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Installing Laminate Flooring For The First Time

Installing Laminate Flooring For The First Time

This week, I conquered my first home renovation project, installing laminate flooring on a concrete slab floor in our finished basement. Thanks to Arrow Fastener for sponsoring this video, check out Arrow's full line of tools and fasteners.

Tools and Materials

Step 1: Room Prep and Carpet Removal

 Carpet Removal

The first step with any flooring installation is going to be cleaning out the room, and this particular room had accumulated a lot of junk over the couple of years we’ve lived in this house. Luckily, my buddy Alex came over to help out with this step and it went pretty quickly.

Once the room was empty, we could get to ripping up the carpet. There were two different types of carpet going from the main room to this bedroom, so I first needed to cut the seam between those two pieces so I didn’t tear up the carpet we were keeping in the main room.

After cutting the seam, I could just pull back on the carpet and start ripping it up. This carpet was attached with tack strips around the perimeter of the room, so it required some force to pull up, but it eventually started coming up. 

Once I got a section going, I cut it into a strip to make it more manageable. Carpet is extremely heavy, a lot heavier than you expect, so it makes it a lot easier to move out of the room if it’s in smaller chunks like this. I rolled up each strip and took it outside as we went. 

We just kept repeating this process with the carpet and the pad underneath until the room was completely empty, and then I could move on to removing the tack strips.

Step 2: Removing Tack Strips

 Removing Tack Strips

These things are kind of a pain, but there is a method to removing them that makes things a lot easier. I picked up this method from my buddy Bob over at I Like To Make Stuff, he has some great flooring installation videos on other types of flooring. 

Anyway, the trick with removing tack strips efficiently is to hit your pry bar underneath each of the nails that’s holding down the tack strip, but only just enough to loosen it. If you actually pry on the strip, it has a tendency to splinter into a bunch of pieces, which makes clean up a lot more challenging. 

It’s not always going to come off perfectly, depending on how the nails respond, but you can definitely move a lot faster if you avoid prying and focus on popping the nails out. You can see here how quickly it goes and how easy it is to clean up when the strip comes off in one piece.

Once all of the tack strips were up, I could then vacuum the entire room, making sure all of the little nails that held down the tack strips were gone. If any of these little things end up underneath the flooring, it will be really obvious after installation.

Step 3: Underlayment

 Underlayment

Next, I could start adding my underlayment. Since I’m using Pergo flooring, I went with Pergo underlayment as well, and it was really easy to work with. When installing laminate on top of a concrete slab, your underlayment needs to have some kind of vapor barrier, which this one does. 

To lay the underlayment, I just added a strip, cut it to length, tucked it under the baseboard, then moved on to the next row. Luckily, this underlayment was the perfect length to cover two rows per underlayment pack, so this made things really easy. 

This stuff also already has an adhesive strip attached, so I could attach the strips to each other without the need for underlayment tape.

The main area of the room was really easy, but things got a little more tricky when I got to the closet. I just took my time and did a bunch of test fitting and eventually got it perfect.

Once all of the underlayment was installed, I could move on to adding the flooring.

Step 4: Flooring

 Installing Flooring

For the first row, I needed to cut off the tongue on the short edge of the first board, as well as rip off the tongue on all of the boards on the first row. Before doing that, I marked a line on the last board in the first row, so it could be cut to length before ripping off the tongue, so that board could be used on the start of the second row, and this really helps to stagger those joints.

I used my miter saw to cut all of the boards to length on this project, but a circular saw and speed square would also work fine. Realistically, these cuts don’t need to be perfect, since they will be covered up by quarter round trim anyway. 

After cutting the short tongue off the first board and cutting the last board to length, I ripped the tongue off of all three of the boards from the first row. As you might notice, I actually got this backwards, ripping off the groove instead, and this caused a ton of frustration when trying to install those first few rows. 

It’s technically possible to install this flooring with the groove facing the wall, but it’s a heck of a lot more difficult. Once I figured out my error, I started over with fresh boards and this made my life a lot easier. 

With my corrected boards, I could get to assembling the first two rows. To attach the boards, I first lifted the board, with the tongue facing the groove, until it was fully seated, and then I could push down to lock the boards in place. On the second board on the second row, I repeated the process, seating the tongue and groove on the long edge of the board, but I then needed to tap the board to seat the short edge. 

I put a box between the baseboard and the end of the row to hold the rows in place and used a tapping block to make sure not to damage the groove on the end of the board. 

