When installing a laminate floor, there is a need to stagger them. Staggering refers to an irregular pattern rather than the uniform and constant pattern of the flooring. It helps you achieve an aesthetic pattern that also boosts the stability of the laminate and prevents it from buckling, but is staggering necessary to install laminate flooring?
Should Laminate Flooring Be Staggered?
Laminate floors should be staggered. Aside from the visual appeal, there are many benefits to be reaped. Proper staggering of the laminate floor will result in very durable floors that can be maintained for decades to come.
While staggering the laminate floors is thought to be unimportant by many flooring professionals, every laminate manufacturer handbook always has a recommended staggering amount that should be followed.
Benefits Of Staggering Laminate
Laminate floors that are staggering provide the following benefits.
Rather than the uniform and constant appearance of the laminate floors, the staggering laminate flooring provides for a unique yet sleek appearance throughout the areas of the house.
The lifespan of the laminate floors goes up when the floors are staggering. This is because the laminate floors will not have any gapping issues in the future and will function with more stability than the standard installation. There will be fewer or close to no planks separating from each other and no loose planks.
Because the manufacturer’s instruction book always has a staggering amount included, it is beneficial to stagger laminate flooring. If anything happened to the laminate and you had to raise a claim, the claim could be dismissed because you did not follow the instructions for staggering.
However, I’ve gone through popular laminate flooring brands warranty guide, and I’ve not found any line that explicitly tells non-staggering will void the warranty—links below for reference.
- ARMSTRONG FLOORING Warranty PDF
- Pergo Warranty PDF
- Shaw Floors PDF
- Bruce Laminate PDF
- Lumber Liquidators PDF
Always ask your manufacturer if only staggering laminate flooring comes under warranty. Finally, staggering laminate flooring is a good practice; there’s no reason you’re not doing it.
Staggering the laminate floors will provide more strength. This is because the floor will expand, contract, and also absorb impact as a whole rather than a single plank. Staggering will interlock the laminate planks like a big puzzle that won’t come apart.
The concept is very similar to building toy bricks. If you stack the bricks in a straight column, they will fall right over. If you overlap every brick and space out the joints, you can easily build a stable wall.
In the below diagram, I’ve shown how staggering improves stability.
How Much Should Floors Stagger?
As mentioned earlier, most manufacturers will give you the amount of staggering required. In general, though, laminate floors should be staggered anywhere between eight to twelve inches, according to NALFA (North American Laminate Floor Association). Always confirm with the instructions beforehand, as some manufacturers may want more.
Things To Avoid When Staggering Laminate Floors
When staggering laminate floors, there are a few things to avoid.
Two main patterns should be avoided when staggering laminate floors.
H-joints can often be found on floors laid down in a regular pattern. These should be avoided for both aesthetical and structural reasons. A laminate floor that is laid in a regular pattern diminishes its ability to contract and expand as a whole unit – resulting in gaps and separation of planks.
A step pattern is a pattern where the floors are staggered yet follow the same staggered pattern every two rows. For example, if you observe the correct spacing in two adjacent rows and follow the same spacing in the third row, you are left with a step pattern.
Step pattern is also known as lightning; it draws the eye’s attention by being regular and symmetrical. Professionals avoid this pattern as it does not have any aesthetic impact on the floors. Hence, avoid this while installing laminate flooring.
There should only be a common joint line after four rows. Refer to the image below for more clarity.
How To Stagger Floating Floors?
To stagger a laminate floor or floating floor, you simply want to make sure that the end joints are distributed as randomly as possible. There are no specific patterns to follow – but two to avoid. There should be no problems as long as you create your unique pattern and randomize it.
Rules to consider before installing laminate flooring boards,
- Distance between end joints should be 8-12 inch
- Each piece must be 6 inches or greater.
- There should only be a common joint line after four rows.
- Width of each board should be more than 40%.
- To make more random, you have to waste mote cut pieces.
With an example, I’ll explain the whole process.
In this case, I am going to stagger laminate flooring in a room with a dimension of 10’X9′ (120 “”X10″”).
I bought Greystone Oak Water Resistant laminate flooring boards having 6.34 inches width x 47.72 inches length.
