Buying Guide - Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is extremely hard-wearing and virtually maintenance-free, making it ideal in the busiest parts of the house such as the hallway and living room. Whether you prefer a pale contemporary finish or the rich tones of tropical hardwood, there is a wood-effect laminate to suit you. You don't have to just use one shade: you could mix different colours to complement your interior and subtly partition the space. Not all laminate flooring has a wood finish. There are also tile-effect laminates on the market - terracotta, slate or ceramic - that look absolutely convincing but are warmer and gentler underfoot than a true tile floor.
When choosing flooring, it's important to take into account where it will be installed and how much traffic and moisture it will have to withstand. For a kitchen or bathroom, choose a splash-resistant laminate flooring with a water-resistant core (though be aware that even this will not take a soaking).
When choosing flooring, it's important to take into account where it will be installed and how much traffic and moisture it will have to withstand
Choosing between natural wood veneer and laminate
- ParquetLOC natural wood veneer flooring is made using 3.1mm of natural wood.
- ParquetLOC features a 10 year domestic manufacturers guarantee and can be re-laquered 2 to 3 times to make it last even longer.
- Our range of laminate flooring is an alternative to ParquetLOC. It's harder wearing and has a minimum 12 year manufacturers guarantee.
- On both natural wood veneer and laminate flooring most marks can simply be wiped away with a slightly damp cloth. For tougher stains we recommend using natural wood veneer and laminate cleaner.
- All floors feature an advanced LOC system to make fitting easier.
All sub-floors need to be fitted with an underlay before laminate flooring can be laid. Concrete, asphalt, vinyl, quarry or similar tiled sub-floors should be covered first with a plastic-film moisture barrier (a damp-proof membrane), in addition to any damp-proof membrane (see below). Never lay laminate or wood flooring over carpet underlay, which is totally unsuitable for the job. Sweep or vacuum the prepared floor thoroughly before laying underlay.
- 3mm Combilay and tape
Suitable for all sub-floors that require a damp proof membrane. Combilay has combined cushioning, sound proofing and damp proofing, meaning you only have to lay 1 layer rather than 2.
- 1.8mm foam underlay
Basic underlay for use on dry, firm and level surfaces.
- 7mm Unifelt underlay
Suitable for uneven sub-floors. Because it is more substantial unifelt underlay also gives good heat and sound installation.
- Damp proof membrane
Use with foam and underfelt underlay on concrete sub-floors to provide damp proofing.
- Standard and Excel heavy duty underlays
Ideal for use under natural wood veneer floors. The excel heavy duty underlay also has an added intergral damp proof layer.
Combined underlay and damp-proof membrane
The advantage of combined underlay is that whatever your sub-floor, you only have to fit one layer rather than two. It is thicker than poly foam underlay so will absorb very slight irregularities in the floor, and it provides good sound insulation.
- Prepare the floor. Lay the overlay over the entire floor area, placing the lengths side by side. Trim to fit with scissors or a knife.
- Tape the joins securely, making sure the lengths do not overlap.
This is the thickest of the underlays used beneath laminate flooring, and the one you will need to use if you have a slightly uneven sub-floor. Because they are more substantial, wood fibre boards also give good heat and sound insulation, though they are not suitable for splash areas.
Prepare the floor and if necessary lay a damp-proof membrane. Tape any joints with a waterproof jointing tape. If you are removing old skirtings lap the damp-proof membrane about 50mm up the walls. The underlay boards should be left to acclimatise in the room for 24 hours. Stagger the joints and leave a 10mm expansion gap around the edge of the room and 5mm between the boards. The boards should be loose laid at 90 degrees to the intended direction of the new flooring. They can be cut to fit easily with a knife and straightedge over an off-cut of wood.
Poly foam underlay
This is the thinnest of the underlays used beneath laminate flooring, and is suitable for any firm, dry and level sub-floor, such as a wooden floor. Prepare the floor and if necessary lay a damp-proof membrane. Lay the poly foam underlay over the entire floor area. Trim to fit with scissors or a knife, allowing a 10mm gap around pipes. Lay side by side and secure with masking tape.
