What is laminate flooring and how to lay it?
For years, laminate flooring had a bit of a rough deal. It was regarded as a cheap alternative to a real wooden floor. It was considered purely functional, utilitarian and certainly not your go-to choice for refined interior decorating.
However, there have been some serious advances in the manufacturing techniques used to create modern laminate flooring over the past few decades. Today's options still have all the practicalities of their earlier counterparts, but they're better looking, come in different styles, and are still cheaper than a hardwood floor. The positive aspects of laminate flooring have made it a popular choice for interior designers, DIY homeowners and developers.
At Arnold Laver, we don't just advocate using natural wooden flooring (although we do admit to being a little biased). We want to provide our customers with a wide range of flooring options. So here is our Arnold Laver Guide to Laminate Flooring.
What is laminate flooring?
Laminate flooring is a composite option that pairs a particleboard wooden base covered by an image (such as faux wood graining) and topped off by a transparent protective layer. The image of the stone or wood is created using a 3D printing process that makes a far more realistic appearance. It also allows you to choose from a wide variety of designs, from distressed oak and walnut to marble, but at a much more affordable price than the real thing!
The protective layer doesn’t just protect the pattern against wear and tear but also makes laminate flooring more water-resistant. However, unlike vinyl flooring, it isn’t 100% waterproof and prolonged exposure to high moisture can cause it to warp. It’s best to avoid using laminate flooring in bathrooms and laundry rooms, but it can be used in kitchens.
Laminate flooring was invented in Sweden in 1977 by Perstorp. It was also one of the early building products to be based on a recycling principle, as the company used waste wood projects to create its laminate boards. The addition of pressure, heat and binding chemicals allowed Perstorp to create tough, long-lasting flooring.
The pros and cons of laminate flooring
The advantages of laminate flooring
- Very easy to install – DIY friendly
- Installed as a floating floor and isn’t adhered to the sub-floor, making it easier to remove
- It’s a cheaper alternative to hardwood
- A massive variety of designs and patterns available, thanks to the 3D printing process
- It's effortless to clean and maintain
- The scratch-resistant surface makes it ideal for homes with pets or children
The disadvantages of laminate flooring
- It isn’t moisture-resistant – high humidity can cause the base to swell and distort
- The edges tend to be quite brittle compared to hardwood, meaning that it chips easily
- That pattern may be good, but it’s still not the ‘real thing’
- It’s not suitable for all locations – laminate flooring shouldn’t be used in bathrooms or laundry rooms, although it can be used in kitchens as long as a good extraction system is fitted to remove condensation.
How much do you need to lay laminate flooring in the UK?
It’s really easy to work out exactly how much you need to complete your job.
- Measure the width and length of your room. Our top tip: Measure twice to make sure your numbers are accurate!
- Multiply the two numbers together (length x width). For example, a room 5m x 6m will be 30m².
- Add 10% to factor in any errors – so in our example, your total will be 33m².
- Measure one more time, just to be sure!
How to lay laminate flooring
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Preparing your sub-floor
You'll need to ensure that your sub-floor is level, clean, and - importantly - dry. If you need to do a little work on making sure that the floor is absolutely flat, now is the time to do it to avoid issues later on.
Acclimatising your laminate flooring
Wood releases or absorbs moisture depending on the humidity and moisture content of its surroundings. Acclimatising allows your flooring to equalise its moisture content to match your room's. While laminate flooring is more stable than solid hardwood, it's still a good idea to place the flooring in the room for 24-48 hours.
Laminate underlays provide insulation and deaden noise, so it’s a good idea to lay them first before installing your boards.
Check the pattern and make sure that as you lay your boards, they are all facing the same direction.
Click and go
Laminate boards are super-easy to fit together – they use a tongue and groove design that simply clicks into position. With most laminate flooring, you won't need to use adhesive, but check the manufacturer's recommendations.
Mind the gap
Remember to leave an 8-10mm gap around the edge (it will be hidden once you reposition your skirting boards). This allows for any expansion to take place without buckling the boards.
Can you paint laminate flooring?
You can paint laminate flooring, but if it has a shiny top layer, you will need to prime the surface first to make sure the paint adheres correctly and doesn’t lift off. You can sand the surface using 120-grit sandpaper. This ‘keys’ the top and removes the shiny protective layer, allowing the paint to stick to the surface. Use a light touch as you want to avoid damaging the flooring. Alternatively, you can apply a layer of specialist primer before you paint. You'll need to give the primer at least 24 hours to dry before breaking out the paint rollers.
How to clean laminate flooring
Cleaning laminate flooring is easy. All you need to do is regularly vacuum to keep dust at bay. Once a week (or more if you have pets and children with muddy feet), wipe over with a damp mop. Make sure you squeeze the excess water out of the mop to prevent puddles from forming.
How to remove laminate flooring?
Because laminate flooring boards are usually positioned as a ‘floating floor’ (i.e. there is no adhesive involved), it’s quick and easy to remove the flooring without causing too much damage to the boards. If the tongue and groove edges remain undamaged, you could potentially use them again elsewhere. However, you will likely damage the edges of the first few boards, so expect to throw away a certain percentage of your flooring.
- Make sure you wear safety goggles and strong gloves to prevent injuries from sharp edges and splinters.
- Move all the furniture out of the room.
- Remove the skirting to allow access to the edges of the floor.
- Slide a flat palette knife between the wall and the first board and gently lever it out of position.
- Once you’ve released the initial boards, you can slide the rest out of position very quickly.
Is laminate flooring waterproof?
We refer to laminate flooring as a moisture-resistant product. It's not waterproof
What tools do I need to lay laminate flooring?
We've listed the must have tools below. If you have these to hand you won't go far wrong.
- Oscillating Saw
- Tape Measure
- Caulk Gun
- Safety Glasses
- Tapping Block
- Pull Bar
- Work Gloves
- Dust Mask
What tools do I need to lay laminate flooring?
We recommend starting in the left corner of the longest wall in the room and to install the planks in the same direction as the main light source (e.g. the main window). Planks are always installed from left to right.
Do you need underlay for laminate flooring?
Yes. Unless your flooring planks have pre-attached underlay, you will need to buy separate laminate underlay for your project. The extra layer of cushioning can provide a wide range of benefits, protecting your new floor from damage. This will significantly improve your new floors look, feel, and overall performance
What is the best laminate flooring?
The best way to evaluate laminate flooring is to check the AC Rating. The Abrasion Criteria (AC) rating is invaluable when determining the durability of a laminate flooring product. “AC” is the abbreviation for the Abrasion Criteria rating, which is based on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest. Most residential laminate flooring will have a rating of AC3 or AC4. The flooring at Arnold Laver starts from an AC 3.
Want to know more on laminate flooring in the UK?
At Arnold Laver, we love experimenting with different types of flooring. We know that sometimes (even though we all love the thought of a solid wood floor in every room), the luxury of solid hardwood simply isn’t an option. So we’ve put together plenty of alternatives to choose from, including laminate flooring.
See what's available by browsing our Flooring section or shop laminate flooring for a quick and easy way of brightening up your home.
And if you need any advice, don’t hesitate to contact us and talk with one of our friendly team members. You can also read about the different types of flooring available in our blog hub, packed full of practical, no-nonsense advice.