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Frequently Asked Questions about Laminate Floors

What are laminate floors and how are they made?


Laminate flooring is a versatile, durable, attractive flooring product that can take on several different appearances like stone or tile but it’s known mostly for looking like hardwood. Although they look the same, there is actually no solid wood used in the construction of a laminate floor. Laminates are made up of several layers of material fused together under high pressure. Most laminate flooring consists of a moisture resistant layer under a layer of HDF (high density fiberboard) or MDF (medium density fiberboard). This is topped with a high-resolution photographic image of a natural wood floor. It is then finished with an extremely hard, clear coating made from special resin-coated cellulose to protect it from wear and tear. Laminate flooring is perfect for anyone wanting a durable floor for a fraction of the price and installation time of a hardwood floor, but with the attractiveness of real hardwood. Laminate is also environment-friendly as it uses less wood in its construction and makes more efficient use of the wood fiber that is used.

What is the difference between laminate flooring and hardwood flooring?


Both laminate and hardwood flooring can be used to finish homes or provide flooring for offices and businesses. While some people still prefer hardwood, there are several advantages to choosing laminate. Solid hardwood (usually 3/4″ thick) must be installed only above grade to avoid warping and cupping. Laminates, however are more versatile giving you the look of wood above or below grade. Unlike hardwood, they can be installed over other flooring surfaces, meaning that you can install laminate over old kitchen linoleum or tile, provided the floor is clean, level and doesn’t have moisture problems.

How do laminate floor panels lock together?


There are many types of edge joining systems used to connect laminate flooring panels together. Some laminate floor connections snap together by hand while others require a light tap with a mallet and a tapping block. Still others use a combination of a “snap” click edge and a “bang” or “tap” click at the end of the panels. While most of the various systems work well to secure your laminate floor, it is important to read your laminate flooring installation instructions carefully. Familiarize yourself with how your flooring locks together before starting your installation and practice on a few pieces.

Where can I install laminate flooring?


Laminate flooring is an extremely versatile flooring product. It can be installed in virtually any room of your home, above or below ground, over wood or concrete. Keep in mind there are several locations that are not recommended. Because laminate flooring is a wood flooring product it is not recommended that laminates be installed in wet locations such as bathrooms, washrooms, saunas, enclosed porches or verandas, or anywhere that may require wet-mopping. Extended exposure to moisture of this type may cause the core of your laminate flooring to warp or swell. In some instances, with special installation procedures, it is possible to install laminate floors in bathrooms where water will not stand on the floor for any length of time. Other than that, laminate is very versatile: install it in living and dining rooms, kitchens, hallways, foyers, bedrooms, basements, stairs, offices, retail spaces and many other locations.

What are the advantages of laminate flooring over those of solid hardwood flooring?


Price. Laminate flooring is typically half the cost of traditional hardwood flooring. Sometimes the savings are even greater, depending on the type of flooring in question. And with recent innovations in technology, laminates look more and more like real wood. Laminate is easier to install than solid hardwood and many people can install it themselves without any previous carpentry experience whereas solid hardwood requires a specific level of expertise. With a laminate you won’t need nails and/or glue, as is the case with newer laminate locking systems. Therefore installation happens fast, in way less time than solid hardwoods can be installed and your finished floor will be scratch- and fade-resistant, two areas where solid hardwood is known to be more vulnerable.

What do I need to know before I start installing my laminate floor?


Think about this before you begin your installation:

  • Ensure that your subfloor is flat, dry, and smooth.
  • Always use underlayment under your laminate floor for soundproofing. Some laminates have underlayment built into the bottom layer, if not, find a good one.
  • Laminate flooring and underlayment/vapor barrier can be installed over concrete, wood flooring, vinyl tile, linoleum, tile, or virtually any other hard, flat surface.
  • Take extra care when installing laminate flooring over radiant heating. Ensure that you read both the laminate flooring and radiant heat system instructions carefully before beginning.
  • Read your laminate flooring manufacturer’s installation instructions carefully.
  • Allow your laminate flooring to acclimatize to the room where it will be installed for as long as possible (at least 48 hours) by opening the boxes and letting the laminate stay, uninstalled, in the room.
  • Inspect each laminate flooring panel carefully for defects or damage before installing it.

