Replacing carpet with laminate is an excellent way to give a room a makeover. Fortunately, it's a DIY-friendly project thanks to laminate's easy interlocking installation. According to Floor Critics, laminate flooring is not real wood but looks and performs like it, making it an affordable flooring option as well.
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Removing carpet and laying the laminate can be labor- and time-intensive, so set aside plenty of time to complete this project if you plan to do it yourself.
Removing the Old Carpet
Carefully insert a flat pry bar under the carpet in a corner of the room. Once you have a grip on the carpet, start to peel it back. To make it more manageable to roll up and throw away, use a sharp box cutter to cut the carpet into sections as you go. Remove the carpet padding in the same way.
Next, use the pry bar to remove all of the tack strips attached to the subfloor. Do a final sweep to ensure all debris and nails have been removed from the subfloor.
Inspect and Repair the Subfloor
The subfloor sits on top of the floor joists and provides a smooth, level surface for installing any type of flooring. However, with carpet in particular, the subfloor can be exposed to excess moisture leaking down through the floor. Moisture can also emanate from an unsealed crawl space. If there is any damage or apparent weakness in the subfloor, now is the time to fix it.
Look for discolored or soft spots that may indicate water damage and use a carpenter's level to locate dips that may point to a sagging floor joist. Any panels that do not seem to have structural integrity should be replaced, and at this point, the project switches from "DIY-friendly" to "pro recommended." Cutting into the subfloor must be done with extreme care to avoid nicking wires and pipes, and the new panels must meet a minimum size standard to adequately support the weight of furniture and foot traffic.
Preparing for the Laminate Flooring
First, decide if you want (or need) to place a layer of underlayment across the entire floor. This protects the laminate flooring from moisture (and the subsequent mold and mildew) that may rise from your crawl space. It can also provide a little bit of cushion under the floor.
One difference between carpet vs. laminate is that laminate flooring is sold in individual planks, not in a big roll. After you've chosen the style, size and color of the planks, you also need to decide the direction you want those planks to lay on the floor. For example, you can use the lines created by the laminate flooring to help a room appear longer or wider.
Finally, be aware that laminate flooring often looks best if the seams (where the ends of two board meet) are staggered instead of next to each other. This avoids having a long line running perpendicular to the rest of the flooring. Instead, start every-other row with a full-length board and place a half-length board in the remaining rows. You can also randomize the lengths.
Installing Laminate Flooring for Beginners
You'll need a table saw, floor spacers and a rubber mallet to lay laminate flooring. Lay the first row of boards so that the groove faces in toward the interior of the room, measuring and cutting the length of the final board in the row. If you can slide the floor underneath the wall a little, do so. Otherwise, use the floor spacers to ensure the laminate planks are not too close to the baseboard to allow the wood to adequately expand.
Lay the second row by lining up the new board's "tongue" into the flat board's "groove" at an angle. Then lower the board until it snaps into place. Use a rubber mallet (over top of a soft cloth if desired to avoid smudges) to tap the top and side of each plank to ensure a tight fit. Continue in this way until you reach the final row, which may require you to make lengthwise cuts.
Finally, install quarter-rounds around the perimeter of the room to hide any gaps between the floor and the baseboard. You'll also need to place a transition piece in the doorway for a smooth finish.