How to remove old laminate flooring

How To Remove Old Laminate Flooring (Without Damaging It)

If you plan to change your laminate flooring, there comes a point where it will need to be removed. But why would you want to do this yourself?

Well, floor fitters can charge an extra £30-50 for furniture removal from a room and anywhere between £50-100 for an ‘up and away’ service (i.e. removing the old laminate). So, if you’re willing to put in some effort, you’ll save yourself some money.

Sound good? This guide will show you how to remove laminate flooring, including the necessary prep, the tools required and the exact steps to follow.

How laminate flooring works

Laminate flooring consists of interlocking boards designed for easy installation and removal. Unlike traditional hardwood, laminate does not require nails or glue for installation, making it a ‘floating floor’ that rests above the subfloor.

Most modern laminate is designed for reuse if removed carefully, maintaining the integrity of the locking mechanisms. However, older laminate floors might be fixed with glue, making removal slightly more difficult and rendering them unsuitable for reuse.

Reusing laminate flooring

If you’re careful during the removal process, you can reuse your laminate in another room. The only thing you need to consider is whether you will have enough flooring to do so.

Measure the room you intend to install it in to ensure you have enough planks to cover the entire area as finding an exact match years down the line is always difficult. Even if you do, there are bound to be obvious differences in colour and wear between the new and old boards, which will stick out like a sore thumb.

Removing glued laminate flooring

These days, nearly all laminate flooring is installed as a floating floor. But in older properties, you may come across glued laminate. This means the boards themselves may be glued together, or the flooring may be stuck to the subfloor.

In this scenario, a heat gun can be used to soften the glue, while a floor scraper will help remove adhesive from the subfloor. Glued flooring can’t be reused, and you don’t need to worry about damaging it during removal – so put your back into it.

Preparation is key

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Before you start swinging tools around, consider whether you intend to reuse the laminate (it’s possible) or how you’ll get rid of it.

Once that’s decided, remove all furniture and personal items from the room so you have a clear workspace. Not only is this safer and helps avoid any hazards while working, but it will make removing the laminate much easier.

The tools you’ll need

  • Safety goggles
  • Protective gloves
  • Claw hammer
  • Chisel
  • Crowbar or flat bar
  • Thin block of wood
  • Screwdriver (optional)

6 steps to remove laminate like a pro

Step 1: Remove the skirting boards or trim

Your laminate will either be installed underneath your skirting boards or have quadrant beading covering the gap where the laminate and skirting meet (you may even find both).

Whichever applies, they need to be removed so you can access the edge of your laminate boards.

How to remove skirting boards:

  1. Take a utility knife and run it along the edges of the skirting board to break any paint or caulk bond at the top of the board. This is important as it helps prevent damage to the wall plaster.
  2. Use your hammer to lightly tap on the top of your chisel so it wedges between the top of the skirting board and the wall. Starting in the corner of the room can help as the fix is usually weaker.
  3. Lever the chisel to gently prise it away from the wall. Try to avoid any unnecessary damage to the skirting or plasterboard.
  4. Repeat this process at 6-10 inch intervals along the length of the skirting board until it is slightly loosened from the wall at the top.
  5. If the above isn’t enough remove the skirting on its own, push your crowbar or flat bar into the gap that’s been created and use a bit more force to prise the skirting from the wall. Place your block of wood behind the crowbar to distribute the pressure and prevent damage to the wall behind it.
  6. Carefully pick out any nails left in the wall or the back of the skirting with your hammer claw. Any screws should be unscrewed to remove.
  7. If you intend to reuse the skirting, label the position of each board on the back so it can be reinstalled with your new flooring.

How to remove quadrant beading:

  1. Carefully score the seam between the skirting board and quadrant bead using a utility knife to break any paint or caulk bond.
  2. Starting in the corner of the room, slide your flat bar into the joint and gently pry outward.
  3. Once you’ve identified where the first nail is, move the flat bar directly behind it and pry outward until the nail exits the skirting.
  4. Continue at each nail point until the beading is fully detached.
  5. Remove any protruding nails from the quadrant and dispose.

Step 2: Remove transition strips

Next, remove any transition strips. These are the plastic or metal pieces that cover the door thresholds between rooms.

They won’t be reused, so lift them with a crowbar or unscrew them as required.

Step 3: Lift the laminate boards

Starting at the edge of the room, use the ‘J’ end of your flat bar to pry up the first board.

The tool should be inserted into the gap between the first row of boards and the wall or the access space created by removing the transition strip. Lever the board about 45 degrees and gently jiggle it back and forth until it separates from the interlocking board.

If you’re dealing with laminate which has been glued together or down to the subfloor, use your heat gun to soften the glue, or simply use a bit more force with your crowbar.

Want to reuse?

If you want to reinstall your laminate, only use your flat bar/crowbar to get the first board up. A flat bar can leave noticeable marks on the planks or cause damage to the locking mechanism, meaning they won’t fit back together.

Step 4: Remove the remaining planks

Once the first row is complete, subsequent boards should be easier to remove. It gets easier and easier as you go along, particularly when you begin to understand where and how the board bends to unlock.

Maintain a steady pace and don’t rush if you plan on reusing the laminate. If you’re too heavy-handed you’ll damage the locking mechanism.

Step 5: Remove the underlay

Once the laminate is removed, any underlay will be exposed. We would always recommend removing it and installing new to ensure the longevity of your flooring and a perfect finish.

Simply roll the underlay up and remove it. If required, you can cut it into more manageable pieces using a utility knife.

Depending on how the underlay has been fitted, you may find it has been stapled to the subfloor. If so, remove any remaining staples with a pair of pliers.

Step 6: Tidy up

The final step involves cleaning the exposed subfloor. Use a broom and dustpan to remove any loose debris, a vacuum to hoover up all dust and dirt, and a floor scraper to remove any adhesive that may have been used previously.

This ensures a clean, flat surface for the installation of new flooring.

Disposing of old laminate flooring

Once you’ve removed the laminate and underlay, you’re ready to dispose of everything. You’ve got several options here depending on the volume you’re getting rid of:

  • Rent a skip: if you’re getting rid of a lot of flooring or undergoing a larger renovation, hiring a skip could be easier and more cost-effective.
  • Local tip: check with your local tip to see if they will take laminate and underlay. Most council waste management facilities will let you dispose of it for free.
  • Recycle: laminate and underlay recycling programs are available in certain areas. Search online and you’ll find specialist companies operating in this space now.

Can you recycle laminate flooring?

While most laminate can be recycled, this is not universally applicable. You should consult with your local waste management facility or the original manufacturer for specific guidance.

Can you burn laminate flooring?

Although many people choose to burn old wood when renovating, laminate flooring must be disposed of differently. While laminate features an MDF core, it also contains many plastics, which will release toxins when burnt. This is bad for your health and the environment.

Bye-bye, laminate

Removing laminate flooring yourself not only saves money on fitting but will give you a sense of accomplishment. As you can see above, with the right tools and a bit of elbow grease, you can quickly and easily prepare your home for its brand-new look.