You have decided to use laminate flooring on your basement remodel, but you’re a planner, a type A personality. Before you begin, you want to know all the common mistakes when laying laminate flooring. Hey, that’s just being proactive; that’s working smart. 

Well, lucky for you, here at Today’s Homeowner, we have put together a comprehensive list of common mistakes when laying laminate flooring. So sit back, relax, and enjoy; this one’s for you.

Lack of Subfloor Preparation

High and Low Areas in Your Subfloor

Even though most laminate floors are floating floors (read everything about floating floors), most manufacturers require less than a 3/16″ variance in floor height over a 10′ radius for proper laminate floor installation. In other words, no big humps or dips in your subfloor. One of the most common mistakes when laying laminate flooring is disregarding this requirement. Why does this matter? A prominent hump in your floor could cause your planks to unlock from each other over time. A significant dip or low spot in your subfloor will result in your floor squishing down when you step on it. Floors aren’t supposed to squish. 

  • Remove high spots on a plywood subfloor with an orbital sander or planer.
  • Remove high areas on a concrete floor with a grinder and diamond grinding wheel.
  • Fill low points on concrete and plywood subfloors with floor leveling compound.

Raised Nail and Screw Heads

You want your subsurface to be as smooth and flat as possible. Raised screw and nail heads can make locking planks together tricky, can cause joint failure over time, and can lead to flooring eventually breaking.

The raised fastener acts as a high spot in the subsurface.

It can cause the lower areas immediately surrounding it to feel squishy when walking. Come on, that’s no good.

  • Always thoroughly inspect the subfloor for raised fastener heads.
  • Hammer or drill everything flat before installing flooring.

Dirty, Dusty Floor

You want to avoid laying your lovely new laminate flooring on top of a layer of dirt and dust.

Larger debris under the floor will create a high spot in your subflooring.

A layer of general dirt and dust can cause walking across your floor to sound crunchy.

The dirt and debris will crunch and crackle underneath your new flooring as you walk on it.

You don’t want your floor to be loud; you want it to be quiet.

  • Give your subfloor a good vacuuming before laying your laminate flooring.
  • Lightly mop your floor before laying your flooring for extra peace of mind. Let it dry out before you lay the floor, though.
Clean your subfloor before laying your laminate flooring.

Do You Need an Underlayment?

Not all laminate flooring is created equal; some require you to install a separate underlayment before you lay down the flooring.

Some laminate floors have a waterproof membrane integrated into the bottom of the planks themselves.

Being aware of which type of floor you are looking at when shopping and researching your flooring options is essential. 

  • Always check to see if the flooring option you are looking at has an integrated moisture barrier or if it requires an additional underlayment. 
  • Failing to install a moisture barrier underneath laminate flooring that requires it will void the warranty and likely cause the lifespan of the flooring to be significantly shortened.

Related: How to Dry Laminate Flooring With Water Under It

Laminate flooring with integrated moisture barrier.

Not Removing Trim Before Laying Flooring

The purpose of baseboard is to cover the intersection of the floor and wall. If you leave your baseboard on when laying your flooring, you still need to leave a gap between it and your flooring. This gap needs to be covered, so you will need to put another trim piece on top of your existing baseboard. This process becomes an impossible task if you have profiled door trim. If possible, always remove all of your trim before laying your flooring. Besides, if you ever decide to replace your trim, you won’t need to also replace the flooring with it.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

Remove your baseboard and door trim before laying your flooring; this is the correct process and much more manageable.

Incorrect Gaps

Expansion Gaps

When installing flooring of any kind, you must leave space between your flooring and the wall. This space is left so that your walls have room to expand. Wood is a natural, porous material and therefore is subject to expansion and contraction with changes in temperature and humidity. 

A common mistake when laying laminate flooring is to install your planks tight to the wall. As the wall expands, it will push the flooring and “pucker” it or cause it to lift. In tile floors, this will crack grout lines. With laminate flooring, this will cause the flooring to lift or bubble; this causes high spots and can cause joints to unlock and fail. 

Fortunately, this is easily avoidable by just leaving a small gap between your flooring and the wall. A good rule of thumb is to cut your flooring to be about ¼” away from the wall.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

Cut your flooring, so there is about a ¼” gap between the flooring and the wall.

Trim Coverage

Another common mistake when laying laminate flooring is to leave too big of a gap between the wall and your flooring. For example, If your baseboard is ¾” thick and you leave 1″ between the wall and your flooring, you will end up with a horrific ¼” gap between your flooring and trim. Don’t do that to yourself.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

Make sure the maximum gap between the wall and your flooring is less than the thickness of your trim. 

Identifiable, Repeating Patterns

One of the most common mistakes when laying laminate flooring is laying your starter pieces in a repeating pattern.

You don’t want your eye to be drawn to anything in particular on the floor; you want it to blend together.

The human eye is drawn to patterns.

Although it is much easier to stagger your flooring by adding or subtracting 3″ to your starter on each new row, the pattern will immediately draw your eye to it. 

  • Keep your starting lengths random for each new row of flooring. You want to avoid any identifiable patterns.
Randomize your starter lengths.

Nice! Now You Won’t Need to Worry About Those Common Mistakes When Laying Laminate Flooring

Phew! That was a lot to take in! But look at you now; you’re almost glowing with confidence! Knowledge really is power, huh? Now, take everything you’ve learned and tackle that flooring. You can do this!

For more on flooring DIY, check out our guide to flooring faults and fixes.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Andrew Arena

Andrew Arena

Andrew Arena is an accomplished writer specializing in a wide range of home improvement topics, including flooring, plumbing, and other essential aspects of home maintenance. With a passion for empowering homeowners with practical knowledge, Andrew's writing is known for its clarity and ability to break down complex concepts into easily digestible information. His expertise spans various flooring materials, plumbing systems, and maintenance techniques, making him a reliable source for readers seeking guidance on enhancing their living spaces. Andrew's articles provide valuable insights, tips, and step-by-step instructions, helping readers make informed decisions about flooring options, troubleshoot plumbing issues, and undertake DIY projects with confidence. Whether you're a seasoned DIY enthusiast or a homeowner in need of professional guidance, Andrew's writing is sure to equip you with the necessary knowledge to transform your home into a functional and aesthetically pleasing haven.

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