Photogenic Floors­

Laminate flooring isn’t limited to looking like a variety of wood. It can mimic other flooring including ceramic tile, brick and even slate. The key to this ability is the decorative layer (also known as the pattern layer) of the laminate flooring. Basically, that layer is a photograph. This is why today's laminate looks even more realistic than laminate flooring did ten years ago. As the printing technology used by laminate floor manufacturers has improved, so has the look of the laminate flooring.­

Preparing to Install Laminate Flooring

Before you begin the actual installation of your new laminate floor, you have to prep the existi­ng floor. First off, the subfloor should be flat. If it's made of concrete, grind off any high spots. Low spots should be filled with leveling compound. All carpeting and carpet padding should be removed unless the carpeting is a quarter-inch (6 mm) thick or less. Make sure to remove any remaining debris or adhesive residue. You want a clean, flat surface to work with so your new floor can look its best.

Next, remove trim and doors. Baseboard removal is optional. Keep in mind that you'll need to install new quarter round molding at the end of the job to cover the expansion zone around the perimeter. If the drywall doesn't meet the floor in any spots, create a solid wall surface with a 2- to 3-inch-wide (5 to 7 cm) facing strip of quarter-inch (6 mm) plywood at the stud.

The appropriate underlayer material will depend upon what type of subfloor you're setting the laminate on. Some laminate flooring products have the underlayer attached to the planks. Because laminate is noisier and harder than wood, the underlayer cushions the floor and helps reduce noise.

Measure the area you want to cover and add 10 percent for waste. To avoid ending up with an unusually narrow board at the finish wall, measure the distance between the starting and ending walls. Divide by the width of the board. To balance the room, add the amount left over to the plank width and divide by two.

If the room's relative humidity is between 45 and 65 percent, a minimum quarter- to half-inch (6 to 13 mm) gap or expansion zone between the laminate flooring and walls must be left around the perimeter of the room and any fixed vertical surfaces such as pipes, cabinets or staircases.

Undercut door trims and door jambs. This allows the floor to move. Check the height of the new floor against all doors that open into the room as it may be necessary to trim the door to accommodate the change in the floor's height.

Some laminate flooring products need to be acclimated to the room for several days before installation. Manufacturers will recommend that the room be kept at a minimum temperature, around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius), for two days before, during and two days after the installation.

Now that you've prepped your room like a master painter preps a canvas, you're ready for the actual install. Read on to learn how to make it the smoothest installation possible.