Exciting Floor Show

The more complicated the design, the trickier the installation. Recently, we went along with Pergo's Paul Serene, regional training coordinator, and professional installer Jeff Burstein, of JB Floors in Framingham, Massachusetts, as they laid one of these new upscale floors in a formal living room. They installed Pergo Select ($6 per square foot), a premium product that carries a 20-year warranty against wear-through, stains, fading, and water damage. The floor design features a herringbone pattern in the center of the room done in Medium Fishbone Oak. It's outlined with a contrasting border of Bangkok Teak.

Laminate flooring is usually installed over a plywood subfloor, but it can also be laid over most existing floors. Some laminates are even approved for installation on below-grade concrete slabs. However, before purchasing any laminate floor, check with the manufacturer to determine which product is best suited for your room. For example, some manufacturers do not recommend using their product in wet locations, like bathrooms.

Before the flooring is installed, a thin underlayment is put down to even out sub-floor irregularities and provide a soft cushion for the laminate. In most cases, 1/8-inch-thick foam is used, but other options are available, too. For the job we were on, a 3/16-inch-thick padding called Whisper Walk was used. Still newer are underlayments, such as Pergo's Silent Step, which reduce the loud click-clack of shoe heels and make it sound as if you're walking across real wood. Whatever you choose, make sure the flooring manufacturer approves the underlayment; otherwise you'll void the warranty.

Installation of a laminate floor goes quickly because the flooring isn't attached to the subfloor at all; the pieces are simply glued together to form a floating floor. An expansion space of 1/4 inch around the perimeter of the room lets the flooring expand and contract with changes in humidity and keeps it from buckling. On a typical job, the installation begins along one wall, but for floors with a border like the installation we were on, the center section is done first. In this case, the first three courses of the Fishbone planks were glued together and left to dry for an hour or so. The delay allows the planks to solidify into a single slab so they won't separate as the subsequent planks are installed.

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