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How to Install a Laminate Floor0

I recently tackled the job of  removing dingy, wall-to-wall carpet from a  hallway in my house.  

During the process, I considered various options for a new floor, including natural hardwood, tile, and vinyl.  Here are some of the best flooring resources I found, followed by step-by-step directions for installing the laminate I chose.

1. Hardwood Flooring:  This article at One Project Closer covers every aspect of laying a hardwood floor from determining the direction of the planks, prepping the surface, laying the boards, transitions, trim, baseboard, and moldings.  Each of the more complicated aspects of the job links out to a separate detailed tutorial.   I decided that hardwood was too involved for my small project, but when I want to do our living and dining room, I’ll go back to this site.

2.  Tile Flooring:  I like this article at because each of the many pages has numbered steps.  I also like that the introduction starts with safety information and common mistakes.  Best to hear about what to avoid from the very beginning.   The instructions seem to be focused more on bathrooms than on general tile flooring, so I bookmarked this site for when I want to work on the bathroom.

3.  Vinyl Flooring:  This article at the Family Handyman showed that vinyl tiles can be both quick and creative.  They talked about ordering custom colors, designing patterns, and cutting custom shapes.  Vinyl tile was a close contender for this project because it is affordable and easy. 

In the end, I nabbed a great price on the wood laminate, so here’s what I did. 

Materials and  Tools

  • Flooring   (Measure your square footage well, and buy about 10% extra. I wouldn’t recommend any thinner than 10mm.)
  • Underlay  (Often includes vapor barrier – if not, you’ll need that too.)
  • Tape  (Duct tape or vapor barrier tape)
  • Miter saw  (You can get away with a circular saw but a miter will make your life easier.)
  • Table saw  (For cutting strips lengthwise. Don’t attempt installation without it.)
  • Hammer
  • Laminate floor kit (Includes a tapping bar, pull bar, and spacers)
  • Doorjamb saw (If doors are already installed)
  • Measuring tape
  • Utility knife


1. Prepare the surface – take off any trim and prepare the sub-floor. You can put laminate on basically any hard surface – plywood, vinyl, or tile, among others. Carpet’s obviously got to go, as do all its staples.

2. Roll out and tape the underlay. Mine included a vapor barrier, which I needed in a basement. I used a little double-sided tape underneath, so it wouldn’t move around so much while I taped the next piece.

2. Start laying your floor. Laminate goes together in a simple tongue-and-groove system. Cut the tongue off the first row with the table saw, and use spacers to keep your floor at least 1/4 inch from the wall plate – room for it to expand. Your trim will cover up this gap when it goes back down.

Insert the tongue end of the second piece into the first piece, making about a 45 degree angle of attack into the groove. Rotate down and into place – listen for a little click, and watch for the pieces to be perfectly flush.

3. Once you have a couple of pieces in the first row down, install the first couple of pieces in the second row. Angle in, then rotate down. It’ll take some trial and error to get the hang of it, but it’s easy – so easy in fact, I thought I must have been doing it wrong at first.

Cut the pieces with your miter saw so you stagger joints about a foot. Save cut pieces – they may be able to start or finish other rows.

4. For doors, you need a jamb saw. Set it at the height of your laminate floor and carefully cut the bottom of the door jamb to slide your floor under.

In these types of places, and when you’re laying your last row against a wall, you won’t be able to angle and twist. Use a tapping block and pull bar to tap and pull the pieces snug.

5. Install transition strips where you need to. For example, this hallway wasn’t built square – about two inches wider at one end than the other. Floor laid lengthwise would have amplified this difference, so I ran the pieces crosswise across the hall.

6. At the end of the hallway, I had to install a transition strip, because I’d ended the room tongue side out. Similar strips called reducers connect the floor to existing tile but reduce by the 1/8 inch or so that your tile will be lower than your floor. Cut your transition strips to fit, install industrial strength construction adhesive in the groove, and place heavy weights on it for 24 hours.

7. Reinstall your trim, and you’re done.

text by Steve McDonald and Lisa Oram

photos by Steve McDonald

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