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4 Kinds of Tools for Installing Laminate Flooring

I was making Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from scratch, my variant on the standard recipe where I used science to help me get the chewy part to work without having to underbake them. Now at this point, I don’t need a written shopping list to buy the ingredients I need. Even if the thought to bake them occurs to me as I’m already doing my shopping, I know exactly what to get, and usually even how much of each I already have at home. This I did, and then confidently I proceeded to concoct my dough. Until I got to “1 and 1/8 tsp. baking soda” (“and 1/8?” … my water is a little alkaline. The extra keeps the cookies from ‘falling’, as cakes did in 1950’s family sit-coms). I looked everywhere. Who runs out of baking soda? But I’d forgotten that I had used it on my carpet the last time I vacuumed. Something new (therefore forgettable). It worked, but now I needed to drive out to the store to spend a whopping 79 cents for exactly one item. One, tiny little ingredient, of which I needed just a teaspoon, not even worth the drive, if not for the fact that without it there would be zero cookies.

What’s this got to do with flooring?

Installing laminate flooring is one of the simplest of the larger do-it-yourself projects, and one of the keys to keeping it easy is having your materials ready before you start. This includes not only trims and floor pad, but also the tools you’ll need. To facilitate that last one, and hopefully keep you from needing to drive out to the home store for one, tiny little, essential thing, Floors To Your Home has just gathered the tools needed for most standard laminate flooring installations into two installation kits, a basic bucket of supplies, and a deluxe kit which includes a saw. Here is what comes in the kits, what each item is for, and some helpful tips.

The Deluxe Bucket o' Installation Goodies!

 

Cutting Your Boards

Jigsaw

Jigsaw

The jigsaw only comes in the Deluxe Installation Bucket, for those who don’t already have the saw they need. The jigsaw is used to cut the laminate planks so they will fit as you approach the wall. It comes with instructions, so you can use it safely and properly, and plugs into the wall to maintain power as your installation progresses. Battery powered saws can weaken long before they need to recharge. Most people find it useful to have an area to make the cuts which is away from their installation, to keep the sawdust from being a nuisance as the floor is installed. I recommend doing the cuts in a nearby room over a big, plastic sheet (for easy cleanup at the end). If the garage or a doorway to an outside location is close, those areas are even better options. Many people will lay the plank over a bucket, allowing much of the sawdust to accumulate there. You’ll find a bucket included, should you wish to give that tip a try.
 
 

Everything else comes in all of our Installation Buckets.

 

Speed Square

Speed Square

Measuring Tools

It’s crazy important to be sure that your measurements are right, and your cutting lines are straight before making your cuts. Being careless here can eat up your extra plankage pretty quickly, and you may wind up reordering more cartons of your flooring just to get the last few feet done, which would… well, which would suck! To facilitate precision, we have included measuring tape and a Speed Square. The latter will drop over the side of your plank, so that your cut line can be both straight and perfectly square. The measuring tape needs no explanation, but I have one recommendation. Measure twice, ideally having it done by two people. You do it, then have another double check it. This is not to cover ineptness, but the numerical fog that can come with a day of measuring the same things in the same way over and over.

Tape Measure

Tape Measure

Protect Yourself

Your Armor

Your Armor

There is no avoiding the time you will spend down on this floor as you install it, so we’ve included knee pads, and let me tell you, they help. Even if you’re tough and all that, use them anyway, just to eliminate the distraction and allow you to focus on what you’re doing. Likewise with the safety glasses and the mask. You don’t need sawdust in your eyes, and when your floor is finished, and all furniture is in place, you’ll want to sit down, relax, and enjoy your new room, not spend the rest of the night coughing. They’re right there, available and easy. Use them, especially when cutting.
 

Installation Specific Tools

You will also find in the bucket a rubber mallet, and, packed together, our long available “Installation Kit,” comprised of a tapping block, a pull bar and a bunch of spacers. Each has its use in the installation process. Spacers are first.

