Installing Laminate/Engineered wood Floating Floors

2012-09-11 by . 70 comments

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Recently my wife and I, being sick of Lego all over our living room, decided that it was time to finish our basement. I considered doing it myself, but really didn’t have the time, or the vehicle to haul materials in. We decided to hire a contractor (and got very lucky with a personal recommendation) to provide us with ready-to-paint drywall, and to come back later for trim and drop ceiling.

After installing the drywall and rough-ins, the contractor went off to Bahamas for a week’s pre-arranged vacation (with my deposit I presume), leaving me to install the flooring. I was left with a painted concrete floor (22′ x 15′), and lots of mopping to get the drywall mud and dust off of it.

Before he left, She Who Makes the Design Decisions and I went shopping for the flooring materials.

Our options:


Hardwood Floor Board

Hardwood Flooring is a very attractive and durable solution. Typically, a board is 3/4″ thick, and comes in random lengths from 18″ to 6 or 7′. It’s a tongue and groove board, which needs to be nailed down to the sub-floor at an angle through the tongue. A special nailing tool is used to do this. However, we’re over concrete in this installation, and don’t want to go through the cost and effort of laying a 3/4″ plywood sub-floor or, more properly, dricore. So hardwood is out of the picture.

Engineered Wood

Engineered wood

There are two basic types of engineered wood. Nail/Glue down, which is simply three plies of wood, staggered to make a tongue and groove shape like hardwood, and a final finish layer of actual hardwood. This is installed like hardwood, or it can be glued along the tongues to make a floating floor.

Alternatively, there is click-lock flooring, (pictured above) which requires no glue or nails. Typically, the base layers will be plywood or HDF (High Density Fibreboard – Think sawdust and glue pressed into a board), with a 3/16 layer of hardwood on top. This stuff is relatively easy to install, and slightly cheaper than hardwood. This is the product we were originally looking at. Engineered wood typically comes in random lengths.


Laminate Flooring

Laminate is essentially the same as Engineered, except instead of glued hardwood top layer, there is a printed surface covered in melamine. This means that a good quality laminate can be more durable than any natural wood product. Laminates that have a melamine bottom layer are also less susceptible to moisture, which makes them perfect for a basement. Furthermore, they tend to be significantly cheaper than both engineered wood and hardwood — Which is a major consideration in a basement, where there is the remote, but real, possibility of flooding resulting in a complete replacement of the flooring. user Shirlock Homes makes a case against laminate here. There is a lot of merit to what he says. Laminate cannot be re-finished, and cheap laminate tends to wear our quickly, leaving you with bare HDF. Notwithstanding his expert advice, I do believe it is the correct, economical choice for a basement. Just make sure the Skil-Saw blade has stopped spinning before you put it down.

Laminates come rated AC-1 to AC-5, with 5 being the highest quality.

Rating Usage
AC-1 Bedrooms
AC-2 Living/Dining Rooms, Kid’s Rooms
AC-3 Hallway, Living Room, Office (rolling chairs!)
AC-4 Office, Cafe, low-traffic retail
AC-5 High traffic public areas – Retail, Banks, large offices


The product we ended up purchasing was AMAZONE Canadian Maple, by KRONOTEX. This is an AC-4 rated product, which means it should be more than sufficient for our basement. This product comes in fixed lengths.


Now that we’ve selected our product, and loaded it into the job site it’s time get the prep work done.

  1. Ensure the floor is level, and flat. If it isn’t, you have to decide whether you want to grind down any lumps, level the floor with Self Leveling Compound, or live with some imperfection. Our floor had some variation, and we probably should have leveled it, but the cost was prohibitive. We decided to accept the imperfection.
  2. Remove baseboards, and undercut door trim. (Not required in this installation, as it hadn’t been installed).
  3. Clean the floor – This is critical. You don’t want any lumps of mud or any organic material on the concrete – this is food for mold!
  4. Stack your material on the wall you are going to finish LAST. Leave it there for a few days to acclimatize to the moisture level of your room.
  5. Lay the underlay. Some say that the underlay should run perpendicular to the flooring. However, this means that you have to do all the underlay in one go, and keep it clean while you work (an impossible task!). Since it comes in 3′ widths, I prefer to run it the length of the room, lay the flooring on top, and lay the next section when I get near the edge.