What do I have to do before installation?


You must acclimate your laminate boards for 48 hours in the room where they will be installed, before you install them. That means open the boxes and let the laminate boards adjust to their surroundings. Installation should take place at room temperature of at least 65°F (15°C). A floor surface temperature of 59°F and an overall room temperature of 64°F must be ensured before, during and three days after the installation.

Do I have to keep staggering the planks in my laminate flooring installation?


The first row should be started with a full plank, the second row with a 2/3 plank and the third row with a 1/3 plank. The distance between joints from one row to the next for the remainder of the installation must be 8″ or greater.

How do I determine the direction in which to install my laminate flooring?


To decide where to begin the layout of your floor, consider incoming light. It is usually best to install laminate flooring with the planks running parallel to light coming in windows or glass doors. For any installation, the starting wall should be as long and straight as possible.

Will there be any cutting waste?


In an average installation, approximately 7% to 10% of the total area to be covered will be wasted for several reasons, typically cuts, planks damaged during installation, or errors.

What is the reason for the necessary 10mm gap left around the perimeter of the interior and around other obstacles within it?


Since the laminate core is derived from wood, it is subject to expansion caused by room temperatures and humidity levels. An expansion gap is a necessary part of any successful installation because it allows space for the expansion of the floor as it responds to these external influences of temperature and humidity. When it is exposed to warmer temperatures, or to increased humidity, laminate flooring planks expand outward. Leaving out the essential element of an outside gap can cause the buckling of the individual laminate flooring planks as the planks push outward against walls or other obstacles.

I didn’t get my first row straight. Can I continue?


Do not continue. Getting the first row absolutely straight is the foundation – perhaps the most critical part- to a successful installation. If your first rows are not properly aligned, or the joints are not tightly sealed, the entire installation will be compromised. (The error will magnify as you continue installing.) Along both sides and ends, all planks must be parallel to each other or there will be wedge-shaped gaps between planks. If residue is caught in the grooves, poor alignment can also result. Remember to make sure all grooves are clean before installation.

How do I choose the right moldings?


Here is a brief guide to moldings and their best uses for a laminate flooring project:

Molding Usage Image
Base shoe molding Used to cover the expansion space left at walls and other verical surface. Laminate Floors Base shoe Molding
End molding Used at exterior dorway to finish the space where the laminate flooring ends. Laminate Flooring End Molding
Reducer molding Used to join laminate flooring to other flooring materials of varying height. Laminate Flooring End Molding
T molding For use in doorways or thresholds to join two areas of floor on the same height level. Laminate Flooring End Molding
Stair Nose molding For use in finishing the exposed outer edges of stain and landings. Laminate Flooring End Molding
Quarter round molding Used in the same way as a base shoe molding, behind cabinets where a low profile molding is better suited to support an object flush against the wall. Laminate Flooring End Molding

How should I install moldings?


You can glue or nail moldings to the wall only, never to the floor.

What is a floating floor?


A floating floor is a floor built with all its parts attached to each other but with none of these component parts fixed to the supporting floor. Virtually all laminate floors install as floating floors.

What is HDF and what is it made of?


High density fiberboard, HDF, is basically a high-density, moisture-resistant fiber panel. It is made of wood residues (sawdust, shavings and wood chips) from wood processing factories. This ligneous material is ground into a pulp to which a melamine-urea-formaldehyde resin is added. This pulp is then dried and pressed into panels.

How is the paper applied to the HDF core?


The melamine impregnated paper is thermo-fused to the core, topped with an aluminum-oxide wear layer.

Why is a moisture barrier used on concrete?