Preparation Guide - Laminate
Preparing to fit new flooring
Over the years, floorboards may split, warp, shrink or break, and will need replacing. Or you may need to lift a board temporarily in order to access cables or pipes beneath. How you do this depends on whether your floor is made of tongue-and-groove boards, which are slotted together before being nailed to the joists, or square-edged boards, which are simply butted together.
Square-edged boards are easiest to take up. To remove a whole board that fits beneath the skirting at each end, however, you will have to saw through the board near the centre, or remove the skirting.
- First locate any under-floor pipes and cables. Begin by driving a wide-bladed bolster chisel into the joint between the boards, close to one end. The blade will spread the load and keep damage to adjacent boards to a minimum.
- Push down on the handle of the bolster chisel to prise the board up. Do the same on the other side until you can lift the end of the board high enough to insert a cold chisel or wooden wedge under it, to hold it clear of the joist.
- Working on alternate sides of the board, insert the claw of your hammer under the edges and lever it higher. You can protect adjacent boards by placing a thin scrap of wood beneath the hammer head. Gradually work your way along the board.
- When you have pulled most of the nails from the joists, you should be able to lift the free end of the board and lever up the remainder.
- Pipe and cable detector
- Wide-bladed bolster chisel
- Claw hammer
- Wooden wedge or cold chisel
- Try square
- Tenon saw
- Power drill with wood bits
- Length of wood
- New floorboard
- 50mm cut floor brads or ring-shanked nails, or 50mm countersunk screws (4mm or 5mm gauge)
Replacing a section of board
If the damage affects only a small area of a floorboard, or if the board continues under the skirting, you may find it easier to cut out and replace a section rather than the whole board.
- Prise the board up just enough to slide a length of wood beneath. Mark cutting lines with a try square and pencil, making sure they run along the centre-line of joists below.
- Use a tenon saw to cut the section out, taking care not to damage adjacent boards and making sure that your cuts are square. Measure up for the replacement board. If the existing boards are not of a standard size, you may have to cut down a larger board to fit. If necessary, you can always notch the underside of a thicker board to fit over the joists.
- Position the new board and secure with 50mm cut floor brads or ring-shanked nails, avoiding the existing holes in the joists. Drill pilot holes for the nails to prevent splitting. Alternatively, use 50mm countersunk screws (4mm or 5mm gauge).
A floor made from tongue-and-grove boards is more rigid and less likely to creak. However, to remove a board you will have to cut through the tongue. If replacing it, you will need a square-edged board.
- First locate any underfloor pipes and cables. One way of freeing a board is to use a sharp, wide-bladed (at least 25mm) wood chisel and mallet to cut through the tongues on each side.
- Alternatively, use a floorboard saw. To begin, hold the saw upside-down and work the curved tip of the blade back and forth to cut into the tongue.
- Once you have broken through the tongue, turn the saw over and continue cutting with the long edge of the blade. If the cut passes over a cable or pipe, use the curved edge of the blade again; work very slowly and apply minimal pressure so that you can control the blade as it breaks through the wood.
- Once you have sawn through the tongues each side of the board, you should be able to see the joists below. If not, feel for them with a narrow-bladed tool. Using a pencil and try square, mark cutting lines across a board, in line with the edges of the joists.
- Using a large wood bit and electric drill, bore a hole near one edge of the board so that it just touches the cutting line across the board.
- Insert the blade of a padsaw into the hole and cut along the line to free the end of the board from the joist. Do the same at the other end. Now the board can be levered up in the same manner as a square-edged board.
- Having cut the ends of the board flush with the joists there will be nothing to nail or screw the board back into. Get around this by nailing or screwing 50mm x 25mm battens to the sides of the joists, making sure they are tight against the undersides of the neighbouring boards.