The Installation


  1. Mitre Saw -for cutting boards to length
  2. Table Saw – for ripping your final boards to the appropriate width.
  3. 4 x Carpenter’s Pencils.  You’ll need one at each saw, one behind your ear, and one left on the floor near the end of the run.  Beware of inferior pencils. Only the official diy pencil will work.
  4. 2 x Measuring tape – one in the work area, and one by the table saw.
  5. Undercut saw – for cutting under door trim (if necessary)
  6. Broom and Dustpan
  7. Shop Vac
  8. Jigsaw

Since the end of each run will require a cut, I prefer to chop my boards in the work space.  This necessitates lots of cleaning and vacuuming, but saves many trips up and down the stairs.  The table saw can be set up in any convenient location out of the work area, such as a nearby garage.

STOP! There’s one last bit of thinking!

One thing we need to avoid is a skinny little space left over after our final run. Since my boards were nominally 3 inches wide, I need to know how much space will be left over for my final course. Ideally, I’d love it if the final board just clicked into place leaving me a 1/4 inch of space to be covered by the skirting. THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN! The reality is that you need to rip (length cut) the final course to make it fit. We could just blindly plunge ahead and deal with that issue at the end. But, we could end up with a 3/4″ space, which will just look awful. We need to estimate this gap before we begin.

  1. Measure the room width as accurately as possible. You want to find a maximum and minimum width, to the 16th of an inch.  See, BMitch’s excellent post on measuring.  Subtract 1/2 an inch (you need 1/4 inch gap on either side)(I ended up with 15 ft, 2 12/16 inches)
  2. Snap 3 or 4 boards together, and measure the width to the nearest 16th of an inch. Divide by 3 (or 4) to get the board width (3 1/16).
  3. Convert everything to 16ths of an inch. Room =(15 x12 + 2) x 16 + 12 = 2924 16ths.  Board = 3×16  + 1 = 49 16ths.
  4. Divide the Room width by the board width 2924/49 = 59.67346939 (keep all significant figures)
  5. Subtract the integer part, and multiply by the board width (.67346939 x 49 = 33 16ths)  This is more than half a board, so I’m good.
  6. In the event that you end up with less than a half board (lets say 15 16ths)  the solution is to rip 1 inch off the tongue side of the starting boards, so that you’ll end up with an approximately 2 inch board at either side of the job.


Before we get started, lets define some terminology. Unlike hardwood, you lead with the groove, and snap the tongue of the next board into it. This picture explains what I mean:

Let’s go!

Take a piece of flooring (ripped if necessary), and lay it in a corner, over your underlay, parallel to the longest wall. Remember to leave a 1/4 gap around the walls. The trailing edge, and the trailing end go up against the walls. It will move, so don’t worry.

Continue down the wall, butting the next board to the one before, and the trailing edge should click into the leading edge of the previous board. This is going to move, so again don’t worry.

When you get to the end, your piece of wood will be too long. (If you have random lengths, pick one that is significantly longer), it’s time to make our first chop.

Interlude: Cutting Boards to Length

We need to cut a board to fit the remaining space AND leave a quarter inch gap. We could mess around with measuring and calculating, but I’ve figured out a better way.


  1. Lay the board upside down trailing edge (the edge you want to keep!) butted tight to the wall over the last board you installed.:
  2. Using your carpenter’s pencil (as seen in the image above!), mark the tongue exactly even with the previous board. (This gives us the full length – we still need to remove 1/4 inch)
  3. Lay the mark on the board right on the edge of the slot of your mitre saw and cut.  This should be close enough to 1/4 short of what we marked.  As long as the skirting/quarter round covers the gap, we’re good.)


Carrying on…

Slip the piece marked KEEP into the end of the row.  The piece marked waste, if really short can be thrown out. But! hopefully it’s pretty long, and we can use it to start the next row. If you have random lengths,  pick your end piece to leave enough for the next row.

The next row is probably the most difficult.  You need to slip the  trailing edge of the current row into the leading edge of the previous while making sure the butt joins of the first row are perfectly aligned.  If the board doesn’t slip in easily and click into place, your butt joins are misaligned OR there’s crud in the groove.  I find that the  corner of the trailing edge and end grooves often gets a bit munged up.  It’s easy enough to remove any imperfections with your fingers, or a utility knife.

