How to Cut Laminate Flooring

How to Cut Laminate Flooring

What many people don’t seem to realize is that cutting laminate flooring is generally the hardest part of the whole installation process. It’s simple enough, but there’s a number of blunders an amateur can make which can render a plank unfit to be used in your home and if you do it enough… well, you’re going to be spending some more money on materials.

Lucky for you, we’re here to show you how to do it right.

Victoria, Homethods Author
Victoria

1.) Selecting the Proper Tools

Step 1/4

One of the hardest parts of cutting the flooring is selecting the right tool for the job. While regular saw blades can be used, provided they run with at least 18 teeth per inch, you’re better off with a specialty blade. If you do use a standard blade, make sure it’s new and realize that it’ll probably only be good for one job.

Specialty blades for most saws are expensive. For the most part, the only people using them will be those who actually do flooring for a living. If you’re planning on doing the whole house, it’s worth the investment, but for a single room there are much cheaper options.

Surprisingly, laminate specialized jig saw blades are fairly cheap. These will allow you to make quick work of most of the cutting, and if you’re proficient with a jig saw you’ll be able to make any curves you might be planning on with a surprising amount of ease.

You can also use a hand saw and miter box. Don’t do it freehand, since you need the cuts to be perfectly straight. This will take a little bit more effort, but the tools can be found pretty much anywhere and the lower speed of the saw will keep the blade from gumming up for the most part.

One of the nice things about a miter box and hand saw is that despite the increased amount of manual effort you put out you can also use it to angle the baseboards once the job is done.

Some people also opt to use a manual laminate cutter. This isn’t necessarily the cheapest way to do it, but if you’re not that handy with saws they make the whole process amazingly simple. You just drop the guillotine-like blade, it hits the laminate with a lot of pressure, and now you have a cut board.

Regardless of the method that you choose to go with, you should be able to pull this off. Keep in mind that you’re only going to have to cut the end pieces of the flooring after all.

2.) Measure the First and Last Rows

Step 2/4

Before you get cutting, you’ll need to measure the distance of the first and last rows. Hopefully, you’ve already cleared the room and gotten it ready for the process. You’re not going to be cutting too many times after all, but it’s important that you have the cuts just right.

Run the laminate boards along the wall with the spacers on each side of the room. It’s ideal to have them run parallel with the length of the room in order to get the best aesthetic, but some people choose to run them the other way for various reasons.

Once you get to the last board, it’s unlikely to fit perfectly. Flip it over and mark where you’ll need to cut with a carpenter’s pencil. The easiest way to do this is to push the board against a spacer at the end of the wall and mark where it contacts the board before it in the row.

Use a carpenter’s square or at least a straight edge for your mark. Something which seems straight to the naked eye might not be at the end of the project. Remember: measure twice, cut once.

If you took our advice on purchasing for installation a couple of botched boards isn’t going to end the job, but a frustrated amateur can go through a surprising amount of flooring without changing their flawed methods.

Do the same on the other side of the room. You may wish to run things so that the short side is on the opposite side of the room from the first row, but it’s up to you. The corners of most rooms will be covered anyways, after all.

It can be tempting to extrapolate from the area of the room, which you should have calculated before ordering your flooring anyways, but trust us: actually lay the boards down. A ¼” discrepancy can make for a huge difference when you’re fitting things together.

3.) The Cutting

Step 3/4

Cutting the flooring is easy if you’re careful. Don’t just rip into it, you’ll need to keep some things in mind that you’d normally ignore if you were just cutting two by fours or something.

Laminate flooring, whether standard or engineered wood, is made with a plastic coating. Chipping this coating will result in both a sloppy look and compromise the durability of the floor.

Keep in mind the construction of the flooring while you’re getting the cutting done. Laminate flooring consists of multiple layers, but the only actually thick one is the fiberboard in the center. These layers are mostly paper thin, and cutting with a rough blade is going to have terribly saws.

Make sure your blade is at least 18 teeth per inch. No exceptions.

If you purchased some specialty jigsaw blades, you’re in luck and you’ll be able to cut from the top of the plank. This makes things a lot easier to see while you’re doing the job. They cut on the down stroke, which means any chipping or flaws will happen on the bottom of the board.

With a handsaw, you’re most likely going to have to cut along the edge, so make sure the miter box you purchase is high enough to do this. If it’s not, you should cut from the top. If it’s neither wide, nor tall enough, get a different one.

Don’t force anything, and pretty soon you’ll have the boards chopped the way you need them.

4.) Complex Shapes and Ripping

Step 4/4

If you’re a home handyman, you already know that nothing ever works out perfectly. Such is life. Thankfully, due to the internal fiberboard you can cut laminate flooring quite easily into more complex shapes to fit around pipes, corners, and all of that fun stuff.

Make a paper pattern to cut out with a jigsaw. Don’t just freehand this, your flooring is going to be in for a long time so make sure it’s right from the outset.

Afterwards, you’ll just do cut out the pattern with the jigsaw.

If its super detailed, you might need to use a coping saw in order to get the job done. This will take longer, but the lack of vibration and power means that there’s virtually no chance of it chipping the finish.

In some cases, you may also need to rip the last row. Ripping is a process where you cut parallel to the ends of the board. It’s tempting to just a table saw or circular saw in this case, but unless you have a specialized blade these high-powered tools risk damaging your boards.

Instead, tape a straight edge along the length of the board at the point where it needs to be cut. Run the jigsaw or handsaw along this edge and you’ll have a perfectly straight rip.

Of course, you don’t want to just use a schoolhouse ruler to do this, invest in a good T-square or, at the very least, a steel yardstick. Don’t go with untreated aluminum, as even a wood saw blade will soon make a mess of the edge of it.

Make sure you use the straightedge. It can be a harder process using a jig saw or hand saw instead of a table saw and it might take some time but you should only have to do it for one row.

You also want to make sure that you take the spacers into account when you cut it, ripping thinner portions after the fact is going to be much harder and sometimes it just can’t be done depending on how thin of a portion you need to remove.

Now all you need is to install the floor, and you can bask in the glory of a job well done.

Conclusion

Cutting laminate flooring can be a bit daunting at first, especially considering the expense of the material. Be careful, precise, and patient and you’ll be looking at a fantastic, well done job in no time at all however. The actual installation is a snap, and after that you’ll just need to keep the floor cleaned and maintained in order to continue enjoying its fresh look for a long time to come.

References 

  1. http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/interior-projects/how-to/a9384/8-tips-for-laying-a-plastic-laminate-floor-15903907/
  2. http://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-Common-Problems-when-Installing-Laminate-Flooring
  3. http://www.carpentry-tips-and-tricks.com/laminate-flooring-tools.html
  4. http://www.wikihow.com/Cut-Laminate-Flooring