The house we moved into had no usable flooring. The living room floor was covered in left-over bits of carpeting that came before with patches of ancient broken tiles covering bare concrete. Our flooring budget of £250 had to buy a durable finish able to withstand daily electric wheelchair use. It also had to be hard flooring, the best choice for asthmatics and appropriate for lots of foot traffic and floor play. Size of the room: 3.5 x 5.3 metres and 18.5 m². We spent £200 on the materials and £35 on the tools.
Polyfoam underlay (don’t be tempted to skip it, cheapest is £1/sq meter at Ikea, Homebase, B&Q).
Laminate Flooring: We chose Ikea’s Tundra laminated flooring. At £7 / m² we couldn’t find a better deal.
Edging, also known as quaterround profile or scotia if not removing floorboards. Use cork expansion strips if removing and replacing floorboards. We picked up Tundra quarterround profile from Ikea.
Plastic sheeting (if laying on bare concrete): Ikea’s SPÄRRA Plastic sheeting is £0.67 / m², £10 per pack.
Self-levelling compound if laying on uneven concrete floor, sold by DIY stores, like B&Q for about £20 per bag.
The tools needed for the job are quite basic, reasonably priced and available at any local DIY store like B&Q, Homebase or Wickes and available at on-line retailers. Shop around to save a little more, Ikea had the cheapest tape measure and B&Q the cheapest spacers in our local area.
Tape Measure, 65p at Ikea
Panel Saw, £9.98 at B&Q
Mallet, £3.98 at B&Q
- Craft knife, £2.49 for pack of three at B&Q
Spacers, £4 for 30 pack at Ikea or £2.18 at B&Q
Spring Clamps £7.50 at B&Q
Total: £25 – £30
Measure up: Measure the width and length of the room at the widest points. Multiply the two figures to get approximate square footage. Add 10% for wastage.
Choose the right flooring: Select click system no-glue laminate flooring appropriate for the room (high humidity areas usually require specialist flooring). For high traffic areas, make sure to select flooring that can handle the traffic. Even if you can’t transport the order or plan to order on-line, stop in at a local DIY store and have a look at laminate floor boards. Ideally find somewhere to view the floorboards laid out already. Ikea’s showrooms do make use of their floorboards and it helps to see what the finished result looks like.
Go shopping: Check on-line that the store has your order in stock before you set out. Be sure to have all materials and all tools at hand before starting. Keep in mind that floorboards have to be acclimatized in the room for 24-48 hours (lay them horizontally), so make sure to reserve a day or two between buying and laying to allow this to happen.
Prepare the room: Empty rooms are best, but if you are laying flooring in the house where you live, this isn’t always possible. We cleared as much furniture as possible and moved one or two bulky items into one corner of the room and moved them across to finish that corner.
Prepare the floor: Laminate flooring can be laid on any flat surface. If laying on floorboards, make sure all existing boards are secure and well screwed down. If laying on a concrete floor, fill any dips with self-levelling compound then cover concrete with a damp-proof membrane (DPM), i.e. plastic sheeting. Brush and vacuum the floor, making sure there the surface is clean and smooth before starting.
Remove skirting boards (optional): If you have the time and skill, remove skirting boards and refit them afterwards. Alternatively, fit quarterround profile/ scotia to cover the edges. Our house used to have carpeting and we noticed that once carpet and old tiling was removed there was enough of a gap to slide floorboards underneath the skirting board without the need to remove them or fit scotia.
Fit underlay: It is recommended to lay underlay and secure with masking tape over the whole floor and then lay the floorboards at a 90 degree angle. If this isn’t possible, we had furniture in half the room, laying one row of underlay at a time worked quite well. Use a craft knife to trim underlay to size. We didn’t bother with tape.
Get started: Lay the boards in the same direction as the longest wall in the room. If laying boards in more than one room, ignore this and have them line up with the adjacent room. Start in the corner of the longest straight wall by placing the first plank tongue to the wall. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and lay the first row, cutting the last bit to fit. Fit spacers as recommended, usually leaving a 10-12 mm gap between the wall and boards. Use the cut off from the last row to begin the next row. Use the mallet to gently tap boards in as needed. Saw boards to fit around areas where the room is not square. For pipes, either drill a hole (recommended) or cut a small square (require less skill).
Board lengths: Any trimmed boards have to be at least 10 cm long. If the last board is too short, start with an already shortened floorboard to avoid the problem. Discard any pieces shorter than 10cm.
Scotia and thresholds: When completed, either refit the floorboards or fit quarterround profile in the gap between the wall and first row. Fit metal or wood thresholds in all doorways.
Wheelchair users: Select high traffic flooring for all areas. The Ikea flooring we bought and fitted three months ago has stood up well so far against an electric wheelchair and heavy foot traffic.
- Cleaning: Laminated flooring doesn’t do well with a regular mop. Invest in a hinged-head mop so that excess water can be squeezed out before mopping the floor.
Get help: If you don’t feel up to the task, hire a handy man or ask a friend to help with the tasks that you do not feel comfortable or are unable to take on yourself.
It takes time: It shouldn’t take more than a day to do the floor in a large room. If it is taking longer, it is usually because something has gone wrong. The floor isn’t even or the boards are not clicking in properly and you have to redo parts of the floor. It could also be that you have to do a lot of sawing to fit flooring into a custom space. The less rectangular the room, the longer it takes.
Two person job: If at all possible, have a second person to help. One person can do the job, it just takes longer and it is a little harder.
Labour Intensive: Some physical strength, reasonable mobility and intermediary DIY skills are required. There will be some heavy lifting, sawing and a lot of kneeling involved.
A big thanks to The Family Fund who paid for the materials.