Carry on with the second row, making an end cut when necessary.

Now that everything is locked together, the third row is much easier.  Notice however, that the floor is still moving.  Don’t worry about it until you have 4 or 5 rows down.  Then the floor should be heavy enough to hold itself in place.  Just remember to check the 1/4 inch gap against the starting wall every once and a while, and slide the laid flooring around to correct it. Once you’ve got halfway, move your material from the finishing wall to a convenient location on the completed portion of the floor.  This will help hold it down, and get the material out of your way.

Hopefully, you can continue on until the last course, laying a new row of underlay as required,  rip a few boards at the end, and slip out for a beer. (Not Bloody Likely!)  What’s likely to happen is you run into something like this:

or into a closet door, a run-out to a stairwell or some other obstacle. You’re going to have to cut.

Dealing with obstructions

You have two choices here. You can  measure the distance,  and cut the first board of the row so that your seam ends up in the middle of the obstruction, and make a join like this:

or you can cut out the middle of the board with the jigsaw.  The trick with the second option is getting the width of the cut.  Here’s how you do it:

If you do it right, your end result should look like:

Note, that this measuring technique is extremely useful for measuring the rips for your final row.  Remember your 1/4 inch gap!

Another obstruction you might run into is a closet.  This takes a bit of doing, but it isn’t that hard.

The problem here is that I was working left to right, and had to then work right to left in the closet, which is difficult as the material is designed to be worked in one direction.  However, it is possible to clip in a piece from the rear.

When I got to the opening of the door, I cut the board out  in the middle as above, and ran it to the back of the closet.  I then removed this board, and put it aside for later.

I laid the floor in the closet just as if I was starting fresh, making the first board a whole board. until I got past the opening.  I then removed the FIRST board, and laid the piece that I had cut out, connecting it to my closet boards.  Now I’ve got something I can measure!   Rip the first piece, and try to slip it in from the back. Alternatively, I could have undone the last few feet of work in the closet, and relaid it fresh, starting with the ripped piece.

The Last Row

If you’re still with me, you can probably figure it out for your self.  We’ve got a gap at the end, which is too narrow for a course of boards.  In an ideal world, we should be able to measure, set up our saw and rip 4 or five boards at once. This might work for you, if you can verify that the gap is a consistent width the entire length.  It probably isn’t.  Remember that nothing in your house is parallel or perpendicular to anything else in your house.  There is error in everything constructed.  You’ve got to measure each board by itself.  Use the stacking technique in the dealing with obstructions section to figure out the widths.

Once you’ve ripped and installed the boards, you can reinstall the skirting boards and quarter round, or decide to leave that for another day.

Hopefully your final product will look as good as this:



Total Time: 7 hours for 330 sq. ft.


  1. Do your prep work. In particular, measure accurately to avoid a 1 inch rip at the end.
  2. Keep your work area clean. Dust and bits of cardboard packaging in the grooves make the job tough.
  3. Slow and steady wins the race.  You can’t rush this.
  4. Deal with obstructions properly.  Measure twice cut once.
  5. This really is a one person job.  Helpers get in the way.  Although an extra hand on the broom or clearing packaging is appreciated if someone pops in for a few minutes.
  6. This job is hell on the knees and back.  You will need a liberal application of “muscle relaxants” after completion.  Don’t make any plans for the evening.
  7. Only @aarthi approved Carpenters Pencils will do.  To get some, write a blog post on a project, or a tool review, and @aarthi will send you some!  Talk to @tester101 about your blog account.


profile for Chris Cudmore at Home Improvement, Q&A for contractors and serious DIYers

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  • Raphael says:

    Why not put 1/4 pieces of spare wood in the wall gap so you don’t accidentally close it? Should beat taking care and checking regularly.

    • chriscudmore says:

      Raphael – Good question. I’ve tried this in the past, and since these floating floors tend to move around a lot until you’ve got a significant amount down, I’ve found that my spacers tend to fall over, and often throw my spacing out of whack, or worse, jam in at an angle and leave me a gap too wide. I just found it easier to adjust every now and then. I suppose there is a spacer solution that would work appropriately, but not worth the effort.

