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Can Laminate Flooring Be Reused?


Invented in Sweden in the 1970s, laminate flooring has become one of the go-to options for homeowners who want a stylish and durable yet affordable floor covering.

Renowned for its superior durability versus natural wood, laminate flooring provides a high level of scratch, dent, and stain resistance.

The durability is so good that it isn’t uncommon for a laminate floor to last more than fifteen years, meaning there’s a good chance you’ll bore of the floor’s appearance long before it deteriorates.

Because of this, people often question whether or not a laminate floor can be reused, for example, lifting it from one room and installing it in another, and that’s what we’ll discuss in this article.

You can reuse a quality laminate floor fitted without glue. Unfortunately, glued laminate boards typically break during removal, preventing reuse. The tongue and groove joints of adhesive-free laminate floors can disconnect and reconnect easily, allowing you to reuse these unglued boards.

Read on to find out more about how to remove a laminate floor without breaking it, how to install it quickly and easily, and whether you can skip specific steps such as removing the skirting boards (or baseboards, as they’re often called) or replacing the underlay.

Can Laminate Flooring Be Lifted and Relaid?

It should be possible to lift and relay a modern laminate floor, as most newer types don’t require glue during fitment.

Unfortunately, the option to refit isn’t always available with older laminate floors, as these were often fitted with adhesive to keep the joints tight and prevent movement.

Where used, you can usually find glue on the tongue and groove (the profiles along the laminate edges that fit together) or between the male and female parts of a ‘click’ system found on some premium floor types. In some cases, you might also find glue between the laminate and the subfloor.

In most cases, the adhesive will be stronger than the laminate floor itself, meaning that it usually isn’t possible to remove a glued laminate floor without damaging either the face of the boards or the connection points.

So, while it’s entirely possible to remove a glued laminate floor, you shouldn’t count on being able to reuse it.

an image showing removed laminate flooring that has been damaged

©lukassek/123RF.COM

The ability to remove and relay a laminate floor also depends on the care taken during installation and how careful you are during disassembly.

Providing the connecting system, in other words, the tongue and groove or whatever ‘click’ joining system the laminate floor uses, is in good condition when lifted, it’s entirely possible to relay the floor without any visible signs of it having been removed and relaid.

Any damage to the joints, such as chipping or tearing, might result in gaps or joined pieces of laminate flooring not sitting flush, so take your time and don’t force these when trying to separate the laminate boards.

Finally, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that cheaper laminates may be more susceptible to damage during either removal or installation and so might be less suitable for removing and relaying.


Is It Hard to Remove Laminate Flooring?

Removing a laminate floor is a relatively straightforward task, and you don’t necessarily need to call in a professional floor fitter to do it for you.

Even if you lack DIY skills, it’s a simple enough process, provided you take your time and you’re careful.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that removing a glued laminate floor will be quite a bit harder. While we wouldn’t describe it as a particularly complex process, it will take a lot more time and effort than removing a non-glued floor.

We’d recommend having the same tools to hand for both a glued or non-glued floor, as it’s probably only the pressure applied using the tool that will change and not the overall technique. For non-glued floors, you’ll be using a lighter touch and gentle persuasion versus the more destructive approach that a glued floor likely warrants.

Here’s a list of the various tools and safety equipment you’ll need:

  • Claw hammer
  • Chisel
  • Pry bar
  • Floor scraper
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Safety boots

How Do You Remove Laminate Flooring Without Breaking It?

As mentioned, it isn’t particularly difficult to remove a laminate floor, and it is possible to lift it without any damage ahead of relaying it elsewhere.

Here’s how to do it step-by-step:

1
Take Measurements

how to remove laminate flooring without damage - image 1

The first step is optional and only applies if you plan to relay the laminate floor in another room. It involves measuring both the room you’re removing it from and the room you’re planning to install it in to ensure the latter is the same size or ideally smaller.

You can work this out on a square foot basis, and provided the measurement for the new room is the same or smaller, you should have enough material to complete the floor.

It’s worth having a bit of contingency to allow for any damaged boards, although taking your time and gently removing the pieces of the laminate floor should minimize any damage.