- Pipe and cable detector
- Wood chisel
- Floorboard saw
- Narrow-bladed tool
- Try square
- Power drill with large wood bit
- 50mm x 25mm softwood batten
- 50mm cut floor brads or ring-shanked nails, or 50mm (4mm or 5mm gauge) countersunk screws
TIPS: Making it easier
Locating underfloor pipes and cables
If you are lucky, you will find any pipes and cable runs already marked on the floorboards. Failing that, go over the area of floor you intend working on with an electronic pipe and cable detector. Look for signs that boards have lifted before (damaged edges or multiple fixing holes). Mark the locations of any pipes or cables you find directly on the boards. Or if the boards are to be left exposed, draw up a paper plan and keep it somewhere safe.
TIPS: Safety first
Keep pets well out of the way whenever you lift floorboards. Before you nail the boards back down again double-check they haven't slipped underneath - getting trapped can be traumatic and dangerous for an animal.
Preparing to fit new flooring
A change of floor covering, whether vinyl, carpet or even ceramic tiles, can give a room a new lease of life. But before you start work, you must make sure that the underlying surface is sound and level. If it is not, the defects are likely to show through, spoiling the look of the new floor, and eventually resulting in uneven patterns of wear. Fortunately, there are simple ways of dealing with problem floors.
TIPS: ideal tool
This saw will make lifting tongue-and-groove boards easier. In addition to teeth along one long edge, the blade has a curved tip with more teeth. This allows a cut to be started directly down into the tongue.
Levelling a wood floor
Hardboard sheets will not only level a boarded floor but will also reduce draughts from below. Buy 3mm-thick sheets, which you must first condition by brushing or spraying water over the textured side before stacking them on the floor of the room, back to back, for 48 hours. This expands them very slightly and means they will dry and tighten rather than expand and buckle once laid.
Before laying them, drive all floorboard nails below the surface and plane or sand down any boards that are proud of the rest. Fix the sheets in place with 19mm ring-shanked nails, which are too short to penetrate right through the floorboards and damage any pipes and cables below.
- Lay the hardboard sheets textured side up (unless the instructions for the flooring that will cover them specify otherwise), as this will provide a key for the adhesive and accommodate the nail heads. Start in a corner of the room, setting the nails about 13mm in from the edges of the sheet in a pyramid pattern. Cut scraps of wood as nail spacing guides.
- Butt the sheets tightly together, nailing along each meeting edge first, before continuing in pyramid fashion. When you reach the end of the first row of sheets, you will have to cut the last one to size.
- Use the off-cut from the last sheet in the first row to start the second row. This will prevent wastage and ensure that the joints are staggered (see diagram).
- Old paint brush or plant spray bottle
- Claw hammer
- Plane or sanding block
- Long-nosed pliers
- Nail spacing stick
- Panel saw
- 3mm-thick 600mm x 1220mm hardboard sheets
- 19mm ring-shanked nails
TIPS: Ideal tool
Use a pair of long-nosed pliers to hold a nail in position as you start it - not your fingers.
Replacing a wood floor
If a lot of floorboards are damaged, it will be cheaper and easier to pull them all up and fit tongue-and-groove chipboard flooring panels. These will provide a firm foundation for the final floor covering.
- Start in the corner of the room. Lay the first panel so that its long side spans the joists and its end rests on a joist - if you need to cut it down, do so on the skirting edge. Position the board about 9mm from the wall to allow for expansion. Nail along the joists, beginning about 18mm from the edge, using 50mm ring-shanked nails spaced at 300mm intervals. Remember to mark on the boards the location of any pipes or cables beneath.
- Check the fit of the next panel. If its tongued end does not meet a joist, cut it back as necessary. Then apply PVA wood adhesive to the end tongue of the first panel, slot the end groove of the second over the tongue, aligning the long edges, and nail down the second panel. Wipe off any excess glue with a damp cloth.
- If you shortened the second panel to meet a joist, the grooved end of the next will also need cutting off so that you can butt and glue them together over the joist. Cut the last board in the row to size, remembering to leave a 9mm expansion gap at the wall. Lay the first panel of the second row against the last panel of the first so the joints are staggered.
