Tools & Materials Needed for Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is an item that homeowners can install themselves without having to hire a contractor. DIY projects present an excellent opportunity to save money. Before you get started, you’ll need to ensure that you have all the necessary tools and materials on hand.

To install laminate flooring, you’ll need several tools and materials. Some of the most useful tools include cutting tools and measuring. You will certainly be doing your fair share of measuring twice and then cutting boards. You are encouraged to continue below to learn more about the equipment required for a DIY laminate flooring installation.

Before Starting: Fit Yourself with The Right Gear 

Installing new floors and removing old floors kicks up dust and debris that can be hazardous to the eyes, nose, and mouth. Be sure to wear clothing that you aren’t afraid to get dirty and that will also be easy to move around in.

Safety glasses, work gloves, and face masks are necessary since you will be encountering sawdust and debris during the installation process. You may also consider getting earplugs, since the constant hammering may leave your ears ringing, at least temporarily.

Tools Needed to Remove the Old Flooring

Your first step will involve gathering the necessary tools and materials to remove any preexisting flooring. Removing old flooring can seem an arduous task, but at least some tools can go a long way in helping you remove stubborn flooring or carpeting.

Floor Scrapers

These blades come in handy for pulling up old flooring. You will find that floor scrapers, like this one, are often equipped with long handles. Your back and knees will thank you for using these to remove the old flooring.

Carpet Puller Tools 

Carpet pulling tools, such as the one found here, make it a whole lot easier to pull up carpets. These tools have a part that enables the user to grip onto the carpet and pull it back, which can be challenging to do with hands.

Trash Removal Bins

By pulling up old flooring, you are sure to be left with a pile of construction rubbish. At the very least, several conveniently placed trash bins will speed up the process. You can leave these around for the installation, which is sure to leave you with a fair share of empty cardboard and packing materials. 

For large or whole-house jobs, you may consider renting out a construction dumpster for your driveway. This will provide you with a convenient place to hold waste during a major home remodeling project.

How to Prepare A Floor For Laminate Flooring

Careful prep of the surface beneath the flooring will make a significant difference in the quality of the end product. At this stage, you’ll need measuring tools, cleaning materials, a leveling tool, and a tool for cutting a portion of the door trim.

Remove or Cut Baseboard Trims

The baseboard trims will need to be either removed or cut to leave enough room for the laminate flooring. You have 3 choices regarding which action to take:

  • Remove the existing baseboards and update them with new trims.
  • Carefully remove the existing baseboards and keep them so that you may reinstall them after the flooring is complete.
  • Leave the baseboards, taking care of the expansion gap later on.

You can carefully remove the existing baseboard using a pry bar. If you plan on reinstalling the same baseboard, you should mark each section with a number showing exactly which part of the wall you removed it from.

Use A Measuring Tape

You will need to know the dimensions of your home before ordering flooring. You will find several different types of measuring tapes online, with the most convenient tool being the lockable measuring tape, making it easy to get accurate measurements. 

Here is what you should measure:

  • Measure the width of the room from the longest wall. Divide this number by the planks’ width to determine what the width of the final row will be.
  • Leave a 9.525 mm space between the walls and the first and last rows to account for the expansion of the flooring materials.

Clean the Subfloor

It cannot be overstated how important it is that the subfloor is clean before laying down any flooring. If a preexisting floor was just removed, then you can expect there to be plenty of leftover paint, oil, wax, and adhesives that have accumulated over the years. 

Start by vacuuming up any remaining dust. A dry and wet shop vac like this one will have no problem getting the space clean. Any remaining particles and debris will be trapped underneath and between the flooring pieces, where they will be challenging to remove later on.

Level

The subfloor must be level; otherwise, the finished flooring will never look right. It is possible to perform this task yourself, but you need to be sure that you know what you are doing. Seek the help of a qualified professional technician if you observe any excessively high or low spots.

Step 1: Purchase or Locate A Long Level/Straight Pipe

You will need a long level or straight pipe to check the level of your floor. You can certainly expect there to be at least some slight variations. A pencil or marker will be needed to take note of any high spots or low spots. You can learn more about how to use leveling tools on a floor here.

Step 2: Leveling Wooden Subfloors: Wood Screws & Sanders

Fixing uneven wood subfloors may be as easy as placing new plywood or tamping down existing plywood. Use wood screws to fasten boards, since these will last longer than nails. You may need to use a sander to sand the high spots. Periodically check the level of the floor as you are sanding to ensure that you do not end up with any low spots.

Step3:  Leveling Concrete Subfloors: A Concrete Grinder

High spots on concrete subfloors can be treated with concrete grinders or 115 mm angle grinders with cup-wheel attachments designed for concrete use. Low spots can be remedied with underlayment and other floor patch products. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for these products and clean up all debris with wet vacs before moving to the installation stage.

Use an Oscillating Saw to Undercut Door Jambs

An oscillating saw may be needed to undercut the door jambs. These are the linings seen along the sides of doors. If the door jambs are not undercut, then the end product will not look correct.