2
Organize Your Tools and Safety Equipment

removing laminate floor - tools image

From a claw hammer to a floor scraper, we’ve listed the various tools that you’ll need to remove a laminate floor in the section above, so go ahead and get these ready.

Also, as with any DIY tasks involving tools, safety should be your number one priority. You should kit yourself out with sturdy boots, gloves, and safety glasses at a minimum to reduce the risk of injury.

3
Ensure the Old Laminate Floor Is Not Glued

how to remove laminate flooring without damage - an image showing a laminate floor being checked for glued joints

The next step is to ensure that you’re working with an unglued laminate floor.

As mentioned above, you won’t be able to remove a glued laminate floor without damage, as in most cases, the adhesive is stronger than the floor panels themselves.

You can check to see what type of floor you’re working with beforehand by trying to separate some of the boards, for example, by gently pressing the sharp edge of a floor scraper against the joint to try and pry the boards apart.

We’d recommend working somewhere inconspicuous when trying to separate the boards, for example, in the corner of the room. It would also help if you tried this on a laminate board at the outer edge (in other words, against a wall) as these will only be gripped on one of the long sides, making them easier to pry apart.

4
Clear the Room of Furniture

how to remove laminate flooring without damage - an image showing furniture being removed from a room

Next, you’ll need to clear the room of any furniture or other items that will get in the way.

It might be tempting to push everything to one side of the room and remove the laminate floor in sections, but provided the items in question aren’t overly heavy or won’t fit through the door, it’ll be easier to empty the room first.

5
Remove Skirting Boards and Transition Strips

can laminate flooring be reused - removing skirting board image

It is possible to replace a laminate floor without removing skirting boards (i.e. baseboards), although it wouldn’t be our preferred approach.

The skirting boards can get in the way when left in place, especially when the laminate floor extends under them, and so we usually recommend spending some time removing them.

In most cases, a pry bar should be sufficient to remove the skirting board, although work slowly and carefully along the length of the board to minimize the risk of damage to it or the wall.

You may also need to remove any transition strips installed at the doors between the laminate floor and the flooring type in any adjacent rooms. Depending on their fixing, you can either unscrew these or gently lift them using a pry bar.

6
Lift the Laminate Floor

an image showing laminate flooring being lifted without damage

The next step is to start removing the laminate boards.

We’d recommend starting at the outer edge with a board located next to the wall, and ideally, with one that has the tongue side facing the wall. We’ve tried starting from both the tongue-side and groove-side, and the former is the easiest option.

You’ll need to lift the unconnected side of the board (the side closest to the wall), and you can do this by using your fingers if the gap is big enough or by inserting the pry bar.

Once angled upwards, move the sides of the board backwards and forwards to disengage the joint and stack the board somewhere out of the way.

Continue this process until you’ve removed all of the laminate boards.

7
Complete the Finishing Touches

how to remove laminate flooring without damage - an image showing a vacuum cleaner required for cleaning up after removing a laminate floor

The final step is to clean up the subfloor, which is an important step ahead of relaying your floor.

It’s worth checking the condition of the underlay, as you might need to replace it if it’s past its best, and you’ll more than likely need to use a vacuum to remove any dust or debris dropped while removing the old laminate floor.

For glued floors, you might also need to use a floor scraper to remove any adhesive to ensure the subfloor is smooth and level.


How to Install Laminate Flooring

For step-by-step instructions on how to install a laminate floor, we’d recommend watching the following video which shows the entire process from start to finish:


Can You Replace Laminate Flooring Without Removing Skirting Boards?

It is possible to replace a laminate floor without removing skirting boards, although it wouldn’t be our preferred approach.

When left in place, the skirting boards can tend to get in the way. For example, some types of laminate floor that use a specific ‘click’ joint (as opposed to a tongue and groove connection) often require the board to be lifted and oriented in a certain way to release the joint.

In this case, you might find that you need to remove some, if not all, of the skirting board to assist with removing the floor, particularly for the boards located closest to the walls.

Something else to bear in mind is that you might need to remove the skirting boards to raise or lower them anyway, with this ultimately depending on the thickness of the floor you’re planning to install after.

For example, you might need to lower the skirting boards if the new floor is thinner to remove the visible gap if you’d prefer not to install additional trim pieces to hide these.

