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Laminate, engineered wood or cork floors, otherwise known as "floating" floors, are easy to install and can be laid over most types of subfloor, with the exception of carpet. Always read the manufacturer's installation recommendations before beginning work, as details may vary from one flooring system to another.
This guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to successfully install a wood or cork floating floor – a relatively straightforward project, provided that the subfloor is properly prepared.
QUANTITY AND INSTALLATION
Calculate the surface area and add a percentage to allow for breakages and spares. We recommend purchasing 10-15% more floor planks than required for the surface area.
Store the planks flat in their boxes in the room for at least 48 hours so that they acclimate to the temperature. Carefully inspect them to make sure they are not damaged or defective.
Fill and seal all openings in the floor, for example around pipes. Use transition moulding for protection where necessary.
Leave expansion gaps of approximately 1" between rooms and inside any room larger than 860 sq. ft. The same applies for all rooms over 35' long when floor planks are laid width-wise.
Some manufacturers recommend laying the planks parallel to the room's main light source, while others state the opposite. One thing is certain: if the flooring you choose has visible seams, these will have a bearing on the overall look of the room. In this case, to make a long room look wider, install the planks width-wise.
Floating floor systems – whether laminate, engineered wood or cork – are not recommended for use in bathrooms or any room with a humidity level higher than 60%.
Nevertheless, this type of flooring is more moisture resistant than solid hardwood and is therefore an attractive option for basement rooms. If yours is a newly built home, wait at least 60 days before installing.
Several types of underlayment are available on the market. Some have good sound insulation properties. Others, such as polyethylene foam, are designed mainly to compensate irregularities in the subfloor surface.
TO GLUE OR NOT TO GLUE?
Most floating floor systems do not require gluing, though a small amount of adhesive can be applied to the tongue of planks situated in high-traffic areas, for added strength (in which case, use the adhesive recommended by the manufacturer).
On some systems designed for heavier-duty use, adhesive is applied to the planks at the factory. The planks are then wiped with water before installing, which activates the glue and locks the joint.
1.1. Floating floors can be installed over most types of existing surfaces, with the exception of carpet. The substrate must be clean, dry, smooth and level.
1.2. Preparation procedures differ slightly, depending on the floor of the house (e.g. basement vs first floor) and the type of subfloor involved.
1.3. For installation in the basement:
1.3.1. On a wood subfloor, lay the planks over a combination foam/film underlayment, which is usually composed of a 6-mm polyethylene moisture (or vapour) barrier sheet attached to polyethylene foam padding.
1.3.2. On a concrete subfloor, first check the humidity level of the slab. Lay the planks over a combination underlayment. Roll out the underlayment in the same direction as the planks and try not to overlap the joints. The underlayment can also be composed of two separate layers – a moisture barrier underneath and foam padding on top.
1.3.3. For cork flooring, install a moisture barrier first. Overlap the joints by 8" and make sure the sheet extends 2" up the walls.
1.4. For installation on the first floor/ground floor and upper floors:
1.4.1. On a wood or concrete subfloor, lay the planks over a layer of foam padding (e.g. polyethylene foam).
1.4.2. Cork can be laid directly on top of an existing floor if the floor is in good condition. If not, lay foam underlayment first.
2.1. Lay a plank (finish side down) next to the door casing and mark the casing with a pencil line at the height it needs to be cut to allow the flooring to fit underneath.
2.2. Cut the casing with a backsaw.
2.3. Slide the floor plank (finish side up) under the casing to check the height.
2.4. Repeat for all door casings and closet door frames.
The planks must follow the line of the wall. While planks can be cut lengthwise, they must always be a certain minimum width if they are to stay firmly in place.
3.1. Calculate how wide your last row will be. Check the manufacturer's recommendations regarding the minimum width of planks. If the width of your last row is going to be less than the minimum required by the manufacturer, adjust your measurements so as to reduce the width of the last row.
3.2. Check that the wall is straight and square. If it is not, you will need to cut the planks in the first row lengthwise to follow the wall line so that all the following rows of planks are perfectly square.
3.3. Draw a guide line along the floor next to the wall and square with it, to mark the line of the planks. Include a 5/16" space between the line and the wall for expansion.
3.4. Place the first plank along this guide line and scribe the wall line onto it by sliding a block along the wall and, with a pencil, tracing the corresponding profile onto the plank.
4.1. Starting in one corner, lay the first plank with the tongues (male sides) facing the wall. The grooves (female sides) are thus exposed.
4.2. Install all the pieces in the first row by inserting the tongue at the end of one plank into the groove at the end of the last. Follow the line of the wall or the guide line you made earlier.
4.3. Use spacer blocks to keep an expansion gap of 5/16" between the planks and the walls. The recommended gap may vary depending on the manufacturer.
4.4. Insert and adjust the planks using a tapping block designed for this purpose. Never tap the planks directly with a hammer.
5.1. Turn the last plank 180° (finish side up) and lay it next to the installed row so that its groove rests against the groove of the plank already installed. Remember to add ± 5/16" at the end of the plank.
5.2. Mark the cutting line.
5.3. If you are using a hand saw, cut the plank with the finish side up to avoid splintering. With a jigsaw or circular saw, cut the plank with the finish side down.
5.4. Use the pull bar to insert and adjust the last plank in the row.
Mix planks from different boxes in order to ensure even colour-shading.
6.1. Check that the first row is perfectly straight.
6.2. Start each new row with a piece left over from the end of the previous row. Joints should be staggered by at least 16". Shorten the first plank or cut a new one if necessary. Staggering the joints strengthens the floor and gives it a more natural look, as well as reducing waste by using cut pieces.
6.3. To fit a new plank, tilt it up at a slight angle (about 30°) and insert the tongue (along its side) into the groove of the plank in the previously installed row.
6.4. Slide the plank into position while still tilted, then press it down flat on the ground. Gently tap it in place with the block and a hammer.
6.5. Tap the end of a plank to lock it into the previous one.
6.6. Use the pull bar to insert and adjust the last plank in a row.
6.7. Check the rows regularly for square.
6.8. Continue in the same way across the room.
7.1. Measure the exact width of your last row. To do this, lay a plank on top of one of the planks in the penultimate row, then lay a another one on top of that, with its tongue against the wall.
7.2. Draw a line along the side of the top plank onto the middle plank.
7.3. Before cutting, check that you will have the necessary expansion gap once the tongue is inserted in the groove.
7.4. Use a pull bar to insert the final row of planks
8.1. First cut the plank to the required length.
8.2. Lay the plank next to its intended location.
8.3. Measure the pipes or protrusions and trace the outlines and measurements onto the plank.
8.4. Drill or cut the plank as marked. Remember to include an expansion gap of about 5/16" on all sides/contours of the cut. For example, a 1" pipe will require a 15/8" diameter hole.
8.5. Saw the plank across the centre of the hole(s).
8.6. Apply adhesive to the back of the piece and fit it behind the pipe(s) or protrusion.
8.7. Reinstall the baseboards or quarter-round moulding.
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