flooring
» Working Around Obstacles
» Finishing the Job
» Reinstalling Shoe Moldings
» Dealing With Steps
» Maintaining the Floor

Additional Articles

» What is Laminate Flooring?
» Facts About Glueless Laminate Flooring 
» Flooring Underlayment - Types and Uses
» Measuring for Moldings/Trim

All About Hardwood

All About Area Rugs

Return to shopping | ArticlesHelp Desk Home | FAQs

The Flooring System

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.

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 soundproofing.

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 it.


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.

Laminate flooring 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.

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 manufacturer.


Copyright© 2000-2007 JustFloor. All rights reserved.