Laminates have come a long way and these days a quality laminate floor is a wallet-friendly alternative to costly wood or stone. The best laminates are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing - look out for planks with oiled wood finishes or bevelled edges that are virtually identical to solid wood. Buy the best and thickest you can afford - the pricier the floor, the better it looks and the longer it will last. Only some ranges are suitable for bathrooms or kitchens, so check the packaging if you’re thinking of laminate for these rooms.
To work how much flooring you’ll need to buy, calculate the area of the room by multiplying its length and breadth measurements and then add 10% for wastage - ask an assistant at the DIY store if you’re unsure.
Laminate floor packs
Adhesive (unless you've chosen 'click-together' flooring)
20mm wood bit
Fitting tool & edging block (unless you've chosen 'click-together' flooring)
Packs start from around £20 per sq metre
One to two days for a room less than 20sq metre
Step One: Lay The Underlay
Take off any inward-opening doors before starting work to make the job easier. Remove your shoes when fitting the boards to avoid grit on your shoes marking the surface. Vacuum the floor to remove any grit and fit either underlay boards or a purpose-made sheet underlay. This will dampen the noise when walking on the boards and give a cushioning effect to make the floor 'feel' more comfortable.
Step Two: Lay The First Board
Place plastic spacers at 60cm intervals along the longest straight wall and lay the first row of boards with the groove side facing the wall, starting from a corner. The spacers must be wide enough to form the recommended expansion gap all around the edge of the floor. The ends of the boards are tongued and grooved which are joined by squeezing a bead of glue along the top of the tongue and groove. Click together flooring won't need adhesive. You will probably need to cut the last board of the row to fit. Mark it with a try square and saw, with the finished surface facing up.
Step Three: Work Flow
Begin the next row, starting with the off-cut of the board used at the end of the first row. Always stagger the end joints of adjacent rows by at least 30cm. Use the fitting tool to push the ends of the boards together as you work. Continue across the room, pushing the completed rows firmly together and adding more plastic spacers along the two side walls. Force each board together by gently tapping the edge block against the grooved side of each board.
Step Four: Working Around Pipes
Make holes for central heating pipes by marking the position of the pipe on the board to be laid. Drill a hole about 5mm larger in diameter than the pipe. Make two angled saw cuts from the edge of the board to the sides of the drilled hole. Fit the board and carefully glue the small off-cut wedge behind the pipe. There must an expansion gap all the way around the pipe.
Step 5: Finishing Off
Either replace the skirting board over the new boards or fix a decorative quadrant moulding over the expansion gap around the edge of the floor. Pin the moulding to the skirting board and paint or varnish. Finally, fit a metal or wooden threshold over the edge of the flooring at all doorways.
Illustrations: Ed Roberts
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