Laminate flooring is a building material designed to look like traditional hardwood, but costs only a fraction of the price. It is made from a composite base topped with a printed paper top layer. The paper is actually a photograph of wood, showing natural color and grain patterns, which makes it difficult to distinguish from solid hardwood. Laminate flooring uses a "floating" installation system that makes this an easy project for many homeowners.
Measure the length and width of the room to determine how much material you'll need. Add about 5 percent to the total area of the room to account for future repairs, discolored boards or material that is lost to cutting.
Clean and level your subfloor. Laminate can be installed over any existing surface as long as the existing floor is adhered, rather than floating. Use leveling compound to fill any cracks or voids, and chip away ridges or bumps in concrete using a hammer. Sweep or vacuum the floor to remove dirt and debris before proceeding.
Cover the entire floor with a layer of foam underlayment. Each row of material should butt tightly together without overlapping. Use duct tape to tape the seams together, but do not fasten the underlayment to the floor.
Use spacers to create a 1/4-inch gap along the walls as you work. This gap will act as an expansion joint so that the material can expand and contract without cracking or failing.
Lay your first row of flooring against the most visible wall in the room, making sure to maintain the expansion joint. Use a circular or hand saw to cut the planks as necessary to make them fit across the length of the room.
Connect your second row of flooring to the first using the integral "tongue-and-groove" connectors. Hold the second row of flooring at a 45-degree angle to the first, align the connectors, then firmly snap them together. If you are having trouble connecting the boards tightly, place a wood block along one side of the board and use a rubber mallet to firmly tap it against the wood to force the laminate in place.
Stagger the joints along each row by at least 6 inches as you proceed across the floor. This helps to create a more stable and attractive finished floor.
Force the last row of flooring into place using a pry bar, then cover the expansion joints with trim or molding to complete the project.