Laminate Flooring Review

Due to the construction of laminate flooring these floors cannot be secured permanently to the substrate underneath. Instead, laminate flooring needs to be floated over the top of the sub-floor. This is true whether the sub-floor is wood, concrete or another existing hard surface flooring material.

Floating Floor Installation for Laminate Flooring

installing laminate flooringA benefit of a floating floor installation is the floor can be used in areas where other types of flooring installation are not recommended. For example: 3/4" solid wood flooring cannot be nailed down over a concrete slab but a laminate floor with the similar realistic, visual appearance could be used. Another example is many hard surface floors are not recommended to be used over OSB particle board, which is commonly used as the sub-floor in home construction, but a floating laminate floor is acceptable. One note: even with a floating floor installation the sub-floor still has to be up to standards and extremely level to avoid costly installation issues.

The key to a floating flooring installation is the special tongue-and-groove locking system that "locks" the planks securely together. Some laminate floors require gluing the tongue and grooves while others have a patented glueless locking system, which is often referred to as "Click-Lock". Most laminate floors today are of the glueless variety.

Laminate Flooring Installation Tips

Like hardwood flooring, laminate floors need to be acclimated to the room. It is best that the installer places the boxes in the room 48 hours prior to installation. Each box should be laid flat in the room, not stacked on top of each other. This will dramatically reduce the chance of planks cupping or buckling during and after installation, as well as help reduce the possibility of planks not fitting together properly.

During installation the installers should visually inspect ever plank prior to installing and pull planks from several boxes for laying in a row. This will ensure the floor looks consistent and help avoid any obvious shading from slight color variations. From row to row the plank end joints should be staggered and at both ends of a row the last plank should be greater than 6" long. It is best to dry layout several rows of planks while squaring up the room and checking the door jambs.

Between the laminate flooring and the sub-floor there needs to be a layer of an approved, overlapping plastic poly sheet, which also acts as a vapor barrier and allows the floor to move freely over the sub-floor. Laminate floors have either a medium density fiberboard (MDF) or high density fiberboard (HDF) center core that can swell and shrink with changes in humidity levels. Most manufacturers treat the fiberboard cores with a water repellent chemical to improve their resistance to moisture. Underneath the fiberboard core is a stablizing layer to help minimize the effects of changes in humidity and temperature, which improves some diminsional stability to the planks. This is why these floors need to be floated and not permanently secured to anything in the room. A gap clearance needs to be left between all vertical walls and the flooring so the planks are allowed to freely expand and contract laterally. The width of the gap is generally determined by the amount of relative humidity present in the room. If the room is very large the flooring many require expansion joints inserted as specified by the flooring manufacturer. The gaps are not noticeable because of the molding along the walls hides it.

The better grade laminate floors have a stronger, denser fiberboard core and the planks will be overall thicker and sturdier. Plus, better moisture protection from changes in relative humidity. The tongue and grooves will also be sealed or coated to help prevent moisture from entering from above. Another option to consider when purchasing a laminate floor is to buy a special, dense padding to help reduce the noise level while walking across the floating flooring and make the floor feel warmer. Some laminate floors come with the padding already pre- attached to the back of the planks.

For specific installation information and recommended practices consult the manufacturer's written installation materials, or better yet leave it up to our professionally trained installation crews to do it right for you.