The most important part of the job is using the proper gluing technique. Be sure that only glue recommended by the flooring manufacturer is used. It's specifically formulated for a particular floor and no other type of glue will work as well. Also — and this point can't be overemphasized — the installer shouldn't skimp on the glue. Every groove in every plank has to be completely filled with a continuous bead of adhesive. When the planks are tapped together, there should be massive squeeze-out along all of the seams. This may not be the neatest method, but it's absolutely necessary to create tight, long-lasting joints.

Once the center of the floor is completed, the border is installed. On the job we visited, a 7 3/4-inch wide border was created by installing a course of teak all the way around the 14x22-foot room. But in a smaller room, a border this wide could visually overpower the space. The remedy is to cut the planks lengthwise to form a narrower border. Keep in mind, whenever the flooring is altered, a spline joint must be routed into the cut edge so it can be joined to the adjacent plank.

The size of a room also dictates how far off the walls the border should be. In the installation we visited, it was situated two courses (15 1/2 inches) from the walls. In a smaller room, a single course would look best. For a very spacious room (larger than 400 square feet), the border could be two planks wide or moved three courses off the walls.

Once all the flooring is down, the expansion spaces are hidden by shoe molding nailed to the baseboard — never to the floor.

Any competent do-it-yourselfer can install a laminate floor with a simple, straightforward design, such as a traditional plank or basic checkerboard. But when it involves elaborate borders or mixing and matching components of various sizes, you may want to call in an experienced floor mechanic. Mistakes are costly in both time and money, two commodities that are always in short supply.

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