Concrete floors below ground are capable of storing a vast amount of water. It is crucial to avoid all direct contact between the laminate flooring and the concrete floor because the soil beneath the concrete can transmit humidity into the floor. Installing a moisture barrier over all concrete surfaces is mandatory for a successful installation and for the ongoing life of your laminate floor.

How can I get the shine of my floor to increase?


The shine can not be modified as it is a manufactured characteristic. Therefore, you must never wax or polish a laminate floor.

Can laminate flooring be installed on steps?


Yes, laminate flooring can be installed on steps but with this exceptional installation, the planks should be glued down with regular wood glue. The moldings and transitions need to be nailed down. You must also ensure this meets your local building code.

Can laminate flooring be installed in my screened in porch or patio?


No, laminate flooring must be installed in a climate-controlled area.

Can we install laminate over carpet?


No, all carpet and padding should be removed completely prior to installation.

How often do the wood grain patterns repeat on your flooring?


The patterns repeat every 20 planks.

How do I clean my laminate flooring?


Laminate flooring is a beautiful, low maintenance, long-lasting flooring. There are several simple steps that you can take to keep your laminate flooring clean and to ensure that you get many years of service from it. Simply dust mop or vacuum with a soft brush or wood floor accessory to keep your laminate floor clean from dust, dirt or grit.

  • A damp cloth or mop can be used without damage to the laminate flooring panels, but do not use excessive water. Dry the floor thoroughly with a clean, soft cloth.
  • Blot up spills or water from wet feet or footwear immediately with a clean, dry cloth, sponge, or paper towel. Do not allow excess liquid to remain on the surface of your laminate floor.
  • Do not use soap-based detergents, abrasive cleaners, or combined “clean and shine” products on your laminate floor.
  • Do not use steel wool or other scouring pads that may scratch laminate panels.
  • Do not wax or polish your laminate flooring.
  • Do not steam clean or use chemicals that may damage the laminate flooring surface.

For stubborn spots or stains on laminate flooring use acetone or nail polish remover on stubborn substances such as tar, asphalt, paint, or oil. Then wipe clean with a damp cloth.

How do I care for and maintain my laminate floors?


While laminate floors are highly resistant to stains and abrasions, they are not indestructible. In order to maximize the durability and beauty of your laminate flooring, we recommend the following practices as part of your floor’s normal care and maintenance.

  • Place a doormat outside the exterior entrances to collect excess moisture, sand, grit and other potentially damaging substances from being tracked onto your laminate floor.
  • Use only colorfast and non-scratch carpeting or pads on your laminate surface.
  • Avoid sharp or pointed objects with concentrated weight such as high heels on your laminate flooring.
  • Use protective felt pads under furniture legs or wide castors under appliance levelers.
  • Do not slide furniture or appliances across your laminate floor. If using a wheeled dolly to move furniture or appliances, place a clean sheet of smooth plywood or other protective layer over your laminate surface.
  • Rearrange furniture occasionally for increased indentation resistance.
  • Do not treat or seal your laminate floor panels after they are installed.
  • Never sand, lacquer, or refinish your laminate flooring surfaces.

How do I repair minor scratches?


Minor scratches or nicks can be repaired with laminate floor repair paste. This can be purchased in most retail flooring stores.

What is the difference between a brown core and a green core in laminate flooring?


The cores are the same. The green product is a result of a coloring agent added to the adhesive in the manufacturing of the High Density Fiberboard (HDF) core in response to general market preference.

How do I replace one plank of my flooring due to damage?


If the plank that needs replacing is close to the edge of the room, simply disassemble the floor to the position of the plank to be replaced and then reinstall the plank(s). There is a more complicated procedure if you need to replace a single hard-to-get-to plank. It’s best to call the company you bought the flooring from and ask to speak to a product specialist for specific instructions.

What is a laminate flooring AC rating?


