My wife and I installed a laminate flooring system in one of our bedrooms this weekend. We used the laminate flooring from Costco called Harmonix as it was about 1/2 the price of Pergo or other name-brand laminate flooring systems.
First we ripped up all of the carpet, padding, and tack strips. The key when removing the padding is to make sure that you get all of the staples out of the floor. I reccommend using bent needle nose pliers and trying to pull up as many staples as possible while the padding is still on the floor; if you rip up the padding before removing most of the staples, you will wind up with little tufts of padding all over the place and it just takes longer. To remove the tack strips, I reccommend getting a medium length crowbar and a hammer -- be careful not to cut your hand on the top of the strips as they are extremely sharp.
Next we removed all of the baseboards and the trim around the door. You do not necessarily have to do this, but it will make for a cleaner installation with less complex cuts as the new baseboard will be on top of the flooring.
Before we installed the laminate planks, we had to put down the underlayment. We had purchased the Harmonix underlayment kit that is also sold at Costco; let me warn you to carefully inspect the box to ensure that it has not been opened -- our had been opened, someone had used a small amount of the underlayment, which made us come up short and caused us to have to purchase another kit. For the first row of underlayment, per the instructions, we had to run 5/8" of the foam up the wall; the best way to accomplish this without too much aggravation is to put a couple of staples through the fabric into the wall (you can remove them later).
When we put in the first row of laminate planks we tried to use the 3/8" spacers to allow for movement and settling of the floor -- that didn't work. What we found was that we had to get in a few rows of the planks to get some weight to hold the spacers against the wall.
The planks of laminate simply click together, or at least they are supposed to. We did not follow the instructions and instead laid the planks out and clicked them in 1 row at a time rather than 1 plank at a time -- I reccommend this method if you have 2 people working. When putting in a row at a time, it is important to use the tapping block that comes in the underlayment kit to fully seat all of the planks. A good method to ensure that all planks are seated is: (1) the row will lay flat on the floors, and (2) the seams turn a whitish color. Additional tapping blocks can be purchased at any home improvement store and it is nice to have 2 blocks when you have 2 people installing. Note that if you use a hammer instead of a rubber mallet with the tapping blocks to hit very gently or you will damage the edge of the laminate plank.
In order to make the floor look good, every other row must have staggered seams. Because we did not follow the instructions precisely, we staggered the seams by randomly cutting pieces of plank in half. The room we were flooring used almost exactly 4 planks across, so this method was the most efficient way to ensure the seams were staggered.
The Harmonix laminate product from Costco offers trim, thresholds, and stair nosing by special order, but we were able to match the laminate color for the 2 thresholds that we needed off the shelf at Home Depot. We are putting in white baseboards, so we did not need to order matching color baseboards from Harmonix; there were matching baseboards at Home Depot right off the shelf.
We were very impressed with the look of the Harmonix and certainly liked the price as compared to other products. As with many things at Costco, I certainly reccommend buying more than you need because if you wind up short, you may find that they are out of the particular color that you need. Furthermore, I do reccommend buying 2 underlayment kits just in case you wind up a little short; you can always return the extra one.
Total cost was about $250 for a 11'x11' room. Took 2-3 hours to tear all the carpet, baseboards, etc. and about 3 hours to lay in the new flooring (not counting the drive time back to Costco to buy another underlayment kit).
If you have the following tools or access to them, it makes the job go much faster:
- Chop/mitre saw -- for making straight cuts. This is by far the fastest way to cut planks with perfectly even lines.
- Jigsaw -- to cut small pieces, L-shapes, or complex cuts.
- Circular or table saw -- to rip down full planks. I used a circular saw with a guide, but a table saw would be much faster and a cleaner cut.
- Staple gun -- to put a couple of staples into the underlayment.
- Bent needle-nose pliers -- to pull staples out of carpet underlayment (if applicable). Note that you can lay the flooring directly over existing linoleum.
- Rubber mallet or hammer -- to use with the tapping block. I reccommend a rubber mallet.
- Tapping block -- usually comes with an underlayment kit, but you want to use one so that you don't mess up the laminate by directly banging on it with a mallet or hammer.
- Spacers -- usually come with a underlayment kit, but you need them to ensure your laminate is spaced from the wall and has room to expand.
- Tape measure -- to measure.
- Pencil -- to mark cuts.
- Tri-square -- to mark straight cut lines.
A few small notes:
- For any saws, powered or hand, be sure to use a finish blade rather than a normal blade to prevent chipping.
- Cut laminate planks on the back side rather than the laminate side to avoid damaging the laminate.