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I'm about to install laminate wood flooring in our family room. The floor is concrete. Having not done this before what tools and tips can you all offer before I get started?

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It would be nice if someone made a blog post about this type of project -- Something like this: diy.blogoverflow.com/2012/09/… –  Chris Cudmore Oct 5 '12 at 14:46
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4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Pick up a kit like this from your local hardware store, it will include every thing you need.

Make sure you measure the room and make sure the last row is not going to be a tiny sliver, it is better to start with a thinner first row than get to the end and realize you are going to have a really thin last row.

Also be very careful when tapping the boards together, if you go to far you will chip/crush the board you are butting up to. When tapping the boards together be careful not to let the tapping block slip up, because that too will chip the plank.

Oh and don't forget to remove any baseboards before you start, and then measure again without the base boards.

When buying the underlay material make sure you get some that is made for concrete, you don't want moisture wicking up through the concrete into your new floor.

It's also a good idea to pick up an extra box or two of flooring, it could save you a trip to the store in the middle of the project if you underestimated or damage some of the planks during install. You can always return any unopened boxes when your done.

A miter saw is also very handy.

EDIT:

Be careful when tapping the planks into place, if you don't have weight on the floor or you are not using spacers the whole floor could shift and become crooked (I learned this the hard way). I was about halfway across the room when I realized the planks that I had previously installed were shifted, if I hadn't caught it I would have ended up with a very crooked floor.

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+1 for a great answer, but also make sure your planks sit inside near where they're going to be installed for at least 24 hours so they acclimate to the temperature/humidity. also make sure you leave 1/4" all the way around to accommodate the flooring expanding. –  dave thieben Aug 10 '10 at 14:29
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The miter saw is handy, but you're going to need to rip boards as you get along the walls, so I got more use out of a table saw with a rip fence, which I could also use for cutting the boards to length. You may also need a scroll/jig saw if you have any odd obstructions you're going to need to cut around. –  Joe Aug 10 '10 at 15:00
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@joe: A table saw is great, but can be a little expensive and can take up quite a bit of space. But if you have the money and room for it, it will definitely make the job easier. When I did it I made a jig with a guide/fence that allowed me to slide the planks in, and use my circular saw to rip the planks to the proper width. As for cutting the planks to length I found the miter saw to be quicker, since I didn't have to adjust anything. –  Tester101 Aug 10 '10 at 15:46
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You can get a decent small table saw (where you have to bolt it down to a table, it doesn't have a stand) for under $200, eg: amazon.com/… ... or you can rent 'em. –  Joe Aug 10 '10 at 18:54
    
I've found tapping with a hammer to be rather unnecessary -- Just keep the joints clean. But, if you do need to tap, sacrifice one board by cutting off about 4" of the trailing end, and from this piece, get rid of the leading edge. This piece now becomes your "Persuader". Clip it into the board, and whack away. –  Chris Cudmore Oct 5 '12 at 14:48
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Having done this a few times before, I'd like to stress the importance of crayons -- they come in lots of contrasting colors, so you can see them easily, and they buff off so no one sees the marks when you're done.

We found a 3-person crew was about right for working -- two people dealt with laying the full boards (one hammered while the other one made sure the board was pressed down to seat into the previous one, and to tell the hammering person how much further they had to go), and the third person was responsible for marking and cutting boards at the end of the run.

We tried one person marking, and one cutting, but I found that people mark differently. (cut on the line? a little over the line? How much slop did you leave, etc?) It was just easier to have the person marking being the same person cutting & laying that board, so they knew how to adjust their markings.

As you want to use the slot side for the block to hit against, at the end of the run you'll want a piece with a tab-end; to mark it, do the following:

  1. Finish the run of boards until you can't fit another full board.
  2. Place a full board on top of the gap, with the tab side towards the wall (ie, backwards from how you'll be installing it).
  3. Mark with your crayon where the board overlaps the last board in the run.
  4. Take the board to your saw, draw a line w/ a crayon and speed square, and cut.

After 1-2 boards, you'll figure out how much of a gap you're getting from drawing your lines; you basically want just enough to drop the board in, and get the little metal pulling bar in there. Once you pull the board into place, you'll have a good 1cm gap because of the space to get the bar in plus the length of the tab/slot joining up.

If you're reading with corners and more complex obstructions, I tended to go with the following order:

  1. Rip the boards if it's part of the starting run. (doing them all at once, so I set the rip fence once, and they'd all match up).
  2. Cut the boards to length.
  3. Ripe the board if it's going against the ending wall. (our room wasn't square, so I had to taper the boards slightly)
  4. Determine any other wall obstructions (eg, corners because I'm trying to get into an alcove), and cut to fit.
  5. Mark & cut any other obstructions (pipes for sinks & radiators, in my case.)

As you work, you'll get tired, and start rushing, being more likely to hit the boards harder, or take shortcuts (like using the metal bar against a slotted side; if you really have to as you get up against the wall, put the plastic block down first, then use the metal bar on the plastic block; the metal bar should only be used on a cut end, and even then, you don't want to slam it very hard, or you will splinter the wood.)

We also had a few blemished boards in the pack, so as the two laying the full boards found 'em, they'd mark them with crayon, and I'd try to use them for where I needed cut boards. (or the ones they mangled because John was rushing too much, and he'd mark which edge was damaged).

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3 people? i thought this was do-it-yourself :) –  dotjoe Aug 10 '10 at 19:24
    
@dotjoe : if you want it to take so long that your knees go out and you can't walk anywhere for a week, sure. –  Joe Aug 11 '10 at 2:35
    
Thank you Joe, I will have to dip into my daughter's crayon stash before getting started. –  gnome Aug 11 '10 at 14:34
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The biggest issue I have run into is laying the transition strips on a concrete floor. The transition strips consist of a plastic or metal channel, that is attached to the floor, which the finishing piece snaps into. For concrete floors, it is usually recommended on the package that you use construction adhesive to attach the channel to the floor. I have found this to be quite unreliable, even when using adhesives meant for concrete. (over time, without fail, the channels have separated from the adhesive, it may be that I had plastic channels instead of metal).

What worked for me is to use the adhesive, but also a hammer drill to install some small concrete screws to keep the channel attached to the floor.

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I've done this myself in the past, and other than what's already been posted I can only offer three pieces of advice:

  1. Measure carefully (and make sure that you remember to stagger the boards).
  2. Leave an expansion gap around the edges.
  3. Get a jigsaw and workbench if you don't have one. I spent far too much time sawing!
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