Laminate - first row

I've read about the importance of getting the first row(s) straight when you are installing laminate - simultaneously ensuring you have the 1/4" gap as well as a straight row that doesn't result in some wedge piece 14 feet later when you lay the last row in the room.
I've yet to find a cogent explanation of how to get the first row straight. I'm not that experienced with this stuff and need something better than "snap a chalk line to ensure a straight row" which is what the manufacturers advice amounts to. Is there something out there (a diagram would be nice) that would help?
Also, in the master bedroom I'm starting in, the first row (longest wall) will include a doorway no matter which wall I pick. The south wall opens into the master bath (we're keeping the lino) and the north wall opens into the hall. So do I lay the first row ignoring the doorway? (and lay the board into the doorway threshold after getting the rest of the room right?)
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Lorne Sundby
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Manufactureres have spacers which go against the wall during installation that enable proper placement. Also important is that the final edge is wide enuf. You may have to cut the first row down width wise to ensure the final row is wide enuf.

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The manufacture of the laminate I installed recommended a 9mm space, I think that's 5/16's.
If I were to do it all over again I would remove the base board then allow for the space right up to the drywall, then install the base board and 1/4 round.
Measure your walls from one end to the other that should tell you if your straight or not, if there a little off, you can cheat a little by having the baseboard off, and still have plenty of gap., and cover any errors in straightness with the baseboard.
The last thing you want is the floor buckling because there is not sufficient room for the floor to float.
Tom

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come with u shaped plastic channels. These channels screw into the sub floor. If you wait untill the floor is in you may have a hard time getting this channel in. Measure the length of the room and divide by the width of the planks. This will tell you how wide a board will be at the last row. If its under 2 inches or so, you should rip the first row a little thinner. Put down 2 or three rows and measure from the edge to the other wall. measure at both ends and the middle. the floor floats so it will be easy to tweak it so its square. Make sure your moulding will hide the gap against the wall if you adjust the position of the floor. also check the gaps at the door openings. I love my laminate floor except for 1 thing...I have dogs and their nails make a horrible racket on the flooring. Im already saving for the tile that will replace the flooring when it wears. Brian
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If you think dog's nails will sound better on tile, think again! <g>

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I can only give you my experience....keep in mind, I'm a DIYer. I don't do this for a living.
First, I recommend the "snap type joint". I've installed both "glued" and "snap" joints and prefer the snap joint. Takes a little bit to get the hang of it, but once you do, it is easy. You'll be tempted to use a hammer once in awhile, to ease those suckers into place, but it's best not to. Use a little muscle and be a bit forcefull and locking in the 2 sides becomes quite easy. You might need some special or improvised tools to snap things together at the end.
Measure your room as a whole and measure the boards you'll be using. As stated here else, some division will give you the final board width. Make sure, that it will not be less than the smallest recommended width (from directions).
Personally, my room was square enough, that I didn't need to "chalk-line" the first row. If yours is close to square, I wouldn't worry about it. You can make up for any deviation from square in the last row. Again, assuming it's SOMEWHAT square to begin with. If not, you'll want to measure and use the chalk line, as recommended.
If it were me, I'd start on the easiest longest wall. In your case, bathroom or hallway wall makes no differnce. Again, if it were me, I'd cut down the first row, so that the floor extends into the threshold slightly. This might not be necessary, if your hallway carpet, or bathroom lino is long enough to meet it. It might look a little funny, if you have a bit of carpeting or lino showing under the door. But the wood laminate threshold will make up some of this difference. So you might not see much, if anything. I tried to put my "transition" pieces right in the middle of the doorway.
Speaking of the laminate threshold piece...I wasn't thinking all that clearly in the end, and cut the threshold peice (transition piece) slightly less wide, than the doorway, to allow for expansion. This was not necessary in my opinion. the threshold piece is not long enough to worry about expansion that way. When I say threshold piece, I mean the "transition" piece from wood floor, to either carpet or lino. Those can be purchased, where ever you buy your flooring. HOWEVER, remember you will still need the 1/4 inch spacing on the long side of the threshhold. (Instructions should clearly state this). I installed my transition pieces last.
The quarter inch gap (or was it half...can't remember) is crucial. Don't skimp. Better to go a little more, than less.
I love my floor. Only problem I have, is that the dog (inside dog) has scratched it slightly with claws. Not bad though. It is beautiful.
One final word of advice. Inspect the boxes of flooring and each piece carefully, before installing it. Look for defects, especially on the corners. We had at least 3 boxes which contained pieces with bad corners. Didn't notice it until the floor was all done. Some are definitely worse than others, but it's better to toss out a piece, than to install in and see that ugly mark on your new floor!
Good luck...post back if you'd like some more advice.
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