Install Vinyl Laminate Floor

WOO-HOO!! Vinyl laminate installation: You can DO this!

Walls are painted, new showers are plumbed, and cabinets are on order…time to get the new floor in! We finally decided upon vinyl laminate flooring, as it’s designed for DIY-ers, is very durable, waterproof, reasonably priced yet stylin’, and (very importantly) quite danceable. We’ve found our perfect flooring; now, let’s put it in…

Picking the Right Flooring

For our needs, the “perfect floor” does more than just fit the budget. It needs to be modern and stylish, yet durable and practical–AND easy enough to install that we can realistically install it well and beautifully, without too much fuss or bother–especially since Lisa is a newbie to the construction scene!

Prepping and Clean the Subfloor

A crucial step is to prep and clean the subfloors after all the old floor coverings are removed. With all the old carpet and laminate ripped out, Lisa went to work on pulling out or pounding in every single staple and nail so that we had a smooth surface to lay the new flooring on.

Then, we swept, vacuumed with a shop vac to remove the larger debris, then finally went over every surface and crevice with a home vacuum. Not only does one want to rid the floor of lumps and bumps; it’s also important to get rid of any dust or debris that would clog up the interlocking pieces of flooring. Being thorough at this stage saves time when the flooring goes down.

Trim up the Trim!

Some of our trim and door moldings were too low to accommodate the new vinyl flooring pieces, so we used a sample piece of flooring to measure, then cut the trim a bit higher than the flooring would be, allowing enough space for the floating floor to slide under trim during installation. (Bring along a dustpan and brush to catch the sawdust!)

Before diving in, Jeff spent time planning for the layout of the new floor. Take your time here…there’s a lot of little wonky closet and hall space to maneuver around in this sort of project, and each cut equals time and possible frustration. Try to plan for the least cutting possible, and a layout that makes sense within your home.

We chose a starting point that would give us plenty of long, straight runs (to make the project go more quickly). We wanted to run the floor pieces parallel to the lines of the wood ceiling. We also wanted the narrow strip that would result to land at the back of the house, where it would be less noticeable later. We snapped a chalk line down the center of the house, then checked our measurements from each wall, and marked over it with pencil.

Shuffling the Flooring Planks

The flooring company’s website recommended “randomizing” the flooring pieces before installing, by shuffling together several packages, in order to create a more natural-looking pattern. We opened and shuffled only five boxes at a time because we purchased more than we’ll need for the project and want to return unopened boxes we don’t use.

Floating Floor Gap

As pieces are installed, it’s important to leave a gap around the perimeter of each space, allowing the flooring to expand and contract without buckling. We left an approximately 1/4 inch gap around the edges, which will be covered by the new trim we’ll install later.

Create a Pattern

We decided to lay the flooring planks in a repetitive pattern of plank lengths. It’s best to lay the floor planks so that the seams do not line up, for a nicer look and tighter “locking” of the plank edges to each other. To accomplish this, we started each row with a different length of plank: 16 inches, then 32 inches, then an uncut whole plank, repeating this pattern as we went along.

We began by cutting our first piece of flooring to 16 inches and placing it right on the chalk line (leaving a small gap next to the wall, so the floor will “float.” The second piece was cut 32 inches and connected to the first. The third plank was left whole. (Be sure to double-check you’re cutting the correct side–there are narrow, interlocking rubber strips on each piece of flooring; those need to be left intact to connect the rest of the row!) This created a pattern of three plank lengths that we repeated over and over, throughout the entire house.

Flooring Around Doors and Edges

To get around doorways, and when less than a whole plank is needed to finish along the edges of rooms, the planks must be trimmed to fit. Always follow the old adage, “measure twice, cut once,” and check your work before putting the plank under the saw.

You’ll likely find your floors and walls are not exactly “square,” especially in an older home that may have settled and shifted over time. It’s important to measure in several places along the run before cutting. Cutting and fitting pieces to go through doorways, around tubs, into closets, and along edges was the most time-consuming part of the project for us.

We’ll update here as we proceed on our vinyl floor installation!

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