When you install a floating floor, you need to leave a little space between the edge of the floor and your wall.  This is called the Expansion Gap, and it's there to allow the floor to expand and contract without running into the wall.  These adjustable spacers get propped up against the wall, and then the flooring is installed against them, leaving just the right amount of gapping.  When you're done they come right up, and then your trims will hide the gaps.

When you install a floating floor, you need to leave a little space between the edge of the floor and your wall. This is called the Expansion Gap, and it's there to allow the floor to expand and contract without running into the wall. These adjustable spacers get propped up against the wall, and then the flooring is installed against them, leaving just the right amount of gapping. When you're done they come right up, and then your trims will hide the gaps.

Brian demonstrates spacers about 1:05 into this video

Brian demonstrates spacers about 1:05 into this video


 
As you click your planks together, they should become perfectly snug as they lock and lay flat.  If they don't, and you're inclined to tap them together, the Tapping Block will become your good friend.  It rests against the side of the board, spreading out the force as you tap it on the other side with your rubber mallet.  This allows you to move your floor pieces together without damaging the locking mechanisms.  You should put the weight of your body on the pieces you already have in place, so that they do not move, but only the new piece moves in snug with the existing floor.

As you click your planks together, they should become perfectly snug as they lock and lay flat. If they don't, and you're inclined to tap them together, the Tapping Block will become your good friend. It rests against the side of the board, spreading out the force as you tap it on the other side with your rubber mallet. This allows you to move your floor pieces together without damaging the locking mechanisms. You should put the weight of your body on the pieces you already have in place, so that they do not move, but only the new piece moves in snug with the existing floor.


 
The Pull Bar comes into play when you need to 'tap' something, but a tapping block, let along the mallet, will not reach the edge necessary to tap.  It hangs over the opposite side, and you hit the part that sticks up, still essentially tapping the new piece toward you, into the already placed flooring.

The Pull Bar comes into play when you need to 'tap' something, but a tapping block, let alone the mallet, will not reach the edge necessary to tap. It hangs over the opposite side of the plank you need to pull toward you, and you hit the part of the bar that sticks up, still essentially tapping the new piece toward, or into, the already placed flooring.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
– – – –
W. David Lichty is the Content Guy at Floors To Your Home (.com). In my spare time I shoot and edit video, explore film history, mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’) and write non-fiction for my friends. Connect with me on Google+

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About

W. David Lichty is the Content Guy at Floors To Your Home (.com). In my spare time I shoot and edit video, explore film history, mix music (as in 'play with Beatles multi-tracks') and write non-fiction for my friends. Connect with me on Google+

Posted in Basic Installation Tips, Laminate Flooring Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
6 comments on “4 Kinds of Tools for Installing Laminate Flooring
  1. Rommel says:

    Installing laminate flooring is quite easier than the other type of flooring. It is important to know to how to install this type of flooring properly before doing the work. Thanks to your post, I’m sure many will learn from it.

  2. Jack says:

    I think laminate floor installation can be installed by a qualified DIY who has an Intermediate skill level. However for a truly professional appearance A floor should be professionally installed. A poorly installed floor will actually decrease the appearance and value of a home.This tool kit you are offering here is hardly enough tools to complete any home improvement much less a floor installation. What about an undercut saw? What about a mitre saw? That jigsaw there you have pictured would be awfully lucky if it even survived any substantial amount of flooring in a home.With this tool set you can hope for a mediocre job at the very best. By the time you purchase or rent a decent set of tools to ensurer a quality installation, You could have just had it professionally installed. For a factory approved installation that is sure to guarantee a long lasting beautiful floor you should consult with a pro.

  3. David says:

    There is some validity to what you say, Jack, but the fact is that many of our customers install their own floors and are quite satisfied with their results. We have a few customer photos here, many self installed: http://pinterest.com/floors2yourhome/

    One of our favorite thank you letters came from a couple, one of whom, if not both, was 71 years old. They took a weekend to install their own kitchen floor at a pace comfortable for them. They loved the results, and were both surprised and proud of their accomplishment. We also just got a link to a video from a DIY flooring novice showing off his new, self-installed floor – it’s here, and it looks great:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKs0s6ntOiM&feature=my_favorites&list=FLiWstw5AV7s_ND13GMCVwtA

    As far as poor installation, you’re right, it’s not pretty. But we are talking about a floating floor, not something glued or nailed down. There is a learning curve, but with floating floors learning is an option. If you lay a few rows wrong, you can see what you did wrong, pull them up and easily re-lay them correctly.

