Which Way To Lay Laminate Flooring In A Living Room?

As many people look to replace the carpet in their living room with flooring, laminate flooring is one of the most popular choices. Not only is it easier to clean, but it can change the look of the room as well. However, a question that a lot of people have is which direction should laminate flooring be laid? We've researched this question and hope to bring you the answer.

The general rule is to install laminate flooring in the same line as the main entrance to your living room. However, the direction in which you lay the flooring is a matter of personal preference.

Although the direction you choose to lay laminate flooring in is up to you, the direction that flooring is laid does affect the room's overall appearance. In this article, we'll look at why direction might matter, as well as provide you with more helpful information about laying laminate flooring. Continue reading to learn more.

A tile setter showing a detailed photo of a laminated tiles, Which Way To Lay Laminate Flooring In A Living Room?

Misconceptions About Laying Laminate Flooring

Before we get into the details about the direction to lay laminate flooring, it's essential to clear up any misconceptions you may have heard about laying laminate flooring. The two guidelines that most people follow are that laminate flooring should be laid in the direction of the light source and that it should parallel to the longest wall in the room. 

Many people say that laminate flooring laid according to those guidelines is the "proper" way to lay it. While you are certainly free to follow these guidelines if you choose, remember that it is your home, and you may not like the way the flooring looks if you follow those guidelines. 

We will explore each guideline in more detail to understand why they are suggested and why they don't necessarily have to be followed in modern design. This will help you make the best decision about how to lay your laminate flooring.

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Gorgeous modern contemporary kitchen with laminated flooring, huge dangling lamps, and black painted kitchen cabinetry

The Direction Of The Light Source

When laminate flooring was first being used in homes, it was suggested to lay it in the direction that the natural light entered into the room. Laying laminate flooring this way was said to look more natural and help accentuate the grain in the floor, which is a valid point. 

You still may choose to follow this guideline if your living room only has one natural light source or multiple natural light sources that enter the room in the same direction. However, many living rooms today have natural light that enters in different places and in different directions. 

In this case, matching the flooring direction to the direction of the light source can be challenging. And it's a challenge that is unnecessary considering that new research says that natural light sources have little effect on the direction you should lay laminate flooring.

The Direction Of The Longest Wall

The second misconception is that flooring should run parallel to the direction of the longest wall. While this rule does have more merit than the rule about natural light, it doesn't apply to laminate flooring.

The guideline was put in place when the only type of flooring available was solid wood flooring. Solid wood flooring will expand over time, so installing it parallel to the longest wall allowed the most room for expansion.

When laminate flooring was created, this guideline began to be phased out because laminate flooring does not expand as much as solid wood flooring. However, many designers still say that when laying any flooring that appears to be wood, it should follow the direction of the longest wall because it will create the most natural look.

Which Direction Should You Lay Laminate Flooring?

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An up close photo of a properly laid out laminated tiles

Since there isn't a definite "correct" way to lay laminate flooring, the next section will cover the three most common directions to lay laminate flooring to achieve a specific effect in your space. Depending on the size and shape of your living room, laying your laminate flooring in one of these directions can make the room look larger.


If your living room is short lengthwise, laying your flooring vertically can make the room look longer. The vertical floor makes the lengthwise wall look longer and creates the illusion that the whole room is bigger. This trick works best if you use lighter-colored laminate flooring.


Just as laying flooring vertically can make the lengthwise wall look longer, laying the flooring horizontally can make the widthwise wall look longer as well. Horizontal flooring creates the illusion that a narrow living room is wider than it is. Again, this trick works best with light-colored flooring.

You May Also Like: Dark Vs. Light Laminate Flooring: Which To Choose?


If your living room feels closed-in and small in both length and width, consider laying your floorboards diagonally. This trick makes the room look bigger in a multi-dimensional way. If your living room is connected to your kitchen, diagonal flooring helps connect the two rooms as long as the same type of flooring is used in both rooms.

One Last Thing To Consider

If you're laying laminate flooring in more rooms than just the living room and the rooms connect, it is important to lay the flooring in the same direction in each room. Laying the same flooring in different directions in rooms that connect can look inconsistent.

If you have an entryway or hallway that connects to your living room, consider laying the same time of flooring in the foyer or hallway as well. This will help to draw the two rooms together and create a consistent and unified look.

See More: Is Laminate Flooring Good For An Entryway?

Where Do You Start When Laying Laminate Flooring?

When laying laminate flooring, it is recommended that you start in the upper left corner and make your way out. This is so that you don't get backed into a corner when laying the final few pieces. Once you have laid the first piece, work from left to right to lay the rest of the pieces on the first row.

Do You Cut The Tongue Off The First Row Of Laminate?

A different pattern laminated tiles laid out on an untiled flooring

The tongue on a piece of laminate flooring is the flat edge on top that locks into the bottom of another piece. Whether it is laminate or not, any type of wood flooring will expand some due to heat. 

You are supposed to leave an expansion gap around the perimeter of the room when laying laminate flooring. This will give the wood room to expand. Leaving the tongue on the first row could cause problems with the expansion gap. It also affects how the wood expands, so it is recommended to cut it off.

How Soon Can You Walk On Laminate Flooring?

A woman walking on a laminated flooring in an apartment

When laying laminate flooring, the finished floor needs time to settle and become acclimated to the room's conditions. You should wait at least 24 hours before walking on the flooring. Wait at least 48 hours before moving any furniture onto it. Doing so before this time can interfere with the floor curing and damage it or make it uneven as a result.

How Do You Make Sure You're Laying Laminate Straight?

A tile setter showing a detailed photo of a laminated tiles, Which Way To Lay Laminate Flooring In A Living Room?

To make sure your laminate flooring is straight, lay it away from the wall just in case the wall itself isn't linear. Before laying the first row, follow these steps to make sure you're laying laminate straight:

  1. Measure the width of a single piece of laminate.
  2. Add an extra ¼ inch to that measurement.
  3. Take the width of the piece plus the extra ¼ inch and measure that distance away from the wall.
  4. Use a chalk line tool to run a chalk line across the room at the distance you measured.
  5. Line up the first row of flooring with the chalk line. The rest of the floor should line up straight as a result.

Click here to see this chalk line tool on Amazon.

In Closing

We hope this article helped decide which way to lay laminate flooring in your living room. Remember that there isn't a wrong way to lay it. It just depends on your preference and the effect you want to achieve. If you want to make your living room look larger, consider if you need it to look larger lengthwise, widthwise, or both, and choose the direction accordingly. Thanks for reading!

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