Laminate Flooring Leveling Guide: Conquer Uneven Floors with Confidence

Installing laminate flooring requires a level surface to ensure a visually appealing and long-lasting result. This article offers a guide to leveling your subfloor in preparation for a laminate flooring installation.

Uneven floors can result in damage to the laminate boards, unwanted gaps, and a feeling of instability while walking on the surface. A properly leveled floor provides a solid foundation for your laminate flooring and ensures a comfortable and stable surface to walk on.

Follow this laminate flooring leveling guide to smooth out your subfloor and avoid common installation issues, ensuring a professional-looking finished product that will stand the test of time.

Importance of Leveling

Laminate flooring requires a level surface for proper installation and optimal performance. An uneven subfloor can lead to various issues such as:

  • Unstable planks causing gaps or movement
  • Excessive wear on the flooring material
  • Uneven stress on the locking mechanisms, which may affect reliability and durability
  • In extreme cases, potential floor failure due to stress on the laminate’s core

Ensuring a level surface not only enhances the appearance of your laminate floor but also helps prevent complications in the long term.

The allowable variation in floor levelness for laminate flooring is typically around 3/16 of an inch over a 10-foot span. This means that a transition from one point to another should not deviate by more than 3/16 of an inch within a 10-foot distance.

Surface TypeAllowable Deviation
Concrete3/16 inch in 10 feet
Wood3/16 inch in 10 feet

By properly leveling your subfloor prior to laminate installation, you can ensure a more comfortable walking surface, increase the lifespan of your flooring, and avoid costly repairs in the future.

Tools and Materials Needed

In this section, we will discuss the tools and materials required for successful laminate flooring leveling. We will cover measuring tools, leveling compounds, and other essential tools. Let’s begin with measuring tools.

Measuring Tools

Accurate measurements are crucial for proper leveling of laminate flooring. Some important measuring tools include:

  • Tape measure: Used for measuring the length and width of the room and calculating the area where flooring needs to be installed.
  • Level: To check if the existing floor is level and identify areas that require extra attention.
  • String line: Helps in identifying high and low spots on the floor.

Leveling Compounds

There are various types of leveling compounds available in the market. The choice depends on the type of subfloor and the severity of leveling required. Here’s a brief overview:

Self-leveling compoundEasy to apply, creates a smooth and even surfaceRequires a clean and primed subfloor, dries quickly, so you need to work fast
Concrete-based leveling compoundStrong and durable, suitable for harsh conditionsSlow drying time, heavy mix, requires proper surface preparation
Gypsum-based compoundEasy to sand, provides a good base for adhesivesNot suitable for damp areas or direct contact with water

Other Essential Tools

There are several other tools that will help you perform a successful laminate flooring leveling job. Some of these tools include:

  • Trowel: Used for spreading and smoothing the leveling compound.
  • Mixing paddle: Required for mixing the leveling compound with water to ensure a uniform consistency.
  • Safety gear: Gloves, safety goggles, and a dust mask are essential for personal safety during the leveling process.

Choosing the correct tools and materials will make your laminate flooring leveling project efficient and successful.

Assessing the Floor

Before installing laminate flooring, it’s essential to assess the condition of your subfloor. Proper assessment will help identify potential issues and provide a foundation for effective leveling.

Identifying High and Low Spots

Begin by visually inspecting your subfloor for visible high and low spots. Look for dips, cracks, or peaks in the surface. To identify these areas more accurately, use a straightedge or long level and lay it across various sections of the floor. Observe any gaps between the level and the floor that could indicate unevenness.

Measuring the Degree of Unevenness

After identifying high and low spots, measure the degree of unevenness. Use the straightedge or level, placing it on the subfloor diagonally, straight, and across in several areas. Take note of any gaps and measure the size of the gap between the floor and the straightedge. Record these measurements in a table for easy reference.

AreaGap Size
Area 12mm
Area 24mm
Area 31mm

Generally, a gap of 3mm or less is considered acceptable for laminate flooring. If your measurements reveal unevenness greater than this, it will be necessary to level the floor before installation.

Maintain a well-organized record of your measurements, as this data will be crucial for determining the best course of action to level your floor. Be sure to address any issues promptly to ensure a successful laminate flooring installation.

Leveling Techniques

In this section, we will discuss various leveling techniques for laminate flooring, including applying leveling compound, sanding high areas, and using shims or plywood.

Applying Leveling Compound

Leveling compound is a mixture of cement, sand, and other additives that help create a smooth, even surface for flooring. The process involves:

  1. Mixing the leveling compound according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Applying it to the floor surface in a thin, even layer using a trowel.
  3. Allowing the compound to dry and cure for the recommended amount of time.

It’s important to note that different types of leveling compounds exist, with varying specifications and application techniques. Be sure to consult the product information for each product.

Sanding High Areas

Sanding is another method of leveling a floor for laminate installation. This technique involves:

  1. Determining the high spots on the floor with a straight edge or level.
  2. Using a belt sander, orbital sander, or floor sander to remove the high spots.
  3. Use a shop vacuum to clean-up the dust generated during the sanding process.

Sanding is more suitable for smaller areas or localized high spots that do not require the entire floor to be leveled.

Using Shims or Plywood

For minor adjustments in floor elevation, shims, or plywood can be used:

  1. Measure the difference in height between low and high spots on the floor.
  2. Cut plywood, with a thickness equal to the measured difference, into appropriate sizes to fit the desired areas.
  3. Secure plywood to the subfloor using screws or nails, ensuring the edges are flush with the rest of the floor.
  4. For smaller gaps or transitions, use shims to bridge the height difference, and secure with nails or adhesive.

Using shims or plywood is a cost-effective solution for minor leveling needs, but may not be suitable for larger or more extensive leveling projects.

Installation of Laminate Flooring

Preparing the Subfloor

Before installing laminate flooring, ensure the subfloor is clean, dry, and level. Remove any existing floor coverings, baseboards, or trim.

Measure and calculate the room’s square footage to determine the amount of materials needed. Add 10% extra for waste and mistakes. Use a moisture barrier, such as a plastic sheet or underlayment, particularly in damp areas like basements.

Laying the Laminate

Choose the direction you’d like the planks to run, either parallel or perpendicular to the longest wall. Starting with the first row, lay the planks with the tongue side facing the wall, and use spacers to maintain a gap of 1/4 inch between the planks and the wall. This allows for expansion and contraction.

Snap the planks together by inserting the tongue into the groove at a 45-degree angle, then gently press down. Continue laying planks in the same manner, staggering the seams at least 12 inches apart for a natural appearance. Use a tapping block and mallet to gently tap the planks together, ensuring a tight fit.

Finishing Touches

After completing the installation, remove the spacers and install trim or baseboards to cover the expansion gap. Nail the baseboards to the wall, not the flooring, to allow for movement.

For a polished look, install thresholds or transition strips between different flooring types. Install floor protectors on furniture legs to prevent scratches and maintain the floor’s appearance.

  1. Ensure a clean, dry, and level subfloor.
  2. Install a moisture barrier if needed.
  3. Plan the layout and direction of the planks.
  4. Snap planks together and stagger seams.
  5. Install trim, thresholds, and floor protectors.

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