    Now, our tool kit is obviously not a home improvement kit. It’s for basic laminate installation for our customers who have choosen to do this task themselves. Mitre saws are very nice, but far from necessary. They’re also $200 on the low end. One can easily cut a straight line with a jigsaw, and I’m sorry, but 40 cuts across 5″ of fiberboard is not going to kill even an old, household jigsaw. An undercut saw will be needed if one is going under a door jamb. Not everyone will. Many will and those people can easily find them in home stores, if they can’t just borrow one from a neighbor.

    No tool set is going to cripple a job, and we are not going to underestimate the diligence of those who choose to put their own floors into their own homes. These people know that they are doing something new, and they take the time and care to read instructions, watch videos (of which there are hundreds freely available), and ask us questions. Looking up general laminate installation costs online, I found the following quotes about and from installers:

    “Here in Omaha subs usually get 1.75 sq ft for floating floors. I charge 2.00 as I am the best…”

    “Depending on job specs, we get $1.25 – $1.85 sf for floating laminate floors. Any transitions, base/shoe, prep are all extra…”

    “1.80 – 2.00 a sq ft all day long just for basic install. Tile / patterned laminate is extra…”

    “In the southwest you can expect to pay $2.00 – $3.00 for a licensed, bonded and insured installer…”

    “My subs charge me $2.50 to $3.25 a square foot…”

    “I have done it as low as $2.00 a foot up to $5 a foot, with extras, being extra…”

    “In general, it can cost the consumer anywhere between $1 and $7 per square foot to have laminate flooring professionally installed.”

    So for 500 sqft. we’ve got a range here of $625-$3500, with something over $1000 being the liklely average, so unless they’re also renting a fleet of backhoes, no tool rental will reach this level of cost. And who rents a paper facemask anyway?

    Look, we don’t recommend people avoid professionals, and we don’t have some favorite installer to defend against others. If people want to consider professional installation, I think they should check your team out and consult Angie’s List or whatever review site they trust, especially if they’re in Eastern Tennessee. But many people want to put these floors in themselves, and they’re quite capable of doing so. These tool sets are for those people. If they already have a few of these things, they can easily go shopping for the others, but if their home tool kit stops at hammers and screwdrivers, then these sets should meet their needs and save them a great deal of money on a service they have already decided not to employ.

  4. Jack says:

    David,

    Thanks for taking the time to repair my link at http://www.tradesmanservices.us..
    I agree with you that a qualified DIY can take on a flooring project as stated in my earlier post. I merely meant that a person should seriously evaluate their skill level and toolset before taking on a flooring project or any home improvement for that matter. I constantly turn down service call from folks with good intentions who installed their flooring theirselves to try to save few bucks then later on realize they made a mistake, or have underestimated the project they were undertaking…
    I could pull my own tooth to save a few bucks also but i always seek out a pro and go to my dentist.

  5. Matt says:

    Well, I think that one of the best ways to learn is to DIY, and with all the help guides and youtube instructional videos for visual aid, why not. You will save money and Jack I personally think you are making it seem harder than it is. This is pretty simple stuff, if you don’t know, you will catch on pretty quick. In these hard times it is vital for the common everyday guy to be able to be self-sufficient and as independent as possible. You shouldn’t have to hire someone to do something this simple, as well as rotating your tires, changing your car oil, or fixing a hole in the wall. The best way to learn is to DIY. Kudos to the OP for helping the average Joe step out on the right foot.

  6. Tool Venture says:

    Some highly comprehensive stuff here. The tips and general layout of your blog can be applied to other processes such as tile cutting. With the correct knowhow, as well as the right, high quality tools, you can create the best finish.
    Great work.

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