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How to lay laminate

This blog is dedicated to the topic of laying your own laminate flooring. You can find all the tools and materials that you'll need for laying laminate in our checklist. Ready to start laying?

Acclimating the laminate

Unfortunately you can't (or rather shouldn't) start working the laminate into your dream decor as soon as you've bought it. As packages at the retailer have usually spent the last days and weeks in a cool warehouse, the laminate needs at least 24 hours to get used to the room temperature and humidity in your home. If the laminate is not given this time, the material may expand or contract due to changes in temperature and humidity, which may later lead to gaps between the boards in exceptional cases.

Preparing the floor

During the laminate's "familiarisation phase" it is already possible to start preparing the ground below. First of all, the floor must be thoroughly cleaned. Otherwise, dust and dirt can cause bumps in the ground, which will be clearly noticeable, especially when barefoot. In the worst case, sandy dirt in particular can cause clearly audible crunching sounds. After cleaning, you should check the level of the floor with a levelling bar. Very uneven floors can be filled with levelling compound. Levelling compound is also known as smoothing filler and ensures a really flat surface. As moisture in the floor is responsible for damage in the laminate, it is important only to lay laminate on really dry floors!

Applying a moisture barrier

If the laminate is laid on screed floor or in rooms with underfloor heating, it is important to apply a moisture barrier. This protects the floor covering from moisture rising up from the ground beneath. A moisture barrier is a special film that only lets moisture through in a controlled manner. It is best to lay the film in the opposite direction to the one in which the laminate is to be laid later. The individual webs must overlap by around 20 centimetres and be glued together at the seams with special tape. You should leave the film about 10 centimetres longer at the walls and fold up the remainder on the wall.

Footfall sound insulation

Now that the floor is safely protected from moisture, you can begin to lay the footfall sound insulation. This is available in different materials such as foam, felt or cork and has several applications. On the one hand it separates the laminate acoustically from the rest of the building, and on the other hand it prevents quick cooling of the floor from underneath. Careful attention is required when laying the footfall sound insulation. There can be absolutely no overlapping or gaps. Only lay as much footfall sound insulation as you need for the next row of laminates. This will prevent the footfall sound insulation from accidentally being damaged or moved when walking over it.

The first row of laminate

The first row is by far the most complicated to install. Generally you should start laying from the bottom left of the room as seen from the door. The way the light comes through the window will determine the laying direction. The laminate works best when the rows are laid parallel to the light. This direction prevents the transitions between each panel from becoming visible in sunlight. Before laying the first row of laminates, remove the spring from the first row of laminate on the left side. This is best done with a circular saw with parallel stop or a table saw. Now you can actually start laying the laminate. Use your spacer blocks to create a distance of 1 - 1.5 cm from the wall. The bigger the room, the bigger the distance to the wall must be. The last panel at the wall must be cut to the right size. Here you need to be careful that this piece is at least 40 centimetres long. If the room does not allow for a different length, you will need to shorten the first panel, which has already been laid, so that both boards are at least 40 centimetres long.

Laying laminate row by row

Now you've reached the point where laying the laminate can finally pick up some pace. The individual rows are laid out continuously, which means you start a new row with the section of the last row. As a result, cross joints are avoided and the waste is kept relatively low. When laying the panels one by one, make sure that the end pieces or initial pieces are not shorter than 30 centimetres and that they are at least one centimetre away from the wall. Cutting the ends is easiest with a mitre saw, but jigsaws or laminate cutters are also helpful. The individual rows are firmly connected to each other with a hammer and a tapping block or impact protection, and end pieces are pulled tightly together with a hammer and pull bar.

Laying the last row of laminate

For the last row of laminate, the individual panels have to be adjusted, just like in the first row. For this purpose, the remaining gap is measured and subtracted from the result of the necessary distance from the wall and the width of the spring. As a precaution, measure in several places, as walls are rarely completely straight. Using the table or circular saw, the panels are then cut to the correct width. After the last row is clicked in, the pull bar is used again to provide a firm and gapless connection.

Cutting sections for heating pipes

In many rooms, heating pipes come out of the floor for radiators. To avoid having to dismantle the radiator, we have a special trick you can use. First, cut the end piece exactly as you would if no heating pipe blocked the way. Draw the exact position of the pipe onto the laminate piece. Now use the cordless drill with a Forstner bit. The diameter of the Forstner bit should be around a centimetre wider than that of the heating pipe. This will ensure that the pipe and the laminate will never touch each other later. Using the jigsaw or circular saw now divide the panel in two exactly in the middle of the hole. The first part can now be easily clicked in. The second, generally smaller part, is now guided behind the heating pipe and clicked in there with tongue and groove. With a small spot of wood glue, the two parts can now be reconnected at the cutting edge. Any glue that spills out can be wiped away with a damp cloth. After about half an hour, the glue will have set enough for you to be able to continue. The cut edge should now be as good as invisible! 

The hole in the laminate can later be hidden with a flap cover, which is placed around the pipes

Cutting door frames

Laminate is basically laid up to below the door frame, and for this it is usually necessary to shorten the door frame according to the laminate thickness. Two tools can be used for this – the traditional Japanese saw, or more simply and easily, a multitool. In both cases, a laminate cutoff is placed in front of the frame and the tool blade is brought into contact to align it to the frame. Thus, exactly the right amount as is required for the laminate is sawn from the frame. Gaps can be filled in later with acrylic in the right colour.

Mount transition rails

Below closed doors is the best place for transitions from one floor to another. You can find special floor transition rails for this purpose in hardware stores. This consists of two parts. The lower part is screwed to the floor at the appropriate place or glued if there is underfloor heating. The second part, the top cover is inserted as soon as the laminate is laid everywhere on the transition rail, from the top into the bottom position. This provides clean flooring transitions. Transition rails are also available with a one-sided slope, which allows the transition from laminate to a carpet without a tripping edge.

Cutting room doors

When completing renovations, especially in rooms where carpet was previously laid, it is often necessary to cut the room doors. As laminate is much higher than, for example, carpeting or PVC, the door will no longer be able to move. In this case you will probably have to cut the bottom part of the door. This is no problem with a circular saw and a guide rail. Normally, you will only have to cut the door by just one saw blade width. Please do not attempt this step with a jigsaw. The jigsaw's thin saw blades run fast in material as thick as a room door, and the bottom of the door will become uneven. 

So there you have it – not so hard after all! If you stick to these simple points, you will have no problem laying your own laminate!

Even if it seems complicated at first glance, this task is a breeze for anyone with at least one left hand!

AuthorHauke Leweling
Reading time6 minutes

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