Next, I added the next board in the first row, again seating the long edge first and then tapping the board into place to seat the short edge. With a few boards added, I could add a box of the flooring on top to help keep the boards in place while tapping. 

I just kept repeating this process for the first two rows. I found it easier to put these together by staggering the boards, rather than trying to do one complete row at a time, for this first pair of rows. 

Once I got to the last board in the first row, I needed to use a pull bar to pull the board into place, since a tapping block wouldn’t fit.

I could then mark the last board on the second row to length. This is easy to do if you flip the board around, so the grooves are facing each other, and then mark the board to length. This will ensure you have a board at the perfect length, with no measuring. 

After cutting the piece to length at the miter saw, I could install it, again using the pull bar to fully seat it, and then the first two rows were done.

With those first two rows done, things got a lot easier since the boards had less of a tendency to slide around. I added a third row and then slid all three rows into their final place, with the spacer blocks on all three sides of the boards. 

Step 5: Dealing with Doorways

 Undercutting Door Trim

From there, it was just more of the same until I got to my first obstacle, a doorway. I needed to notch out the board to fit underneath the trim, making sure the edges of the flooring were concealed by the trim since I wouldn’t be adding quarter round to this area. 

Before notching out the board, I cut it to final length, and then made a few marks on the board where I needed to cut it. To cut out the notch, I used a jigsaw, which made easy work of this process. 

Once I cut out the notch, I could test fit the board and realized I had once again mixed things up. 

I recut the board off camera, and then needed to undercut the trim before installing the board. To do this, I used an offcut of the flooring to hold up my flush trim saw and cut away the trim. This results in a perfect fit with almost no gap between the flooring and trim.

Next, I could tap the board into place. You’ll notice I ended up using an offcut of the flooring rather than a tapping block in most of these scenarios, and this really helped to keep the boards from getting damaged. These tongues are pretty fragile and it’s very easy to damage them with a regular tapping block. 

From there, I could just continue installing more flooring. While I’m installing, let’s talk about the sponsor of this week’s video, Arrow Fastener. Arrow makes a wide variety of fastening tools including staple guns, nailers, glue guns, riveters, and more. I used the Arrow PT18G brad nailer and Arrow brad nails to install all of the trim on this build, and I have a ton of projects featuring Arrow tools coming up, including some exclusive projects going up on the Arrow site, so stay tuned. If you'd like to learn more about Arrow and their full line of fastening tools and fasteners, check out the link in the video description below.

I just kept installing flooring until I got to my next obstacle, a transition.

Step 6: Dealing with Transitions

 Installing transition track

I attached the aluminum transition track and then could continue installing the flooring. I needed to install this track so I could know what length the boards needed to be in this area, so I could leave the correct expansion gap. 

The last little bit of flooring is always the most tricky, as you usually have a bunch of stuff to work around. In this case, I needed to rip the boards to width, allowing for the correct gap between the tile and flooring for the transition, as well as notching the boards to fit around the trim. 

Once again, I just took my time, taking a bunch of measurements, and eventually got a really nice fit.

On this last board, you can see I needed to notch out the edge so I could fit my pull bar to seat the board, and this ended up working really well. 

With that part of the flooring complete, I could go ahead and added the transitions, which just snap into place.

Next, I could work on the closet, which I was honestly dreading but ended up going really quickly. It was just more of the same, and I finished by ripping the last boards to width the fit the space. 

Step 7: Installing Trim

 Installing Trim

And with that, the flooring was done, so all that was left was to install some quarter round trim over the expansion gap. Since my quarter round came in 8 foot lengths and my room is 12 feet wide, I needed to join the pieces in the middle of the room. 

To do this, I cut a 45 degree miter on each end of the piece, one to go into the corner of the room and one for where the two pieces of trim will meet in the center of the room.

One thing to keep in mind when cutting and installing quarter round is that there is one wider face of the piece, and this face needs to be face down on both the miter saw and when being installed in the room. 

After cutting the piece to length, I installed it with 1 ½” brad nails, making sure to nail into the baseboard and not the flooring. The whole point of this gap is to allow expansion and contraction, and if you nail directly into the flooring, it won’t be able to do this. 

You can see here how nicely the two pieces meet up when using the scarf joint method of cutting a 45 degree miter on each, rather than using a butt joint. 

I just kept repeating the process around the perimeter of the room. 

Once all of the trim was installed, this install was done! 

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