AC hardness ratings are a standardized measure adopted by The Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring (ELPF). The AC measure rates abrasion resistance, impact resistance, resistance to staining and cigarette burns, and thickness swelling along edges. If a laminate floor cannot meet the requirements for each of these ratings, approval for a given AC rating will be denied. AC ratings 4 and 5 are equally suitable for residential use as AC3 but somewhat more suitable for high traffic commercial applications. AC ratings below 3 are recommended for low traffic residential use only. Here is a more detailed guide:

  • AC1 is suitable for lighter, more infrequent traffic, e.g. a bedroom.
  • AC2 is suitable for general residential use in living rooms and dining rooms.
  • AC3 can be applied to more varied locations, such as high traffic rooms, small offices and other light commercial locations.
  • AC4 can be installed in higher traffic commercial areas such as boutiques, busier offices, and restaurants.
  • AC5 is more durable still and can withstand the traffic of heavier commercial areas such as department stores and public buildings.
Laminate Floor AC Ratings

(53) Comments

  1. We are in the process of laying laminate flooring. We pulled up carpet and padding and underneath is vinyl flooring. My question is when pulling up the carpet in some spots it pulled up the vinyl flooring and there are spots where you can see the cement. Is it o.k. to lay the laminate on top of that even though it is not completely smooth?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Angie,

      Thank you for getting in touch! You shouldn’t have any issues as long as the floor is level. You will need at least a basic underlay beneath laminate that offers a moisture barrier and cushioning. In your case it may be a good idea to choose an underlay with some extra cushioning to help cover up the holes from the vinyl. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  2. The post of 12 October 2015 is corrected as follows: I purchased the Vapor Barrier and the Contractor said I did NOT needed it as I had a Vapor Barrier under my house.

  3. Hello. I hope there is someone out there can help me. I recently had Laminated flooring put down into my Living Room, Kitchen, Dining Area, Hall and Foyer. The person who did the measurements barely tested for moisture and found none. I was sold the Vapor Barrier at time of purchase and the Comtractor stated that I did need it as I had Vapor Barrier underneath my house. The sub floors are all wood and the laminate is Pergo 8 mm with backing.
    About 3 days after the job was finished, I noticed the boards had started to Peak. It has been two months now and every board in my house has peaked, buckled and warped. I have had the Contractor and the Big Box Store out and it’s been nothing but finger pointing. As of this posts, I am in the process of requesting my money back and finding a more dependable Contractor. I guess my question is, although I have a vapor barrier under my house, should I put a vapor barrier down when I redo this flooring. I really don’t know the condition of the vapor barrier under my house. Any comments and advice would deeply appreciated.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hello Ralph,

      There could be a number of issues that cause your floor to peak. It would be best to have a third party inspector come into your home and try to find the root cause of the issue. There is a National Wood Flooring Association which can help you find a certified installer/inspector for you home. Here is a link to their website: http://woodfloors.org/certified-professional-search.aspx


  4. I purchased a high quality air purifier. I won’t mention the brand because that might not be allowed.
    It did a tremendous job in eliminating dust particles in my home. I use to have to dust mop the flooring once or twice a day. I now can go 3 days and sometimes more without dusting the floor. I was extremely surprised on how much dust comes in a home just from opening and closing doors and windows. My flooring is a dark walnut. I too was not happy with the need to dust mop so frequently. Looks like the air purifier solved my problem
    . Jim

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Jim,

      Thanks for your feedback! It can be tough keeping up with dust when you have dark flooring. Thanks for the tip!

  5. I want to laminate a floor that is plywood in the living room and Leeds into the kitchen thats tile, what do I need to do to laminate over the tile so the kitchen isn’t higher than the living room

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Jeff,

      If you want to put laminate flooring over top I would highly suggest removing the tile completely so you are laying over the original subfloor. This will ensure the substrate beneath is completely level and flat and it is the only way the floor would all be at the same level. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  6. Sept 7, 2015

    I have a Wood Plastic Composite floor installed. A friend says there is slight peaking at joints that should not be there. I am finding a level shows the spots are level. Is there reason for concern?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Ed,

      Thank you for getting in touch! Unfortunately I’m not familiar with the specific floor you have so it’s very hard for me to comment. I would definitely suggest getting in touch with whomever you sourced it from to see if there is anything you should be worried about. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help!

