Adventures in home improvement: Our adventure installing laminate flooring in our attic. It was easier than we expected, you just need the right tools.
Installing laminate flooring in our attic was the first real big DIY home improvement project we attempted after buying our house. Our friend Rick had done it before and offered to help us and lend us his saws (thanks Rick!). He is not a professional, and neither are we. I’m sure there are more professional details that we missed, but overall we are very happy with the result and feel empowered to do it again in our basement later this year.
**Note: This isn’t a professional “how-to” guide. We didn’t know what we were doing. Just a breakdown of how we did it and how it turned out.
Prior to starting, we measured our attic space to get a good guesstimate of square footage, and ordered our supplies from Home Depot. We ordered roughly 400 square feet of the TrafficMASTER Glenwood Oak laminate flooring at $0.68/sq ft, 400 square feet of foam underlay, and a laminate flooring installation kit for $17.98. Total for everything was just under $400.00.
The tool kit came with 50 wedge spacers, a plastic tapping block (we called it the tappy square), and a steel pull bar. In addition we ended up needing a hammer, sturdy flat head screwdriver, a box cutter, and a rubber mallet.
We also needed a chop saw for cutting the boards to length, and ended up needing Rick’s table saw as well to make cut outs in the boards for going around a banister and some other awkward protrusions.
Before we could get started however, we had to rip the existing carpet out. We let our boxes of flooring acclimate to our house climate for two weeks while we worked on preparing the attic.
We wanted to install a laminate wood floor in the attic because I planned on using it for my art studio, and the previous owners had a cat box up there and you could still smell it in the carpet. The nasty carpet had to go.
Paddy removed all the carpet and carpet pad with a box cutter-knife, cutting it into strips and rolling it up as he went. It didn’t take very long and we were able to load it all in my truck and dispose of it at the local dump.
I would definitely recommend using gloves for this and being careful with the sharp carpet tacking nailed around the edges.
Next, the super fun part: prying up the pokey carpet tacking and pulling all the staples out of the subflooring with a pair of pliers or a screwdriver. This was definitely the most obnoxious part of the job.
Finally, our subfloor was ready.
Next, we unrolled the foam underlay and cut it to fit the floor with a box cutter. The foam underlay is necessary because it provides extra sound proofing, extra cushioning under the floor for comfort, and in some cases it can act as a moisture barrier to protect the flooring. We ended up using exactly 300 square feet, and had one roll to spare. We’ll save it for when we do the basement.
We thought we would be able to install the flooring without removing the siding at the bottom edges of the walls, but we had to remove that too (this is what we needed the hammer and screwdriver for). We pried off all the siding and saved it to put back on when we were finished.
Once all the foam underlay was down, we were ready to start. We took two planks right out of the box, and then measured the remaining length of space and cut a plank to size. They are made to fit together tongue-and-groove style, so we could fit the three pieces together on end, and then lay it down flat as a single long row.
It is recommended to leave a tiny bit of space between the flooring and the wall for expansion. That is what the 50 plastic spacers are for that were included in our flooring kit, but we didn’t end up using them. It seemed that we were doing an okay job of leaving a tiny bit of space on the ends as we went.
On the next row, you want to have the shorter piece at the opposite end of the wall as the short piece in the first row, so that the seams are staggered. If you don’t stagger your seams, it won’t hold together properly. We alternated short lengths right and left per row as we went.
When cutting the shorter lengths, make sure you cut the correct end of the plank so that the tongue and groove will be on the side you are going to lock in with the other pieces, and the cut side will be against the wall. When cutting the shorter lengths with the chop saw, we also learned that you should always cut with the plank upside down, as the saw blade chews up the finish a bit on the side it cuts into.
Once we had the next row of planks fit together properly end-to-end, we tipped the entire row up and in to fit in with the groove on the previous row. Next, we needed to make sure the planks fit together tightly so that no seams were visible. This is where the tappy square and the steel pry bar comes in.
You hold the tapping square up to the edge of the flooring, and hit it with a hammer to hammer the plank tightly into place and close any gaps in the seams. No seam should be visible.
If a seam is on the end joint of the plank, you can use the steel pry bar to hook in between the end of the row and the wall, and then hit the curved part with the hammer to pull the plank into place.
Installing the rows was the easy part. The hardest part was when we needed to cut out an awkward shape. Rick needed to use the table saw for the precise cuts or cuts down the length of the plank. He was able to use the chop saw for a few of these, but the table saw was the better tool. If you don’t have a table saw or a friend who has one, you can rent one. Don’t forget to use eye protection.
I was kind of surprised at how fast it went. We did it over two days, but we could have knocked it out in one had we had time and energy to do so.
After it was all installed, I touched up the paint around the edges were the siding was, and then Paddy nailed it back on lower to line up with the flooring. This covers up the gaps around the edges left for expansion, and helps further secure the floor.
Overall, installing laminate flooring wasn’t so hard and we are super happy with our floor. We got a good coupon for our local hardware store and invested in a chop saw for when we get around to installing laminate flooring in our basement as well.