In other words, it isn’t just the ability to remove the laminate boards that dictate whether or not you need to remove the skirting; it’s also the potential aesthetics of the room after.

If you’re happy enough to live with these issues, you’ll be interested to hear that we have successfully replaced laminate flooring in the past without removing all of the skirting boards.

What makes this possible was the expansion gap left around the edge of the laminate floor, which ranges from 3/8″ to 1/2″ wide in most cases.

Without this gap, the floor would butt up directly against the wall leaving nowhere for the expansion in the laminate to go, likely causing damage and rising at the joints when expansion does occur.

With a standard tongue and groove laminate floor, you should be able to work from one of the corners, gently applying pressure to disconnect the board from the others to which it is attached.

Provided a sufficiently-sized expansion gap is present, there should be enough space to push the board back under the skirting before angling it upwards from the front or side to remove it.

Can You Reuse Laminate Flooring Underlay?

You can reuse old laminate flooring underlay, provided it’s still in good shape.

Where you decide to reuse underlay, you should ensure that there are no rips and that it’s capable of covering the entirety of where you’re installing your laminate floor without any gaps.

It also needs to be completely dry, and it should be capable of sitting flat without folding or doubling up, which could lead to crests and dips in the finished laminate floor, especially when using a thicker underlay.

In general, though, we’d strongly recommend replacing underlay that’s more than a few years old, regardless of condition.

can laminate flooring be reused article image - image showing laminate floor foam underlay

©luboivanko/123RF.COM

The underlay is arguably one of the most important parts of a laminate floor.

In addition to making the laminate floor feel softer underfoot, underlay also helps minimize the effects of deviations in the subfloor surface that could cause the laminate boards to fit or sit poorly.

It also helps improve acoustic performance in the room by reducing noise transfer.

Over time, the old underlay will compress under the weight of the floor, from people walking over it and from whatever furniture is in the room. By reusing the underlay in its compressed or squashed state, you minimize its performance with the above benefits.

It’ll be a lot more hassle to replace the underlay at a later date if there’s an issue, and at around $0.30 per square foot, it’s a relatively cheap thing to go ahead and replace before installing your laminate floor.

What Can I Do With Old Laminate Flooring?

According to the European Producers of Laminate Flooring (EPLF), laminate flooring is essentially wood and doesn’t require the special-grade waste treatment that many people claim.

Because of this, it is possible to recycle old laminate flooring.

The EPLF recommends that small amounts of laminate flooring, for example, the odd leftover board, be disposed of with your regular household recycling. However, we’d caution that you should check with your local authorities first if there’s a particular recycling or waste disposal regulation you need to abide by.

When it comes to disposing of an entire laminate floor that you’ve lifted and removed, the recommendation is to take the boards to a dedicated recycling facility where they can be broken down into wood chips to produce fuel or chipboard.

Aside from recycling, you could upcycle your old flooring to give it a new lease of life. For example, you could reuse laminate flooring scraps as shelving in a garage or shed or as panelling to form a feature wall.

Finally, in terms of what not to do, you should never attempt to burn or incinerate an old laminate floor, even though it does consist primarily of wood. Laminate floors contain various chemicals that, when burned, can be highly toxic and harmful to your health.


Can Laminate Flooring Be Reused – Final Remarks

It is possible to reuse a laminate floor installed without adhesive, and the most critical requirement for removing a laminate floor without damaging it is patience.

Unfortunately, glued laminate floors typically cannot be reused, as it’s unlikely that you’d be able to remove the floor without damaging it.

Removing a laminate floor is a relatively simple process, and you can do it with basic tools such as a claw hammer and pry bar, in addition to safety equipment such as gloves, safety boots, and googles as a minimum.

You don’t necessarily need to remove the skirting boards to install a laminate floor, although, in many cases, it will make the job easier, and it’s our preferred approach to do so.

Ahead of installing a new floor, we’d recommend replacing underlay if it’s over a few years old or showing signs of wear and tear to ensure it performs as expected after installing the new floor.

Finally, laminate flooring is recyclable, meaning that you can recycle any leftover laminate boards, or you could upcycle them by turning them into shelves or decorative panelling for around the home.


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