      That being said, I have used spacers when installing actual hardwood. In fact, it’s necessary to stop from driving the floor back when nailing.

  • chriscudmore says:

    … Also, I’ve experienced the situation where the drywall has a gap under it, and spacer boards tend to tilt underneath…

    • daniel carsley says:

      spacers should always be used to keep the gap present.try using offcuts of the flooring when thickness is correct and pin them to wall if gap under drywall. one thing i always check too is make sure you start from longest block wall as this will be straighter. you may also have to scribe the first wall if its particularly uneven due to poor plastering or building.

  • Wayne says:

    Very nice informative tutorial. Laminate is a great easy substitute for hardwood flooring. Thanks for sharing. Wayne.

  • Artificial Grass says:

    Different areas of the house demand different types of wood. For example, wood floors that have very light or very dark finishes typically do not fare well in the kitchen.

  • SFEN says:

    Beautiful pictures there …

    We have laminate flooring at home. It suffered a slight dent after moving some furniture around last year. We’re told we need to replace the whole floor — Ouch!

    • daniel carsley says:

      laminate floors can be repaired with certain kits that include waxes and resins. should never have to replace unless damage is really severe

  • Laminatas says:

    I can see that you have installed laminate very profesionally. Great job and thank you for sharing your experience in this.

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  • Peter says:

    Nice work, looks really professional! But did you really need only seven hours??

    Regarding the laminate parquet discussion: I´m with you, I think a good laminate is just good enough for a basement!

    • chriscudmore says:

      Yes, it took 7 hours, but all the material and tools had been set up the night before, as well as all the cleaning. However, my back was stiff for several days afterwards.

  • Vanessa says:

    Hi, your flooring is beautiful! Where did you get it?

    • chriscudmore says:

      I’m in Toronto, West end. There’s about 10 Flooring shops on Dundas between the 427 and Dixie. Ask for it by name, it was the “Canadian Maple” shade.

  • Celina Anne Vang says:

    Hi, thank you very much for this very informative blog. Keep sharing!

  • Laminatas says:

    the result of your hard working is great, the laminate looks perfect and so organic. You explain every step of installation so clear and easy understandable.

  • Angelica Cortis says:

    Thank you for the good write up. Actually my friend find a floating hardwood flooring and the advantages of using a floating hardwood floor setup.

  • Asbestos Removal says:

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  • hardwood floors says:

    Thanks for excellent article, also i would like to encourage people, when you are doing this type on installation. Take your time doing beacuse you can mess up your floors easily by doing this fast.

  • Cheryl says:

    I love having different types of wood flooring throughout my house. A lighter wood plank color would fit the kitchen well, as a darker wood plank color would look amazing in a bedroom! That’s just my opinion thought, and thanks for this great blog!

  • Lee's Hardwood Floors, Inc says:

    Firstly, the finished product looks fantastic, secondly, there are some great tips in this article for anyone looking to install laminate flooring. I think that this article is so helpful, that a monkey could read it and be able to install the flooring.

  • Designer Flooring says:

    Great advice. I would like to second what you said about the prep work. If you prep properly for a job like this, it will go smoothly, if not, you will encounter problems. Remember, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail!

  • Rovin's Hardwood Flooring says:

    I like many types of wooden flooring in my house but the main problem occur of cleaning but after reading your post now i can use many type of wooden flooring in my house.

  • Tavi says:

    Interesting article

  • Exclusive Coverings says:

    Thanks for sharing the information,keep posting.

  • doresoom says:

    Chris, thanks for the post. My only question was how to work the opposite direction in the closet, and you answered it for me. Your floors look great! Hopefully mine will too. 🙂

  • wooden bowl says:

    Thanks for sharing the information,keep posting.

  • wooden bowl says:

    Thank you greatly just for this really helpful weblog. Preserve discussing!

  • Ruby Liam says:

    Thank you for sharing such an informative blog.

  • Katlin says:

    This is a GREAT tutorial for laying laminate. I did one room many years ago, but I’m old and forgot much of the info. So glad I found your blog!

  • Vanya says:

    Thank you very much just for this really cooperative weblog. protect discuss!

  • Hazel turney says:

    Liked this very helpful article. Anyone care to comment on the best choice of Engineered wood to use in Kitchen.

