Contrary to what you might have heard in the past, a laminate floor can be a great and stylish choice for bathrooms and wet areas, such as laundry rooms (see Photo 1). As with all special installations, however, there are a few things you will want to take into account first.
The first thing to consider is the home and the family’s lifestyle. Not all rooms are used the same and standing water is the primary culprit in laminate floor damage. For example, does the homeowner give their 90 lb dog baths in the tub? (see Photo 2) Or in my case, I raised 5 sons (all with questionable aim) and keeping a clean and dry bathroom was nearly impossible. In both cases, a laminate floor is probably not the best choice. So always ask yourself if the environment is suitable.
The second thing to consider is the floor’s quality. Laminate can be a great choice if the correct floor is chosen. Not all laminates are created equal. Check with the manufacturer to see if the floor is suitable for installation in wet areas.
Once the floor is chosen, it’s important to read the instructions and adhere to all the guidelines.
Laminate is installed as a “floating floor”, a minimum of ¼” expansion space must be left around the entire perimeter of the room and at all vertical obstructions including all supply and drain lines and at the tub. Some manufactures require gluing the floor together in this type of installation.
Remove the toilet before installing the floor and place a rag in the drain to prevent gas from escaping (see Photo 3). I also prefer to remove pedestal sinks. Be sure to follow all local plumbing codes, which may require hiring a plumber.
Level the floor and use underlayment as with any installation. You may want to consider an underlayment that has antimicrobial properties or prevents bacteria.
When the floor is installed, fill all expansion spaces with 100% mildew resistant silicone sealant including around the toilet flange and all pipes (see Photos 4 & 5). Do not use latex caulk. It will dry hard and restrict movement. The silicone seal helps prevent water damage below the floor.
All expansion spaces in bathrooms and laundry rooms must be filled with silicone including doorways.
The expansion space around the perimeter must be sealed prior to installing the trim (see Photo 6).
When installing in an adjoining room or hall, a t-molding must be used in the doorway between the rooms and the expansion space filled with silicone.
Do not install laminate in rooms with a floor drain or sump pump.