Laminate Flooring Install - Floor shifting?!

Old 05-22-10, 02:15 PM
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Question Laminate Flooring Install - Floor shifting?!

My husband and I are in the middle of installing 2500 sq. ft. of 12mm laminate flooring throughout the house. We started in the living room and have had to restart 3x today because as we're adding planks, our expansion gaps are getting bigger, and bigger. We've put heavy weights down, but no matter what we do, the floor is moving away from the wall. We measured before we started and the room is square and flat.

Any ideas on what we're doing wrong? Are we using the pull bar to tap in the planks too much? Is it normal for the floor to shift so much?

Any help would be much appreciated.
Old 05-22-10, 03:37 PM
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Once you get enough planks down you should be able to stabilize it with the expansion gap spacers. Until then just keep putting it back in place after each piece, especially if you have to cut one.
Old 05-22-10, 05:57 PM
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tips for laminate installation

First off I am not a professional installer (I have done this several times and for some reason this last time was a pain with all kinds of issues going on), I am writing this because it seems everyone has written the same directions for installation on laminate. There are several things that are missed in actual application and lack of actual tips that are useful when things, as typical, do NOT go according to plan. This is not a complete step by step, as that is all you will find trying research tips. So if you need to know what to do for the underlayment etc. read those articles. (just to clarify, NOT following the manufacturer directions can lead to voiding your warranty all tips are things that worked for me and alternatives when you run into difficulties. Any and all risks you take are your own).
The beginning of any room is probably the most critical. I have come to the conclusion trying to measure and do exact calculations to "plan" your whole floor will just drive you crazy. Every time I have taken the time to do this the calculations get thrown off by the unsquared walls, and unexpected imperfections in other areas that change the numbers ever so slightly to throw off the finished product. That being said , as stated before the beginning is still the most important part and you do need to measure it out so you do not end with an unusable gap. Just don't drive yourself crazy trying to make a perfect ending row, chances are you will have to make some cuts anyway. Don't forget to take into
account the gap sizes when you do your measurements. Just be sure you end up with a row that will be at least 3" wide or more.(not including the gap)

I will assume you have determined which way you would like the grain in the wood to lay. As with most manufacturer instructions you will begin in the left corner and work against the wall to the right. If you have objects go further out (higher) than the wall like a sliding glass door or under a cabinet, take that into account as you may need to begin with boards that are cut the length (more narrow) on the side touching the wall allowing it to provide for the increase in width along the gap side against the wall where the "sliding glass door" or what ever it is to be taken into account for.

Begin by laying out the laminate connected at the ends only as a "test" run. When you get to the spot where a full length board will not fit, first make sure the last board will be at least 6" (if it not you will have to cut the first plank in that row appropriately to make sure it is at least this large). If you have no cuts to perform (according to your calculations) you can start with full planks the only thing you will need to do is cut off the lip that will fit against the wall either with your utility knife or if you are skilled you can use a circular saw.
Anytime you use a circular saw you should make the cut from the bottom of the laminate. This will insure you have a clean cut on side that will be visible and that will not chip off the decorated side. As for jig saws I would think the opposite and you would have the decorative side up, but haven't tried myself so use what works after your own experimentation.

You can now begin your installation. Place spacers to your left and importantly the spacers above the first row against the wall (at least two on every plank) as you lay the boards down. This will allow you to have a base you can tap against without closing your expansion gaps. When you get to the gap at the end, instead of using your measuring tape every time I have found it easier to take the plank that will be cut, carefully (so you don't get confused and cut the wrong end, yea it happens!) lay the plank over the other board to the left, slide it against the wall, placing it where it will go however to long (covering some of the plank to the left). Then grab the left side of the plank with your right hand turning the plank end over end so it is now showing the bottom of the board (where you want to cut it with the circular saw anyway). Realign it to fit where it will lay after it's cut, only as it will be upside down. Rip of a piece of masking tape and align it 1/4" shorter (just eyed no need for exact measure) than the last board to your left. This is where you will cut (make sure you remember what side of the tape is your cut line). The 1/4 inch to your left will will provide your last wall gap so don't take off 1/4" on both sides the board it should be touching the wall. Use the left over piece to start your next row (as long as it is more than 6". Don't forget to stagger your planks so you give strength to your floor and it also gives it a more realistic look. 16” of overlay in needed for maximum strength. Don't just use the same alternating pattern every other row. You will have to make some occasional random cuts to begin the row to do this, just make sure you lay them down in "test" to make sure you end up with a big enough board at the end. (quicker than measuring unless you have a really long room)

So far everything seems pretty normal but the reality is it probably won't be quite that easy. I have gotten lucky and had it be just that easy, however it's usually NOT the case. Like as with my last installation, the whole reason I am writing this now. You will have several pieces of scrap usually pretty quickly. Keep these as you will need them. First I have read people using these tapping blocks more like beating blocks to beat the hell out of these planks to get them to "click" into place. You
should not have to BEAT them but it is true that sometimes they can need a little persuasion (if you feel you are "beating" them stop something is wrong continue reading it will provide possible issues).

