As one of the older forms of synthetic flooring, it’s not uncommon for laminate to need to be removed during a remodel or renovation. Just how easy it is to remove depends on how it was installed, and is not always something homeowners can take on themselves. If you’re considering removing old laminate in your home, we’re going to cover the tools required for the job along with some important safety measures.
How Laminate Flooring is Installed
Before you begin to move furniture or make a trip to the hardware store, the first thing you’ll need to do is know how the laminate flooring was installed. If it’s older laminate, it could be glued down to the floor, but if you’re lucky it’s of the click-lock variety.
Click-lock flooring has a unique edge that allows boards to fit together and lock into place. These “floating” floors are not glued down which makes installation a breeze, and also makes removing flooring relatively simple. If the flooring is glued to the subfloor, you may have a major job on your hands.
To check and see what type of laminate flooring you have installed, you’ll need to remove a section of baseboard and along with any moulding that may be in place. You can then lift the edge of the exposed board to see if it’s glued or floating so you’ll know the proper steps to take for removal.
To remove the baseboard in a room, you’ll need a few hand tools. A claw hammer and pliers should be at the top of the shopping list, but a utility knife is not far behind. This allows you to remove any caulk or built-up paint that could damage the drywall when the baseboard is removed. You’ll also need a thin pry bar or a trim puller tool.
It’s important to note that corners are often glued together and can be challenging to remove. If you intend to reuse the baseboard and trim, you may not be able to save every piece but should attempt to remove everything carefully.
Any quarter round should be removed before the baseboard beforehand, and it’s a good idea to have a scrap piece of flat wood or trim handy. You can use this as a brace to prevent damage to the wall when prying, and pliers can quickly remove any leftover nails stuck in the wall.
- Remove any air registers or other objects along the base of the wall in the room that could hinder the removal of the baseboard. If there are transition strips, now is the time to carefully remove them as well.
- Take the utility knife and run it along the joint between the top of the moulding and wall to loosen any caulk or paint.
- Place the trim puller or pry bar between the wall and baseboard. Gently tap it with your hand before using the hammer on the bar. In many cases, the small trim nails will become loose quickly.
- Take your bar or puller and place it behind the trim when loosening baseboards around the room to prevent damage to the visible part of the wall. A flat drywall knife will also work for this purpose.
- Repeat the process around the perimeter of the room until all baseboards are removed and the edges of the end of the laminate flooring boards are easy to access.
Removing Floating Laminate Flooring
Homeowners that have floating floors in their home may not need any tools to remove the flooring. In most cases, you can remove the baseboard, and then have the entire floor up in less than 10 minutes depending on the size of the room.
To remove floating laminate flooring, go to the corner of the room and find the last board in the run. You should be able to lift and twist your wrists upwards to unlock the laminate from the next board. Each board can be removed the same way it’s locked into place. If you don’t damage the locking mechanism and the boards are in good shape, you can reuse this type of laminate flooring in another room or even on the wall.
Once the laminate has been completely removed, it’s time to deal with underlayment unless it was attached to the flooring. Some contractors have been known to staple it in place, but more often than not, it’s loose with seams that are carefully taped together. Remove the underlayment and dispose of it as you would with normal trash.
Removing Glue down laminate flooring
Homeowners with traditional or older laminate that has been glued in place will need to pick up a few additional tools. The ones used to remove baseboards are still essential, but you’ll need to pick up these items as well.
- Medium to Large Pry Bar
- Safety Glasses
- Heat Gun
- Shop Vacuum
- Floor Scraper
A heat gun can be useful to loosen old adhesive and it’s an inexpensive item that can be purchased from hobby shops and hardware stores alike. A sturdy floor scraper is essential along with a shop vacuum for debris. While we didn’t add it to the list, a sander may be needed in some circumstances which we’ll cover below.
- Put on your safety gloves and glasses to keep your fingers safe and chips from getting into your eyes.
- With the baseboard and moulding removed, go to the perimeter of the room and slide the pry bar beneath a piece of laminate flooring and lift.
- The board or several boards should come free with a bit of force. If they do not come loose, you can use the heat gun while applying pressure but be cautious not to damage the subfloor.
- Repeat this process until all the laminate flooring has been removed, and then assess the leftover adhesive on the subfloor.
- Use the floor scraper to remove any leftover residue on the subfloor that will make the new flooring uneven. If thick adhesive has been used on older laminate, it may need to be sanded down. This requires an orbital sander and a respirator or dust mask at a minimum to keep particles out of your lungs.
How to Dispose of Laminate Flooring
With laminate flooring that you have removed from your home, you have two options. You can either reuse it in another area or location or it will need to be thrown away. Unlike traditional waste, you can’t just throw flooring in a trash can, and reusing old laminate isn’t always as easy as it seems.
If you plan to reuse the old flooring, you’ll need to check the edges of each board to make sure the click-lock mechanism is intact. Many boards that have damaged ends can be cut and reused, but the locking system that runs along the edge of each board is the key to holding a floating floor together. You’ll need to check both edges to ensure there is no damage to the board.
Repurposing flooring is popular as getting rid of 100 to 400 or more square feet of old laminate flooring isn’t ideal for the average homeowner. Even professionals charge a disposal fee for laminate, and that’s because it usually needs to be hauled to a recycling center or dump. The best course of action is to call the waste management service in your area to see where old laminate flooring can be recycled.
Q: Can I reuse the underlayment from my old laminate flooring?
A: While it’s possible to do so with a high-quality underlayment, we highly recommend using new underlayment for any new flooring installation that requires it.
Q: Is it possible to remove laminate flooring without pulling off the baseboard and moulding?
A: You can mark and cut the baseboard at floor height with an oscillating tool with floating flooring, but removing the baseboard beforehand is by far the most common approach.
Q: Could old laminate be burned like yard waste during local burn days?
A: No. Even though laminate flooring is largely made from wood, it still contains chemicals, including the top coat, which should not be burned.
Q: How do you replace a damaged laminate board?
A: With a click-lock system, you can disassemble the floor to the damaged board but you’ll need to carefully cut and glue in a replacement for laminate that has been glued to the subfloor.