Step-by-step help on laying this popular flooring option
Laying new laminate or real wood top layer flooring is made simpler thanks to the drop-lock and angle-to-angle fitting systems. Here we'll take you through every stage of laying your new flooring, including working around obstacles such as radiator pipes through to finishing touches like adding flooring trim.
Before you get going on your flooring project, make sure that you’ve prepped correctly. Check out our guide to preparing for laminate or real wood top layer flooring. And, if you're still busy choosing your flooring, take a look at our buyer’s guide to laminate and wood flooring.
Tools & materials required
Laying flooring can be very hard on the knees, so let a pair of kneepads take some of the strain. You should also be sure to wear a dust mask and safety goggles while you cut the boards, as well as ear defenders when using power tools.
If cutting boards indoors, make sure the room you’re cutting in is well ventilated.
You will need
The following list of tools and materials includes everything you will need to lay laminate or top layer wood flooring. Some items are needed for multiple stages in the process, but are only listed once, so be sure to check the steps for further detail.
- Laminate flooring or Real wood top layer flooring
- Fitting floor wedges - also known as expansion spacers, they help create the required gap around the perimeter of the room
- Wood adhesive - for securing after cutting radiator holes, if necessary
- Pipe collar - for finishing after cutting radiator holes, if necessary. Some clip into place around the base of the pipe, while others are flat discs that are glued down. We love wood-effect pipe covers that match the flooring.
- Threshold bar - look for ones that are designed for joining laminate or wood to vinyl, carpet or other common floorings
- Flooring trim - we recommend choosing one to match your floor
- Grab adhesive - to secure the flooring trim
- Panel pins - to secure the flooring trim, if necessary
- Workbench - to secure the boards when cutting
- Clamp - to secure the boards to the workbench when cutting
- Panel saw - for small projects, cutting a few boards and cutting boards to fit around door frames.
- Jigsaw - best for making fiddly cuts and cutting holes for radiator pipes. Use with a laminate or hardwood blade for the best results and we advise having several spares to hand as your cuts will get rougher as the blade wears away.
- Mitre saw - for larger projects or lots of cutting, if necessary
- Power drill - to cut holes for radiator pipes, if necessary
- 32mm flat wood drill bit or 30mm holesaw - to cut holes for radiator pipes, if necessary. Standard radiator pipes are 15mm in diameter, so these will create a hole big enough for the pipe and the expansion gap.
- Wood chisel - to fit boards around door frames
- Wooden mallet - to fit boards around door frames
- Plane - to shorten the length of the door, if necessary
- Hacksaw - to fit the threshold bar
- Screwdriver - to secure the threshold bar, dependent on installation
- Cartridge gun - to apply the grab adhesive to the flooring trim, if necessary
- Pein hammer - to secure the panel pins to the flooring trim, if necessary
- Scotia cutters - to cut floor trim, alternatively use a mitre saw or tenon saw and mitre box
How to lay laminate and real wood top layer flooring
The way the boards fit or lock together varies slightly between manufacturers, so always check the fitting instructions that come with your flooring. The two common types of click system available are angle-to-angle and drop-lock (also known as push-click or G5).
Lay the first board in a left-hand corner over the underlay, with the short tongue end against the wall.
Insert expansion spacers against the end of the board and at intervals along the wall, including at the point where boards are joined.
Lay the next board end-on, placing its short tongue into the long tongue of the first board at a 30 degree angle.
Lowering the board will lock it into place. For drop lock laminate flooring, use a downward action and push the tongue of the second panel down and into the first panel’s groove. Listen for the click that lets you know that the boards are connected.
Continue to the end of the row, where you’ll probably have to cut a board to fit.
To measure the last board, turn it 180 degrees and lay it next to the previous one, with an expansion spacer against the skirting or wall.
Using a try square and pencil, draw a line across the board, level with the end of the previous one. Check the fit, then cut to size and insert to complete the first row.
If the off-cut is more than 300mm, it can be used to start the next row, otherwise you can cut a board in half.
See the later section 'How to cut boards' for more help with this.
To start the next row, angle the cut board against the first board of the previous row, with the cut end against the wall. Press forward and down to lock it in place. Repeat along the row.
Alternatively for smaller rooms using angle to angle laminate, clip a whole row of boards together. Then, with a helper, lift the row to an angle of roughly 30 degrees and push down to lock the long edges together.
Again for drop lock laminate flooring, slide the long edge of the board into place and use a downward action and push the tongue of the second panel down into the first panel’s groove. Listen for the click to make sure the boards are connected.
