Snap-Together Laminate Flooring

How'd you like the look of hardwood flooring, in a snap?  You've probably sen the commercials showing a shopper snapping together two pieces of flooring.  Can it really be that easy?

"They kind of make it look like you go to the store, buy planks, come home, lay down the floor, and go to the movies that night," says Todd Long. "That is not going to happen!"

Cape Girardeau home owner Todd Long works at KFVS. That's how we discovered he was ripping up his living room carpet, and replacing it with laminate hardwood flooring. He enlisted the help of his brother-in-law, who regularly does carpentry work. But even with that background, it took a full day's work.

"There cannot be anything between that subfloor and this," Todd says as he holds up some laminate boards. "Not anything."  That means multiple hours of removing carpeting, padding, staples, railing, and nails. The flooring company even recommends you remove all door facings... though Todd just trimmed his up instead.  "Then we swept the floor three times, and took a shop vac and went around the edges and where the planks in the subflooring meet."

Next comes the white plastic padding. That needs to be carefully taped down. Finally, they laid the flooring, which took another ten hours!

"In the commercials, they hold them up and snap them together, and it's not like that... it's more of a pop!" Todd demonstrates.  "I can't even do it! We had two big men, and tools...see, it pops right out." The two pieces he was trying to snap together just slipped against each other instead.

You have to rip-off the groove on the first boards you lay down, to make sure they're in the right position against the wall.  "And you can't do that with a hand saw, I don't care how much experience you have," explains Todd.  "You can't do that without damaging the planks."  At the very least, you need a good circular saw. A table saw would even be better.

"You have to put the board in place, take a tapping block and put it up against the first board, then take a hammer and whack that into place," Todd explains as he shows us how the procedure works.  "If you're off just a little bit, you break-off a part of this toungue. So you have to pop the piece out, clean the gap out with a knife or something, and try again."

A pile of damaged boards show how careful you have to be. But despite how aggravating the day-long process was, Todd is very happy with how it looks. And all for $930-. It's surviving his son's toys, and the family pets.

"It's held-up amazingly well," says Todd as he looks around the room.  "We turned the dogs loose on it that night, just for some commic relief and watched them slide across the floor. We're talking about a terrier and 80-pound lab, and they've not scratched it at all."

But be warned, snap-together laminate flooring is very slippery. It scores high in looks and durability. But... "for the implications you see in the commercials about how easy it is... whew! I have to deduct some major points," summarizes Todd.

So do we. Overall, the snap-together laminate "hardwood" flooring earns a B-.