If you have old hardwood flooring that is in a bad state and for whatever reason, be it the high cost of repairing and refinishing it or the challenges that will entail to bring it back to its original state, you might have already considered installing laminate flooring over it. The question now is – can you put laminate over the wood floor?
Technically, laminate can be installed over existing wood floors but certain conditions should be met to get it installed properly. One of which is that the wood floor should be flat, and free from any height variations. And there are still others to be checked before installing it over wood.
Although most flooring experts, especially hardwood flooring experts, will react negatively to what you’re planning to do. They will encourage you to have your existing hardwood floors repaired and refinished instead. There are advantages to this and in most cases, it will help increase your home’s resale value if you plan on selling your property in the future.
However, repairing and refinishing hardwood flooring costs a lot of money, and sometimes even if you yourself understand the benefits of having a real hardwood floor refinished, you don’t have the money or the time and effort to do it today.
There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to this option but installing laminate flooring over the existing hardwood floor offers a quick fix if you just want a nice looking floor that is fast, easy, and cheap to install. And in any case, you can always revert back to the original flooring and then restore and refinish it as necessary.
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6 Things to Check Before Installing Laminate Flooring Over Hardwood Floor
Before you even start laying down your laminate floors over the hardwood flooring some preparations are necessary. Below are 6 things you need to check and to consider as part of these preparations.
1. Hardwood Floor Should be Properly Fixed to the Subfloor
It is important that your hardwood floors are fixed properly to the subfloor. It has to be tight, and any floorboards that have some movements should be addressed.
Walk around the room, check if there are any movements on any of the floorboards. It could also help if someone else would observe the floors while you walk around.
Drive-in additional nails or screws down in any floorboard that has any kind of movement. Make sure everything is tight. Once laminate flooring is installed, if the flooring underneath is moving too much, the joints of your laminate could dislodge, and it will not last long.
Solid hardwood floors are normally nailed down and fixed to the subfloor but if what you have are engineered hardwood floors, check how it was installed. Although most engineered hardwood floors are also nailed down, there are some that are installed as a floating floor. Laminate is a floating floor and you can’t install a floating floor over another floating floor. Both floating floors will be moving independently from each other which could cause you some problems in the future.
If you do have a floating floor installed, you would have to consider your other options as you can’t put laminate flooring over it.
2. Hardwood Floor Should Be Flat and Free From Any Height Variations
Go through the floor once again. Check for any protruding nails or fasteners. Pull them out or drive them into the wood floor, or whatever is necessary, if there are any. Make sure there
Check to see if the floor is completely flat. There shouldn’t be any height variations of any kind. See if there are any floorboards that are bowed or angled. If there are any, you would need to sand them down. the whole floor should be level. Any height variation can cause the joints of the installed laminate to dislodge when you walk on it.
If the height variations are extreme, you might consider laying a thin sheet of plywood or luan over the wood floor. It is a faster solution and will assure you of a flat surface for your laminate floors to lay onto. For extreme cases like this one though, it might be better to consult with a flooring contractor to give you the best options.
3. Check Any Doors, Trims, Moldings, and Closet Doors that will be Affected
Laying laminate flooring over your existing hardwood floor will raise the floor a few units higher. There will be doors, trims, moldings, or closet doors that might be affected by raising the floor and you need to identify these elements beforehand so that you will be able to address them when you start laying down the laminates.
Doors will need to be removed and then shaved off or cut to fit in the new floor height. Make sure all the doors will still function well without snagging itself on the installed laminate.
Moldings and trims, such as in architraves and door frames, may also need some cutting as well. Make sure you have all the necessary tools on hand to do this.
For existing baseboards, you have two options. You can either reuse them by removing them before the laminate installation and then installing them back once the laminate floor is set. Another option is to leave them where they are, laying the laminate floor edge close to them but maintaining a minimum of 1/4″ gap around the perimeter. And then adding a quarter round molding to cover the gap between the baseboard and the laminate floor.
4. Use the Necessary Transition Strips with the Adjoining Rooms or Flooring
If your laminate flooring will terminate and end to an existing floor, usually in a doorway, you would need to install a proper transition strip. Since the laminate floor will be higher than the original flooring, make sure that your transition strip can transition between the two different floor heights with no problem.
Transition strips are usually made of wood or aluminum and they will add a subtle ramp that transitions between the two flooring materials. Not only will this look neater, but it can also add protection to the edge of the laminate and mitigate any tripping hazards.
5. Make Sure to Clean Existing Hardwood Flooring before Starting with the Laminate Floor Installation
It is important to keep your work area clean. Before you start with the installation, sweep the floor, use a vacuum, make sure all the wood joints, where dirt usually settles, are cleaned off. Do this even during the process of installation, since some dust particles will be flying and moving around, make it a sure to sweep or vacuum the area from time to time.
Since there will be a foam underlayment installed and the laminate floor will be raised, as you walk over it, there will be air movement underneath that will encourage dirt or dust that has not been removed to blow around and you may notice some crunching or grinding sound happening.
6. Check if You would Need to Use an Underlayment
For any laminate floor installation, you will need an underlayment placed underneath it as well. This holds true even when installing laminate flooring over any kind of material such as on wood. An underlayment allows the floor to float, keeps it stable, adds noise reduction qualities, and supports the laminate’s locking system of the joints.
Some laminate floors already have a built-in underpad attached to each of its floorboards, which no longer requires a separate roll of underlayment. You could already install these flooring directly over the hardwood floor easily.
On the other hand, if the laminate you’ll be using does not have a built-in underpad, you would need to get a roll of underlayment. Before laying down the laminate floor, you just simply roll the underlayment out, spread it across the hardwood floor, and then tape it down so that it does not move. Once you have it laid, you can then start with the installation of the laminate.
If you would like to know in detail the steps on how to install laminate over hardwood floors check out this article.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Laying Laminate Over Existing Hardwood Floors
Like what I mentioned earlier, there are advantages and disadvantages to choosing to put laminate over your hardwood floor. Although to some people, the idea of doing this sounds absurd, there are a couple of reasons why this could be a better option. One reason might be the financial aspect of it but whatever the reasons are there are advantages and disadvantages to going through this route.
One of the advantages of putting laminate over your hardwood floor is that it is cheaper to just place a new laminate flooring than to restore and refinish the existing hardwood.
Laminate flooring is available in different sizes and different wood designs. You could actually look for a matching wood design of your original flooring and use that. It is way cheaper than to buy new hardwood or restore the existing floor.
They are durable enough and have a higher scratch resistance than real wood floors and if you have dogs running around, this flooring will not scratch as easily.
Not all laminate floors are made the same but most products, with the proper care and maintenance, could last a minimum of 10 years to more than 25 years.
And if you’re placing this flooring as a temporary solution, you could always revert back to the original hardwood flooring. You can easily pull the flooring out and you’ll find that the old wood floor will still look the same way as to how it was before installing the laminate. And hopefully, by the time you do this, you already have the budget to restore and refinish the wood floors.
A major disadvantage of installing laminate over your wood floors is that you’re devaluing your flooring. You’re not taking advantage of the value a hardwood flooring brings. Most homeowners find real hardwood to be more attractive and valuable and replacing it or laying laminate flooring over it will devalue or will not help increase the value of your home.
If you plan on selling your house in the future, I do recommend that you revert back to the original wood floors and restore it.