I will start the tips with the installation lengthwise (the long side) to the row above it. First each board should be examined for any imperfections in not only the finished side but also the locking
edges. Any damages may make the next board difficult to install correctly. Place the plank at an angle of about 35 deg. which will allow the lip to slide under, holding pressure along the entire length. Once in place, lower it while wiggling (fast up down motion VERY slightly more like a vibration while lowering the board down into place) a few fist pounds to tap it flat and lock it in. If the board will not go into place without opening a gap back up. Take one of your scrap pieces of more than 6" length (needed for even pressure to not damage the locking edge of the stubborn board) continue holding the board at the correct angle where they will easily fit together, press the plank down just enough
were the gap begins to open a gap hold it there and place the scrap piece on the edge -----] (not side-to-side). Tap the edge through the scrap piece( making sure you have it flat against the whole side as to not damage the edge) as you tap the edge the gap will begin to close, continue to apply more downward pressure as you move along and close the gap. With the gap closed the plank should lay flat and not have any pressure pushing it back up at an angle (even a slight amount). GAPS ARE YOUR ENEMY!!! Don't settle with gaps while they may not bother you now they will HAUNT you later causing alignment issues that may ultimately require you to pull up all your hard work and do it again without the gap. Do it right the first time and double check your gaps every time and often as it is possible for them to open back up with all the tapping.
Now for closing the gaps on the edges. ONLY use the pull bar for tight areas that you have to like the ends. The pull bar has a tendency to slip off and sometimes peel off the decorative finish . For the majority of the planks use a scrap piece and your regular hammer. To start it is important to have your fist board as far to the left as possible to minimize the amount of hammering to be done. This will include the first board being pushed against the spacers as they will hold resistance and cause the impact to be applied to the gap rather than moving the planks laterally. Take your scrap piece with the cut side down (don't use a side that has a lip or grove). Place the flat, solid side OVER (on top of) the lip(of the board to be taped) that is on the floor, making sure it is flush with the entire width of the plank . Not doing so will result in frustration as hammering can cause damage to the decorative finish or the locking mechanism ultimately you may have to replace the piece. UHH!!Slide the hammer along the floor as you strike your scrap piece, take your time repeated striking in the same place can cause damage. You shouldn't have to hit it all that hard. There may be a problem if the gap won't close. Make sure the previous board is completely locked in place and laying flat.
-Check the gap closely as sometimes there may be frayed edges or small shavings, holding it from closing further. If this has happened take your utility knife and cut the small pieces free so you then can close the gap.
-Check to see your spacers didn't come out and you are just sliding the boards along without something stopping the last one.
- Sometimes the edges will but against each-other instead of fitting into their locking position. If this happens place a slight upward pressure by adding something under the board to the left (I use the wedge) don't put very much upward pressure as this can cause the lengthwise lock to come undone.
Once you have determined and fixed the problem you should be able to tap the plank relatively easily into place. It may work by forcing it with hard hits but you may find out something is damaged once it's locked into place and you have to do it again with a new plank.

Cutting angles should be somewhat easy if you are doing it at the beginning or ending of a row. You will do the same thing as if it was a squared end with the exception of, at the end of a row just lay a piece of scrap against the wall to parallel the angle of the wall and lay the tape (your cut line) following the same angle. Sometimes it may be easier to make two cuts the first a strait cut to the LONGEST length of the piece then you can more easily lay the tape to the angle of the wall 9 fireplace or whatever it) starting with the corner of the longest edge. Ending in an angle doesn't seem all that bad until you try and use the pull bar to lock the last board into place and the pressure of the angle is not direct and your whole floor moves as you try lock it in. I've found if you cut the tip of the angled board slightly longer. Slightly! Then cut off the pointed tip (not to far where it will show without the molding) so it is flat and perpendicular to the board you've just laid it gives it enough of an edge where you don't damage the piece and can apply enough lateral pressure to not dislodge any other pieces and get this one locked in correctly. You also if the length is short it may be easier to place all the ends together (like one big plank) and use your wedges to hold it at a slight angle and put the whole thing in as one piece.
The hardest cuts are the ones around objects that require multiple cuts and angles, such as doorways. Don't make it overly complicated use the cardboard box the laminate came in as template. Cut it to the same size as the surface area of the plank (don't include the tongue and grove). Once you've made the template trace it back on the plank (I like tape as its easier to see and make corrections) If there are to many angles it may not fit into place and you might have to cut the board into two pieces to make it work.
Old 05-22-10, 06:00 PM
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additonal tips for laminate flooring


