We’ve had a few emails with regard to laying our laminate floor in the living and dining rooms so I thought I’d do a bigger post on it and some of the lessons we learnt. In fact hey wait a minute. Jus has been saying she wants to start writing a few posts and this was a big DIY eye opener for both of us. I wasn’t very well at the time so Jus had to take control of this one. It makes sense then for her to tell you all about it!!
So, when Erica told me she had found some laminate that she likes and that we were going to lay it ourselves to save some cash I thought “Great! How hard can it be!?”. Let us just say that actors get paid to smile and make it look easy in the adverts, a little cottage in Knutsford with the blind leading the blind is a whole other story. However, when you are starting from scratch and with a little bit of patience you can learn some handy tricks along the way, and by the end of the second room it was a doddle!
As always, Erica led the way and had already found the best deal for realistic looking wood effect laminate having seen it our friend Jenny’s shop House in Knutsford. The Homebase Richmond Oak Floorboard effect laminate was originally a midrange price choice, but Erica and Tom managed to hunt it out at 20% off, with a further 10% off, also saving money on the underlay, which was half price, in one swooping visit to Homebase. Steal! However buying it at this price did have it’s draw backs and it wasn’t until we first started laying it that we realised there were two slightly different versions of the same product with one type including a black rubber filament on the joins. All this amounted to was that we had to lie a certain line at a time, rubber, no rubber, rubber, no rubber, and so on. Lesson learnt here, be careful when buying sale items! Make sure they are the same batch/type/product before you open the packaging.
I came home one evening to find an eager Erica and very tired Tom making a start on the floor. In preparation for the big floor fitting, we had already stripped the old skirting board from the rooms. In that previous week we had the builders round to screed over the uneven and damaged, but beautifully original, quarry tiles to create a perfectly flat even surface for the laminate…with the odd dog print. After laying enough underlay (with 5mm gaps between each sheet to allow room for the foam to spread under the weight of the floor), they started fitting the slabs of laminate together. Starting in the right hand corner of the room, with the grain of the floor laying towards the daylight into the room, they gently knocked the planks together end to end, making sure that there was enough of a gap where the floor meets the wall so the laminate can expand if needed. One line down, however many too go…sound easy?
(Note from Erica – all health and safety and manual handling enthusiasts please ignore the above picture! I have since treated myself to a lovely workbench and my back is very happy!)
It is recommended that this is a two-man job and the advice could not be more applicable. Not only did we need to take turns sawing the laminate (although this was a job most suited for Tom), you also need the patience of two people. To continue with the rest of the floor each line needs to be slotted and knocked in a piece at a time. By slotting I mean connecting the laminate plank, to the previous line, along the length firstly going under, then up, then in…a manoeuvre that sounds easy enough but requires patience and a firm but tactile touch, hard when you are tired and frustrated! Once slotted, you then do the same with the next piece, leaving a centimetre gap between the two ends so you can knock them together to lock into place along the width.
Ever the organiser, Erica had picked up a specially designed laminate fitting kit from B&Q, a godsend and must have! This includes a specially designed block to slot on the end of the laminate so you can use a hammer without damaging the joins, and subsequently the whole plank. It also includes a piece of metal shaped like the letter ‘s’ that you hook onto the end of the laminate once you reach the wall, giving you enough space to knock the laminate into place with a hammer. However with all the huffing, banging, and broken ends, the laminate planks became more and more precious and the battered plastic block was starting to hinder the process. So, after gaining this tip off a friend, we ended up using laminate cut offs instead! As they slot so neatly onto the planks, you can thwack the cut-off has hard as you like without ruining the delicate fibres of the joins.
We had already finished one room and it was up to Erica and I to finish the living room off in one evening. We started using the usual process but our tired, flimsy arms were not getting us anywhere! For those of you that have had the pleasure of laying your own laminate, you are probably very well acquainted with the ‘knock one plank in, another pops up’ game…and as you can imagine, our patience was starting to wear thin. After some tea and a stare at the floor in despair, we decided to try and fit the planks together another way. Instead of knocking the planks in one by one we decided try and slot the planks in as one big line, after slotting them together width ways. Low and behold, it was a process that suited us girlies much better as it involved a lot less banging and popping!
(Another interruption from Erica - to all photography enthusiasts apologies for this poor picture quality, it was on my phone, late at night and we had to put the table back in there soon after. Better quality pictures are on their way once the skirting is on.)
We now have a beautiful floor to show our hard work, and it was more then worth it. The only other tip we can give is for you to invest or hire in a circular saw or jigsaw that will enable you to cut the laminate easily in a straight line…especially if you don’t have the strength of a fireman to do the sawing for you! If you fancy saving yourself some money, and have a weekend spare for some hard graft with a friend or two, then we highly recommend you consider laying your own laminate in exchange for dusty hair and a huge sense of accomplishment.
Having lived with the floor for several weeks now, we can also point out how easy it is to keep the floor clean, even with two crazy mutts. No longer needing it’s help after moving into a carpeted house, our Mum gave us a fantastic cleaning tool, a micro fibre flat head mop! As you are advised to avoid spills on your floor (especially within the joins), this mop is the perfect partner as it enables you to swiftly mop the floor using what is a effectively a damp cloth on a stick. Genius.
Thanks Jus! Your first ever blog post on twosisters! I hope it’s the start of many.
Here’s a little round up of things we learnt
1. If you are laying over tiles put a self levelling compound containing latex over them first to create a flat surface. If you are laying over floor boards make sure none of them are loose and that no nails are sticking up.
2. Make sure you are buying the same batch, or that they will at least fit together!
3. Get the best quality underlay you can afford as this should prolong the life of your laminate and make it quieter and warmer.
4. Remove the skirting boards first if you can (no matter how real it looks that beading is a laminate giveaway), and get the laminate out of it’s packaging 3 days beforehand (or whatever it says on the pack) to let it acclimatise.
5. Lay the laminate in lines pointing towards the daylight coming into the room and/or along the longest straight wall. It made sense for us to do this anyway as our laminate runs from the front door in the living room through to the back of the house. When you stand at the front door it makes the house look so much bigger. It also meant the laminate lay across the floor boards in the living room giving the floor more strength and less flex.
5. If you can afford to buy or hire an electric saw, or at least get a work bench! Breeze blocks are not recommended! If you can’t hire a saw at least know you will finish the job with arms (sorry, one arm) like Jennifer Aniston, or at least a little more toned then you were!
5. Be careful when knocking the boards together, even the fitting kits you can buy can damage the end of the boards. We found it better the use a cut off end piece to click onto the board you are fitting and hit that using the block in the fitting kit instead.
6. In smaller rooms, e.g. our living room, it might be easier to slide the pieces in one row together at their short ends first, and then click this long line of boards onto the previous row. This is fiddly and takes patience to get all the boards to click together properly, but we found you are less likely to damage the boards by knocking them together, and it is quieter enabling you to lay laminate well into the night without waking your neighbours up! We also found that sometimes no matter how hard you knocked them together some boards just wouldn’t click together properly end to end.
So there you have it. A rather large post on laying laminate floor for girls! We hope you find it helpful and it made some sense. Let us know if it doesn’t!!
With regards to the Richmond Laminate, I am so pleased we picked it over some of the cheaper options, it really does look quite real. The finish is textured and not too shiny, and the planks are so convincing, some even have knots that look like they have wood filler in them like a genuine wooden floor. The edges are slightly darker too so it looks like the gaps you get between floorboards. If you want to see it in the flesh go to our friend Jenny’s gorgeous shop House in Knutsford and check out her floor!