Installing Snap-together Planks

Installing Snap-Together Planks

Intro

Like laminate tiles, laminate planks snap together. And like their glued counterparts, they float on a foam underlayment. This allows the floor to expand and contract as a unit and makes it feel comfortable underfoot. Assembly varies by manufacturer. Some styles use a tongue-and-groove configuration. Others employ locking strips. Some brands require that you angle the units as you engage the tongue-and-groove. Others snap together with the aid of a tapping block and hammer. The tilt-and-engage style is the most common. Installing the first three rows of planks works best if you connect the planks a few feet away from the wall and then slide them in place as a unit. Then you'll be able to work on top of the planks that you've installed. Acclimate the planks by leaving them for 48 hours in the room where they will be installed. If you will be using laminate baseboards, extend the underlayment 2 inches up each wall.

Checklist

Time
About 5 to 6 hours for an 8x10-foot floor, not including subfloor preparation

Tools
Tape measure, metal straightedge, jigsaw, circular saw or table saw, trim saw, utility knife, hammer, tapping block, pull bar, pencil

Skills
Measuring, setting, and cutting laminate

Prep
Repair and/or replace subfloor.

Materials
Underlayment, laminate planks, masking tape, caulk

Prepare the Layout: Step 1

Roll out the underlayment, butting or overlapping the joints as instructed by the manufacturer. Tape the joints as instructed. Measure the room and divide the result by the width of the planks. Add the remainder to the width of a plank and divide by 2. This is the width of your first and last border rows.

Preparing the Layout: Step 2

Open three cartons and mix the planks so color variations spread throughout the room. Use your computations from Step 1 to mark the width of the tile for the border row. Rip enough border tiles for your starting wall. When using a circular saw, place the finish side down.

Preparing the Layout: Step 3

Starting in the center of the wall, snap the border planks together. When you no longer have space for a full plank, center the row, leaving an equal space at each end. Measure from the edge of the plank face (not the tongue) to the wall and subtract 1/4 inch (to allow for spacers).

Preparing the Layout: Step 4

Mark the top of a full border plank, using the length from Step 3 and measuring from the edge of the face. Transfer the mark to the back of the plank with a combination square; cut the plank with a circular saw. Cut the left and right ends from separate planks to maintain the pattern.

Preparing the Layout: Step 5

Lock the left and right ends of the border row in place. Then push the border row against the wall, inserting 1/4-inch spacers every foot or so. Number the order of the planks on small pieces of masking tape.

Installing a Moisture Barrier

If you are planning to install laminate planks over concrete, you'll probably need to lay down a moisture barrier by lining the floor with polyethylene sheeting. Most manufacturers require sheeting that is 6 mils thick, but follow your manufacturer's guidelines. Overlap the seams by 8 inches or as recommended. Do not install a moisture barrier over a wooden subfloor as this may result in mold and/or mildew and cause the planks to warp.

Note that glued planks are generally approved for use in full baths, but some snap-together laminates are not, as not all snap-together connections are waterproof, which means moisture can seep between the planks.

Marking and Cutting Contours: Step 1

Variations in the wall can affect the floor layout; the first row must follow the contour of the wall. Draw a compass along the planks, skipping the spacers. (Some manufacturers recommend doing this after laying the first three rows.) Snap the second row together and cut the end planks.

Marking and Cutting Contours: Step 2

Disassemble the border planks and use a jigsaw with a fine-tooth blade to cut the scribed line. With a reverse-cutting blade, set the good side up to avoid chipping the plank. If using a regular blade, keep the good side down.

Installing the Planks: Step 1

Working away from the starting wall, reassemble the border-row planks in their original order. Maintain the offset directed by the manufacturer and snap the end plank of the second row to the first row. Tilt the plank and pull the tongue into the groove. Prop the plank on a piece of scrap.

Installing the Planks: Step 2

Tilt the second plank and push the tongue into the groove of the first one. Depending on the instructions you can either pull each plank toward you and into the first row as you go or wait until you have assembled the entire row. Regardless of the method, lower the plank until it snaps in place.

Installing the Planks: Step 3

Continue using the same method to fit the planks together. When you have completed the first three rows, slide the assembly toward the starting wall, stopping short by a little more than the thickness of the spacers. Insert the spacers against the wall and snug the rows against them.

Installing the Planks: Step 4

Continue snapping the planks together, working toward the other wall, closing gaps as necessary with a tapping block and trimming the final row to fit. Tilt the final row and pull it into place, using a pull bar to snug the planks together. Trim underlayment flush with the planks as necessary.


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