How to Lay Laminate Wood Flooring for an Affordable Home Makeover

Glue-less laminate flooring is easy to install and can be walked on the same day. Install the flooring in no time at all with our helpful instructions and tips.

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 6 hours
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Love the look of hardwood floors but you're intimidated by the upkeep or cost? Instead, consider laminate wood flooring. Prefinished plank flooring is easier to install than hardwood, and it offers the same appearance. The "planks" consist of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) coated in plastic laminate. The top laminate looks like random-grain wood, but its plastic composition makes it scratch- and stain-resistant. It also leaves room for options like gray or dark shades. The precision milled tongue-and-groove edges make accurate installation a snap. The whole floating floor assembly sits on a thin, closed-cell polyethylene foam pad. This tutorial explains how to lay laminate wood flooring, a project you can accomplish in just one weekend.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Pry bar
  • 1 Utility knife
  • 1 Tape measure
  • 1 Pencil
  • 1 Handsaw or table saw
  • 1 Spacing blocks
  • 1 Tapping block
  • 1 Pull bar
  • 1 Hammer

Materials

  • 1 Laminate flooring
  • 1 Underlayment
  • 1 Finishing nails
  • 1 Shoe molding

Instructions

  1. Acclimate the Flooring

    Your laminate wood flooring should sit in the room for at least 48 hours prior to installation, giving it time to expand or contract in relation to the room's temperature and humidity. This prevents buckling and other problems after installation.

  2. Remove Baseboard

    baseboard wrench removal
    Carson Downing

    Remove the existing baseboard molding. Use the pry bar to remove the baseboard from the wall and set the pieces aside for reinstallation. Floating laminate planks (the kind used in this project) should be installed over a hard, smooth surface, such as vinyl. If the existing flooring is damaged, remove it to reveal the subfloor.

  3. Install Underlayment

    rolling plastic foam flooring
    Carson Downing

    First clear the floor of staples, nails, and other debris. Roll out the underlayment. Do not overlap adjoining strips. Use the utility knife to cut pieces as needed. The foam underlayment deadens sound and helps the floor feel more resilient and durable.

    Editor's Tip: Some flooring planks come with underlayment padding already installed. If you have this type, you don't need to install the traditional underlayment.

  4. Plan the Layout

    To decide which direction to lay the planks, consider which wall is the longest and straightest. Avoid a narrow strip against the focal-point wall. Planks in the last row should be at least 2 inches wide. Figure on a 1/4-inch gap at each wall. If the last row will be less than 2 inches wide, add that width to the width of a full plank and divide by 2. Cut planks in the first and last rows to this width.

  5. Cut First Row

    Depending on your layout, you may need to rip, or cut, the first row of planks lengthwise. If using a power saw, cut with the finished side down; if using a handsaw, cut with the finished side up. Use clamps to steady the floor planks as you cut them.

  6. Use Spacers to Leave a Gap

    aligning wood floor panels
    Carson Downing

    Laminate wood flooring kits come with space chips. Wedge these between the wall and the planks to leave an expansion gap of 1/4 inch. The won't be visible once the baseboard is reattached.

  7. Install the First Row

    tongue groove hammer block
    Carson Downing

    Install the laminate floor planks with the tongue side facing the wall (some manufacturers recommend you cut off the tongue edge of planks that face walls). Connect one plank to another by connecting the tongues and grooves. You may be able to connect the planks snugly by hand, or you may need to use a pull bar from the installation kit and a hammer to pull them together, or a tapping block to tap the joints together. Cut the last plank in the row to length (save the scraps if they're at least 12 inches long).

  8. Install Additional Rows

    installing wood floor panels
    Carson Downing

    Install additional rows of laminate wood flooring. As you snap on new rows, stagger the seams at least 12 inches in adjoining rows, much like you'd see on a wood plank wall or a brick wall. You often can start a new row with the scrap from the plank you cut to end the previous row.

  9. Install the Last Row

    positioning wooden plank wall
    Carson Downing

    You'll need to slide the planks for the last row of flooring into position at an angle, then gently pry them into place with the pry bar. Be sure you leave a 1/4-inch expansion gap between the last row and the wall.

  10. Cut Around Casings

    cutting white wood plank
    Carson Downing

    Don't try to cut the planks to fit around door casings. Instead, use the jamb saw to cut the door casing about 1/16 inch above the height of the flooring, giving the plank room to slide under the casing. To do this, rest a piece of flooring with underlayment on the floor and against the casing. Rest the jamb saw on top and cut the casing to the desired height.

  11. Reinstall Trim

    securing baseboard with hammer
    Carson Downing

    Reinstall the trim. After the planks are in place, reinstall the baseboard molding using the hammer and finishing nails. Then install shoe molding over the expansion joints and use transition strips to connect the laminate to adjoining surfaces, such as tiles or carpet. Don't nail through the floor, just through the trim and wall.

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