  • Aqua service says:

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  • Aqua service says:

    Enjoyed this exceptionally supportive article. Anybody want to remark on the best decision of Engineered wood to use in Kitchen.

  • kent ro says:

    Very nice informative tutorial. Laminate is a great easy substitute for hardwood flooring. This article is very informatic.

  • Aqua service says:

    i didn’t get what is engineering wood can you help me????

  • Artech Stone says:

    Thanks for sharing this. Very informative article.

  • i didn’t get what is engineering wood !! would you be able to help me???? thnx..

    • chriscudmore says:

      Engineered wood is essentially the same as Laminate, but the top layer is an 1/8th to 1/4 inch of real wood. That is, it’s real hardwood on the top layer, but the lower layers are plywood or HDF.

      Laminate has a printed surface, which is essentially 0 thickness.

  • jessicaray4 says:

    A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing this. Extremely educational article.

  • Tonymiller says:

    Wood Flooring

    Nice Blog! We have read a few of the interesting content on your website now, and we really like your style. Thanks a million and please keep it up the effective work.

  • Jane Roberts says:

    Awesome asset of data here, heaps of intriguing and enlightening posts. Much appreciated for every one of your endeavors!

  • Justin Knox says:

    Thank you for the help. My wife and I are doing some remodeling and have decided to install some engineered wood flooring, as you mentioned. However, I have never installed this myself. Do you think this is a project that I can learn as I go, or do I need to hire a professional for the flooring?

  • Nick says:

    Cool post, thanks for sharing. It takes real devotion to get a flooring job done right.

  • Flo says:

    Thanks for sharing, great to have some flooring examples on hand.

  • Linda says:

    Installing Laminate flooring in our quick spaces for existences and present are an insufficient major chips that are scarcely obvious then other than that the floors appearance inordinate.

  • manoj says:

    great blog and nice design . share more designs

    • ram says:

      . Once you’ve got halfway, move your material from the finishing wall to a convenient location on the completed portion of the floor. This will help hold it down, and get the material out of your way.

  • Meryl Weprin says:

    We just converted our garage into 2 bedrooms for our teenagers and had to install hardwood floors. I ran into similar issues but your floor came out looking much better than mine. Too bad I didn’t find your post before I put the floors in.

  • aquafresh says:

    I cherish having diverse sorts of wood deck all through my home. A lighter wood board shading would fit the kitchen well, as a darker wood board shading would look astonishing in a room! That is only my supposition thought, and a debt of gratitude is in order for this awesome web journal!

  • Elljean Yap says:

    Very informative post about the quickest way to get new wood underfoot is to install a floating floor. Unlike traditional solid-wood strips, a floating floor isn’t nailed down.

  • Carlos Nunez says:

    Very nice informative tutorial. Laminate is a great easy substitute for hard wood flooring. This article is very informative.

  • Exceptionally decent enlightening instructional exercise. Cover is an extraordinary simple substitute for hardwood flooring. This article is exceptionally informatic.

  • Sheena Bajaj says:

    A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing, extraordinary to make them floor case close by.

  • Pikku Sharma says:

    To a great degree instructive article.

  • sheena Bajaj says:

    Great blog….thnks for sharing this design….share more design

  • I can see that you have introduced overlay profesionally. Incredible occupation and thank you for sharing your involvement in this.

  • sheena Bajaj says:

    Decent blog…thnks for sharing.

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  • Rose Marie says:

    laminated floors is very nice…thanks for sharing

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  • I love having different sorts of wood deck all through my home. A lighter wood board shading would fit the kitchen well, as a darker wood board shading would look shocking in a room! That is just my supposition thought, and an obligation of appreciation is all together for this great web diary!

  • Much obliged to you for the great review. Really my companion locate a coasting hardwood flooring and the upsides of utilizing a skimming hardwood floor setup.

  • Thank you this was such a great post. Laminate is easy to install and easy to maintain, and it’s designed to replicate the natural color, grain and texture of real hardwood.

  • Thanks for the post, if the house is high-end, laminate may drag down the home’s value. Engineered wood flooring is made of plywood with a veneer of fine hardwood on top. Laminate flooring is made of thin, pressed wood board with an image of wood on top covered by a clear “wear layer” to protect the image.

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