Installing Laminate Wood Floors

Goodbye Carpet- Hello Laminate!


Installing laminate wood floors was one of the first things we did at the Little River House. The FIRST thing we did was remove the stinky old carpet in preparation.

I remember that first night very clearly. We signed all of our closing documents downtown, grabbed the keys, and sprinted for the nearest liquor store. After securing the cheapest bottle of champagne and plastic cups, we headed home. The plan was to toast to this next adventure on our new deck looking out at our river.

The celebration lasted only a few minutes. We looked at each other, then at the carpet.

“We should get rid of that,” said one or both of us.

And that is how we spent our first night in the new home— in an all-out-fumigation attempt that included ripping out the smoke-drenched carpet and washing the nicotine-stained walls. We loved every second of it.

When Cleaning Won’t Cut It

First, we thought let’s just vacuum the carpet. No. It must be destroyed.

Worse Than Carpet

Matt’s brother, Nate, painstakingly removed the vinyl tile from the kitchen. Note: there is no fun or fast way to do this.

Finished Floors

Matt modeling the finished laminate floors. Dance party commences!

We’d planned to stay the night with just a few essentials (air mattress, coffee pot). But here was the problem: for a decade, the previous tenants had smoked inside the house… a lot. The smell was so bad, we decided quickly that these few projects needed to be done before we went to bed. So, out came the carpet. Then, we washed every square inch of the home. And although the smell wouldn’t be totally remedied until the air ducts were cleaned a few days later, it helped a lot.

Installing Laminate Wood Floors

The rest of the work on the flooring happened slowly over the next few months. Why?

    • We had a lot of other, more immediate, projects to tackle. For instance, buying furniture to sit on.
    • School started a few weeks after closing, and Matt was already working 10+ hour days.
    • The smell disappeared, and so did our urgency.

And this was all okay! In hindsight, I’m glad we made slow but steady progress. We learned a lot and didn’t create too much stress for ourselves. More detailed “how-to” posts to follow, but in essence, the rest of the process went like this:


Ripping up the carpet was easy. But the kitchen floor was old vinyl— you know, the kind that was glued down 30 years ago and is impossible to peel off. Matt’s brother, Nate, gave it the ol’ college try. He used a heat gun and scraping tool. It took forever, and I’m glad it wasn’t me doing it. In the end, he was able to at least remove the top, slick layer. Given that we planned to put down underlayment prior to the laminate planks, this was a job good-enough-done!


The overall vision was to merge the dining room (carpet) and kitchen (vinyl) into one big mega kitchen. Once we removed the existing flooring, we noticed the subfloors were uneven. The dining room dropped down almost an inch. So, with Nate’s help, we screwed down new plywood subflooring. This made the floors much more level.


The last part of the process… hire the professionals! We purchased the flooring (Montego Oak Laminate Flooring from Home Depot) and hired a local flooring company to install it. Actually, we were pretty bummed to hand over that work. Though confident that we could do it, we knew it would slow the whole project down. This was now the dead of winter. We were tired, busy, and antsy to get the job done. Plus, the cost of labor was not too bad. For our 16′ x 14′ space, we paid $500.

Why laminate floors?

My two favorite reasons:

  1. They look good
  2. They are inexpensive

Laminate is also a very durable and easy to clean product. We studied the pros and cons of a few different flooring types, and laminate wood was the right move for us. I’ve heard it said that laminate flooring does not increase resale value— we did not find that to be the case (see “How We Made a Year’s Salary In One Flip“). For our market area, it would have been easy to “over-improve” the home and never see that return on investment. Rather than making that mistake, we stuck to products that were durable and inexpensive, which gave us a big bang for our buck.

Consider the right design choices for your market area. If you buy the worst house on a block lined with mansions, then by all means… put in the hardwoods and Carrara marble countertops. You probably should. The point is, estimate the resale value before renovating. This will help you make smart choices as you go.

More to Come

Over the next few months, I’ll be posting much more about the Little River House flip. Check out the Renovations page to view the full gallery. You are welcome to share this content, contact me with questions, or leave comments below.

I’ll end with a question for you:

What is the craftiest design move you’ve made? In other words, an improvement you accomplished with little money, but that made a huge impact?

Much love,



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  1. MK says:

    Such a dramatic change from these floors!

    I believe that the biggest bang we made out of the smallest buck was painting the kitchen cabinets in our lake house. While the doors still have that super fancy groove design popularized in the 1970s, they are now a very great color and the groove fades away. It was putzy, but not difficult. And for the cost of a gallon of paint, our kitchen is completely revived. Love it!

    • Becca McLagan says:

      I agree- a bucket of paint is the fastest and cheapest way to make a big change. To even further the frugality at our new house, I mixed our left-over paints rather than buying new colors. Fun and now we have a pretty unique look!