Laminate floors have become a popular choice for people looking to update or upgrade their old floors. It's inexpensive, easy to care for, wears like iron and in most cases you can put it right down on top of your old flooring - even below grade (just don't try it on carpet). It's very adaptable and can take on all kinds of appearances - hardwoods and exotics like cork and bamboo or even ceramic or slate tiles.
Laminate flooring is often called a floating floor or Pergo flooring. It's known as floating because it literally sits (or floats) on top of the subfloor. It isn't fastened in any way, even around the edges where you need to leave a gap of at least 1/4" between the flooring and the walls. Pergo is the name of the Swedish company who actually came up with the idea of floating floors.
Laminate flooring comes in boards 8 to 10 inches wide and 48 inches long. It's made of a middle layer of high density fiberboard (HDF), a man made wood product of compressed and bonded wood fibers; covered by a "design layer" of cellulose paper with a print or even a photograph of a pattern; all covered by layers of clear melamine plastic resins. The fact that the image on the design layer can be virtually any type of wood or even tile is what makes laminate's appearance so adaptable.
The flooring pieces fit together (literally lock together) using tongue and groove joints on each side of the flooring boards. The flooring is installed over a thin closed cell foam plastic underlay that provides cushioning for the floor and helps to reduce noise.
Measure the floor area you want to cover and add 10 percent for waste.
Installation kits for laminate flooring are available wherever laminate flooring is sold. They cost less than $20 and include specialized tools like a tapping block and a pry bar for working in close to walls plus some spacers to keep the laminate away from the wall. They're well worth the price.
Laminate is usually installed running the length of a room; however, some people prefer to run it parallel to the light entering the room (see photo).
Be sure to bring your laminate flooring into the house at least 48 hours before you begin the installation. This will allow it to acclimatize to the humidity level in your home and the boards won't move after the floor is installed.