- Make sure the panels fit tightly by driving each into place with a grooved panel off-cut. Continue until you reach the far side of the room, staggering the joints and allowing an expansion gap at the wall. Measure and cut the last row of boards to fit.
- Claw hammer
- Try square
- Panel saw or electric circular saw
- Tongue-and groove chipboard flooring panels
- 50mm ring-shanked nails
- PVA wood adhesive
Laying over a concrete floor
If you are installing over an existing concrete floor, the concrete must be checked for moisture. This is most easily done with a moisture meter. Alternatively, you can tape a sheet of polythene of about 1 square metre to the surface of the concrete. Tape all four edges to the floor and leave overnight. Presence of moisture will be confirmed either if the concrete is discoloured, or condensation has appeared on the underside of the polythene. If this is the case, you will need to seek specialist advice from a damp-proofing expert.
A newly concreted floor must be completely dry before you lay new flooring: allow one day per 1mm thickness of new concrete. If an old concrete floor is uneven, level it with self-levelling compound.
How much to buy
Before you start make sure you have sufficient packs to complete the project. To work out how many you need, calculate the area of your room. Measure the room's length (A) and width (B) in metres and multiply these together to find the area in square metres. If you have an irregular shaped room, divide it into separate rectangular areas and calculate each individually. Add the figures up to get the total room area and divide this by the coverage per pack as stated by the manufacturer. You should allow an extra 10% for wastage. Unopened packs can be returned for a refund.
You also need to measure the perimeter of the room - the distance around the edge - to find out how much flooring trim or skirting to buy. Again, allow an extra 10% for wastage.
How To Guide - Laminate
How to lay laminate flooring
LOC flooring boards have long and short tongues on the sides and the ends that lock together. It's easy to unlock the floor again if you want to move it.
- Acclimatise the floor boards before fitting, or they could warp: lay them horizontally in their packing in the room where they are to be used for at least 48 hours.
- There is no need to remove the skirting, but if you do, damp-proof membrane should be allowed to lap about 50mm up the walls.
- The joints between boards should be staggered, random and more than 300mm apart for best result.
- Locking systems vary slightly between manufacturers, so always check the fitting instructions supplied with your flooring.
Laminate flooring expands and contracts naturally, so you need to leave a gap of 10mm between the boards and the skirting-board when fitting it, using fitting wedges or expansion spacers.
- Lay boards lengthways towards the light source. Lay the first board in a left-hand corner over the underlay, the end with the short tongue against the wall. Fit wedges at intervals between the board and the skirting, following the manufacturer's instructions. Check that the board is square with the wall.
- Lay the next board end-on, placing the short tongue of the second board into the long tongue of the first board at a 30° angle. Lower the board and lock it into place. Lay more boards in the same way until you reach the end of the row, where you will probably have to cut a board to make it fit.
- To measure the last board, turn it 180° and lay it next to the previous one. Draw a line across the last board level with the end of the previous one. Cut and position it to complete the first row. The joints should be staggered: if the off-cut is between 300mm and 900mm it can be used to start the next row; otherwise,
- To start the next row, angle the cut board against the board in the previous row, cut end next to the wedge. Press forward and fold down at the same time to lock its long side.
- Place the short end of the next board at an angle against the previous board and fold down, making sure the board is on the locking strip in the previous row. Angle the boards by 30° and push them against the row in front. When the boards are tightly together, push them down.
- For the last row, place a board at a time over the previous row. Place a third board on top with the tongue touching the skirting and use the edge to mark the cutting line on the board beneath. Cut the board and ease it into position, remove wedges.
Cutting the boards
- To prevent dust and debris getting on your sub-floor or underlay while cutting, either do it in another room, a workshop or outdoors in dry weather.
- You can use a handsaw or a jigsaw.
- It is easiest to clamp boards to a work bench to cut them.
