You’ve chosen your laminate flooring, you’ve moved the furniture out of the room, you’ve prepared the subfloor, and you’re ready to go. The dilemma you now face is huge and the subject of much debate: which direction should you install your laminate flooring?
The best direction to install laminate flooring is parallel to the room’s longest wall. The way you install it is determined by your own preferences. But there are as many solutions as there are floors in the world. You could go in a diagonal pattern if you wish.
You can tailor the laminate floor installation to your tastes and the dictates of the room or entire house in which the flooring is being laid. Keep reading for the entire article.
What Direction Should I Lay My Laminate Flooring?
So you asked this question to a contractor, then the guy at the home improvement store, and finally, your father-in-law.
You will likely get three different answers, as this is not an easy question to answer.
However, like with any decision, you have to start somewhere, and for this, we’ll start with ideas that are widely accepted as good guidelines.
Use the Light
Before you begin installing your laminate flooring, figure out which direction the natural light runs.
The windows of your south-facing wall will bring in light that runs perpendicular to that wall, so many laminate floors are laid out to travel in the same direction as that light.
Of course, light can be managed, and light is different every day, but as with so many of the ideas surrounding the subject of flooring, it is a starting point, and it is something to consider during the planning stages of your project.
If it’s a darker room, however, you won’t need to worry about this point.
Instead, you’ll want to follow the wall as a guide to laying your laminate flooring.
Use the Wall
Another idea seeks to enlarge how the room feels. According to this aesthetic, install the flooring so that it runs parallel to the longest wall in the room.
Like other headings here, this one does not have a hard-and-fast, right-or-wrong answer, but rather, guidelines to pay attention to.
If you are installing the floor in more than one room, or even in an entire home, this longest-wall concept becomes complicated, as the longest wall in the bedroom may be opposed in direction to the one in the living room.
Again, these are guidelines, and individual solutions will vary for countless reasons.
Unite the Room
Running your flooring diagonally can have dramatic effects, which can help lead the eye to specific places in the room.
It can also help unite how a room feels while being something striking to look at.
A diagonal install can be subtle, too, as even a ten-degree slant can draw elements of the room together.
Does It Matter Which Direction You Lay Laminate Flooring?
It obviously matters in which direction you lay your flooring. The real question is to whom it matters. The hired floor guy? Probably not all that invested. You, the homeowner, though? You probably care a great deal.
A second question would be what you want to accomplish with your laminate flooring. As with so many home improvement projects, you need to have in mind exactly what you want to accomplish before you start. In this case, you need more than, “We’re going to put in a new floor.”
It is also worth mentioning here that there is a school of thought that doesn’t consider wall length or anything else past the floor joists.
There are often uneven places in the subflooring that are caused by the joists beneath.
If these joists present high and low areas, and you run your laminate flooring parallel to the joists, the flooring will have the same rises and falls as the uneven subfloor.
The idea here is that perpendicular installation will help level the finished floor.
Again, you must take into consideration what you want to achieve.
Following the floor joists may give you a finished floor that just doesn’t look right to you for whatever reason, which is yet another element to consider before you start your project.
Do You Lay Laminate Flooring Vertically or Horizontally?
If you are interested in creating the illusion of space, this will best be served by vertical installation.
For example, if your long and narrow room runs north to south, running the laminate flooring along the same direction may serve to make the room feel longer, much the way wearing vertical stripes might serve to make a person of shorter stature seem somewhat taller.
Laying the flooring east to west, or horizontally, may help the room feel wider.
However, this approach requires caution in that if the room is too narrow, the shortness of the individual laminate pieces might impart a cluttered or claustrophobic feeling to the room.
Pulling a room together, uniting elements of texture and color, and tying together asymmetric wall sizes might benefit from a diagonal pattern.
This layout may also help the room to feel a bit larger. Before you commit, experiment with the angle of the lines to create different feelings and effects.
Which Direction To Lay Laminate Flooring in Hallway?
Almost always, the flooring in a hallway should run the length of it, which goes back to the guideline about running along the same direction as the room’s longest wall.
Of course, there might be hallways that run in the “wrong” direction if you are laying the floor in an area covering multiple rooms.
The choice will be yours whether to run flooring in a hallway so it either stays with the rest of the house or follows the longest-wall guideline.
Which Way Do You Lay Laminate Flooring in Multiple Rooms?
Now we get into some stickier issues. Say you are installing flooring in an entire home and have chosen to run parallel to the longest wall in each room.
