When first introduced in 1990’s in the U.S. Market, a few builders and designers considered plastic-laminate flooring a joke. However, in less than two decades, it is the type of flooring with fastest growing sales due to its durability, affordability, stains resistance, and the easy do-it-yourself installation.
With plastic-laminate, the planks aren’t nailed or glued down and rather installed in a floating-floor method. Rather, there is a thin rubber underlayment on which the tongue-and-groove planks are snapped together and floated or laid. It will take a maximum of 4 hours for installation in a 10 x 12-foot room.
While it is typically do it yourself, here are a few tips that will help achieve professional-quality installation:
- Pry Up the Shoe Molding
While the baseboard molding is to be left in place, if the room has quarter round shoe molding along the baseboard, it needs to be removed.
Use a thin pry bar to carefully pry up the shoe molding and ensure it doesn’t get damaged as you’ll replace it post the installation of the floor. The 3/8 inch-wide gap between the baseboard and the plastic laminate plants will be covered by the shoe molding. Also, on replacing the molding, ensure you nail it to the baseboard instead of the plastic laminate flooring.
- Undercut the Casing
It may be needed that you trim or undercut the side jambs, and door casings to make sure that the plastic-laminate flooring fits neatly around doorways.
In front of the casing, lay a piece of rubber underlayment, and then set a scrap piece of the flooring on top. This will help you decide how and how much to cut. Then use a handsaw, saw, or a multi-tool to cut flush through the casing along with the floor scrap. You can repeat the process with all side jambs and casings remaining and then vacuum away the dust and debris.
- Prep the Subfloor
Any nail heads that are protruding from the surface need to be tapped down. The subfloor needs to be prepared for the underlayment. Take slow steps across the room to figure out any squeaks. If you do come across a noisy spot in the room, drive a 2-inch drywall screw through the subfloor, preferably into joints.
- Roll out the Underlayment
Beneath the plastic-laminate flooring, a thin rubber underlayment will form a cushioning layer and a moisture barrier alongside deadening sound.
While you have various types of underlayment available, go with the one that the flooring manufacturer recommends. The underlayment comes in 3 to 5 feet wide rolls in varying lengths.
The underlayment needs to be rolled out from wall to wall and can be trimmed with the help of a utility knife. A 4-foot long drywall T square will help ease the process of cutting straight and square. Continue with cutting the next length and place them against the first piece of underlayment without overlapping the edges.
While a need to tape or staple the underlayment rarely arises, you may use masking tape across seams to prevent the pieces from shifting from their position.
- Rip the First Row
The width of the first and last rows of flooring planks need to be calculated in advance to ensure that the rows are of the same width as that will make the room look well balanced. Moreover, it is necessary that neither of these rows has less than half the width of the plank.
- Use a Tapping Block
When closing the joints, use a tapping block as the tongue-and-groove planks fit together very tightly. You may crush the plank if you hammer on them directly, making it impossible for you to install the next plank.
While you can use a scrap piece of hardwood as the tapping block, it is best you use one intended specifically for plastic-laminate flooring.
- Chop the Planks
To chop the planks, you may use most carpentry tools including a circular saw, jigsaw, or even a handsaw. However, as the core of the planks is made with medium density fiberboard, be warned that sawing through them may create lots of super fine dust. Hence it makes more sense to rent a manual laminate-flooring cutter that will help slice through the planks without much dust or noise.
- Drop in the Last Row
Snap together all planks from end to end to ease down installing the last row of flooring. Then tilt the rows into place till just before the last row. Then align the joint and press down the last row, using a pry bar between the baseboard and the last row to force the joint closed if needed.
With these tips in mind, chances are your floor will look like you got it installed from professionals, so why not try?