Are you wondering how to install laminate flooring on concrete?  DIY home flooring installation is totally possible!  Concrete can make a good subfloor for laminate floors if you take the right steps to prepare a concrete subfloor correctly.   Engineered hardwood flooring also works well over concrete.  Preparing the subfloor for engineered hardwood or laminate flooring installation consists of the following steps:
You’ve chosen the right flooring in the perfect color for your home!  What to do now!?  Read the manufacturer’s instructions for laminate flooring installation before you begin preparation.  Some products have specific instructions that don’t apply to others.

Preparing a Subfloor for Laminate Wood Floors over Concrete

Cleaning the subfloor:

Before you install laminate flooring over concrete, you must thoroughly clean your concrete subfloor.  First, pull up any flooring materials already there.  If you plan to reuse any floor padding, you’ll need to pull it up very carefully to avoid damage.  It is important to remove all traces of glues, residues, oils, wax, dirt and other debris from the concrete surface, especially if you plan a glue down flooring installation.  A floor sander works great for this, but you can also use a hand held sander.

Test for clearance:

Next I recommend testing any wall molding or baseboards to make sure you have adequate clearance for installing the laminate flooring.  Using all layers that will be put over the concrete subfloor, test to see if they fit easily under the molding and door jams and door casings.  There should be an additional 1/16th of an inch clearance to allow for expansion.  If there is inadequate clearance, you’ll need to carefully remove these features and reattach them after the laminate flooring installation is complete.   After you have completed this step, shop vac the whole area to ensure there is no dirt or debris remaining on your concrete base.

Is the concrete subfloor structurally sound and dry?

Now examine the concrete subfloor to ensure it is structurally sound.  The concrete should have no cracks and should be at least a  month old so it’s fully dry.  Using a moisture testing tool, test the concrete in several places throughout the room to determine it is fully cured and that it is not absorbing too much environmental humidity.  The acceptable subfloor moisture level for the laminate flooring should be listed in the instructions that come with the flooring.  If your subfloor is not within the acceptable moisture range, it is better to contact a flooring professional for advice.  Keep in mind that concrete will always be giving off some moisture; in every case installing laminate on concrete subfloors, you need to use a vapor barrier.  This is true too for engineered hardwood flooring on concrete subfloors.

Leveling a concrete subfloor for laminate hardwood installations:

Let’s move on to leveling the surface of a concrete subfloor for engineered flooring!  Bellingham, WA hardwood flooring professional Robby Robinson says, “Most squeaks people find coming from their laminate floors are because the subfloor was not level.  It’s important that the subfloor is totally flat.”  Using a long level and tape measure, test the subfloor to see if it is even.  It is likely you will find some areas of discrepancy.  A good rule to follow is that you don’t want more than 3/16th of an inch discrepancy over 10 feet of space.  It’s not necessary for the floor to be perfectly level, but it must be flat.  If there are gaps, use a lumber crayon to mark out high and low areas.  First use a grinder to even out high areas on your concrete floor.  Clean up any resulting debris.  Then use a trowel to spread leveling compound over the low spots.  You are now done for the day as you will need to let the leveling compound dry overnight.
When you come back to work on the floor again, use your moisture meter to ensure the leveling compound is adequately dry.  If so, you can apply your vapor barrier directly over the concrete floor.  Depending on what kind of laminate flooring you have, you may need an underlayment. Underlays add stability and sound absorption.  Some laminate flooring comes with pre-attached underpads while others require a separate layer.
Now you are ready to begin laying laminate flooring over concrete!  Good Job!  DIY laminate flooring installation is a great option for home improvement!
Here is a list of tools you may need for preparing a concrete subfloor for engineered hardwood or laminate flooring:
  • dust mask
  • hammer and pry bar
  • long level and tape measure
  • concrete grinder
  • back saw or circular saw
  • moisture test kit for concrete
  • levelling compound and bucket
  • vapor barrier
  • pencil
  • chalk line and chalk
  • safety glasses
  • hand gloves
  • knee pads