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Sue,

      Thank you for reaching out to BuildDirect! Our laminate flooring is sourced from all over the world. If you have any questions about a specific laminate product, feel free to contact our product expert team at 1-877-631-2845.

  7. Lawrence kasindorf - Reply

    Can laminate be installed over woodfloors. Does the laminate have to be in the room for any length of time prior to installion

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Lawrence,

      Thank you for getting in touch with BuildDirect!

      Laminate can be installed over wood floors as long as they are flat and level and you have the appropriate underlay beneath that offers a moisture barrier and cushioning. I would suggest completely reading over the floor’s installation instructions and warranty information before installing over wood floors in case they specify the floor should only be installed over a wood or concrete subfloor.

      Laminate does need to acclimate so you will need to let the flooring sit in the area it is going to be installed for at least 48 hours. You can keep everything in the boxes, just open up one end.

      Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any other questions!

  8. I wish instead of the “go out and buy this” kind of fix, it was an easier “mix water and dirt” kind of fix. Hate having to spend money to avoid spending more money. Oh well, I suppose I’ll make my way to the hardware store…

  9. How do I clean my floating laminate? I have a swiffer sweeper and thats all fine and dandy but I would like to know what to use to mop it. I know to much water is bad so what is the best for these types of floors?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Sara,

      Thanks for the inquiry!

      Simply dust mop or vacuum with a soft brush or wood-floor accessory to keep your floor clean from dust, dirt or grit.
      A damp cloth or mop can be used without damage to the laminate panels, but do not use excessive water. Dry the floor thoroughly with a clean, soft cloth.
      Blot up spills or water from wet feet or footwear immediately with a clean, dry cloth, sponge, or paper towel. Do not allow excess liquid to remain on the surface.
      Do not use soap-based detergents, abrasive cleaners, or combined “clean and shine” products on your laminate floor.
      Do not use steel wool or other scouring pads that may scratch laminate panels.
      Do not wax or polish your laminate flooring.
      And finally, do not steam clean or use chemicals that may damage the flooring surface.

      Hope you’re enjoying your new floor!

    • Hi Jim,

      A vapor barrier and a sound dampening underlay will do the trick. Some types of underlay can serve both functions. For some selections of underlay and flooring accessories, you can start your search here.

      I hope this helps!

  10. Love my floor but I have several boxes left over and would like to store it – What is the desired temperature for protection .

  11. I do not know if it’s just me or if everybody else experiencing issues with your blog.
    It looks like some of the text within your content are running off the screen. Can somebody else please
    provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them too?
    This might be a problem with my web browser because I’ve had this happen previously.
    Thank you

  12. I want to store full 1100 lbs pallets of laminated flooring . How high may I pile up this pallets, one on top of the other, independant of the stability I may manage ??

  13. Worried installed three rooms and I have been getting no click when putting them togeather? I bought them on sale, might they be damaged product?? they seem level but no clicking.

  14. Patricia F Benjamin - Reply

    I have to replace some quick step 7mm laminated flooring due to damage. Unfortunately, quick step no longer makes the color and has nothing even close. What brand of laminate flooring would be compatible for replacement? Lowes has a product called Swift Lock that is very similar is color and is the right depth and width (7.6 inches). Could I use that? I don’t want to buy a whole box and not be able to use it. Any suggestions?


  15. moved into our new home last October, had vinyl laminate flooring all on our house. I picked the darker. I am very displeased with it, very pretty, but it is a pain to keep clean. Just my husband and I, I see dust and everything on it. It scratches leaves dents, I have things under all my furniture. I wished I had stayed with tile, too late now. It is a 2100 square ft.

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