How to Remove Laminate Flooring

by Michael Franco
A roll of simulated wood vinyl tile is unrolled across a finished floor

Removing Laminate Flooring at a Glance

  • Tools & Materials: Pry bar, utility knife, drywall knife, pliers, orbital sander, floor scraper, dumpster, work gloves, goggles
  • Step 1: Clear furniture and rugs
  • Step 2: Remove baseboards
  • Step 3: Remove floor divider strips
  • Step 4: Pry up planks
  • Glued floor: Scrape away glue residue
  • Floating floor: Preserve planks and remove padding

Time for a new floor? If you have laminate flooring, you can remove it yourself. You don’t need any special tools, and depending on the size of the space, you can tackle this job in an afternoon. If you plan to have new flooring installed, removing the old laminate flooring yourself (versus having a professional remove it for you) will save you money on the whole process.

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The instructions for removal are slightly different depending on if you have glued or floating laminate floors. No matter the type you have, though, here are some tips for preparation, removal and what to do at the end of the job. Out with the old and in with the new!

Is Your Laminate Flooring Glued or Floating?

If your flooring is older, you most likely have glued laminate. Newer floors are more likely to be floating. As you may have guessed, with a glued laminate floor, the planks are stuck to the subfloor (and often each other) with glue. Glued laminate flooring cannot be reused, so it’s a bit easier to get rid of; no need to be careful with the planks.

With floating laminate flooring, on the other hand, the laminate planks aren’t attached to the subfloor. Instead, the flooring “floats” on top of a foam cushion. The planks are held together using a tongue-and-groove format. Adhesive isn’t used. Instead, a sealing product holds the planks together. The edges of the planks are coated with the sealant and then snapped together. This type of flooring is also sometimes called "snap-together" laminate. The planks from floating laminate floors can be reused, so you will want to remove them carefully.

What Tools Do You Need to Remove Laminate Flooring?

If you have floating laminate flooring, you’ll need a pry bar (ideally one with a straight edge on one end and a claw on the other end), utility knife, drywall knife and pliers. For glued laminate flooring, you’ll also need an orbital sander and floor scraper. For both types of flooring, protective equipment like goggles and heavy work gloves is recommended.

Also, consider how much flooring you have and where you will dispose of it. If you have a large room, you may want to rent a dumpster. If you plan on hauling it to a dump, make sure the facility will accept the flooring. If you’ve got a lot of flooring to remove and dispose of, calling on a couple of friends may help the job go faster.

Getting Started

First, empty the room of all rugs and furniture. Then, you will need to remove the baseboards and divider strips.

Removing Baseboards

Slide your utility knife along the tops of the baseboards to loosen them from the wall. Next, take your drywall knife and slide it between the baseboard and the wall. Using this as a wall protector, use your pry bar to remove the baseboard. Do this job carefully, as you will likely want to reattach the baseboards when your new flooring is in.

To make it easier, mark the baseboard piece and its corresponding spot on the wall with a letter or number to make putting them back in quick and easy. Nails will be left behind in either the wall or the baseboard; carefully remove these and throw them away.

Removing Divider Strips

You may have divider strips on your floor. These might be in a doorway or where the carpet meets your laminate floor. If you have any of these strips, you can remove them using the same method as for the baseboards. Again, hang onto these, as you can use them again.

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Removing Glued Laminate Flooring

With the baseboards and the doorway strips gone, there should be some gaps in your flooring. Slide the claw end of your pry bar into the gap between the wall and the first row of planks. Pry up the first one about 45 degrees. Because it is glued, you will need to grab the plank with your hands and snap it back until the glued seam breaks. This may require a bit of muscle. Remember that glued laminate flooring can’t be reused, so it doesn’t matter how tough you have to get. Continue doing this until the first row is removed. Now the job gets easier as you can simply slide your pry bar underneath the plank and lift it up, continuing until the planks are all removed.

Once the planks are gone, you’ll see glue residue on your subfloor. This needs to be removed with either the floor scraper or the orbital sander. If you have a heat gun, you can slowly heat the glue to soften it before scraping.

Removing Floating Laminate Flooring

The first step for removing floating laminate flooring is the same for removing glued flooring. You will want to be careful and perhaps move a bit slower in order to preserve the planks for future use. They might work well in a smaller room, a corner of the basement or attic, workroom or shed. Next, proceed along the same lines as above, removing row by row. Once the planks are gone, you will see foam padding. This needs to be removed as well. If the padding appears to be in good shape, you can probably use it again under your new floor.

Give your newly bare floor a good vacuum to get rid of any nails or bits of plank left behind. Store your baseboards and divider strips someplace safe until the time comes to replace them.