Alternatively if you are having trouble at the very beginning you can minimize the amount of force necessary in tapping panels together by using a solid surface, such as a baseboard or a 1X2 inch furring strip, in the beginning of the installation to tap against. With NO SPACERS being used until 3 rows of laminate have been tapped together. Once the 3 rows are established, pull out the floor from the wall and install your spacers. Then, slide the floor up to the spacers again. Also it is sometimes easier to get the first few boards together if you'll wipe the tongue of the product with a slightly damp cloth. Sometimes if dust or debris gets on the tongue, this locking mechanism is so precise that it won't allow it to lock. Wiping it slightly allows it to go together the way it was intended, easily.

In some of my difficulties I have also noticed while the manufacturer instructions show you the preferred way to lay the flooring, there are other ways to do it that will equally work. For whatever reason the flooring I had was quite a bit easier beginning in the lower left corner and moving to the right. The only problem is it leaves the tongue exposed and necessary precautions need to be taken to not damage it for the next plank. I used the cut edge of scrap piece placing it perfectly flat on top of the tongue, this left the tongue unexposed when hammering the plank, that is on occasion when it was needed. I also ran into a few instances where I needed to move from right to left such as a doorway where if I did not (because I had not put in the U track yet for the transition piece (still deciding on what the other floor was going to be) there was no way of keeping a strait line or getting enough resistance on the end when taping to close the end gaps. If you need to do this just be careful to not lay the new plank to close to the previous one as this will have the tongue that needs more room to seat correctly.(it will also require a little more tapping to seat the edges.

To repair minor chips, etc., you can use color-fill epoxy in the same color as the floor. First, surround the area to be repaired with masking tape to prevent excess epoxy from getting on the rest of the laminate. Fill the area with the epoxy and let dry. Wipe up excess with acetone/fingernail polish remover (that contains acetone).

To remove a damaged board, have someone kneel or stand on the board that is above the one you wish to remove. Grasp the board firmly and pull up about 3 inches and pull out. It will come out easily when raised.

If you go against recommendations and install in wet areas, it is then recommended that you use a bead of glue along the locking mechanism to further prevent moisture from seeping through the seams. This is a clicking product and has a very tight joint. It has been sprayed at the factory with a silicone sealant to help with moisture protection. However, in moist areas, extra steps must be taken to protect your flooring. This is when you may wish to glue your laminate together. To do this, simply put a bead of glue along the tongue, then click the flooring together as you would normally. If you've used an adequate amount of glue, some will squeeze out when you do this. Just wipe up the excess glue with a damp rag. No straps, clamps, or any other items associated with typical glued flooring is necessary due to the locking mechanism.

To install transition pieces, make sure you leave the proper expansion joint (1/4 inch) on both sides of the track. DO NOT LAY PAD UNDER TRACK. Cut the track to fit the transition area. If you are installing over concrete, you will need to use glue to install the track. You can use liquid nails, but polyethylene glue is much stronger. If you are going over a wood sub floor, simply secure the track with screws. Then, measure the transition area and cut the transition piece to fit. Snap the transition piece down into the preinstalled track.

T Moldings….install laminate on both sides, leaving room for the track and an expansion joint on both sides, then follow the instructions above. The molding should cover both sides of the laminate.

Carpet End Caps….install the track near the carpet edge. Install laminate on the other side, leaving the expansion joint (1/4 in. space) next to the track. Tuck the end of the carpet that goes past the tack strip down under the carpet end cap.

Outside doors, sliding doors, etc…Using Carpet End Caps in these areas….Just put the track in place in front of the existing door frame. Install your laminate, leaving the ¼ inch expansion joint between the laminate and the track. Snap the molding down into the track and you're done.

Reducers….when transitioning to vinyl, or just going from one height to another, install the track, leaving the expansion joint between that and the laminate, and snap the molding down in.

You can also use a reducer in reverse if you have the laminate as the low side and another type of flooring (ceramic tile, hardwood, etc. ) that is the high side. You'd simply reverse the reducer.

I'm sure I pissed off every professional installer at this point and they are yelling at the computer and calling me all kinds of names , but if you took the time to write this to begin with, I wouldn't be. So feel free to make any corrections to what I've listed or continue to add your own tips to help others even if they are not the PREFERED way. As long as they worked for you they may help someone else!!
Old 06-09-10, 06:24 AM
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Thank you for taking the time to write and share your tips. I have printed it out for reference for my project.

Thanks again

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