To undercut the door jambs, you will need to visualize how the flooring, including the underlayment, fits underneath the door casing. The easiest way to do this is to have the flooring pieces on hand, and cut off 1/16″ – ⅛” segments off the door jambs until all the materials fit.

Install Underlayment (If Needed)

If there is an existing underlayment that looks fine, then this step will not be necessary. Some types of laminate flooring have their underlayment built into the pieces. 

What Does Underlayment Do?

The underlayment layer serves a multitude of purposes in flooring. It not only protects the laminate flooring against damage from moisture, but also makes the living space more comfortable by adding sound absorption and insulation.

Which Underlayment Should I Get?

If your laminate flooring did not come with its own attached underlayment, then you will need to purchase this product separately. Vapor barriers are necessary for areas receiving higher levels of moisture, such as basements.

If you are installing laminate over a plywood subfloor, you are best off going with a foam underlay to give the plywood a chance to air out. If sound absorption is of utmost importance, then you might consider a cork underlay.

How Do You Install Underlayment for Laminate Flooring?

If you’re working with a roll of underlay like UniBase Bronze, you may notice a plastic strip on one end and a strip of adhesive tape on the other. The side with a plastic strip is meant to be placed along the wall underneath the portion that a baseboard will ultimately cover. 

Each sheet of underlayment should butt up against the next, not overlapping. You can find more detailed instructions here.

Use A Utility Knife for Cutting (As Needed)

You may need to cut out small sections of underlayment to accommodate vents and other obstructions. A utility knife should be sharp enough to cleanly cut a PE foam underlayment. 

You are encouraged to perform any cutting away from the work area, after taking the proper measurements. It will be much easier to perform the cut on a stable workbench with a carefully marked-out cutting pattern.

Connect Sheets with Duct Tape 

You can connect sheets of underlayment using duct tape. Each of the sheets should be taped together to prevent overlaps from occurring, which will make it more challenging to install a flat floor. 

Since the duct tape will not be visible from the surface, you need not worry about stapling the sheets together. The main challenge at this juncture is keeping the underlayment in place before the laminate boards are fully installed.

How to Install Laminate Flooring

To install the laminate flooring, you’ll need measuring tools, spacers, cutting tools, a hammer, and a tapping block. You are invited to continue to the sections below to learn more about each of these tools’ roles.

Choosing Laminate Flooring 

To determine how much laminate flooring you’ll need, multiply the length and width of the room. Then check the product description to ensure that you are purchasing enough cartons to cover the entire area. You are encouraged to purchase at least 10% more than the minimum amount needed.

Laminate flooring products differentiate from each other in several categories:

  • Thickness and width: Available in 7mm-12mm thicknesses. If you go with a thicker laminate, you will notice less bendability, better sound absorption, and improved insulation. Pieces of laminate flooring are typically available in widths of 127-180 mm.
  • Finishes: You will have plenty of opportunities to choose a finish that best suits your living space. Standard colors include cherry, pine, walnut, maple, and much more.
  • AC rating: This parameter measures how resistant the flooring is to routine wear on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the least resistant to abrasions.

Laminate floorings also come in several different textures, some of which may have a more “authentic look” while others feature a glossy mirror-like finish that is meant to shine.

Use A Carpenter Square & Pencil

To fit flooring planks along the edges, you will need to cut them into pieces that fit your living space’s dimensions. Use a carpenter square and pencil to mark off which portions need to be cut off. Remember to always measure twice before cutting.

Circular Saw or Floor Cutter

Circular saws and floor cutters serve the purpose of cleanly cutting laminate flooring. Resizing and cutting will be necessary, owing to the unique dimensions of your living space. Diamond blades work the best given the challenging nature of laminate materials.

Here is how you will cut the pieces:

  • Cut the tongue off the long side of all the pieces.
  • Cut the tongue off the short side of the first piece.
  • You may need to cut pieces in the last row to ensure that they fit. 

You should find instructions for cutting pieces in the instruction packet that came with the laminate flooring. It’s important to note that each product may come with its own specific set of instructions since there is a decent spread in the variation between laminate types. 

Use Spacers Against Walls

Laminate flooring materials can expand and contract with changes in humidity. They will buckle and become deformed. Spacers create a gap that allows flooring pieces to expand and contract without becoming deformed. Flooring materials do often come with their spacers, but you can also purchase or make your spacers as needed. This task is made easy with this laminate flooring spacer kit.

Tapping Block & Hammer to Join Pieces

After the first row has been placed up against the wall, the succeeding rows of flooring will be interlocked together from the tongue and groove. To get the flooring to interlock, you will need a tapping block and hammer. 

A rubber mallet can be preferable to a regular steel hammer since it produces less noise. It’ll also ensure that pieces are not inadvertently broken during the installation process. This is also where the tapping block comes in handy. A tapping block fits into the tongue and groove of the laminate, preventing it from being crushed by the hammer.

