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I'm thinking of installing laminate flooring and have a question: If I'm installing laminate throughout the house, should ALL of it be going in the same direction?

Say for example, let's say I have a hallway that is perpendicular to a large living room.

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In the layout above, would all of the laminate be installed "left to right" for both the living room and hallway? Or could it be installed in one direction for one room and installed in a different direction for the other room?

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9 Answers 9

up vote 15 down vote accepted

First, let me state that I am NOT a fan of laminate flooring. Laminate flooring comes in a wide variety of quality levels, from extremely poor to fairly good, but share a common trait. They are always a "picture" of wood on some pressed paper or synthetic backing. They can be miserable to work with, easily damaged and almost impossible to repair after installation. Consider an engineered wood "click lock" instead. Pricing is very close and the engineered products usually are much more stable due to having a solid plywood backing, and somewhat refinish-able with a true hardwood veneer. They also handle the occasional water spill much better than most laminates that usually swell, bubble and blister at the site of water!

As to your question, strip flooring can be installed in any direction in any room, however the convention is to run parallel with the longest wall in most situations. Rarely is this type of flooring run perpendicular to walls in a hallway. Not only does it tend to make a hallway look narrower than it actually is, but can cause a lot of waste of material when installing. Don't be afraid of changing directions from the room to the hallway if your using a good wood product that can be cut cleanly on a table or chop saw. You simply need to make a very straight and slightly back angled edge (maybe 2 degrees) so the adjoining 90 degree slats are tight with no open gaps. This is extremely difficult to do with cheap laminate, but not so much with a good wood product.

There are transition pieces available for both styles, but they usually involve a change of floor level like a threshold and are not a good idea to use on open flooring, as they can create a tripping hazard, however they are fine to use in doorways etc. If you really want to have different directions between spaces, consider using a darker color "frame" around the room. This can make a very attractive transition to a large hallway or separate use area in an open design.

Another serious consideration is what type of flooring to use in a large high traffic area vs a smaller room. Laminates are almost always floating and will invariably sound hollow and creak as the temperature changes. For instances, walking across a cold laminate floor first thing in the morning can be like entering a haunted house at a fun park! Seriously investigate the advantages of a better quality engineered product.

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Great info, thanks! –  Mike B Sep 14 '10 at 1:21
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This block of text could really use some paragraph breaks but overall it was very useful information! Thanks –  Joe Philllips Sep 15 '10 at 0:26
    
" For instances, walking across a cold laminate floor first thing in the morning can be like entering a haunted house at a fun park!" Seriously? What about using a cushioned underlayment designed to fix that? –  webXL Jun 16 '12 at 20:56
    
agreed! I bought a house with laminate floors and I can't wait to replace them with a good engineered wood floor. They creek, look cheap, and bubble. –  Casey Sep 18 '12 at 5:16

I learned that you should install hardwood flooring with the long edge parallel to the long dimension of the space it's being installed in. I expect laminate flooring would be the same. This would be for the whole house, not just one room.

I definitely wouldn't change directions at the entry to the hallway.

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The reason why hardwood is best done in one direction over another is surely due to seasonal (humidity based) expansion and contraction of the wood. The difference is that laminated flooring does not have this problem. –  user558 Sep 13 '10 at 13:23
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Laminated floors can also expand and contract. –  chris Sep 13 '10 at 16:45
    
While they CAN expand and contract, most laminated floors are essentially plywood! Unlike hardwood, which is strongly anisotropic in its properties, plywood is well behaved. This means that it is not significant which direction you lay down the floor. The only factor that matters is as the manufacturer suggests - where the light comes from. –  user558 Sep 15 '10 at 11:09
    
the reason floors are typically done in one direction rather than another is a) aesthetics (most say it looks best going the long dimension) and b) labor (there's fewer cuts that have to be made if you lay it in the long direction) –  DA01 Mar 1 at 22:27

The instructions for the last type of laminate flooring I installed actually recommended not selecting the direction based on the longer dimenension of the room, but based on how much light is coming in from each wall, and to select it so the planks ran perpendicular to the wall with the most light.

