Are you the handyman type and want to install hybrid, timber or laminate flooring in your home or business? This guide outlines the various steps necessary to install each flooring type from start to finish.

In a perfect world where money is no object, we highly recommend using the services of a professional flooring store installer vs. DIY.

However, we also understand that people choose to go down the DIY path for various reasons. Suppose you consider yourself the handy type of person around the home, constantly fixing and installing things. By following the steps laid out (pun intended) by the product supplier and our guide, a perfect result is well within reach.

If, on the other hand, you have never picked up a tool in your life, we believe a professional installer will save you time, stress and money.

This guide covers installing hybrid, timber & laminate flooring and highlights points when they deviate from each other in their installation method.

Overview:
  1. Floor Prep
  2. Undercutting
  3. Double Checking 
  4. The Underlay
  5. Installation
  6. Scotia, Skirting & Trim Installation

 

Step 1 – Floor Preparation

Scotia vs Skirting: Decide whether you are going to remove skirting. If you leave the skirting on, you will need to put scotia on the top of the skirting and flooring afterwards. Scotia is a corner concave piece of decorative moulding (usually wood) that will cover a flooring gap without having to remove skirting. It is fixed over the skirting and floorboards around the flooring perimeter.

Preparation is the same process for all flooring types. Every product supplier has their installation guide on the Online Flooring Store website, which is essential to read because parameters and what you can get away with will vary slightly from product to product.

Each installation guide will tell you the floor’s level has to be flat within certain measurements or tolerances.

For example, they might say the flooring can have no more than 3mm deviation over three metres. What this means is that over a three-meter span of flooring, the level cannot rise or dip more than 3mm, which would compromise the product. They tell you the level to which the flooring has to be flat.

 

Concrete subfloor preparation.

 

By using a straight edge of 2 metres or greater in length, you can move across the floor and check the level is within the manufacturer’s guidelines. If you see space beneath the straight edges or you can rock it on high points, you need to measure this distance to determine whether it is within tolerance.

If the measurement is outside of tolerance, there will be one of a selection of steps you will need to take:

Getting the floor level is critical for the longevity of the floor.

  • For concrete subfloors, a self-levelling cement compound can be used to fill in the spaces. Additionally, if some areas are overly high, these can be flattened with a grinder.
  • On an older chipboard floor or a yellow tongue, you will often find that the joins will rise and peak over time. This is because moisture gets into the most vulnerable points: the joins. These will need to be sanded flat with a belt sander checking as you go.
  • Laying over existing timber flooring means you also have to make sure all of the edges are flat as well using a sander. In the case of a timber floor, it is best to lay your new flooring at a 90-degree angle to the existing flooring. This means that if your timber flooring is running North to South, you will want to run your new flooring from East to West.
  • Laying over tiles proves more problematic because of sudden drops. Drops from one tile to another can often drop 4-5mm alone. That area presents an issue because underneath the product at these points is unsupported. This causes stress on the boards which are then transferred into the joins of your flooring. Over time the joins will deteriorate and break. A grinder is a perfect tool combined with using the self-levelling compound. Typically you will need to grind the tips off the edges and high points and use a self-levelling compound in the dips. Particularly wide grout joins may cause problems; however, most products can withstand regular grout joins.
The first thing to consider before installation is preparing the subfloor.

The first thing to consider before installation is preparing the subfloor.

When installing flooring over concrete, it is important to inspect the levelness and surface.

When installing flooring over concrete, it is important to inspect the levelness and surface.

 

No matter what subfloor type you are laying the floor on, taking the time to be vigilant will mean no problems down the track.If you can step on a board without deflection underfoot, then things are ok. But if there is movement in the board, it needs to be rectified.

A note for the perfectionists: You will never get the surface perfect, and you only need to meet the manufacturer’s requirements.

 

Step 2 – Undercutting

Undercutting takes place where the door jams are. Rather than cut around them into your flooring (which can feel impossible), you undercut the door jam, and the flooring slides underneath. This also prevents chipping and damage to your product. It is possible to use and hand-saw, but we strongly recommend using a multitool. To get the measurement right, take a piece of the product you are using (such as hybrid,) and place it on the floor where the door jam is. Use a marker to mark the right distance you will need to undercut using the flooring product as a guide.

Additional Notes:

  • If you use laminate or timber, use a small piece of the product and tape some of the underlay to the bottom to achieve the right height for undercutting.
  • Gyprock can also be undercut if you remove the skirting. This will mean you can lay flooring right up to the level of the gyprock, and the gyprock will give you the additional horizontal clearance flooring needs for an expansion gap as in all cases the Gyprock is of greater thickness than the expansion gap that is required. Many builders will leave a gap of up to 15mm between the Gyprock and the floor. This is to allow for any floor coverings that are to be installed before the builder installs the skirting.
  • If you remove skirtings, start at one point of the house and number them off so when it is time to put them back on, they follow a substantial number pattern (making life easy).

