Advice on Floating Laminate Flooring

04/01/2009 |

Laminate flooring is a fast way to update the look and feel of your building

COURTESY OF ABET LAMINATI

If you’re looking for a fast way to update the look and feel of your building, consider laminate flooring. Installation is relatively easy; because the product is floated over existing floors, you don’t have to worry about tearing up your current flooring, and most laminate systems don’t require glue or special tools for installation.

Types of Laminate
Laminate floors are typically made of a fiber core body with a printed image layer (of wood, stone, etc.) that’s finished with an extremely hard, clear resin coating. Because the image layer is high resolution, the look of wood or stone is very convincing. According to Vancouver, BC-based Build­Direct, “Laminate flooring is perfect for anyone wanting a durable floor for a fraction of the price and installation time of a hardwood floor. ... This construction also makes laminate flooring more environmentally friendly, as it uses less wood in construction, and makes more efficient use of the wood fiber that is used.”

There are two different types of laminate to consider. “High-pressure laminate floors are used commercially, and direct-pressure floors are used residentially or for light-traffic commercial, such as a small law office or dentist office,” says Anthony Riggi, flooring product manager at Englewood, NJ-based ABET Laminati. “High-pressure laminates are successful in Main Street retail, office common areas, and hospitality projects, such as hotel lobbies, spas, and fitness areas.” Think about how much traffic your laminate floor will see before you specify your product.

Pre-Installation Tips

Follow these tips from Vancouver, BC-based BuildDirect before installing your laminate floor:

  • Ensure that your subfloor is flat, dry, and smooth. Laminate flooring and the underlayment/vapor barrier can be installed over concrete, wood flooring, vinyl tile, linoleum, or almost any other hard, flat surface.
  • Always use underlayment under your laminate floor for soundproofing.
  • Take extra care when installing laminate flooring over radiant heating. Ensure that you read the instructions carefully before beginning.
  • Allow your laminate flooring to acclimate to the room in which it will be installed for as long as possible (a minimum of 48 hours).
  • Inspect each laminate flooring panel carefully for defects or damage before installing it.
Subfloors
“If you’re concerned about tearing up your old floor, then floating a laminate floor may be your answer,” says FloorFacts.com’s flooring guide. Make sure the subfloor is flat, and that the location isn’t prone to moisture. “Floated systems like to have flatness within about 0.25 inches or less over a 10-foot span – more than this, and you’ll have a soft spot underneath,” says Riggi. Remember to allow for a floated floor to expand and contract freely as humidity levels change. “Expansion spacing should be from 0.25 to 0.5 inches, depending on the size of the room,” Riggi adds.

Factory Recommendations
Riggi says that following the factory recommendations is the most important step. “It seems silly to have to say that, but so many jobs go bad because the installer or owner does not transition the floor correctly,” he says. Follow recommendations on applications as well; Riggi says that rectangular areas about 20 feet by 30 feet or smaller are ideal, and that floating floors don’t handle U, L, or T shapes well.

Maintenance
To clean your laminate floor, “clean it like a big kitchen countertop,” suggests Riggi, with ammonia or vinegar mixed with water. BuildDirect cautions against using soap-based detergents, abrasive cleaners, or combined “clean-and-shine” products. Waxes and polishes shouldn’t be used, as the top layer of the floor is already a permanent finish.

With some careful planning (check out Pre-Installation Tips, below) and research, installing a floated laminate floor in your building should be a stress-free process with long-lasting, attractive results.

Jenna M. Aker (jenna.aker@buildings.com) is associate editor at Buildings magazine.


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