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How To Install Laminate Wood Flooring

Creating a Neat New Look

Wood laminate (acrylic) flooring offers consumers a finished wood look and durability at bargain prices. A feature many consumers find very attractive about laminate wood flooring is the relative ease and quickness with which it can be installed. Its appearance is so close to solid wood flooring that it can be difficult to tell that it is wood laminate.

Laminate flooring comes in a broad range of colors, styles and wood species. There are numerous manufacturers of laminate, and of those companies, many offer a variety of grades of flooring. All plastic laminate floors come with warranties ranging from 10 to 30 years.


This article will guide you through the steps to install a new laminate floor. However, please note, always follow the manufacture’s guidelines or you run the risk of voiding the warranty.

For our purposes we are going to install our laminate floor in a theoretical room. It is rectangular, has two doors—one of which leads to a carpeted area and the other to a floor at the same level as the floor we’re covering. The walls of our room are neither square nor perfectly straight, as is typically the case in most homes. For this article we are assuming the room has a wood sub floor and is not in the basement. You can install laminate floor over a concrete subfloor, but you must follow all of the manufacturer's instructions or risk severe moisture damage.

Flooring Tools and Materials:

Note: Manufacturers often sell accessory materials designed specifically to work with their flooring. Mixing materials from other manufacturers can result in unsatisfactory results or even void the manufacturer's warranty.

  • Plastic laminate flooring

  • Foam sub-layer

  • Laminate floor glue (some brands, glueless laminate is also widely available)

  • Reducer strips (for doorways)

  • 1/4 inch shoe molding

  • Tape (to hold sub-layer in place)

  • 5/16 inch spacers

  • Handsaw

  • Laminate cutter

  • Strap clamp

  • Pry bar

  • Tapping block

  • Mallet

  • Saber saw

  • Miter box and saw

Installation Steps:

  1. Determine the square footage of the room. Because of the cutting, there will be wasted material. Add 10% to the square foot total to allow for waste and spare pieces for future repairs.

  2. Removing any doors that open into the room will simplify installation.

  3. Remove baseboard molding along the walls.

  4. To fit the flooring under the door casing, you will need additional clearance. Stack a piece of the foam sub-layer and laminate next to the casing and mark it. Carefully cut away the piece of casing with a hand saw.

  5. Take this time to determine how true the walls are. You will eventually have to do some cutting of the laminate flooring if you have uneven walls.

  6. Before installing the laminate, plan your lay out. Ensure that your final row of laminate planks will be at least 2-inches wide. Do this by measuring the width of the room and subtracting 5/16 inch from both sides (or whatever space the manufacturer suggests) and then divide that number by the width of the exposed face of a plank of flooring. The fraction remaining times the plank width equals the width of the last row of planks. If it’s less than two inches, you must cut the first row narrower in order to add width to the last row, ensuring both the first and last rows of laminate are at least 2-inches wide.

  7. Next, put down the foam sub-layer, making sure that the edges do not overlap. Secure the foam in place with tape. Along the walls use 5/16-inch spacers to create an expansion gap between the laminate flooring and walls. Without spacers, the flooring will buckle as it expands. Once you’ve finished installing the floor and prior to installing the shoe molding, you’ll remove the spacers.

  8. Start the installation of your flooring along the most visible wall in the room. Save irregular cuts and alignments for less visible areas of the room.

  9. First, put down but do not glue three rows of flooring.

  10. You’ll want your floor to start and stay square. To ensure this happens trace the pattern of the uneven wall (the wall you’re starting at) on the plastic laminate. Using a laminate cutter cut the flooring to fit properly. You may note that the wall at which you’ll finish your installation is not parallel to the wall at which you’re starting. You’ll make this adjustment later as you reach the other wall.

  11. Once you’ve made your cuts begin your installation. To establish the floor you’ll first put down three rows of flooring and then allow it to dry before continuing.

  12. Put the first row that runs along the wall in place. Then run your glue along the long and short edges of the next row of flooring and slide each piece into position. Then use a tapping block and mallet to make the connections firm. You’ll want the joints to be as tight as possible, but do not hit the flooring’s tongue directly with a hammer. This may damage the tongue, compromise the joint, and weaken the soundness of the floor.

  13. Once you’ve established the first three rows let them dry for an hour before finishing the floor.

  14. As you put in each row you’ll need to stagger the flooring so the joints don’t all end up in the same line. This will make your floor stronger. Stagger joints at least 8-inches off from the preceding row. As you finish each row and abut a sidewall, you’ll have to cut a piece to fit the odd area or use an already existing scrap of laminate.

  15. Use either a pry bar or a strap clamp to tighten the joints when you get to the end of each run.

  16. When you finish a run you may need to make an uneven or odd angled cut. To do this, measure the short and long sides of the angle. After transferring the measurements to the back of the flooring make your cut with a saber saw.

  17. When dealing with the doorway bordered by carpet, first put spacer blocks against the doorsill and then lay the floor down. Once the floor is in and tightened remove the blocks and secure a reducer strip by first cutting a mounting strip the width of the doorway. Using screws, attach the mounting strip across the threshold. Next, measure the reducer strip to fit, and snap it onto the mounting strip. You may also use a reducer strip on the threshold of the other doorway. These strips help to make a smooth visual transition from one type of flooring to another.

  18. As you get close to the end wall, you should take a moment to adjust the flooring in order to make it fit properly along the wall. Do this in the same manner you cut your first boards. Don’t forget to put spacers down first.

  19. Once you have finished the flooring remove the spacers and secure 1/4-inch shoe molding around the perimeter. To trim corners use a miter box and saw to cut molding at a 45-degree angle.

You’ve installed your laminate floor and it looks great. Below we’ve included a few more tips you can use when laying plastic laminate floor.

Tips for Installing Plastic Laminate Floor:

  • When installing any flooring use kneepads; they will cut down on the wear and tear of your knees and legs.

  • Before putting the floor in, let it acclimate to room temperature by putting it in your home and opening the packages at least 24-hours prior to installation. This will reduce contraction and expansion and will cut down on the buildup of moisture.

  • It is difficult to remove boards once they are installed, so check for damage before installation.

  • Hide any irregularities that may occur by ending your floor in the least visible area, such as behind furniture.

  • Do not install over carpeting; rip carpeting out prior to laying the floor.

  • Make sure your sub floor is level and free of dips and drop-offs. Irregularities must be filled our repaired.

  • Using plastic laminate on concrete involves certain precautions. You must have a dry concrete floor or the moisture will destroy the laminate. Follow manufacture’s recommendations closely when using on concrete or in your basement or you may void the warranty.

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