 

Step 3 – The Walk Through

If it wasn’t obvious, this occurs before you put the floor down.

Walk across the floor and identify areas that could be potentially difficult to install.

For example, if you are laying in one direction, you may discover it’s easier to lay under door jams on one side of the floor vs. the other.

Spend the time to familiarise yourself with the job at hand and look at difficult areas. Once you have determined the direction in which the flooring will go and plan how you will deal with those areas.

If you have any issues you are unsure of; we will have the answers. Jump on our website and call The Online Flooring Store for advice with one of our seasoned experts.

By doing a good walk though, you can escape a lot of grief and heartache later on. Please familiarise yourself with how you will lay the floor & simulate it in your head before starting. When you reach the problematic points, you have already workshopped on how to tackle them.

Walk across the floor and familiarise yourself with the job at hand. Look at difficult areas before starting.

Walk across the floor and familiarise yourself with the job at hand. Look at difficult areas before starting.

 

Step 4 – The Underlay

Although we recommend closed cell underlay for longevity and other reasons, the process will be the same, whatever you choose. Many suggest you lay the underlay out over the entirety of the floor, then lay the floor. However, we feel that this may not be the best approach because the underlay is light, and moving air can get underneath it. The air can move the underlay, and what you thought was straight may not be the case once the weight of the floor is added to the underlay, which will straighten it out as you lay.

The best way to lay underlay is to run a single strip down on the area you intend to lay first. You then start adding the flooring, which weighs the underlay down. As you move toward the edge of that underlay, you can then roll another length out and tape them together (in addition to the self-adhesive tape on most underlays). So you are putting the underlay out as required and not all out at once.

We recommend leaving about 30mm of underlay that runs up the wall to cut back when the job is done. This will provide a complete moisture barrier around the floor preventing gaps where moisture vapour could rise into the back of the flooring. This is known as tanking the floor.

Once the job is completed, this is then cut back level with the surface of the floor, when step 5 is completed, before Step 6.

Side notes:

  • Hybrid flooring does not require underlay because it is already built into the product.
  • If you use a rubber underlay and are floating your floor, you can float the underlay or direct stick it to the sub-floor. If you are going to direct stick the floor, you also have to direct stick the underlay. This process is known as dual bonding.

 

Dean Billett

Expert Insights From Dean Billett

28+ Years of flooring industry experience

Always complete the biggest areas, such as the lounge and dining areas, and ensure you square your flooring adjacent to an external wall. The exterior walls of your house are always square, whereas the inner walls may not be parallel. Running a string line from end to end of an external wall will ensure you start the project correctly and get the best result.

Always lay with the male side of the flooring (tongue) facing out, meaning the female (groove) will touch the external wall you start on.

Step 5 – Installation

The tools that you require will depend on the floor you are laying, but some tools you will always need:

  • Jigsaw – for all flooring types
  • Drop saw – preferable to have if you are installing timber or laminate
  • Table saw – is also preferable to have for timber and laminate
  • A rubber mallet for all flooring types

Technically, everything can be done with a jigsaw, but it would take a lot more time, and you will use lots of blades.

For Hybrid installation

Most of the products will be cut by scoring the wear layer with a sharp knife, putting the product across your knee, applying pressure and snapping it. This makes hybrid installation easier than other hard flooring types. There is no need to cut past the wear layer: Once through with a sharp knife is enough. Once the product has been ‘snapped’, use the knife to cut the underlay on the back of the product.
For lengthways, diagonal and intricate cuts, use your jigsaw or table saw when in doubt. Jigsaws allow you to cut odd and intricate shapes. While they can be used to cut a board down its length (‘Ripping’ it,) a table saw will do this far more quickly. Scoring and snapping are still possible down the length of a board, provided you can exert adequate pressure on either side of the board.

For example, if you are cutting lengthways 20mm from the edge of the board, it won’t be easy to score and snap. But if you were cutting the board in half, you can snap the board using something like a table edge.

For Timber and Laminate installation

You will always need to use one or more of these power saws to cut your product unless you intend to use a hand saw which will make for a very long and tedious job!.

Know the locking mechanism on your floor. Every Product guide (installation guide,) will advise you of the locking system that the product uses

Example of Premium Floors Quickstep Installation guide.

