Timber flooring has a timeless appeal that makes it a popular and sought-after option. However, solid timber boards are expensive and may require considerable expertise to install, as well as being affected by extremes of temperature and humidity. Luckily, there is an alternative that looks almost as good for a fraction of the cost and effort.
There are many advantages to using laminate floorboards, and the quality products available today have come a long way from the ‘cheap and nasty’ reputation of their predecessors. The finish is extremely durable, the boards click together seamlessly and easily, and the floor is much more stable than real timber since it has been pre-stressed to demanding specifications during the manufacturing process.
The term ‘floating floor’ refers to the fact the boards are connected to one another but not to the subfloor itself, meaning they ‘float’ on a layer of underlay, independently of the surface below. This overview will give you an idea of what’s involved when laying a floating floor using laminate boards.
Prepare the boards and room
Remove the boards from their boxes and leave them to acclimatise for at least 48 hours in the area where they will be laid. Use a crowbar or wrecking bar to prise the skirting from the wall, then roll out the underlay. Cut the underlay to fit using a utility knife and steel rule, joining the sheets using the self-adhesive edge strip and duct tape where needed.
Lay the first row of boards
Use a circular saw or jigsaw to cut the tongue off the first row of boards. Use spacers to maintain a 12mm gap between the wall and the edge of the flooring, then lay the first row of boards. Measure and cut the last board to fit, leaving a 12mm expansion gap as before.
Click the next boards into place
Stagger the joints by starting the second row with a board cut to two-thirds of its total length, and the third row with a board that is only one-third of the total length. Work the tongue of each board into the groove of the previous boards and click it into position.
Close any gaps between the boards
Use a hammer and a tapping block (sold with a pull bar and spacers as an installation kit) to lock each successive board into position. Lock the last board in each row into place using a pull bar. Cut the last row of boards lenthways to fit the remaining gap and use the pull bar to lock it in.
Reattach the skirting
Nail the skirting back into place to hide the expansion gap around the perimeter of the flooring. Where the laminate meets tiles or carpet, use suitable edge strip to cover the expansion gap and feather the joint between the two surfaces.
Pro tip: cutting it fine
For major flooring jobs, for example if you’re doing the whole house, it’s worth hiring or even buying a sliding mitre saw. This will greatly speed up the process as it will take you just seconds to cut each floorboard that needs to be shortened, and the end will always be perfectly square. For smaller jobs, clamp a speed square to each floorboard you need to cut and use it as a guide for your circular saw.