DIY Laminate Installation An Easy Way to Save Money

| 2/11/2011 11:47:00 AM

steve maxwell installs laminate flooring with sonHow should I install laminate flooring? I’d like to do the work myself, but I’m not sure how to proceed.

Laminate flooring came to North America about 20 years ago. I've been watching both the flooring and the people who choose it for their homes since then, and I've noticed something that's not found in other flooring choices: there’s a large range of reactions. Laminates please a lot of people, but also disappoint more than a few homeowners. The varied outcome seems to be dependent on which flooring is chosen, where it’s used, and the expectations.

Laminates were originally developed in Europe and are based on a high density fiberboard core covered with a visible outer layer that simulates wood, stone, or tile (some laminates are available in plain colors). Neighboring pieces fit together with tongue and groove edges, without attaching to the underlying floor at all. Original designs required all these edge joints to be glued together, but most modern laminates click together with a self-locking, glueless tongue and groove joint.

I happen to like laminates a lot - at least, the right kind of laminates. I’ve installed it in two parts of my own home and it’s been working well for three years.

Most people recognize that laminates are fast and easy to install with minimal mess inflicted on the rest of the house. What you probably don’t understand is how very simple the work really is.

steve maxwell installs laminate flooring with son 2When two of my sons were 10- and 17-years-old we put down about 500 sq. ft. of flooring in the office loft above my workshop in one easy day, including some areas that required fancy cutting. It got to the point where my youngest helpers could quickly and easily install the flooring all on their own, unattended, as fast as any carpenter. Professional installation costs are typically 50% extra on top of flooring costs alone, so there’s good money to be saved if you put it down yourself. Before starting, be sure to download my free technical guide on laminate flooring installation.

Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on . 

Matt Carey
7/25/2012 6:47:01 PM

I am a landlord and over the years I have replaced the old carpeting in most of my apartments with laminate flooring and the bedrooms and hallway in my own home. It looks great, its very durable and somewhat easy to maintain.Here are a few tips: first don't buy the cheap stuff (its cheap for a reason) it doesn't install well and doesn't hold up under use. I've had good results with mid-grade mid-price laminates. As for cleaning, you dont want to get it very wet, either by wet mopping or steaming. If water or steam gets forced into the edges where the pieces come together the fiber core will soak it up and swell ruining your nice smooth surface. My wife and I have successfully used a steam cleaner for years but you have to keep moving and clean quickly. The moisture left behind is light and dries within seconds. For heavily soiled spots I use a sponge and spray cleaner. Another method is to drape a damp towel over a dust mop. Every few feet you can rearrange the towel to a clean spot and when one side is all dirty you can flip the towel over and use the clean side. You can cover a lot of floor with one towel this way. The hallway leading to our bedrooms (high traffic area) started getting dull after about seven years. Since we were going to have to replace it or live with dull I tried an experiment and used a sponge mop to apply a thin coat of liquid wax. It looked pretty good and only had to be reapplied every few months. We still haven't replaced that section. Many of my apartments have had multiple tenants on the same flooring and we haven't had to replace any in ten years. We used to replace most carpeting after each tenant. Over all its pretty good stuff. As with the author I installed all of it my self with the help of my sons.

3/18/2011 5:59:48 PM

I'm moving into an "green" apartment building and just received notice that they are re-doing the floors in laminate from the original carpet. I'm glad because I won't have to worry about carpet, but I also wasn't sure if there were any downsides from an indoor air quality perspective on laminate flooring. Is formaldehyde or any other toxic fume a potential concern, either with the material itself or any glues involved? Appreciate the expert advice.

3/1/2011 8:32:24 PM

Hi! I just wanted to comment that we have had laminate floors for 6 years now and Murphy's Oil Soap has worked wonderfully on them. Just a little goes a long way. It has a biodegradable and phosphate-free formula that is good for the environment. The website is I think your shine will come back. Anyway, you could give it a try. I've tried vinegar on mine in the past, but I didn't like the smell; it does make them dull. I love the smell of Murphys and the shine! Hope this idea helps.

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