How to Install Laminate Flooring Over Plywood

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Plywood has several advantages over other surfaces as a subfloor for laminate flooring. Installing a laminate floor requires a flat, level surface, which plywood tends to provide. If it's not already level, a plywood surface can be easily made so. Once the plywood has been properly prepared, installing the laminate flooring is typically a quick procedure, with the manufactured laminate flooring locking smoothly into place without nails or glue.

Things You'll Need

  • Floor cleaner
  • Level bar
  • Floor sander
  • 30-grit sandpaper
  • Wood putty
  • Putty knife
  • Self-leveling compound
  • Trowel
  • Saber saw
  • Red rosin paper
  • Foam underlayment
  • Laminate flooring
  • Spacers
  • Saw
  • Clean the plywood completely. Remove any staples and pound loose nails firmly into place.

  • Check that the floor is level. Drag a level bar over the floor surface, marking any high or low points in the wood. To work as a level surface, the wood surface should deviate less than 3/16 inch for every 10 feet. If the surface is not level, then use a floor sander with 30-grit sandpaper to sand any high levels down to the surrounding surface, fill small dips with wood putty applied with a putty knife and fill large dips with a self-leveling compound spread with a trowel. Allow the surface to dry according to the manufacturer's directions. Remove any dust left by the leveling process.

  • Remove the wall base, millwork and trim. Undercut the door jambs to make room for the new flooring if the flooring is to run beneath the jamb between rooms. To undercut the jamb, place a scrap piece of flooring on a piece of foam underlayment and place the flooring against the jamb. Cut the height of the flooring and foam board from the jamb using a saber saw.

  • Cover the plywood with red rosin paper, stapling it into place. Place a layer of foam underlayment atop the rosin paper to help soften the laminate floor and reduce noise when walking on the surface of the laminate.

  • Lay a row of flooring against your starting wall. Place a 1/4-inch row of spacers between the flooring and the walls to create an expansion joint allowing for board movement. Place the boards with the small tongue facing the walls. The ends of the rows must maintain the expansion space as well.

  • Install the next row of boards, staggered from the first row. Click the new row into place by installing the boards at an angle to the first row, pressing the small tongue into the groove of the first row and then pressing the board forward and down against the first row of boards to lock the new board into place. Continue placing boards until you reach the last row.

  • Cut the last row lengthwise to fit in place, maintaining the 1/4-inch expansion joint.

  • Place a transition piece at doorways if ending the floor surface, or between the laminate flooring and another flooring surface.

  • Remove the spacers and replace the millwork, trim or baseboards to complete the installation and cover the expansion joints.

Tips & Warnings

  • Cut laminate flooring with the decorative side down when using a circular saw, and decorative side up when using a hand saw.
  • Do not fasten the transition pieces directly to the laminate flooring, as it will prevent the flooring from moving freely, causing damage.

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