DIY typically means “do it yourself.” It is defined as a process simple enough that the average homeowner can do it. Since the “DIY” label is attached to just about any product a company is trying to sell, wisdom suggests that DIY should mean, “Don’t Install Yet.” If it is true that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” then the best way to avoid an installation failure is knowing the important steps to follow.
Laminate flooring is increasing as a popular choice due to its durability and ease of installation, but with so many different “click-together” systems, installation can be challenging. The process of installing REALock angle tap (REALock ATS) laminate flooring begins with understanding how the locking mechanism works.
In this guide we cover the complete process including identifying the tools you need, how to lay out and assemble, and step-by-step instructions to achieve a successful installation.
Tools You Need to Install REALock Flooring Collections:
- A mallet with a metal back
- Tapping blocks
- Pull bars
- Scraper, or sandpaper block
- Tongue and groove wood glue
- Table, chop, and track saws, brooms, and vacuums for cleanup
Step 1: Prepare the Subfloor
The first step is to ensure your subfloor is suitable for laminate flooring. Carefully read the installation instructions provided with your laminate flooring to understand the specific requirements for the subfloor. In general, your subfloor should be:
- Structurally sound
If you’re installing laminate without an integrated pad, you’ll also need to lay out an underlayment. However, if your laminate has an integrated pad, you won’t need an additional underlayment, but you’ll still require a moisture barrier.
Step 2: Plan Your Layout
There are two methods to lay out laminate flooring:
- Repeating Stair-Step Pattern: This involves aligning the end joints in a repeating pattern. In our video, we did a repeating stair step pattern.
- Randomized Layout: This mimics the appearance of random length real wood flooring. Following the same guidelines as installing a wood floor means minimizing “H” joints, stair steps, and end joints that are less than 1 1/2 times the width of the flooring being installed.
For either pattern, ensure that your end joints are no closer than one and a half times the width of the flooring. Calculate how many repeats you can have based on your product dimensions, by diving length by width.
- End joints: Width x 1.5
- Repeats: Length / Width
In our video, we used our Real Wood Floors Wels Collection which is 8″ wide by 54.5″ long. With an 8″ wide product, the end joints should be at least 12″ apart (8 x 1.5 = 12). Because we shouldn’t be closer than 12″ and our product is 54.5″ long, we can do about four repeats, because 54.5″ divided by 8 is 13-5/8″.
Step 3: Install the First Two Rows
Begin by installing the first two rows. Ensure these rows are securely locked together. Here’s how:
- Place the first piece along the wall, leaving the required expansion space.
- Use adjustable shims to maintain the correct expansion space against the wall. Dial the shims in and out to adjust for an uneven wall.
- Lock the next board into it by angling it up and aligning the pieces together.
Ensure there are no visible seams between the boards. Use a tapping block to ensure a the angle lock is engaged for a tight fit.
Alternate Starting Method: If your wall isn’t perfectly straight, you can interlock your first two rows away from the wall and then push them into place against the wall using shims for support. Since no room is perfectly square, make sure to measure the span of the floor, divide the difference, and strike your chalk lines close to the wall for reference. Remember, base and shoe molding is intended to cover these slight imperfections and perimeter gaps.
Step 4: Install Next Rows
Most of your time will be spent on this important step as it is essential to installing the flooring correctly. The REALock ATS works differently than other laminate or LVT locking systems. It’s pre-tension design means once you lock in a piece, the tension in the locking mechanism keeps the boards firmly together, and water-tight.
To install, angle the first long edge of the laminate plank into the previous row and then tap it down to lock the end joints together.
Keep in mind with this product, you must use a tapping block on each piece. Even if it looks like it’s folded down, tapping ensures that the proper pretension is engaged on the locking mechanism and that the piece is seated all the way into the adjacent piece.
Step 1: Angle the Tongue Side Into the Groove Side
Begin by inserting the tongue (male) side of a laminate plank into the groove (female) side of the previous row. The male side is slightly smaller and goes on top of the locking mechanism of the previous row.
Tip: Work Towards Yourself
To make the process easier, work with the laminate planks coming towards you. Angle the plank in, align it, fold it down, and use the tapping block to secure the locking mechanism.
Step 2: Check for Gaps
Slide the board back and forth slightly to ensure its seated well. Look down the long edge where the two planks touch to make sure there are no gaps between them.
Step 3: Seat the Plank
Align the plank end close to the end of the board previously installed. Leave a slight gap to prevent the locking mechanism from obstructing the plank.
Step 4: Tap to Lock
Once the plank is seated on the long edge, it should stick up slightly from the subfloor. At this point, it’s not fully locked together. Using a tapping block, firmly but not overly forcefully, tap the plank in place. Push down slightly and tap, you should feel the piece fold in. Keep your hand on the tapping block and ensure it is flush with the floor.
Step 5: Align the End Joints
Put your tapping block squarely on the end of the board and hold it solid. To overcome the friction of the locking mechanism as it goes down, tap closer to the inside of the board attached to the previous row.
While tapping, make sure the end joints of the planks are aligned. If the current plank is higher than the previously installed one, tap it down until the locking mechanisms seat together.
Use a Pull Bar at the End Wall
When reaching the end wall, use a pull bar in addition to the tapping block. Insert the long edge of the plank at an angle, tap with the block as usual. At the end, place the pull bar against it, and gently tap to lock the ends together.
How do you install a board when you can’t angle it, like under a cabinet or radiator?
In some instances, you may need to install a plank flat and slide it back (e.g., under a cabinet). In such cases, scrape or sand the bottom of the tongue locking mechanism and apply tongue and groove wood glue to the groove side before connecting the planks. Clean any excess glue immediately with a clean dry cloth. Weight may also be applied until the glue is dry in 1-2 hours.
Step 5: Final Row
For that last row against the wall you will not be able to use the tapping block. Angle the board in the same as before and carefully insert the pull bar. Make sure the plank is flush, then tap the bar to lock in the piece.
Step 6: Final Checks
Ensure all planks are securely locked, and that there are no visible gaps. Your laminate flooring installation is complete! Did we mention that DIY can also mean, “Did it, yes!”