If you’re seeking something durable, easy-to-clean and attractive for your home, then both laminate and engineered wood flooring make the perfect choice. Available in a large variety of styles, there is something for all interiors, from contemporary kitchens to traditional living rooms.
We’ve put together a simple step-by-step guide to installing your own laminate or engineered wood flooring. Before you get started, you’ll need to decide which option is right for you and calculate your floor space – then you’re ready to get started!
Laminate flooring vs. wood-engineered
Laminate is made from compressed wood fibres, with a high-resolution wood-effect image on the surface, topped by a protective resin. Laminate flooring can be a very affordable option, often cheaper than engineered wood – however, the more you pay, the more hardwearing and realistic-looking the product.
It comes in different thicknesses, called AC ratings, depending on the durability required. For instance, you might choose AC3 for a bedroom or AC5 for a busy hallway. It’s important to bear in mind that while laminate can be lightly mopped, it’s not suitable for high-moisture environments, such as bathrooms, which can cause the floor to swell and warp.
Engineered wood is made up of many layers, topped with a layer of real hardwood. This gives the floor a natural look, while the multiple layers beneath means it’s stable and less prone to shrinking or warping with changes in environmental conditions – but, like laminate, it should still be avoided in high humidity environments.
Engineered wood flooring uses less hardwood than a solid floor, so if you’re looking for a more unusual species, such as ash, maple, or walnut, you are more likely to find them in an engineered floor. The hardwood top layer can have a brushed finish to show off the texture of the grain or be sanded smooth for a clean and sophisticated look.
Don’t forget! Once you’ve bought your new flooring, it’s important to let it acclimatise in the room. Remove any packaging and leave the planks for a minimum of 48 hours before installation for laminate and seven days for engineered wood.
How to measure the size of your room
To understand the total cost of a new floor, the first thing you will need to do is work out how much space it needs to cover by measuring your room in m². Howe you do this depends on the layout of your room.
Rectangular rooms can be calculated easily by simply multiplying the length (in metres) by the width. If your room is L-shaped, has alcoves or bay windows, it may initially look daunting, but all you need to do is divide your room into separate rectangles. Once you’ve done that, add the size of the rectangles together to come to your final quantity.
Don’t forget! Add at least 10 per cent to your final measurement to allow for any wastage that comes from trimming and awkward layouts.
Ready to get started? Read on for our easy guide to installation:
You will need
- Jigsaw or handsaw
- Hammer or mallet
- Tape measure
- Pull bar
- Combination square
- Spacing wedges
- Tapping block
Decide on the direction you want to lay your flooring. A good general rule of thumb is in the direction of natural light or along the longest wall. If possible, roll out your underlay in the opposite direction, ensuring it runs from edge to edge and that seams are taped for a more impervious joint. Check that it is free from ripples or bumps.
Place your first plank in the corner of the room, remembering to use your spacers to leave a 10mm expansion gap between your flooring and the skirting*. The ‘male’ part of the plank’s profile should face the skirting.
Place your next plank and use the tapping block and hammer to bring the ends together. Ensure your expansion gap remains consistent by using another spacer. Continue in this way until you reach the end of your room.
*As it is made of a natural material, both laminate and engineered wood will expand and contract slightly due to changes in environmental conditions, although less than real wood. You therefore need to allow an expansion gap at the edges of your room, either by removing and refitting the skirting above the flooring, or by fitting a decorative scotia, as suggested in our step-by-step guide
You’ll more than likely need to trim the last plank. Don’t forget to take off 10mm for your expansion gap! Mark, rule and cut the final plank. Place to the end of the last and use your tapping block, pull bar and hammer to bring the ends firmly together. Check the end of every plank to make sure they are fitted tightly.
Use the off-cut from the last plank of the first row to begin the next, remembering to use a spacer at the end closest to the skirting. Angle the plank at approximately 45° into the ‘female’ of the first row. Push down firmly and the planks will ‘click’ together (above)
Lay the next plank in the same way, using your tapping block and hammer on the ends and sides (above). Continue in this way until you have laid your floor. Remember that joins should be staggered between rows.
Once you have completed laying your floor, you’ll need to cut and install your scotia to hide the 10mm expansion gap you’ve left around the perimeter. Glue or nail this to the skirting only – your floor needs room to move!