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DIY Laminate Hardwood Flooring Overview

Much more Affordable than Solid Hardwood and Easy to Install

© 2013 by Drew K. James; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without written permission.

Transition strip from laminate floor to ceramic tile; photo © 2013 KSmith Media, LLC
Transition strip from laminate floor to ceramic tile

This article was updated on 05/15/20
If you want to make a big change in your home and want to do it yourself, changing the surface of your floors can have the desired impact. You just need to be aware of the effort and options that can accompany such a project.

Installing hardwood-looking flooring with the new laminates available can make the job so much easier. There are some terrific options for flooring today but no matter what option you choose, it starts with properly preparing the surface for that new floor.

Removing Your Old Floor Covering

The removal of your old flooring can be the most difficult part of installing your new flooring, depending on what material it is. Part of the reason is that the previous installers of your current flooring materials installed them to be permanent and to withstand the rigors that go along with heavy daily wear, tear, and traffic.

That means they may have used at least an appropriate of glue, staples, and other types of adhesive materials to keep that flooring down forever. Now it is your job to remove it.

No matter what your choice of new flooring materials, you will best be served by getting the old flooring materials removed and getting the surface as clean and smooth as possible. Depending on the surface this could take chemicals (citrus-based solvents work great and are good for the environment), scraping, prying, and/or scrubbing.

It could take all of the above. You need to do what it takes, based on the surface you are working with, to ultimately have a blank canvas, a nice clean surface on which to install your new flooring.

There are some flooring materials than can be installed over old, smooth, thin surfaces. These would include some laminates, but of course you’ll need to consider how your new higher surface will affect things.

These things include your wall molding (baseboards), door clearance, and transitions into other rooms. If you can, you are usually better served by removing the old floor covering rather than dealing with the headaches you will encounter otherwise. One caveat: some older floor coverings, including linoleum tile, contain asbestos. Don't take a chance; get it tested.

Installing Hardwood Laminate Flooring

Today’s laminate hardwood flooring are literally a snap to put together. Many of these materials come with an underlayment already attached to the bottom surface providing for a sound barrier. If not, you will need to use rolls.

If you are installing a hardwood laminate floor, here are a few tips. For more detailed installation tips, try the “related” links at the bottom of this article.

  • If installation is taking place over concrete, it can be a good idea to install a moisture barrier between the concrete and your new flooring materials. Many brands of underlayment have a built-in vapor barrier.

  • Make sure the surface is flat (as opposed to level; you can run uphill or downhill a bit as long as you don’t have dips or bumps).

  • Acclimate your flooring to the moisture or humidity level in the room where it will be installed. This means delivering your flooring materials in the room for at least 72 hours prior to installation.

  • Make sure you stagger the seams of the boards where they butt together on the ends, so that no two butt-to-butt joints lie next to each other end at the same place.

    A minimum of six inches is a good rule of thumb. For a clean look, every other row should have the seams at the same location, half-way between the seams of the previous row. Or, simply use the drop-off cut from one row to start the next. This will not only give you a more rustic look, but it will save money on materials in the long run.

  • These are floating floors so leave a small gap for expansion and contraction of the new flooring around the edge of the room. This is generally a quarter inch but consult with your manufacturer.

  • Do not nail or otherwise attach the baseboard to the flooring. The baseboard should only be attached to the wall and or bottom plate. An inexpensive electronic stud finder will really simplify your job.

    Generally, studs are located every sixteen inches on center, but there will be times where you will have to nail to the bottom plate.

  • Pay attention to the instructions provided with your new hardwood flooring and installation can be a breeze.

Flooring Trends are Constantly in Flux

Sometimes, the trend in wood floors seems to be to those of lighter colored woods. Elm, maple and ash are popular, but bamboo flooring is really becoming the rage. Bamboo offers a nice light color, and is extremely durable. The trend changes periodically so don't pay attention to it unless you plan to sell. Just go with what you like.

The fact that bamboo is more economical than other wood surfaces also makes it an attractive option. It is also a green building material and is extremely sustainable.

More homeowners are choosing hard surfaces for their entire home, and using large area rugs to break-up the look. Whether it is ceramic tile, wood, or other laminate flooring, many are not replacing their carpeted areas with new carpet.

Laminate hardwood flooring is an option worth considering if you are looking into new flooring. It is a solid investment in your home equity.

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