How to Make a Stagger Pattern for Laying Laminate Flooring

Staggering is an important part of installing a new laminate floor. When done right, it makes your space look as beautiful as the catalog that made you choose the laminate floor in the first place.

Adopting good staggering techniques makes the wood-patterned laminate finish look beautiful. Staggering your laminate flooring is not just for looks; it also makes your floor more stable.

If you don’t get the staggering right when installing the floor, it will leave unbecoming gaps between the laminate panels and other signs showing the planks are not fitting together.

If you want your laminate flooring to be smooth, elegant, and last many years, you must get the staggering perfect. Luckily, it is not as complicated as it sounds. 

In this article, I will guide you on everything you should know about staggering your laminate floorboards and what patterns you must avoid.

What is Stagger or Overlap of Laminate Flooring?

Overlap or stagger means that when you lay a row of laminate boards lengthwise, you offset the joints between the panels from the joints in the previous row.

You can control the offset by cutting the starter board so that it is at least 6 inches shorter or longer than the starter board on the adjacent row.

The professionals follow this process on every row when installing laminate flooring. Apart from considering the adjacent rows, you should also consider the joints 2 or 3 rows away. Make sure that no two seams in a section of 4-5 rows should line up.

How Much Should Staggered Laminate Flooring be?

Different laminate brands have different recommended overlapping distances. Most of the types and brands of laminate require overlapping of 6 inches. Some brands mention a range of 6 to 12 inches. You can overlap the planks by more than the recommended range but never less.

Different Staggering Patterns

To make your laminate floor strong and look beautiful, you need to have a certain level of balance. For example, your flooring will be unstable and easily damaged if you don’t overlap the laminate planks by more than 6 inches on every row. On the flip side, some people are too strict in staggering the flooring, which is not a good idea either.

Cutting the starter boards to the same length, i.e., half board, full board, and repeat or cutting them in regular sizes, i.e., 24 inches, 18 inches, 12 inches, 6 inches, and repeat, will allow you to achieve a pattern that pops out to anyone who looks at the floor.

If you want a rigid pattern and an orderly look, you can opt for any staggering ways mentioned below. However, it is my personal experience and opinion that the randomized stagger vinyl plank flooring pattern looks a lot better because the flooring design is more beautiful than the seams.

Another reason to avoid a definite staggering pattern is that our brain loves patterns and notices them right away. If you install your flooring in a pattern, it is the only thing your brain will make you see, not the planks’ design.

Stair Step Stagger Pattern

Stair step is a common pattern of laminate flooring. You can achieve this by cutting start boards in regular lengths and laying them in a repeating order. The first starter board can be 18 inches, the next one 12 inches, the next one 6 inches, and so on.

It is the most complex and varied pattern. It creates a strong pattern that is highly noticeable. Every row is staggered by a regular offset and creates diagonal seams across the floor in a stair-step pattern.

One of the downsides of this pattern is that the areas where the stair steps meet are the weak points expanding to multiple rows. It is a fast and easy pattern that looks good, but you pay for it in quality in the long run.


This pattern can be achieved by alternating starting boards of half length and full length. Installing floor boards in H-pattern is time-efficient and easy. As there are only two options, you can easily tell which length you should use to start each row. It gives more stability and strength to the floor because the rows overlap consistently.

The H-pattern looks like seams skipping every other row or like two dotted lines across the room. It will be the first thing your guests will see when they enter the room that his laminate flooring is staggering in this pattern.

Installing the laminate planks in these patterns is not wrong technically. If you like patterns, you can choose to overlap your laminate in a stair step or H pattern. However, you should know that patterns like these take the focus off of the beautiful wood finish you spend so much for. Putting your laminate planks in randomized staggering will bring the focus back on the laminate itself.

Which is the Best Stagger Pattern?

There are several ways to arrange laminate boards to create different stagger patterns. If you are wondering which is the best pattern to stagger, let me tell you what the professionals say about stagger vinyl plank flooring patterns. They say that if you have the quality and stability of the floor in mind, you should opt for a randomized stagger pattern.

In a randomized stagger pattern, you place the laminate boards with an overlapping range of 6 or more inches without keeping any particular pattern in mind. However, a random stagger does not happen by chance. You still have to pay attention to every row and ensure it differs from at least two adjacent rows. You will be able to notice if any two seams line up too closely.

If you have installed the flooring with a randomized pattern, you and your guests will be able to notice the design of the laminate boards and not the stagger pattern. This will make the material pop.