When laminate boards are joined together, they are done so in a staggered fashion. This makes the flooring pattern stronger while also giving it that classic staggered look, which is considered to be much more visually appealing.

Use Pull Bars for Tight Spots

Pull bars are used to drive laminate flooring towards the wall. A wall will interfere with your range of motion such that you won’t be able to use a mallet/hammer and tapping block on the end pieces, as you would normally. The hook at the end of the pull bar will allow you to maneuver the laminate flooring into place.

Do You Need Glue for Your Laminate Flooring?

Laminate floors are installed using what is called a “floating floor” system. This means that the boards are not anchored to the floor which they sit over. Instead, they interlock together. Some types of laminate floors are considered “glueless floors.” This means that they do not require any glue at all to be joined together at the sides.

There are some circumstances in which adhesives should be used to join sections of laminate flooring:

  • Within 5 feet of a water source, such as a sink in a bathroom
  • A mudroom where you will be dragging wet shoes/boots across the floor
  • Kitchens in some cases, though not always

Look for a wood glue that doesn’t have too much water in it. Also, be sure to use the glue sparingly; a little bit goes a long way. Simply place the glue along the top of the tongue. You can wipe off any glue that oozes up through the floor bevel using a cloth. You can learn more about how and when to glue laminate flooring here in this video.

Foam Backer Rod for Gaps Along Walls

You are encouraged to install PE Foam Backer in the gaps along the walls after installing the laminate flooring. This foam backer will provide enough give for the boards to expand without becoming deformed. It also serves the purpose of adding insulation and resistance to moisture.

Alternatively, Use A 100% Silicone Sealant

In the alternative, you can use a 100% silicone sealant to create a watertight seal around the room’s perimeter. You should use a caulking gun to work the sealant into spaces that are susceptible to moisture.

Use A Drill/Jig Saw to Cut Boards Split by Pipes

Don’t worry if you have to install laminate flooring around plumbing pipes or radiator pipes. All you have to do is drill a hole through the center of the board to accommodate the pipe. You can use a jigsaw or drill to do this.

Here is what you’ll need:

  • Measuring tape: To measure the distance between the wall and the pipe(s), to determine where the planks need to be cut
  • Jigsaw or drill: To cut out a hole that is at least 16 mm larger than the diameter of the pipe itself

What if the cut is too large or uneven? It may end up being the case that the pipe doesn’t fit perfectly. There is no need to worry, as you can quickly fill any gaps with a silicone sealant to tidy things up.

Finishing Things Off

These are the finishing touches that tie everything together. Quality wall and doorway trim accent the room and serve the purpose of protecting the laminate flooring at its edges.

Baseboard Material

Baseboard molding comes in a diversity of materials, as shown below. If you are unsure of which baseboard material to buy, you may request samples of each to see which one best suits your home.

MDF

Abbreviated as MDF, medium density fiberboard is popular among homeowners due to its affordability and properties that make for simple installation. MDF is formed from separate wood fibers that are combined under pressure.

Pine Molding

This is the least expensive option if you insist on a natural wood baseboard. It is simple to nail into the wall, not much unlike medium density fiberboard. Pine baseboards are often seen in older homes.

Hardwood Molding

Hardwoods like oak, maple, and mahogany are commonly used as commercial or production molding. It typically comes in 5-8 cm widths and approximately 240 cm lengths. You will often see two pieces installed, one above the other, to create a more complex look. 

Vinyl Molding

Vinyl molding doesn’t come in very many color variations other than stark white, but it can be much easier to work with than other options. This is because it is more bendable and pliable than other baseboard materials. This makes it suitable for curves and walls that aren’t square.

Always Pre-Paint Trim Pieces

Be sure to paint or stain trim pieces before installation at a separate site set up for painting. Oil-based or water-based paints work best for baseboards since they will hold up better over time and only require a single coating.

Install Vertical Trims First

The first step will be installing the vertical trims around the doorways, if necessary. Start by measuring the distance from the laminate floor to the center of the door frame cross-frame. Starting at a height of approximately 1-2 meters from the floor, drive nails into the trim board in even spacings.

After this, you can install the horizontal trims following instructions such as the ones found here. To recap, here are the tools that you’ll need:

Final Thoughts

Laminate flooring is a worthy option for homeowners who are in search of a new floor but would like to take care of the project on their own. This undertaking does require you to have several tools on hand, which you may or may not already own.

Among the essential materials and equipment are cutting and measuring tools. Here’s one nice perk of laminate flooring: you do not need to use the grout you need for tiles. Despite this, there are circumstances in which a little glue or sealant will help keep the boards in place. You can learn more about this in the sections above.

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About Tony

Tony Moran is a writer, blogger and DIY enthusiast living in rural Norfolk, England, UK, with his wife and a lively border collie. Subscribe to this blog for updates and receive more awesome home improvement tips.

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