Example of Premium Floors Quickstep Installation guide.

As the floors get put together, ensure there are no gaps between the planks. If gaps are occurring, this means the locking mechanism hasn’t been engaged properly. Once you are familiar with a product, this can be done by feel.

However, if you are unfamiliar with the product, you will need to tap the boards together gently, until the locking system properly engages, and the gaps disappear. You can use a plastic tapping block available at hardware stores.

However, the best way to do it is to take an offcut of the board and do the following:

  • Cut this piece in half down the centre, so the male and female joins are separated.
  • Look at the join you are tapping into. If you are tapping into a female join, then lock the male join from this offcut into the female join of the board you are engaging. Reverse this process if you are tapping a male join.
  • Tap the offcut rather than the boards you are laying.

This way, pressure is not being directed by a hammer or a rubber mallet directly into the join & pressure is distributed evenly. Your homemade tapping block fits precisely into the product.

Extra note: If gaps occur in the floor, The floor will not feel right. Improperly engaged boards can create noise and will damage the locking system over time. Additionally, as boards are staggered, an improperly engaged board that leaves a gap will create a ripple effect across the remainder of the floor. This will cause misalignment from this point onward, and the problem will get worse the further out you lay. One little gap will create big problems later. Test your boards and take your time.

Provided you did a good walkthrough and properly identified potential problem areas; you should have no dramas with installation.

 

Step 6 – Scotia, Skirting & Trim Installation

This is where you look at the trims you need to finish the flooring off and install scotia or reinstall skirting.

If you are reinstalling the skirting simply follow the numbers that you put on the back of them, and work your way back around the house. If you decided not to take the skirting off and install scotia, the rule is to keep a business card’s width between the scotia and the flooring below. This will prevent the scotia from being too tightly installed against the floor, prevent any potential for it to ‘pinch’ the floor, and prevent necessary raft movement.

Scotia beading is designed to conceal the necessary expansion gaps between the flooring and skirting boards at the edges of a room.

Scotia beading is designed to conceal the necessary expansion gaps between the flooring and skirting boards at the edges of a room.

 

You will then have to decide which trims to use via doorways and into wet areas, typically C and L channels.

  • C Channels are similar to a square C shape, and the bottom bit is longer than the top to make it easy to nail/stick to the floor. In most C channels have to be laid before the flooring goes down, as you put the cut edge of a product into the ‘C’, and lay the floor outwards from there.

C Channel (Junior, Senior or Midi End trim)

  • L Channels are similar in appearance to ‘C Channels’ but don’t have the bottom section, making them a rotated ‘L’ shape. They install by adhering the back of the trim to sliding door tracks, walls or any other vertical surface. If you have the surface to adhere them against, the more a little more versatile for entry points such as metal sliding door frames, as they can be installed after the floor is finished.

L Channel (Angle End Trim)

  • Universal Trims are used to join areas that are of the same or a similar height. This is the main option that is used when expansion breaks have to be installed on a floor. They consist in most cases of 3 parts: The base, the connector and the top. The base is either bonded or nailed to the ground before installation where it is required. The floor is then installed with the necessary clearance on either side of the base to allow for expansion. Once this is completed, the connector slots into the top section, and this then drops into the base. Many variations on this design exist, but they all serve the same purpose. Universal trims can be used as a ramp trim where there is only a small amount of difference between the 2-floor areas it connects.

Universal Trim (T-Trim or Cover Trim)

  • Ramp Trims can be used to reduce a sharp drop in areas. These are a similar trim in principle to the Universal Trim, but the cover section is shaped for a much larger drop. IN all other respects they are installed in the same way as a Universal Trim.

Ramp Trim

While the types of trims do vary from supplier to supplier, they all perform the same functions. For example, there is a trim that is known as a ‘Border Trim’. This performs the same function as both a ‘C’ and ‘L’ Channel, but it is a 3 part trim like a universal trim and installs in the same way.

There are also variations of the Universal and Ramp trims that lack the base and connectors, but use plastic plugs that are drilled into the slab. However, no matter what the trim offering is from a supplier, all of the joining options are covered across their trim offering.

Additionally, some suppliers have an offering of colour matched trims to their floors, some have an offering of different colours that are used across their entire range, and some just offer anodized metal options.

For this reason, trims are not on our website as they can be a minefield for the initiate. Simply call us and ask what is best for your floor, or include what you need in your online enquiry.

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Clem Sturgess

Clem is our resident expert on hard flooring. Clem has been in the flooring industry for over 25 years, and has a wealth of knowledge about timber, bamboo, laminate, hybrid, and even in flooring acoustics.