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Originally posted 5th March 2024

Last updated 3rd June 2024

Common mistakes when laying laminate flooring

Choosing and installing laminate flooring can be an easy, convenient and cost-effective option, making it...

Paul Hambidge

Managing Director Factory Direct Flooring Ltd

6 min read
Written by Expert

Choosing and installing laminate flooring can be an easy, convenient and cost-effective option, making it a popular choice for homeowners.  Laminate flooring is made from a mixture of synthetic and real materials, compiled and designed to mimic the appearance of wood or tile floors.  There are so many aesthetics to choose from, that work with the decor and style of your home. also comfortable to walk on, easy to clean and maintain and, quite frankly, looks great.  

Laminate is also a popular choice because it can be installed over underfloor heating.What’s more,  the type of flooring in your home can significantly impact its resale value. If you’re looking to sell in the near future, installing laminate flooring is a great, low-cost option to bring your home aesthetic to life and replace tired or dated existing flooring. 

If you’re thinking of installing laminate flooring, you want to make sure you do a good job of preserving the quality and longevity of the flooring, along with its appearance. We’ve put together a list of the common mistakes when installing laminate flooring and how to avoid them. 

Don’t ignore the installation instructions

Installing laminate flooring yourself isn’t always completely straightforward, particularly if you are new to flooring DIY or your room is an unusual shape or size.  Ignoring installation instructions and missing out on vital steps in the installation could significantly impact the final look and longevity of your floor. At worst it could render it unusable. 

Read directions and use online guides for additional support

There are plenty of online resources to help guide you through the installation process so take the time before you start to read through the entire installation guide and in the absence of one, we’ve got a handy step-by-step process that can be followed to achieve the best results.  There are also plenty of ‘how-to’ videos freely available on YouTube to help you.

Installing laminate in moisture-heavy locations

Laminate flooring is vulnerable to moisture damage and in damp areas, this can be extremely problematic if the correct measures are not taken.  When exposed to moisture, laminate planks can de-laminate, leading to unsightly gaps, warping and irreparable damage.

Solution: Use the right type of flooring with a moisture barrier

If you plan to install laminate flooring in a moisture-heavy location, it is imperative that you lay a damp-proof membrane (DPM). Using a DPM helps to protect laminate flooring to maintain its structural integrity, making it last longer and looking good for years. A DPM can also offer peace of mind in areas where spillages are likely to occur. 

Not installing underlay

Underlay plays an important role in the longevity and performance of laminate flooring, despite often being overlooked. Given most laminate boards are quite thin, it lacks substantial structural integrity, leading to bending and flexing that not only stresses the flooring but also creates an unpleasant walking experience, nobody wants a squeaky floor! Installing underlay has several benefits, it acts as a shock absorber, reducing stress on the floor, enhances comfort underfoot, and significantly improves sound insulation, making the space quieter. Additionally, underlay smooths out minor subfloor imperfections, such as dips or high spots, ensuring a more stable and uniform floor surface. If your unsure on how to fit laminate underlay check out our handy guide.

Not leaving gaps for expansion

If you don’t allow a gap for expansion when installing laminate flooring, your laminate planks will not have the space to expand and contract with temperature changes and seasonality.  This can lead to the planks pushing against one another, causing damage over time. 

 Solution: Check the right size expansion gaps to allow for flex

We’d recommend that before you secure your laminate flooring, that you lay out the planks and leave a 10-12mm gap around the perimeter of the room to allow for flex. 

Using the wrong tools

Using the wrong tools when installing your laminate flooring could cause damage to the planks, or leave your floor unsecured.  We’d recommend using a rubber hammer, rather than a metal hammer as this could cause severe damage to the planks. Similarly, the type of saw you use to cut the planks to size could affect the overall finish of your floor.  For simple straight cuts, you can easily use a handsaw, which is a cheap and accessible tool,  but for a most professional finish, you should choose a crosscut saw or table saw. If you need to cut out angles or curves, for example when laying flooring around a cabinet or toilet, then ideally, you should use a jigsaw. 

