Step-by-step help on laying this popular flooring option
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. If you won’t be gluing your real wood top layer flooring, the steps will be exactly the same and are made simpler thanks to the drop click and angle-to-angle fitting systems.
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 for the job
- Laminate flooring
- Fitting floor wedges
- Wood chisel
- Wooden mallet
- Knee pads
- Dust mask
- Safety goggles
- Ear defenders
- Tape measure
- Panel saw
- Hand saw
- Jig saw
- Mitre saw
- Power drill
- 32 mm flat wood drill bit
- Fine cutting blades
- Pulling bar
- Tapping block
- Mitre block
- Panel pins
- Scotia trim
- Scotia cutters
- Wood adhesive
- Cartridge gun
- Pein hammer
- Pipe collar
- Threshold bar
- Flooring trim
- Grab adhesive
- Laying flooring can be 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 you’re cutting boards indoors, make sure the room you’re cutting in is well ventilated.
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).
Remove your existing flooring and make sure it’s perfectly level, healthy, dry and clean.
Use our flooring calculator to find out how many boards of flooring you’ll need for your space. Once you’ve picked up your flooring, leave the packs in the room for 48 hours to acclimatise.
For concrete sub-floors, lay a damp-proof membrane to protect it from moisture. Laying underlay beneath the laminate flooring can help with acoustic and thermal insulation. Lay this the opposite way to your flooring.
Because of the nature of how laminate is made, there can be slight colour variations which can go unnoticed if you mix planks from different packs.
Choose which way to lay your flooring. You can lay it length ways to follow the line of light from a window or widthways to make a small room look bigger.
Lay the first board in the 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° 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. Make sure that the last plank is at least 300 mm long. If not, you may have to cut the first board.
To measure the last board, turn it 180° 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 offcut is more than 300 mm, it can be used to start the next row, otherwise you can cut a board in half.
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.
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.
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.
Use the offcut from the first row to start the next row with the cut end against the wall. Press forward and down to lock it in place. Repeat along the row, making sure that all joints from the previous row are a minimum of 200 mm apart.
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° 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.
It’s likely at some point you’ll have to cut a board to fit around radiator pipes. To do this, use a profile to copy the shape of the pipe which you can then trace onto a board. If you don’t have a profile, 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.
Lay the end front of the board up to the pipe and mark where the centre of the pipe intersects the line that you’ve drawn – not forgetting to include the expansion gap at the wall. This is where you need to drill you hole.
Clamp the board onto a workbench and use a power drill with 30 mm or 32 mm 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 keep 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
If the door opens into the room, check that it will open over the new flooring and threshold bar. If not, remove the door and either cut or plane a strip from the bottom of the door.
If you need to cut the door frame, 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.
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.
To fit the threshold, carefully measure and mark a notch to be cut from each end of the threshold bar so that it fits 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.
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° 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 gently hammer in panel pins to tack it into place as it dries.