Measuring the Width
The first step is taking the measurements of the room, especially the width, to ensure that there are no discrepancies when laying down the last row of the planks.
Measure the width of the room. Figure out the number of planks you will need to cover from the first row to the last row. If the first and the last row of planks go well without having to be cut down, then you’re good to go. If the last row of the plank does not fit right, cut the first and the last row to fitting. (See the first and last row of the image above)
Now, let’s use our example to better understand,
My room has a width of 120 inches. The width of each board is 6.34 inches.
Therefore, 120/6.34 = 18.92 boards are needed to cover the room’s width.
That brings us to 18 full laminate boards and one board with 92% of the full board width. The 19th board will have a width of 6.34*92% = 5.83 inches.
The last board width is 92% of the total width, exceeding the recommended 40% width satisfying rule number 4.
What if The Width of The Last Row Boards Lesser than 40%?
Ans: It is necessary to cut down the width of first-row laminate boards by as much as the difference between last-row boards and 40%.
I.e., A width of 33% on the last row of boards means that you should cut 40%-33% = 7% from the first row of boards. Make last row boards 40% wide.
Measuring the Length
Let’s determine how many laminate flooring boards are required in the first row.
The room has a length of 108 inches.
The laminate boards have a length of 47.72 inches each.
The total number of boards required for the first row is 108/47.72 = 2.26.
As a result, two full boards will be required, as well as one 47.74*0.26 = 12.41-inch cut-piece board for the last board.
You’ll see that rule no 2 says each piece needs to be at least 6 inches. As you can see, our cut piece is about 12 inches long, which is more than 6 inches. Everything looks good.
What if the length of the cut piece is less than 6 inches?
Ans: To make the last board longer than 6 inches, you need to reduce the length of the first board of the row by a few inches.
If, for example, the length of the last board is 3.34 inches, then cut 2.66 (6 inches – 3.34 inches) inches from the first board.
Once you have confirmed that both the first row and the last row are good to go, you can get to staggering the laminate floor.
According to the measurements in the above section, lay down the first row. A key step is to use the leftover piece from the first row as the first piece of the second row. Use the leftovers from the second row as the first board of the third row and keep repeating this.
Don’t forget rule 1; the distance between end joints should be between 6-12 inches.
What if The Staggering Forms a Pattern?
Remember Rule 4; there should only be a common joint line after four rows.
Let me give you an example where I followed the length and width rules, and it still follows a pattern.
In this figure,
Our room length is 119.3 inches.
Each board length is 47.72 inches.
So, there are two full laminate flooring boards in the first row and one cut-piece board.
The lengths of the pieces of the first row boards are 47.72 inches, 47.72 inches, and 23.86 inches.
As per the rule, the first piece of the second row should be the leftover piece from the first row.
Hence, the length of the first board of the second row should be 47.72-23.86 =23.86 inches.
Now, the second row will need 119.3-23.86 = 95.44 Inches of boards to match room length. That’s the length of 2 ( 47.72 X2 = 95.44) full boards. So, there will be no leftover pieces left for the 3rd row.
For this reason, we need to lay a full piece of board as the first piece of the 3rd row.
However, by doing this, we’re violating rule 4.
To avoid this, we need to cut a few inches from the first board of the 3rd row. This will randomize the layout.
Correction: The room-length should be 119.3 inches instead of 199.3 inches in the above two illustrations.
You can also cut down the first plank of the first row instead of laying them as they are to randomize even more.
You can also buy different lengths of laminate flooring boards for better staggering.
A proper way to stagger laminate flooring:
What Happens If I Don’t Stagger Laminate Floors?
Not staggering your laminate floors can result in several issues, ranging from gapping issues to a faulty click and lock mechanism. Here are some of the problems you may face with a typical laminate installation.
Lesser Structural Stability
Floors that have common joints and are installed in a regular pattern have lesser structural stability; if a joint were to gap or disconnect, it would move away from the other planks. If the installation is staggered, all joints are interlocked and provide a firmly held laminate.
Tongue And Groove Damage
The laminate floors’ tongue and groove mechanism system can easily be damaged if someone were to run and stop on the floors. The staggering laminate floor provides more stability as well as safety. A broken tongue and groove on laminate planks will also render the plank useless for further use.