Trimming and Finishing Laminate Flooring

In our first article on laying laminate flooring we gave a quick rundown on how to lay this quick, cheap and good-looking flooring. But the thing that makes a real difference between a DIY job and a professional one is the amount of attention paid to trimming and finishing.

This article will give you the extra knowledge to make your laminate flooring look great.

Laminate Flooring Needs an Expansion Gap

Accurate trimming at the edges and where cut-outs are necessary can make a real difference between a luxurious look and a pig’s ear. Having said that, the first thing to point out is that you don’t need to worry too much at the edges because of the gap you need to leave.

This is necessary because all laminate flooring expands and contracts as the temperature and amount of moisture in the room changes. That means you need a gap all around the room to allow for this expansion. Real wood changes more than non-wood boards, but the instructions that come with the boards should tell you how wide the gap needs to be. The usual way of covering the gap it is to add beading or moulding to the skirting boards after you are finished.

Lifting Skirting Boards

You can also remove the skirting boards, lay the floor, then remount the skirting boar at a new height. This looks neater and more professional but you may have to remake the joints where the skirting board meets door frames and other obstructions, so look carefully at the way these joints have been made.

The other point is that plaster damage is almost inevitable when lifting skirting boards. You need to either be able to fix that or be prepared to get a plasterer in to make good before you replace the skirting boards.

Cutting to Fit at the Ends of the Rows

Following the guidelines in our first article, lay the boards row by row. There’s a neat trick for cutting laminate flooring boards at the edges which means they will fit perfectly, even though it’s a bit confusing at first.

Once you get to the end, take the board that you are going to cut and turn it 180 degrees. Lay it next to the last-but-one board and push it up against the wall. Then pull it back slightly to allow for the expansion gap and draw a line across the board in line with the end of the last-but-one board.

Make your cut, then when you turn the board the right way round you will find that it is the exact length and angle to slot into the gap. Make sure you keep the board the right way up and just spin it around 180 degrees. If you accidentally turn it over you will be left with the wrong end so the dovetail join between the last-but-one board and the one you’ve just cut will not mate.

When you start the next row, use the other half of the board you’ve just cut, unless it’s very short or very long. This will make the most economical use of the boards but also make sure that your end joins won’t line up with each other. They should overlap, like the joins in layers of bricks, to make the floor stronger and less prone to lifting.

Use Tiling Tools

To cut around obstructions into the room, like radiator pipes, a great tip is to use a tile profile gauge. This is a series of narrow, stiff plastic strips set into a framework. The gauge is pushed up against the shape and the strips flow around the awkward shape.

The shape is now preserved in the profile of the gauge. Place the gauge against the board and draw it on, then cut around the line. Don’t be tempted to cut around the gauge instead of drawing a line though. The plastic strips will move and you’ll cut the board incorrectly.

Cutting Laminate Flooring Boards

There’s just time to add a few words about the actual cuts. Laminate flooring boards will chip readily, particularly the non-wood varieties. To prevent this, put masking tape over the area to be cut, measure and mark the line on the tape and then cut. Using a fine toothed saw blade, cut with the face of the board uppermost. If you are using a hand saw, only put pressure on the downward stroke, not the up-stroke.

As with all DIY the amount of preparation you put in is reflected in the final finish. So take your time, measure twice, cut once, as they say, and the results should look very good indeed.