How to Install Laminate Flooring in Your Rental Property. Beginners Welcome!
#Nailedit! Check out them floors!
We did it! My friends and I installed vinyl plank flooring into the rental unit for the renovation. It looked easy, everyone said it would be easy. So we decided to take a stab at it. End verdict: It was easy...but maybe not as easy as they suggest (then again, it never is, am I right?!? lol). Here's what we learned:
Tools you will need:
I tried to do this without them to start off. Don't be a moron like me. Just get the kit. It was like 30 bucks and it made the job sooooo much easier.
Some of the tools from the kit that we used
Step #1: Let the planks acclimate
First things first, before you install the floor, you must let the flooring sit in the space to acclimate for at least 48 hours. Why? Because of the temperature. This sort of flooring expands and contracts at different temps because it is a man-made product. You want it to be fully adjusted so that when you go to lay it, your measurements are exact and it won't shrink or expand more after that. Your measurements don't have to be down to the millimeter because quarter round will eventually cover the edges but you don't want the gap to be too wide either. Plus, after carrying in these boxes, if you are a like me, you will probably need 48 hours just to rest up from soreness, lol.
Step 2: Prep the surface area
You must start with smooth surface. In our case we had to rip up carpet first. This was most of the work and it was grueling work at that. In our case, the carpet came up easy, but the staples and floor tacking is what took the most time. Each and every staple had to be pulled out to ensure there were no interferences where the flooring would be laid. The strips along the edges that tacked down the carpet prior were super sharp as well and had to be pried up with a hammer carefully. I definitely recommend gloves and eyewear for this part. The number of staples that flew at us was mind boggling.
Anna prepping the floor and being a badass in general
Once we got all that up, there was still a layer of linoleum. We left it. Why? because it might have asbestos. If it did, moving it would have disturbed it, thus putting our health at risk. It also would have cost a lot more to remediate in order to pull it out. Because it was in fairly good condition, and we just needed a smooth surface, (which it was) we left it and decided to lay the planks over it.
Removing and cleaning up the nasty flooring from before
That is not to say that we had perfectly leveled floors, we didn't. The house we did the renovation on is over 100 years old. There were definitely wonky floors and walls that were not plumb. This does make it more difficult, but not impossible. If you have an extreme case, I would recommend using a floor leveling compound which you poor down and it eventually levels the floor. But since ours was slight, and this vinyl planking is designed to float we just went with it. Other than making a few pieces more difficult to snap in at points, it was fine. In the end we still got a flat surface.
Ahhhh. That's better.
Hallway floor cleaned up also
The other thing you have to do to prep a floor before laying it is to rip up any quarter rounds that may be there previously. Ours happened to be painted down and were in place pretty solid. So we scored the top edge with a razor to make a smooth break away. And then we pried them off the wall by hammering a crowbar into the crevice with a hammer. Again this was no small feat considering the way the previous contractors angled the nails into the corner. Good news is that they were installed properly and made to last. Bad news is we needed them out so we had to work extra hard to get them out because we didn't want them to last, lol.
Step 3: Measure and install planks
Measuring out the floors
Full disclosure. I left most of this to my friend Hil because math causes me anxiety. I can do it if I have to, but why not have those who's strength it is, tackle this part? Am I right?
Hil measured out the room and made a diagram. She then decided which way the planks would go (long way to save on the number of cuts needed and make the room look bigger) and then she divided the width of the room by the diameter of the planks. This gave her a rough idea of how many rows she would need. We then measured and cut the first width of the plank in half so that it would look more natural against the wall and less manufactured and structured.
The first row was against a wall that was not square, so the spacers were extra important here. On the wider side we used the 1/2 inch space and on the other side we used the 3/4 spacer. Although it looked slightly off against the wall while we were laying it, the awkward gap would eventually be covered by the quarter rounds so there was no need to stress. In the end you can't even tell that the wall is slightly curved.
After installing the first complete row against the wall, we went on to the second row. We varied the cuts of each starting piece in terms of their lengths to create a more natural look. We wanted the seams to be staggered and look random. If there is an obvious pattern, then it suggests that this is more of a manufactured look, which was not the look we were going for at all.
Laying the first row
In terms of our first cuts on each row we decided to follow this general rule:
Row #1: Full plank
Row #2: 1/3 plank
Row #3: 2/3 plank
Row #4: Full plank
and so on...
Yours of course can vary. The more varied, the more original and authentic it will look.
It also helps to lay out your planks in advance. These are printed planks so you don't want them all to have the same pattern next to each other. Luckily for us, the style we purchased already had a very wide variety of prints within each box so we didn't really notice it as much. Some of the cheaper planks though have less variation so it will look a lot more manufactured if you don't intentionally lay them out to separate the ones that look exactly the same.
Using spacers to get started
This was relatively easy. You should lay the planks like the way you would read a book. Start in the upper left hand corner and go to the right hand corner, then go down a row and continue on.
One thing to take note of when cutting is that you want to make sure you cut where the locking tab is on top and left side. So make sure your planks are oriented right when you go to cut them. They have to snap into each other so you need a male and female piece to match up. And by "snap" I don't mean you hear a literal click sound. I wish you did. It would make it easier and so much more satisfying, but you'll know when you do it. the grey connecting strip is completely gone from sight and it will just feel like it fits perfectly.
We went back and forth on which which way to tap first. I like to make sure the top of the plank is connected properly first and then tap the side in so it locks into the one next to it. Hil preferred the other way at times. There is really no right or wrong way. It's whichever one works for your and your rhythm. You will know it when you hit your stride.
And what I learn most of all, don't be afraid to hit harder. Little taps won't do much. One or two solid taps, maybe 3-4 get the job done. You should not see any of the gray strip in between each row or seam once it's fully in.
And if all else fails, FaceTime your dad in, lol. He will certainly advise you on what you need to do "differently" lol.
FaceTiming Dad for Advice
Lastly many of you are probably asking why I chose to lay vinyl planks in the rental unit instead of carpeting. Here is my rational:
As an investor, I am aiming for a class B rental. These renters prefer nicer flooring and are willing to pay more for it. Plus this flooring is more durable than carpet. I won't have to replace these every 5 years and I won't have to pay for professional cleaning during turnover, should there be turnovers. Carpet, even if taken care of well, gets worn and goes in and out of style. It also can trap smells and odors which can be very off-putting and lower the value of a property. With Vinyl floors, they are waterproof and pet proof. My clients will pay more to have a pet, so at least I have the option to consider that should I choose to go that route. And lastly, I can install the planks myself as opposed to carpeting. This offsets the cost difference in the end, so it's worth it to me!
So I hope this was helpful. I will definitely do this again in the other units as they turn over. Beautiful flooring makes for a beautiful space and is a wise money choice on an investment property!