For my first time laying flooring this is what I researched and learned as I went while laying my laminate.
At this point I was ready to lay the flooring and everything was prepped. To recap, I was using TrafficMaster Lakeshore Pecan Laminate Flooring from Home Depot and had already prepped the sub floor with cork underlayment and 6 mil plastic sheeting.
You can read the previous post here.
Part 3: Laying the laminate
Sliding Miter Saw (Similiar to mine)
Jig Saw (Similiar to mine)
The first thing I did was grab some scrap pieces of the cork and sit them along the wall. Laminate flooring although arguably the most stable type of flooring will still expand and contract with temperature changes. Leaving a gap is important so that there is room for that to take place and having spacer makes it a lot easier to keep everything lined up when you start working you way across the room.
I took the first piece out and started in a corner of the room, I laid it down and snapped the next piece to the end. Now, if your house is like mine, you will quickly notice that your flooring is not square across the wall, you are going to have a bigger gap in some places and a shorter gap in other places. The key here is to just make sure none of those pieces exceed the width of your quarter round or trim width. We had decided it wasnt worth removing or cutting down our original trim for the laminate flooring. Our plan was to use some quarter round along the edges of the room, it was roughly .5″ thick. This means we could have up to a .5″ gap at any given point.
Now the piece at the end of the first row will most likely need to be cut and won’t just fit perfectly. This is where the miter saw comes in. I started off using a borrowed miter saw to do this room. It was an extremely nice older hitachi. This thing had something like a 15-20″ blade on it. I got the blade sharpened before I started and it ran about $100. Now the thing I quickly learned cutting the first piece was that it wouldn’t cut the entire plank of flooring, I had to flip it and cut again. This may not seem like a huge deal and really isn’t in this case but it was far from ideal. The person I borrowed it from needed it back before I got done with the room so I ended up running to Lowes and picked up this saw. The 10″ Kobalt sliding miter saw SM2507LW only cost $200. Since it uses 10″ blades, a brand new replacement only runs about $20, far from my experience with the other saw. It also had the capacity to cut a 3.5″x 12″ board in one cut that is why you should get one that slides. It was a better tool for the job at hand. Since it is newer it also has features like a laser where it cuts and a few other cool things. Eventually I will do a full product review on the miter saw.
So with your last piece measure the distance from the flooring to the wall. Remember you need to measure the actual flooring, not the part where the next piece snaps on, then subtract a 1/4″ from that piece to give it some expansion room. Once the piece is cut snap it down to the piece laid before it making sure it is well lined up. The other half of the cut piece will be used to start the next row. Just as a thing to think about here, I had to specifically cut pieces for starting rows occasionally. Sometimes the spacing in the room didn’t work out perfectly and my seams would have been 1″ to 4″ apart which is not what you want. This is not big deal just save that piece until you start another row and it happens again. I tried to make sure the seams didn’t line up and were random for at least 4 rows. I didn’t do this in the beginning and it looked bad to me when rows line up perfectly. While snapping the pieces together make sure the seams are as tight as possible, spend your time on it now. If you make a mistake, you really can’t go back if you put the next row or piece down and fix it.
Also make sure to spend a decent amount of time on getting that first row as lined up to the room as possible, every other row following will align with it. Having an angle on the first row could dramatically show at the other end of the room. Once you have the first row down sit something heavy on it, I used my air compressor I had in the room for trim. Be gentle when snapping in the next couple of rows, because it will slide the first row. Mark any vents with the pencil on the flooring. I laid over mine after cutting the first vent which ended up being a mistake. Before you have multiple rows to weigh the floor down, cutting will cause everything else to move meaning I had to realign the first row. Also if you have a joint in the next row that lines up with the area you cut it is really difficult to get a good fit.
From this point on it is only a matter of continuing along the room, or is it? In my old house I experienced some things that I don’t think would be an issue in a modern home which I would like to discuss how I overcame. My goal was to not to permanently damage any of the original woodwork with the laminate, this made thing interesting around all the doors. Here is what I did.
Cutting vent holes: Using your hole saw cut a hole big enough to get the miter saw blade into. Then just cut around the vent. It really is that easy. Make sure you vacuum out all the dust after.
Once I got to the other side of my hearth, things got a bit more interesting and this situation could happen in any home new or old depending on the room setup:
I had to start my row against the wall not connected into the already laid flooring, the interesting part was that it connected into the rest of the room on the second or third piece, and it had to be cut in half for it to line up. This just required a lit of measuring, I used the miter saw to get it as close to the contour of the hearth as possible
An oops, I made while laying the flooring:
After got that horrible area done around the hearth, I was having problems a row or two later getting the pieces to snap together without gaps. I thought it was due to the pieces before being at a less than perfect angle when I joined into the rest of the flooring. It wasn’t, it was actually caused by a significant dip in the flooring. I ended up just letting it go and doing the best I could do to get them together. I didn’t realize what the actual problem was until I was done and got a level out and could see how much that particular area bowed down. The result I now have a 1/16″ gap about 36″ along in one place that I could have avoided if I spent more time on getting it right.
Here is the flooring just after it was laid:
Once I finish the trim I will do a write up and recap of the project in part 4.