January 5, 2013
Installation is simple although I would very highly recommend you avoid TrafficMaster as they like to discontinue varieties which means you'll have to replace your whole house if you need to repair a section.
The tools you need are: a mitre saw (sliding is highly recommended), a laminate install kit (about $13 and worth ten times that), a jigsaw and a hammer.
Let your boxes of laminate sit in the rooms it will be installed in for 3 days.
Clear the floor completely including any nail heads, dirt, sand, pet hair, etc.
Lay your moisture barrier out and tape to each other. Don't worry about taping it to the subfloor. Make sure it covers every inch of flooring and preferably let it extend an inch beyond. This will help avoid spills getting under the flooring and too much excess can easily be cut away later.
Now's the fun part. Cut 1 piece of flooring in about half. Lay a spacer in the corner where you wish to start and butt the flat side and the side you just cut against the corner so that the tab that runs the length of the board faces away from the wall. You can adjust later, but you want the spacers to leave about a quarter inch between the wall and the board not only here but everywhere. Personally, I would err on the side of too little spacing rather than too much because even when you have trim planned out, the gaps tend to want to creep out from under it.
So now you have a half piece laid down. Take a full piece and lay it end to end with that piece. The tab on the end piece of your half piece should align with the groove in your full piece. Put the ends of your half piece and your full piece together and raise the other end of your full piece up a foot or so. Push the 2 pieces together then lower the other end of the full piece down. There will probably be a very small gap between the 2 pieces. Using your black plastic rectangle from your install kit, put the long board's tab into the groove. Making sure that the rectangle isn't touching the delicate top layer of laminate, gently tap the rectangle with your hammer until the 2 boards just butt up to each other. Don't hit it too hard. If you chip or otherwise ruin the board, just set it aside for later use and try again with a new board. As many floors as I've done I still ruin a board from time to time so don't sweat it. Repeat this process until you reach the end of your first row.
Now you've come to the end of your first row and a whole board won't fit. Grab a scrapped board if you have one that will work (always best to use your scraps whenever possible) or get a full one. Put it in place. (This is a good time to make sure the spacing at the opposite wall is what you want.) Now turn it around backward (not upside down) and butt it up with the wall. Mark where it intersects with your last board that you laid down and cut it with your mitre saw. Don't worry if your saw leaves kind of a rough, chewed up edge as the trim will cover this. Lay your board out as you've done all along. You'll notice that the black rectangle won't fit here so grab the bendy piece of metal from the kit. Put the wide edge between the wall and the board and gently hit the other end with your hammer to bring your last 2 boards together. Yay, your first row is done!
For your second and every row from here out, make sure you start at the same end. Remember how we cut the first board in about half? We want to make sure that the first board on the second row is not the same length as the first board in the first row. If it is then there'll be a gap line that is a weak point and looks bad. So if possible, use a piece of scrap and cut as needed so that it's not the same length as your first first board and so that it's not the length of a full board. Now lay this board against your first row. Put the tab and groove next to each other. Lift the other side of the board at a 45 degree angle and push the tab and groove together. Use the rectangle to tap them, very gently, if needed. Usually though this isn't necessary. Now gently push the board down flat, making sure that your tab stays in the groove. You may need to tap it together with the rectangle as you go. Once you get that board flat, make sure it lines up with your first row board at the wall. If it doesn't, use your rectangle to tap it closer to the wall or your bendy metal piece to move it away from the wall. Lay out your next board in the same way. You'll see that you have to lay it down about a half inch from the previous board so as not to ruin the tab. Simply tap it into place with the rectangle.
So now you've laid out all of your rows and are at the last row and of course it doesn't fit. Using the similar method as you used at the end of each row, lay your board out and instead of marking to cut the width, mark to cut the length. Using your jigsaw, cut along the line to rip the board in half(ish). Install as before.
These instructions are wordy but really this is a very simple project. The main things are: make sure your floor is very clean (think hospital or microchip factory) before starting, replace any dinged boards, use your scraps first when possible and be incredibly gentle with the boards (especially the top laminate) and keep an eye on the gaps along the walls so that they don't get too big or too small. During the process you'll find that boards don't come together; this is usually because the tab got damaged...you can usually fix that by cutting out the damaged part. Remember that this is a "floating" floor so it will move around ever so slightly so do not nail it down. When you put up your trim, attach the trim the the walls, NOT to the floor. Oh yes, have fun!
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