Depending on the house’s layout, this may require you to have flooring running in different directions in multiple rooms.
Pay attention to the size of the rooms receiving the flooring.
If a bedroom is relatively square but still has a longer wall, you may decide it’s worth it to go against this guideline to retain the overall direction of the flooring in the entire home.
However, a narrow room that stands perpendicular to a long hallway might be poorly served by running the flooring in the same direction of the hallway and creating a short, squat feel to the room.
Make your decisions before you buy the first piece of flooring. The importance of this can’t be overstated.
To make all of these decisions easier, look into an augmented reality app. Houzz offers an app that boasts as one of its features the View In My Own Room 3D app. You can use this to see what flooring will look like in your home–not just the color, but see it running in different directions as well.
Which Way To Lay Laminate Flooring in a Long Room?
While there aren’t many straightforward answers involved with this topic, this may be one of the few.
If the room is long and you’re just doing that one room, and there aren’t any oddities in the room’s size and shape or the flooring outside the room, then the flooring needs to run the length of the room.
Running it horizontally across the width of the room will lend a feeling of the space being shorter than it is.
It must be added that if you want to make the long room seem shorter, consider the horizontal installation.
Can You Change Direction of Laminate Flooring?
Direction changes can be challenging to execute with laminate flooring, mainly due to the uniform size of the pieces, as laminate flooring almost always comes in pieces of a fixed length.
Because the pieces need to be staggered when laid out, which contributes to the sturdiness and durability of the completed floor, changing the direction of the flooring will involve a great deal of cutting.
If you were putting down a wood floor, you are likely using pieces of varying lengths, making a direction change a bit easier, but laminate flooring is different.
Cutting the pieces will require some sort of transition piece or trim.
Since these sit on top of the floor, they create an uneven surface and can be a trip hazard. This usually isn’t an issue if it’s a threshold, but in the middle of a bedroom floor, a trip hazard will eventually snag someone stumbling out of bed at 3:00 am.
While you shouldn’t change your flooring’s direction without reason (in other words, don’t feel obligated to have at least one different space), if you choose to, or if dimensions or some other factor requires a direction change, it’s best if it happens from room to room.
Transitioning from horizontal to vertical at the doorway seems natural and will also serve to help set the room off on its own.
No matter what you choose, you’ll need to make at least some cuts to the flooring pieces. Be sure you choose a saw blade specifically made for cutting laminate flooring or risk damaging the pieces before they’re ever installed.
There are many to choose from, but the SKIL 75540 4-3/8-Inch by 40T Carbide Flooring Blade makes for a solid option.
Installation of Laminate Flooring
Now that you’ve chosen the direction for one or all of your rooms, it’s time to lay the pieces in physically.
As with just about anything, there are right and wrong ways to do this.
Following the directions included with the flooring is pretty straightforward, but two questions remain.
Where Do You Start When Laying Laminate Flooring?
Exceptions abound, but much more often than not, you want to start from the left at the top of the room when laying your flooring, depending on your orientation.
If you are installing so that the flooring runs parallel to you (for instance, the flooring will run with the longest wall, and the longest wall is on your left), start on the left side.
If you are reaching out in front of you to install (that longest wall is straight ahead of you), then start at the top.
Once you’ve put down flooring in two rooms or so, you will see the benefit of not having to back your flooring pieces into place, a practice required much more often when moving right to left than left to right.
Do You Start in the Middle When Laying Laminate Flooring?
Almost always, the answer to this is no. Laminate flooring is its own monster, so it has its own rules.
Anyone who has installed ceramic tile knows the benefits of starting in the middle, but this applies to ceramic tile. Laminate flooring does not follow these same rules.
For one, the tongue-and-groove nature of most laminate flooring presupposes that installation will run left to right.
For another (pragmatic) thing, if you start in the middle, you will spend much more time cutting pieces and struggling to fit them in along the edges of the room than you otherwise have to.
While starting in the middle of the room is not a mortal sin, it is simply not practical given the construction and constraints of laminate flooring.
Do not apply skills and practices from one kind of project to an entirely different one. Save yourself time, money, and frustration, and start at the left side of the room.
While laminate flooring can do wonders for your home, its successful deployment depends on planning and decision-making carried out before the first trip to the hardware store.
Each of those options has its merits and, depending on the situation, drawbacks. A floor’s direction can help unify a home or be used to level out an uneven surface.
There are no rules that absolutely must be followed, as floor installation over the years has yielded the best practices that anyone installing laminate flooring should consider before starting the project.
Cheers, tools owners!