10 Mistakes to Avoid When Laying Laminate Flooring

By Samuel N •  Updated: 10/06/22 • 

Installing laminate flooring is very easy and convenient. For a DIYer, like you, installing laminate flooring could save up on the money spent hiring a professional flooring installer. However, before you start laying laminate flooring, there are some mistakes you should avoid.

I have installed laminate flooring in my home and for different homeowners. Over the years, I have learned through experience, and making mistakes improved my skills. Below are some common mistakes you should avoid when laying laminate flooring.

1. Installing Laminate in Wrong Areas

Laminate flooring can be installed in most rooms of your home. However, one thing that you should avoid is installing laminate flooring in moisture-ridden areas.

One of the elements that make up laminate flooring is wood fiberboard. When in contact with water, laminate planks absorb it, leaving it spongy and permanently damaged. The top wear layer on laminate planks provides a solid defense against spills, stains, scratches, and more. However, it is when liquid sips through the seams that most problems occur.

Water Damaged Laminate Flooring

Water Damaged Laminate Flooring

For this case, it is important to avoid installing laminate flooring in the wrong areas. Bathrooms, kitchens, and other moisture-ridden areas should be a no go zone for laminate flooring.

If you notice laminate flooring planks warping, bubbling, or discoloring, this could be a sign of high moisture.

2. Not Letting Laminate Flooring Acclimate

Acclimation is a process where you let a type of flooring sit in the room to be installed so that it can adjust to a room’s temperature and humidity before you begin the installation.

As earlier said, laminate flooring has a layer of wood fiberboard that makes up the core of the planks. This layer is very porous, and a rise or drop in humidity or temperature level will affect it. This is why it is essential to acclimate laminate before installing it.

Acclimating laminate flooring is simple. You need to put the flooring in the room it is to be installed. The recommended acclimation time of laminate flooring is 48 to 72 hours. However, different laminate flooring comes with different acclimation needs. Read the manufacturer’s instructions to get the recommended acclimation time in this case.

3. Laying Laminate Flooring on Uneven Subfloor

The subfloor is the main floor that serves as the foundation of a building. When installing any flooring, it is always recommended to prepare the subfloor. Proper subfloor preparation serves as a strong foundation for your new flooring. This improves the functionality and makes your newly installed floors last for years to come.

Preparation of the subfloor starts with a clean sweep or vacuuming of the room. This removes any loose debris or dust that has settled. Once the room is clean, do a visual check of the subfloor and fix any issues. This includes countersinking any nails or screw heads, fixing cracks, and sealing any holes on the subfloor. You should also make sure the subfloor is level. The industry standards specify the subfloor should be flat within 3/16″ in a 10-ft. radius. Once done, sweep or vacuum the subfloor surface to remove debris and dirt.

Though the process of subfloor preparation can be a tedious task, it is very essential. Installing your new flooring on uneven subfloor adds soft spots, sagging, bumps, and possible breakage.

4. Not Using Laminate Underlayment

Once done preparing the subfloor, it’s time to add underlayment.

Laminate flooring can easily bend. Although this is an advantage for DIYers, it can easily become a problem. When laminate flooring is installed without underlayment, you will feel most of the imperfections on the subfloor.

Installing an underlay is a sure way to reduce unnecessary stress on the laminate floor as you walk on it. Apart from reducing stress, underlayment also works as a shock absorber and insulator.

Installing Laminate Flooring Underlayment

Installing Laminate Flooring Underlayment

The underlayment you use for laminate flooring will depend on your subfloor. If you’re installing over concrete, a vapor underlay barrier should be used to prevent damage due to moisture. A simple standard underlayment is good to go if you’re installing over wood or an existing subfloor. Also, depending on other properties, such as sound reduction, you can choose an underlay that serves the purpose. Read a detailed guide on flooring underlayment.

5. Not Adding a Moisture Barrier (If Necessary)

We’ve seen that laminate flooring and moisture do not go together. If there’s a chance of moisture or water coming from underneath the subfloor, installing a moisture barrier or underlayment with a moisture barrier is necessary.

A moisture barrier is a must if you’re installing laminate flooring over a concrete subfloor. This is because concrete is a porous material that can allow water to seep up. This can loosen the adhesives, warp the planks, or encourage mold growth. A moisture barrier prevents all these from happening.

6. Not Leaving a Gap for Expansion

Laminate flooring will expand and contract in response to temperature and humidity changes. You should leave room for expansion or install an expansion joint to prevent buckling and damage to your laminate planks.

You should leave enough clearance around the room’s perimeter to enable laminate flooring to expand and contract. The clearance for expansion will depend on the size of the room. A bigger room will expand more; thus, you’ll need more clearance. A smaller room on the other end will require lesser clearance.

7. Unnecessary Tapping When Installing

Laminate flooring uses a tongue and groove system to snap together in place. This eliminates the need to hammer the planks together to get a good fix. While using a tapping block was the norm back in the day, with modern laminate flooring, you can do more harm than good.

Tapping the laminate planks can deform the tongue, thus damaging its clicking system. This can reduce the stability of your newly installed flooring and its longevity.

8. Not Creating a Staggered Pattern

When installing a new laminate flooring, staggering is one of the important aspects when laying the planks. Staggering laminate flooring improves its aesthetic look, lifespan, and, most importantly, provides more strength.

Staggering laminate flooring should be done according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. most laminate flooring brands recommend an overlap of at least 6-inches, while some give a range of 6-12-inches.

The best pattern to stagger laminate flooring is a randomized stagger. This enables your laminate flooring to move, thus preventing buckling and tongue and groove damage. A randomized stagger for laminate flooring also reduces the waste you’ll have during the installation process.

9. Installing Defective Laminate Planks

This is quite straightforward but may seem like a minor issue. When laying a laminate plank, inspect it to ensure it has the correct pattern and any visible defects. While the chances of defects are little to none when shopping from a reputable company, it is better to check.

Assuming small physical defects could lead to much bigger problems over time. Installing good-quality laminate planks can prevent chipping, failing joints, and other problems.

10. Not Reading the Installation Instructions

Many people love laminate flooring because of its ease of installation. While installing and following a similar procedure may look easy, not all laminate flooring will require the same treatment. This is why a manufacturer will provide instructions to follow. This way, you can do it correctly and avoid different problems down the road.

Everything from staggering laminate planks, leaving expansion gaps, and much more will be included in the instructions.

Samuel N

Samuel N is the founder of Improve Floor and has been in the flooring industry since 2005. Since then, his mission has been to make flooring easier for everyone. He helps countless people with flooring installation, finishing, maintenance, and repairs each year.