If you're going to break the floor and rotate it at the hallway, I'd say fine, just install a transition, and if you're going to add it to any additional rooms in the future, consider rotating them relative to the hallway, too, so all of the transitions are the same. Snap a few boards together, then a second set, and take a look at how they look placed next to each other where you enter the hallway -- you'll want to see it with the room lighting to see how it looks.

If you didn't want to break it, and with all other considerations being equal, I'd not look at your problem as two smaller rectangles, but as two sets of walls ... and there's more linear feet of walls running one direction than the other, so there'd be more cuts running the boards across the hallway rather than down.

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I would do one direction, vertically in your drawing.

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Why? [15 chars] –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 29 '12 at 13:23
    
[Comment/edit from anonymous user] In thinking about this and reading other answers, I would go perpendicular to floor joints and not worry about the rooms and the hall. It will look fine. –  BMitch Mar 1 '12 at 18:05
    
Sometimes floors have a slight dip or wavyness between joints. If you run laminate flooring perpendicular to the the joints, it can "float" over differences a a little better than if you ran it parrallel to the joints. I know, if the floor is too bad, it should be levelled. –  BrianK Mar 2 '12 at 19:56

I'm surprised no one has mentioned it yet, but I've always heard it is better to install laminate flooring perpendicular to the floor joists in the room. Often the subfloor can be slightly unlevel due to high points running along the joists and low points halfway between the joists. If your laminate flooring is parallel to the joists, it will simply follow the dips and peaks of the subfloor. However, if it is perpendicular to the joists it will be more likely to span any dips and appear more level.

So my advice is to lay the flooring perpendicular to the joists in the room and hallway, and if that means having it run in different directions for the two, just cover the space in between up with a transition strip in the doorway, like a t-moulding:

alt text

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A transition strip can in many cases be avoided with some planning; as most flooring is tongue-and-groove, you can simply cut a tongue or groove in the ends of the pieces that will go against a perpendicular board. This will create a very stable, flush junction between boards running in different directions. You would generally want to use a T-moulding for cases where the level of the floor will be different. –  KeithS Feb 29 '12 at 21:26
    
@Keiths This will work on hardwood. Most laminates have end T&G that is incompatible with the edge T&G, making this a non-starter. –  Chris Cudmore Oct 5 '12 at 14:51

With a longer hallway I would also consider how square the hall is. If it is out a couple of inches over a long span, and you run the boards along the wall, one side of the hall is going to have boards that get thinner or wider. In this case I would personally run it across the hall.

I'm a fan of running the boards separate directions in the living room to the hall. If that is your plan, I would start on the right wall of the large room and work to the left. This way you would make sure you have a full width board at the door entrance, and if there is a thinner board it is on the outside wall. Then you can butt your hall pieces up against it and run them the length of the hall. This assumes your hall is square.

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This always seemed to help me with my floors http://howtofixstuff.blogspot.com/2012/02/how-to-install-laminate-flooring.html

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Link only answers aren't good answers. We recommend summarising the page you link to. Currently if the page ever moves then this answer will become worse than useless. –  ChrisF Feb 29 '12 at 12:10

Laminate has nothing to do with the joists, it's plywood that you run perp from joists.

You can run Laminante anyway you wish but running it the longest way of the room results in less wast.

Make shore your seams are 12" apart / staggered As well as the 1/4 space from walls.

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While there are a lot of opinions on the "proper direction" for laying laminate, I think the best advice is to buy 2 or 3 boxes of the one you are interested in (they should be returnable.) Connect them and place them in the room(s) in different directions and at different places - especially where light enters and where the floor will adjoin with other flooring. Do this at different times of the day, under different lighting conditions, etc. It's your floor so you should be happy with the way it.

One other suggestion: buy the good stuff. Cheaping out will end up costing you.

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