Lessons of a self-schooled laminate floor installer.

Having already learned to install linoleum, carpet, tile, and decking, I must first admit that it was very wrong to have layered them in that order: carpet should always go on top of the tile, with but a subtle linoleum layer as the finisher. That's the true secret to replicating bouncy castle foot-feel.

This year's never-ending renovation project included a complete resurfacing of the bottom-most portion of the kitchen and living room. This time we chose laminate flooring, a high-pressure sandwich of wood-grain stickers, ballpark peanut shells, and refinery scrapings. Also sandwiches. Together with the look and feel of real wood, you also get the satisfaction of having reallocated a measure of the planet's industrial toxin supply.

We chose a warm and cheerful interpretation of maple, but many other species are available: balsa, Dutch elm, baobab, and something new called OakALike®.

Installing laminate flooring is widely advertised as a novice do-it-yourself-er's weekend project. And that's true. It's also true that a novice won't do nearly as good a job as an experienced floorwright. As evidence, I submit exhibit A, the ground fault circuit interrupter that trips randomly when a certain electrical novice's bathroom fan is turned off.

However, having now completed a full laminate installation with the aid of my able nephew, it is with no little authority that I proclaim the following hard-earned lessons.

  • Tap the rectangular puck thingy gently -- always along the longer side, if possible -- to avoid chipping the delicate top layer of the planks.
  • Always buy a few extra boxes of planks. Once emptied, you can use these to store planks with chipped edges.
  • Most laminate floors are "floating," meaning that all of your careful measurements will be for naught after returning from your lunch break.
  • The spacers used to reserve an expansion gap around the perimeter are engineered to fall down if looked at, and will also chip the delicate top layer of the planks.
  • Your two most useful self assurances will be: "Oh, we'll just put an extra piece of quarter-round moulding on that wall," and "This'll be a perfect spot for a throw rug."
  • Planks are randomly assorted into their boxes, so when you randomly sort them as they're removed, probability theory will reward you with a perfect, repeating, wallpaper effect.
  • The claw-like gadget used to pull planks tight from a finished end should ideally be employed only by people without fingers. That, or use a Nerf hammer.
  • Proper pre-location of floor register vents is essential to avoiding a rash of "guess holes." You may simply have to resign yourself to bordering all registers with throw rugs.
  • Gaps that later appear between planks can be remedied by not looking at them.
  • A proper fine-bladed power mitre saw and table saw will produce the best cuts, but working the plank guillotine device loaned by the store is wonderfully cathartic.
  • A plank with a chipped edge can be recycled for an end piece, just not the end piece that you cut it for.
  • Careful measurement will always ensure that your last row of planks has to be cut to a width of 3/8ths of an inch.

As wrong as it seems to actually walk upon a newly finished laminate floor, try your hardest to do so. For the bravest among you, I even encourage a brief victory jig:

Not every floor installer is as cool as the dude with black socks and sandals.

Archived Comments

  1. Kara on 20110827.Saturday:
    ahahah I got a great laugh over this post!!
  2. Carole on 20110827.Saturday:
    Hover your cursor over Dave's photos and you'll have even more reason to chuckle.
  3. Dave on 20110827.Saturday:
    But if you hover over Dave himself, you risk being shot down for a violation of his sovereign airspace.
  4. Meandering Michael on 20110828.Sunday:
    This entry floored me. Paragraph two had me rofl-ing!
  5. Dave on 20110828.Sunday:
    It's just this sort of unbridled rofl-ing -- or in sadder moments, rofc-ing -- that damages floors to the extent that they need re-laminating.
  6. MOM on 20110903.Saturday:
    HAHAHA!!!! Too Funny Dave&Ryan...Now that your nearly finish with floor,come down and do mine lol. Love Ya!!!!