“ Brand: Homebase / Type: Laminate Flooring Kit „
As I've mentioned before, my husband and I recently bought a home in need of rather a lot of renovation. The existing carpets were disgusting (there was a dead mouse under one) and since we have a large dog with large, frequently muddy, paws I opted to replace it with laminate as it is much easier to clean. As money is tight, we are trying to do as much as possible ourselves. After watching a few how to videos on the internet, I decided laying the laminate was a job within my DIY skill bracket.
You only need a few things to lay laminate. Obviously, you will need the laminate planks, underlay, a saw to cut the planks to the right size (I recommend a circular saw with a new, sharp blade), a hammer, a tape measure or ruler and a pen/pencil/marker to mark where to cut. If you want to do a half way decent job, you will also need spacers, a knocking block and a jemmy, which are conveniently packaged together in the Homebase Laminate Floor Laying Kit. Most other DIY stores (B&Q, Wickes, etc) do a similar kit which seems identical. I only got the one from Homebase because I was already there buying paint (which was on offer).
===What You Get & How It Works===
The kit includes 22 spacers. These are hard plastic wedges that help you maintain the necessary expansion gap between the wall and the laminate (laminate expands and contracts depending on the ambient temperature in the room, if you do not leave a gap it will cause the laminate planks to bow). The angled side of the wedges have ridges. The spacers are designed to use in pairs; you put the ridged sides together. If needed, you can slide the two spacers together to create a wider gap or apart if a smaller gap is needed. This design is quite useful if your walls are not perfectly straight (mine are certainly not). However, the pieces are not held together by anything so I had to be careful where I placed my spacers as there were some areas where the gap between the floorboards and the wall was wide enough that one of the spacers could fall into the land of nothingness (the area under the floorboards). In fact, even being careful I lost a few this way. My spacers were blue, but the picture online shows red. The colour doesn't matter as they are only used while you are laying the laminate. You remove them before replacing your skirting boards.
Next is a knocking block measuring 23.75cm x 6cm x 2.5cm. This too is made of very hard plastic. You use the knocking block to place between the laminate planks and your hammer. If you tried to fit the planks together without knocking them together, you would be left with tiny spaces between planks. If you were to hit the plank directly with a hammer you risk damaging the delicate tongue and groves, which are what allows you to place the planks without adhesive. I think it would have been impossible to space the long rows of planks without this block. After laying the floor in my lounge the block showed a small amount of wear (small hammer indentions), but it is still perfectly functional. Soon I will be using it again to lay laminate in the dinning room and possibly at least one of the upstairs bedrooms.
Finally, there is the jemmy. This is a metal pull bar measuring roughly 27cm long by 3.5cm wide. Each end is bent in opposite directions. At one end there is a small, hooked over end about 1cm long. This is the part you put against the laminate. The other end is bent in the opposite direction and measures 2.5cm. You hit this end with your hammer. The pull bar is needed to place the last plank in each row of planks (the one against the wall) and the last few rows where you don't have enough room to place the knocking block and swing your hammer. You need to be careful to be gentle when using this piece of equipment because the force of the hammer is only distributed only the relatively small area. A strong knock could break the delicate tongue/groove of the laminate. After laying my lounge, some of the paint has chipped off this bar, but like the knocking block, it was still perfectly functional and I will be using it again in the future.
Update: I used this kit to lay laminate in the entry way and dining room. Given that a fair number of my spacers dropped down the gap between the wall and the floorboards when I did the lounge plus I had lost a few in the months between jobs, I really needed more spacers. Thankfully you can buy extra ones for very little at a number of shops.
===Overall Experience & Opinion===
I am a casual DIYer at best. With the help of this kit (and good quality, easy fit laminate from Wickes), my father in law and I were able to fit my lounge (roughly14ft x 11ft) floor in a day. Overall I found this kit to be perfectly adequate. I could have used a few more spacers, particularly after a few dropped down the gap between the wall and floorboards. As they are used in pairs, you only have 11, which is not nearly enough to place every 60cm, as suggested. Even separating by 1m+ you will quickly run out. If you are doing anything bigger than a single bedroom, I would suggest you buy additional spacers to supplement those included in this kit.
===Price and Availability===
This laminate floor laying kit is available from Homebase for £9.99. You can get it in store or online. I also recommend getting an extra pack (or two) of spacers which you can pick up for about £2 for another set of 22. I'm not convinced this kit would be any better than the ones you can pick up from Wickes, B&Q or Screwfix for the same price, but it does the job. Considering I saved absolutely loads of money by laying the laminate myself (with the help of my father in law) instead of paying a professional, I would call this kit excellent value for money.
If you are thinking about laying laminate flooring yourself, I highly recommend you google "Homebase How to Lay Laminate Flooring." The how to video from Homebase was a major factor in convincing me that I could take on this DIY job.
I have also posted this review on ciao (with a picture).