How to Stagger Laminate Flooring

Published on:
Last Update:
How to Stagger Laminate Flooring, floating floors

Are you looking to install laminate floorboards as part of your home’s flooring? Wondering whether it’s necessary to stagger the laminate planks and how to properly go about the same?

Laminate flooring is a floating floor designed with a click and lock system. While is not a rule, staggering your floating floor and understanding how to do it, makes your laminate look aesthetically appealing. Proper staggering of the laminate floor will make it last longer with minimal maintenance.

Here below is a guide on how to properly stagger your laminate floor.

How to stagger laminate flooring

How to Stagger Laminate Flooring

When installing laminate flooring, the goal is usually to ensure that there’s a staggering pattern created between any two adjacent rows of laminate floorboards. You’ll want to avoid creating H-joint patterns and step patterns as much as possible, as these will undermine the visual appeal of the floor, while also compromising structural stability.

  • H-joints occur when the aligned end joints are separated by a single row of laminate planks. Say for instance, that the end joints on the third row coincide with those on the first row, then- you’ll have created multiple H-joints.
  • A step pattern- meanwhile- occurs when there’s proper spacing in two adjacent rows, with the planks in the third row being racked out at exact lengths. This results in a symmetrical appearance that gives off an unsightly visual aesthetic.

The key to the proper staggering of laminate floors is to ensure random end joint distribution. With such random spacing, every end joint receives ample structural reinforcement from the planks that lie on either side of it.

Floor Staggering Procedure

Cutting out the end joints at random lengths can be rather difficult, which is why we’ve developed a floor staggering procedure that you can follow for successful installation below:

How to Stagger Laminate Flooring
  1. Start off by determining the length of the room using a tape measure. Then- divide this figure by the length of your laminate flooring planks. Commercial laminate planks typically measure three or four feet long.

2. Next, compare the resultant figure from the calculation in step one above with the minimum stagger spacing for your laminate planks. Generally, manufacturers recommend a minimum stagger spacing of six-inches. If the figure exceeds the minimum stagger spacing, we recommend using a whole laminate plank at the start of the first row.

Tip: Conversely, if the figure is lower than the minimum stagger spacing, multiply this minimum spacing figure by two and cut off the resultant amount from the starting plank. Therefore, for a six-inch minimum stagger spacing, you’ll want to cut off 12-inches (one-foot) from the starting laminate plank in the first row.

3. Now, after cutting out and laying the starting plank, lay the rest of the planks in the first row at random lengths. Once you reach the end of the first row, cut out the last laminate board to fit, while ensuring there’s at least a quarter-inch gap left at the end adjacent to the wall to support expansion and contraction of the laminate boards.

4. You should then use the cut-off laminate piece from the last step to start off the second row and install the flooring on the rest of the row while observing random staggering. Next- just like you did in the previous step, cut the last plank in that row to fit, while ensuring there’s a quarter-inch gap between the end joint and the wall.

5. For the third row, you’ll want to avoid starting off the cut-off piece from the previous row as you did at the start of the second row, as this will likely lead to an undesirable step pattern. Instead, use a laminate plank that’s been cut out to a random length.

6. Now, repeat steps two-five above for every successive three rows, for a staggering pattern with completely random plank spacing.

Here a video on how to install and stagger laminate flooring;

How to Install Laminate Flooring for beginners

Do you have to stagger laminate flooring?

It’s important to create a staggering pattern when installing laminate floorboards for enhanced structural integrity and aesthetic appeal. Laminate flooring that has been properly staggered boasts improved structural stability, as the adjoining boards are less likely to separate from each other.

Should you cut the end joints at equal lengths, you’ll likely end up with coinciding end joints, consequently increasing the chances of separation. This is because end joints that coincide lead to enhanced structural weakness. Aesthetic-wise, the uneven pattern created by the staggering of the end joints of the laminate floorboards makes for a more visually appealing floor design.

The final reason why you should properly stagger your laminate flooring is to maintain the validity of the manufacturer’s guarantee. Laminate flooring manufacturers typically include installation instructions-including guidelines on how to stagger the boards. If you end up making a claim down the line, you must have adhered to these instructions for your claim to be honored.

How are you supposed to stagger laminate flooring?

Laminate flooring is a type of floating floor. These typically call for attention to detail during installation to avoid stability issues and buckling of the planks, as the laminate planks are never fastened to the subfloor (hence the name ‘floating flooring’). One of the key installation requirements is staggering the flooring accordingly.

Expert floor installers recommend a minimum stagger spacing of six inches if the laminate planks are five inches wide. This spacing can be increased depending on how much wider your planks are. For instance, for laminate planks that are 12-inches wide, it would be practical to maintain a minimum stagger spacing of about 10-inches. The spacing should also be determined by the length of the planks, as shorter planks call for shorter spacing.

You’ll want to avoid short-staggering your planks as much as possible, as this has the same effect as lacking staggering in the first place. Your flooring will be structurally unstable and will have an unsightly appearance.

Here a video on how to stagger vinyl planks as well as laminate planks flooring.

How to Stagger Floating Floors : Laminate Flooring Installation & Repair

Read More: How to stagger vinyl planks flooring. Best underlayments for laminate flooring.

Photo of author


Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

Leave a Comment