The three-row starter method is still used to maintain the squareness of laminate installations. Most installations are installed from left to right; however, some manufacturers may have right to left installation options.
Photo 1 shows a UniLin type profile. This type of laminate can be installed by two recommended methods. This type of profile requires placing the tongue edge to the wall. Tongue edges are generally removed to allow for expansion/contraction. Once the three rows have been installed square, and you are ready to install the rest of the floor, you can work either directly on the flooring that you have installed and work toward the opposite wall, or face the three starter rows and work backwards. A few manufacturers recommend the long side be set first and then the short side tapped in, as shown in Photos 2 and 3. This is referred to as an angle/slide type of installation. There are manufacturers that recommend the short side be rotated in and then lift the two panels approximately an inch and a half to two inches off the substrate to lock in the long edge (Photo 4). This is referred to as an angle/angle type of installation. The use of a wedge can greatly assist in the angle and placement of the planks, as shown in Photos 5 and 6.
There is another method that can be utilized with this profile, but is not often recommended, as it can easily damage the tongue and groove profile.
Of the three, I personally feel that the angle/angle type installation method, with the use of a wedge, is the best installation, as it does not stress the tongue and groove profile as much as the other two methods described.
Photo 7 shows another type of profile. Manufacturers recommend that this type of profile begin with the groove side to the wall. This means that you will be tapping the tongue side to lock in place. This type of profile cannot be angled in to lock in place. The tongue is aligned to the groove and gently tapped into place using the manufacturer’s recommended tapping block. This is referred to as a horizontal/slide or tap and lock installation. Care must be taken with this type of installation as the tongue and groove can be easily damaged if not properly aligned prior to tapping into place. Use of the proper tapping block is essential in maintaining the integrity of the tongue and groove. Most manufacturers of this type of profile recommend tapping in the long side and then proceeding with tapping in the short side. Photo 7 also shows an attached sound barrier on the bottom side of the laminate.
Mohawk's Duraloc Plus and Pergo's Paradigm have pre-applied adhesive on the tongue and come with special applicator bottles that can be filled with water. The bottles have special tips that will moisten and reactivate the adhesive, as shown in Photo 8. When installing these types of laminate, you will need to align and tap into place quickly as the adhesive has a short open time. Both of these laminates are a horizontal installation using a tapping block and hammer. Wilsonart Tap and Loc laminate requires that the groove side be placed against the starting wall. The profile has similarities to other profiles that recommend the tongue side to the starting wall, but there are definitely some differences, as shown in Photo 9. This manufacturer also recommends that the short side be tapped in first, then tapping the long edge last, as shown in Photos 10 and 11.
Remember to always follow the manufacturer's recommended installation procedures to minimize headaches and frustrations. As for selling my clamps, I still have the opportunity to utilize them on the glue type laminates, and who knows, someone may find another use for them so I’ll hang on to them. Coming in another article: track systems, plank replacement of glueless laminate systems and installing through doorways with glueless laminate.