How to Make a Stagger Pattern for Laying Laminate Flooring?

Installing laminate flooring will be fun and easy if you like jigsaw puzzles. The planks click together, and it is fun to watch the process. Planning and doing the prep work is essential to creating a beautiful staggered pattern.

Prepare the Room

To prepare the room for flooring, you will have to remove the old laminate flooring boards. Make sure you remove all the nails and staples because even the smallest bumps beneath can affect the measurement and, in turn, the end product.

You have to make sure the floor underneath is relatively flat and level. Also, check for fungus and mold after removing the old flooring. Clean all the dirt, debris, and mold before installing new planks.

If the subfloor is made of hardwood and in bad shape, you can install a layer of ¼-inch plywood on the entire floor to make it leveled and strong. In the case of a concrete floor, make sure it is completely dry and clean.

Acclimate the Laminate Boards

Put your laminate boards in the room where you want to install them for 24 to 72 hours before assembling them. It allows the boards to adjust to the surroundings’ temperature and humidity. This prevents issues like buckling or lifting of your laminate flooring boards.

Ensure you read the manufacturer’s instructions for acclimating your laminate to cash on warranties later.


Read the flooring manufacturer’s instructions to see what underlayment you need. Cover the entire floor with underlayment before installing the laminate floorboards.

Underlayment is a layer of thin paper, foam, or plastic that protects your flooring from excess moisture creating a barrier. It also cushions the flooring to prevent hollow sounds or squeaks when you walk on them.

Cut Starter Boards

Cut 5-6 laminate boards to various lengths using a chop saw or a laminate cutter to start your stagger laminate flooring pattern. Use one end as a starter for 5-6 rows and trim the other ends of the boards to finish the rows.

Install Laminate Flooring

Ensure you leave an “expansion gap” between the edges of the flooring and obstructions like walls and cabinets. The expansion gap is usually half an inch. You can use plastic spacers to leave this gap all around the flooring.

Lay a precut starter board near the wall in one corner, and keep laying all the boards until you reach the other corner of the room. You will have to measure and cut the last board to fit.

You can lay the starter boards on one wall without locking them together. This will allow you to see if they have a difference of 6 inches in their length to their adjacent board. And also, you will be able to see if you are getting the desired pattern or not. When everything looks fine, you can proceed to install other boards and snap them together.

Stagger Laminate Flooring Pattern

While installing your plank flooring, stand up and look at the floor from a distance from time to time. Check if the seams create visual patterns or are a bit too close. Rectify if there is some mistake.

Remember that whichever pattern you try to achieve, it starts with the starter boards of each row. Measure and cut the starter boards to a specific length.

Why Should You Stagger Laminate Flooring?

The two main reasons why you should stagger laminate flooring are; it makes your floor look better and it makes it stronger. Plus, you can claim a warranty on your laminate floor planks in case some problem arises.


You can understand the importance of staggering by looking at the staggering of bricks on a brick wall. Overlapping each brick and spacing out the joints allows you to build a stable wall. However, if you stack the bricks in straight columns, the wall will not be stable and will fall over.

The same principle applies to plank flooring; staggering laminate flooring creates a strong floor as one big surface that can expand, contract, and absorb impact without damage.

Staggering, the flooring boards interlock them like a big puzzle that does not break. It also prevents common laminate flooring problems like buckling, warping, and forming gaps. Overlapping your floorboards the right way will make your floor look good forever.

Aesthetic Appeal

Staggering laminate flooring creates a unique and sleek appearance throughout your living space instead of the uniform and constant appearance of the laminate floors.

Warranty Claims

Laminate floor plank manufacturers always have a staggering range in their instruction books. If some problem arises in your flooring and you want to claim the warranty, the manufacturer can dismiss it because you did not follow the instructions for staggering.

However, I have read the warranty guides of some popular laminate flooring brands, and I have not found anything that suggests that non-staggering will void the warranty. So, asking your manufacturer if staggering comes under warranty will be a good idea.

What Happens If You Don’t Stagger Your Laminate Floor?

If you do not stagger your laminate floor, it can cause problems such as gapping, buckling, and faulty click and lock mechanism. Here are some issues you may face with a not-staggered laminate installation.

Tongue and Groove Damage

If someone runs or stops abruptly on the floors, it can damage the tongue and groove mechanism of the laminate floors. As a result, it gives floating floors that will render the plank useless.

Less Structural Stability

If you do not stagger your laminate floors, they will have lesser structural stability resulting in gapping and disconnection.