Monday, May 23, 2011

Laminate Flooring and Baseboard Heaters

After much, much, much thought, here's how we did the part of our laminate flooring that's right by our baseboard heaters.

We decided on doing it this way only after a long process. First, we drew on our limited DIY experience and thought long and hard. Then, like any other 21st-century person who is stumped on anything, we did some Googling. Then, we called several home improvement stores for advice.

When installing laminate flooring against the wall, you're supposed to leave a small gap so the material can expand and contract with different conditions. You then cover the gap later by installing baseboard molding.

Our first plank with the spacers against the walls.

This was pretty straightforward when it was just against the walls, but we weren't sure what to do when we got to the baseboard heater: end the flooring right before the heater so we leave a gap between the flooring and the baseboard heater OR slide the flooring underneath the heater? If we slide it underneath the heater, would the flooring expand and dislocate the heater? If we leave a gap, how do we cover the gap?

It just seemed like nobody knew how to do it. Googling resulted in nothing; just similar questions with no answers. We had to call three different home improvement stores before we got a good answer.

First store: Home Depot #1
Home Depot (HD): "You need to leave as much space as possible between the flooring and the heater."
Me(M): "How much?"
HD: "As much as possible. Hold on (She asks associate: "Hey, how much space between flooring and heater?...Okay.") Yeap. About 3 inches."
M: (Decided the Home Depot person either didn't understand my question or didn't know what she was talking about.) "Okay, thanks."

Second store: Home Depot #2
HD: "So is the heater on the floor?"
M: "No, it's a baseboard heater. It's on the wall, but really low so there's very little space underneath. It's just enough for the laminate, but the laminate won't have space to expand."
HD: "Okay...So the laminate, it's on the floor or the wall?"
M: "Uhh...on the floor." (At this point decided she also didn't know what she was talking about and stopped listening.)

Third store: Rona
Rona (R): "You can do it either way."
M: "But if I leave a gap between the laminate and the heater, then how do I cover the gap?"
R: "Well, you gotta sacrifice something, right?"
M: "Um yeah...but is there a way to cover the gap?"
R: "You can use a quarter-round molding. Just glue it to the laminate."
M: "I didn't think of that!"
R: "If you don't use the heater, then you can probably get away with sliding the laminate underneath 'cos it won't expand too much."

So that was how we finally discovered a good way to handle the baseboard heater situation. We were ready to accept that it was some sort of an industry secret that professional laminate floor installers guard with their lives to preserve the profession. That Rona guy was a lifesaver.

This is how the flooring looks when you get closer.

We still have to install some quarter-round molding around the heaters, but we can live with the gap for now while we tackle more urgent projects. After the molding goes on, I imagine it'll look seamless and the floor will have enough room to expand.


  1. Thank you, this is what I was looking for :-) Just like you did, I started googling my question away :-) Your solution is a nice alternative to removing (or rathering raising up/tampering with) my electric baseboard. I am in the process of installing laminate flooring in the basement and the electric baseboard is very low on the ground.
    I am however wondering whether it is possible to install quarter-round molding around a heater... Not sure whether it is safe, considering the heat that comes out, but have to say it is an excellent idea. Did you get on with it in the end? If so, how did you proceed since you could not possibly use glue?
    Last but not least, congratulations for your work, it looks very neat and clean, hardly noticeable really :-)

  2. Hi Val,thanks for the compliment! I haven't gotten around to installing the quarter-round molding. Life got in the way and we've been living without baseboards and other types of molding.

    The guy at the hardware store actually told me to glue it to the laminate floor. A friend, who works in construction, told me he'd move the baseboard heater if he were to install laminate flooring in his home. But like you, I don't really want to tamper with electrical stuff.

    Is there any reason why you don't want to use glue? Maybe you can ask the people at your local home improvement centers what they think. Let me know how you end up tackling it :)

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