How to Install Laminate Flooring With a Vapor Barrier


Laminate flooring provides a routinely cost effective, low maintenance flooring solution for many homes thanks to its stain and moisture resistant characteristics. When installing laminate over a concrete subfloor, such as in a basment, laying a vapor barrier or moisture barrier first is key to a successful and safe installation. This barrier will prevent moisture that the concrete stores or absorbs from leaking into your laminate and distorting the planks. Proper preparation and installation methods are the only way to ensure that your floor lasts for years.

Things You'll Need

  • Mop
  • Mineral spirits
  • Filler putty or thinset
  • Floor grinder
  • Vapor barrier
  • Duct tape
  • Spacers
  • Tapping block
  • Rubber mallet
  • Measuring tape
  • Safety glasses and dust mask
  • Table saw
  • Pull bar
  • Clean the concrete subfloor with a mop and mineral spirits to remove surface dirt and dust. Run a level along the floor to ensure that the area is completely flat. If it is not, use filler putty or thinset mortar or a floor grinder to flatten the surface. Bumps or dips in the concrete will lead to warping of the laminate boards. Allow any putty to dry for 24 hours before continuing.

  • Mop again to remove any dust from grinding or any that collected overnight. Dry the floor with a lint-free towel.

  • Roll out the vapor barrier across your floor and spread it out completely. Run the barrier from wall to wall. You do not have to attach the barrier to the floor itself.

  • Overlap seams in multiple rolls of moisture barrier by 8 inches. Secure the overlap in place with duct tape to ensure it will not shift. Continue to roll and tape until you cover the entire subfloor.

  • Set your first laminate plank in place in one corner of the room with the groove side facing out and the tongue side facing the wall. Slide ¼-inch spacers (unless your manufacturer requires another size)between the board and the wall on all sides to allow for expansion of the board due to weather changes.

  • Snap the second board in the first row into place by attaching the groove of one board to the tongue of the other. Your installation kit should come with a tapping block; if necessary, set the block up against the back side of the second board and use a rubber mallet to tap the board firmly secure against the first. Make sure you place spacers between each board and the wall.

  • Cut boards as necessary to fit in your design pattern. Wear safety glasses and dust mask and cut through the board with a regular table saw, moving the blade slowly down through the board to avoid tearing the wood. When you measure for your cut, don't forget your expansion gap.

  • Set all cut and full boards in place to complete the first row. To start the second row, cut 6 inches off the first board. This will ensure that the seams of adjacent rows stagger, making for a more resilient installation. For the third row, you can use a full board again, followed by a cut board for the fourth row, and so on.

  • Continue to cut and attach boards until the entire room is covered. When you get to the final row, you may need to cut the board lengthwise. Make sure you measure appropriately with the expansion gap. If necessary, use a pull bar, which is like a crow bar, and a rubber mallet to set the last row firmly against the adjacent boards.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some laminate flooring will require you to lay a separate underlayment to provide cushioning and support for the boards. Others will require different methods of attaching the planks to each other or to the floor itself. Follow specific manufacturer's instructions for this and other details or questions you have.
  • Allow the laminate flooring pieces to sit in the installation room for 72 hours before you set them in place. This will give the boards time to acclimate to the temperature and humidity in the room.
  • Inspect each individual plank of laminate flooring for damage or defects. When ordering your boards, order 5 to 10 percent more than you will need, in case of damage, mismeasuring or future repair needs.
  • Attach baseboard molding or transitional pieces only after you install the entire floor.

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