- Cut them face up when using a handsaw or a jigsaw with a laminate blade, but face down if using a jigsaw with a wood blade. Use a laminate blade for best results, and keep several spares to hand as your cuts will get rougher as the blade deteriorates.
If you are doing a lot of cutting, a fixed saw such as a compound mitre pull saw will cut with accuracy and minimal effort.
Working around obstacles
Cutting around pipes
Most rooms contain at least one radiator, supported by pipes. It's straightforward to cut notches into the boards to fit around the pipes: you can cover the holes with pipe hole covers.
Fitting around door frames
If the door opens into the room, check that it will open over the new flooring and threshold bar: if not, you will need to remove it and cut or plane a strip off the bottom. If the architrave extends beyond the skirting, don't try to cut the flooring to fit around it. You'll achieve a neater finish by trimming the architrave so the underlay and flooring will fit below it. Don't forget to allow a 10mm expansion gap at the wall beneath the architrave.
- Lay a board on a piece of underlay beside the door frame. Then place a panel saw flat on the board and cut through the bottom of the architrave.
- Use a wood chisel to remove the waste piece of wood.
TIPS: Ideal tool
With a built-in guide for a range of different cutting angles, these trim cutters make quick, neat work of cutting flooring trim.
Radiator pipe hole covers, threshold bars and flooring trim can help to hide any untidy edges, as well as the essential expansion gap all around the room.
Once the flooring is laid, you can remove the fitting wedges and cover the gap around the edge of the room with laminate flooring trim, chosen to match your floor. The trim should be fixed to the skirting - not the floor - with adhesive.
- Measure and cut lengths of laminate flooring trim. For a neat and professional finish, use trim cutters that cut the trim in a straight line or at angle to fit into a corner.
- Apply trim adhesive to the back of a length of flooring trim (not the base) so that it will stick to the skirting-board rather than the floor.
- Press the trim in place and if necessary secure them with some heavy weights, such as books, while the adhesive dries.
Radiator pipe hole covers
These wood-effect discs cover any untidiness around holes cut for radiator pipes. Some clip into place around the base of the pipe, while others are flat discs that are glued down. Look for natural wood pipe covers and trims to complement engineered real wood and solid wood flooring.
This is fitted in a doorway to make a neat join between the new floor and the flooring in the next room. Even if you are fitting laminate across the threshold, you still need a threshold bar to cover the essential expansion gap across the doorway. There are bars designed for joining laminate or wood to vinyl, carpet or to other common floorings. They are simply cut to the width of the door and glued or screwed in place, depending on the design.
Creating an extension GAP
Laminate and wood flooring expands and contracts with changes in the temperature and humidity, so it is essential to leave an expansion gap of at least 10mm all round the edges of the floor, including across doorways and around any feetings such as basins pedestal or toilette and 15mm in the case of solid wood flooring. Otherwise you could find that your floor begins to buckle. Expansion spacers make it easier to create this gap.
TIPS: Safety first
Laying flooring is very hard on the knees, so let a pair of knee pads take some of the strain. Wear a dust mask and safety goggles while cutting the boards, and ear defenders when using power tools. Ensure the room is properly ventilated.
Tools for Flooring
Once you have selected what flooring is right for you, B&Q have everything you need to complete your project.
- Trims and scotia
- Flooring adhesives
- Hand tools
- Nails, screws and fixings
- Fitting tools
Or use our Home fit service and have a competitively priced trade person do the job for you. Call 01236 634557 to arrange your free home survey.
How to care for flooring
- Always lift and move furniture carefully to avoid scratches.
- Felt pads and/or castor cups under the feet of chairs and heavy furniture will prevent dents.
- In a home office or any room where you use a desk chair, place a mat under the chair to protect the flooring from damage by the wheels.
- Place a rug or mat inside the front and back doors and in front of a hand basin or sink to protect from marks or spills. Any spills that do happen can be simply wiped away with a damp cloth.
- Specially formulated cleaners provide a quick and easy way to clean a laminate floor, and repair kits are available for filling any chips. Don't wash, wax or varnish a laminate floor.