Next to luxury vinyl flooring, laminate is considered one of the easiest types of hard flooring surfaces for homeowners to install themselves. While it’s something thousands of people take on each year, it still requires a few special tools as it can be challenging to cut. With that in mind, we are going to discuss the right way to cut laminate flooring and briefly discuss the tools required for the job.
Laminate Flooring Construction
The first thing we want to discuss before touching on tools or techniques is the way laminate flooring is made. It’s something we’ve covered in-depth, and the important thing to remember is that it’s composed of multiple layers. It’s not solid like hardwood or tile and is more similar to luxury vinyl or engineered flooring from a structural standpoint.
Wondering if you can cut laminate flooring with your trusty Stanley utility knife? The answer is no, and you’re more likely to damage the surface or cut yourself trying. Only thin very think vinyl, linoleum, and peel and stick tiles can be cut this way. In order to prevent chipping and ruining a board, you’ll need a few tools that you may already have in your garage or home workshop.
Laminate Flooring Tools
Depending on the manufacturer and their installation instructions, the tools and accessories to properly install laminate flooring can vary. A few things remain the same, however, like a pull bar designed for laminate, spacers, and a tape measure. The most expensive thing you’ll need to acquire is a saw if you don’t own one, and not just any type of saw will do.
The most affordable and simplest option to cut laminate flooring effectively is a circular saw. While there are battery-powered models like this kit from DeWalt, that may be overkill unless you have other projects in mind. The most affordable options are corded and come from companies like SKIL, Craftsman, or Black+Decker.
While a circular saw will get the job done, it needs to have the right blade. The coating that covers many types of flooring can wear a blade down quickly. The more teeth a blade has, the cleaner a cut you can achieve. It’s not uncommon for people to use blades with 80 or 100 carbide-tipped teeth, but there are blades designed specifically for laminate flooring as well.
You can do straight cuts with a circular saw, which allows you to put down long runs of flooring quickly. Spots for air returns can be handled as well, but areas like doorjambs require a little more finesse. An “undercut” or door jamb saw is the best solution, although one that can be tedious if you’re dealing with thick hardwood.
A quicker solution is an oscillating tool, also known as a multi-tool. They allow you to do fine detailed cuts with ease, which makes them perfect for flooring and areas like door jambs. As with circular saws, corded models are cheaper but we highly recommend upgrading to something like the Milwaukee M12 Multi-Tool if you need something handy around the house.
How to Cut Laminate Flooring
Once you have the tools required to install laminate flooring, it’s time to head to your workstation and prepare to make some cuts. When using a powered saw to cut laminate, you should only do so outdoors in the open air. While companies have gone a long way to keep chemicals that produce VOCs out of their products, the fine dust is still an irritant. You don’t want to get it in your lungs or eyes.
Cutting Laminate Flooring to Length
With your board market to cut, head to your sawhorses or workstation and secure the plank. You want to flip it upside down so that you are making the cut on the backside, not on the front where the wear layer is.
This will help to prevent chipping and the saw from scratching the surface of the flooring. The main thing to remember is to go slow and follow the cut line. You can use guides and clamps to ensure a straight cut, but need to go through the board at an even steady pace for a clean cut.
Cutting Laminate Flooring to Width
No matter how well you plan out the laminate in your home, there are still going to be places where you’ll need to cut a board to width. This is known as a rip cut, and where a circular saw proves its worth over a miter saw.
While you still need to follow your cut line and keep at a steady pace with the saw, keep the cord in mind which can hang objects. You’ll also want to keep the expansion joint in mind and your cut on the “waste side” of the board, which is the piece that won’t be used.
Making Cuts around Pipes
To install any type of flooring successfully, you need to have a good subfloor whether you prefer tile, carpet, or laminate. With laminate flooring, that means you need to have a surface that’s level and free of obstructions, which can be a problem in kitchens, bathrooms, or other areas of your home. That’s due to plumbing and HVAC vents.
To make a clean cut where a pipe is located, the best option is a hole saw. This attachment fits on the end of a drill and comes in a variety of sizes to suit any need. You’ll need a hole saw slightly larger than the diameter of the pipe in the floor for a snug fit, and if you go too large, you may need to pick up a grommet or gasket to fill in the gap.
You can also use an angle cut like the one shown in the video below depending on the location of the pipes. It’s for wood flooring, but the general process remains the same. The last option would be the multi-tool. With a bit of practice, you can make a controlled cut that will work for a pipe although not nearly as clean as a hole saw.
The Cost to Install Laminate Flooring
Laminate may be one of the easier types of flooring to install, but that doesn’t mean it’s something every homeowner will want to take on themselves. Whether you are concerned about the time it may take or the tools required, here’s what you need to know when it comes down to choosing between a professional or doing the job yourself.
A professional flooring installer can generally be hired in-house if you purchase the flooring locally or through retailers like Home Depots or Lowes. They can handle everything from leveling the subfloor to choosing underlayment and will get the job done quicker than your average homeowner. The cost to have laminate flooring installed is typically between $2.00 to $3.25 per square foot.
That doesn’t include removal of your old flooring, however, or the actual material itself. You may also have to pay additional charges to have furniture moved unless you plan on handling any of the prep work beforehand. If you are thinking about installing laminate flooring in your home, the first thing to do is make a list of tools.
While we won’t go into great detail as we covered the cost of laminate in our guide, the price of tools can run a few hundred dollars if your workshop is bare. You won’t have to pay for labor, but you may run into trouble removing the old flooring if it’s carpet. You can’t lay floating flooring on top of another type of floating floor as well, so there’s a bit more to installing laminate flooring properly than most homeowners think.
Knowing how to cut laminate flooring is the first step in deciding whether it’s a project that you feel comfortable with, but far from the only thing to consider. As one of the more affordable options, it’s widely used in homes across the United States but isn’t the best choice for damp areas or below-grade rooms. If you’re concerned about moisture or common household spills, luxury vinyl flooring may be a better alternative in your home.