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?

  • So many answers to read through, maybe I missed it but there is also diagonal. – spicetraders Sep 18 '16 at 21:34

13 Answers 13

up vote 24 down vote accepted

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.

Let me add 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!

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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    " 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. – cmcginty Sep 18 '12 at 5:16

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:

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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
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    @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

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.

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.

  • 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
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    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 '14 at 22:27

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.

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.

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.

I agree that running parallel to the longest wall is the best installation method. This will make the room look larger as well. Its funny that laminate gets bashed for being cheap flooring and the answer is engineered? I have used both and the laminate held up much better. You cant leave standing water on it but with two kids and a dog I had no issues when using the laminate. I did have a great deal of scratches in the engineered when I used that. Given the choice I would say laminate or solid wood. I will not use engineered again.

I agree the easiest way to install would be parallel to the longest wall - less cuts. However your room looks like a narrow rectangle and with furniture placement, the eye would like to see the install running perpendicular to the long side of the rectangle room. That way the install would be parallel down the hallway - it's okay if it looks narrow. Then should you decide to extend the flooring into adjoining rooms, the floor would be installed in one direction throughout. From a design standpoint the parallel installation along the longest wall would draw the eye down the planks and make the room seem narrower than what it is. Just my two cents.

By running boards perpendicular in halls, the boards are cut to stagger joints which make them have a tendency to buckle and separate due to ther short length. This is especially at problem in doorways.

Run it lengthwise down the hall and the same direction in the living room at the end. That way you can do it without using a transition between the two. Rooms that are seperated by a door can be run any direction because you'll used a transiton there. As to the the recommendation of running it paralelle to window or light source, I ignored that because mine (shaw) had very tight seams, and running it across the room just looked wrong. I also ran it lenghtwise thru a living room, foyer, living room and down the hall without any transitions..over the recommended length for contiuous runs. Several years later no problems. However it's just a few planks that make the full run- the rest expand into the other rooms. Arguements For laminate is it's cheaper, a good one should last a long time with care, and it can be disasembled if necessary to replace damaged spots. Water spills- on a good one- are not a problem. I left scraps out in weather and was suprised how unaffected they were for a long time.

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    Just a note - running a floating floor longer than the maximum recommended length without an expansion gap will void the warranty. Maybe you didn't have any buckling, but that doesn't mean someone else in a different climate won't. – Doresoom Jul 31 '15 at 14:10

I would do one direction, vertically in your drawing.

Sometimes floors have a slight dip or waviness between joints. If you run laminate flooring perpendicular to the the joists, it can "float" over differences a little better than if you ran it parallel to the joists. I know, if the floor is too bad, it should be leveled.

  • [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

I would recommend laminate over engineered. I bought top of the line engineered hardwood and it was ruined in the first year with scratches from the dog, furniture and everything else under the sun.

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