Check all of your equipment before starting

If you’re unsure about the suitability of your toolkit, check each tool before you use it to make sure it is appropriate. If you do not own a rubber hammer, securing a piece of wood to the end of a regular hammer could suffice.  

Not levelling the floor before putting it down

If laminate is laid on an uneven subfloor, the end result could be disastrous.  It will make the installation process extremely difficult and the final surface will be unsightly and uneven. 

Solution: Level the floor before fixing, or choose the right underlay.

You can level your subfloor yourself using a self-levelling compound, or you could select an appropriate underlay, particularly if gaps and undulations in the flooring are less extreme. We would recommend opting for a fibreboard underlay for the best results. 

Not using a vapour barrier (if you need to)

Not installing a vapour barrier, especially in areas prone to moisture, can have detrimental effects on laminate flooring. Concrete floors in kitchens and in older houses, for instance, are prime examples where vapour barriers are essential. Without this protective layer, moisture can migrate from the subfloor into the laminate, leading to warping and potential rotting of your laminate flooring. Installing a vapour barrier is a critical preventative step that safeguards the laminate from moisture-related damages, ensuring the flooring remains durable, healthy, and visually appealing for years to come.

Laying in the wrong direction

It’s important to get the direction of the laminate planks correct to maximise the aesthetic impact of the flooring. Choosing the wrong direction, such as installing against the room's longest wall, can lead to the room feeling cramped and make the flooring look uneven. 

Solution: Lay out planks to see the effect, before fixing

Typically you will want the length of the planks to be adjacent to the longest wall, so before you secure your laminate flooring, take the time to lay the planks out in the correct direction to make sure you are happy with the overall look of them. If you would like more information on which direction to lay check out this guide.

Using planks straight from the packet

Your flooring has been delivered, you’re excited to lay it, and you’ve all the tools and subfloor prepared. But wait before you get stuch in; laying flooring straight from the packet can lead to warping and buckling over time. 

 Acclimatise laminate flooring before laying

Remove the planks from the packaging and leave to acclimatise to the temperature and environment in the room in which they will be laid. This will enable them to expand or contract accordingly. 

Adding fixtures and fittings immediately after laying

Once you’ve laid your floor, it can be tempting to want to finish the room and start enjoying it, however, it’s important to realise that laying fixtures and fittings immediately after laying your laminate could cause irreparable damage to your flooring.

Install kitchens or large equipment before the flooring

Instead, install kitchen cabinets or large equipment before laying your flooring, and lay the flooring around it to prevent damage from occurring and achieve a better aesthetic. 

Poor maintenance following installation

Whilst relatively easy to maintain, a lack of regular cleaning and maintenance can lead to scratching and warping of your laminate flooring.

Know the right cleaning and maintenance of laminate

It’s easy to maintain laminate flooring. Importantly, regular maintenance will prevent damage from occurring. Be sure to regularly sweep your floor to prevent a build-up of dirt that could cause scratching.  Mop up any spills as quickly as you can to prevent moisture seeping between the planks, and opt for a flat-headed spray mop, keeping moisture to a minimum.

 

Still need help?

If you’re new to laying flooring, or still unsure about whether you have the right laminate for the right room, the correct tools, or need any further assistance, our dedicated team of experts are on hand to support.  We want you to get the best result when laying your laminate flooring, which is why you can call us on 0330 100 00 15 or email our team at [email protected] with any questions you have.  We look forward to helping you achieve your perfect finish!

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About the Author

Paul Hambidge, Managing Director

Paul has 32 years of flooring industry knowledge & experience from both an installation and manufacturing perspective. He started out as installer of very large commercial flooring projects for multiple retailers. As director of Factory Direct Flooring Ltd, he has been involved in all aspects of flooring and has worked with some of the largest producers of wood flooring, vinyl flooring and laminate floors.