To cut boards to fit the last row, place them, one at a time, directly over the previous row, in the direction that they will be laid. Hold it in place with a little reusable tack. Then align a third board on top with its tongue touching the spacers on the skirting board. Use the edge of this board to mark the cutting line with a pencil on the board beneath.
Measure and then cut one board at a time in the position it's to be laid, just in case your walls are slightly out. Once you’ve cut the whole row, slot them into place.
How to cut laminate and real wood top layer floorboards
You might need to cut boards to fit around an alcove, recess or bay. Be careful to take precise measurements, always remembering to allow for the expansion gap.
We recommend making any cuts to your flooring in a different room to where it will be laid. Instead, use another well ventilated room, a workshop, or go outdoors if possible. This will stop dust and debris from getting onto your sub-floor or underlay. If this does happen, be sure to sweep or vacuum it away before laying your flooring.
Use a try square to mark an accurate pencil line across the board. Measure twice before cutting.
Step 2: If using a panel saw
Clamp the board in a workbench, ensuring that the board is face up, and saw.
Only use pressure and/or cut on the downward strokes. When pulling the saw back up, don’t let the saw come into contact with the uncut section of the line.
Step 2: If using a jigsaw
Clamp the board in a workbench - it should be face up if using a laminate blade, or face down if using a wood blade.
Slowly cut along the line, not moving too fast or the cut might not be as straight as you want it.
Step 2: If using a mitre saw
Position the saw on a sturdy, flat surface (such as a workbench) and clamp it into place.
Set the saw’s angle for the cut required. Unlock or release the saw so that the board can be placed against the saw's back rest and clamped into place.
When cutting long boards, ensure the board is adequately positioned and safely held in place so it doesn't drop or get ‘thrown’ by the blade.
Slowly lower the blade and cut the board.
How to cut and fit boards around radiator pipes
Most rooms contain at least one radiator and your boards will need to be cut to allow the pipes to fit through. It’s straightforward to cut these notches and you can hide the holes with pipe collars, giving you an almost invisible result.
Lay the board in position next to the radiator pipe. Use a pencil to draw a line across the width of the board at the point where it hits the centre of the pipe.
Then lay the end front of the board up to the pipe (as illustrated) and mark where the centre of the pipe intersects the line that you have drawn – not forgetting to include the expansion gap at the wall. This is where you need to drill your hole.
Clamp the board onto a workbench and use a power drill with 30mm or 32mm flat wood drill bit or holesaw to cut a hole at the pipe position.
Draw two lines from the hole to the edge of the board, each on a slight outward angle.
Cut neatly along the pencil lines with a jigsaw and retain the wedge-shaped off-cut.
Fit the board into position and then use wood adhesive to glue the wedge in place (onto the wood not the underlay).
Wipe any excess adhesive immediately and hide the expansion hole with a pipe collar,
How to fit laminate and real wood top layer flooring around door frames
If the door opens into the room, check that it’ll open over the new flooring and threshold bar. If not, remove the door and either cut or plane a strip off the bottom of the door.
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.
Lay an upside down 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 and wooden mallet to remove the waste piece of wood. Don’t forget to allow for that expansion gap at the wall beneath the architrave when you fit the floor and underlay.
How to fit a threshold bar
A threshold bar is fitted in a doorway to make a neat join between the new floor and the flooring in the next room. Even if you’re fitting laminate across the threshold, one is needed to cover the essential expansion gap across the doorway.
Simply cut them to the width of the doorway and either clip, screw or glue them into place. However, before securing it in place, make sure that you cannot see the threshold bar from either side of the door when shut.
Carefully measure and mark with a measure a notch to be cut from each end of the threshold bar so that it’ll fit perfectly against the doorstops on each side.
Cut the notches with a hacksaw and fit the threshold bar in place.
Secure according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
How to fit flooring trim
Once the flooring is laid, the last finishing touch is to add a laminate flooring trim.
Measure and mark with a pencil on the length of laminate flooring trim where the cut needs to be made.
Use scotia cutters to cut the corners to a 45 degree angle. Alternatively, use a mitre saw or tenon saw and mitre block.
Apply grab adhesive to the back of the flooring trim (not the base) so that it will stick to the skirting board rather than the floor. This allows the floor to expand and contract.
Remove the expansion spacers and press the flooring trim in place and hold it firmly with a couple of heavy books while the adhesive dries. You can also use gently hammer in panel pins to tack it into place as it dries.