4.) Starting the Separation
Now for the actual work. The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out how the boards are locked together. Figure out which way the tongues are facing and which way the slots are going. You’ll be breaking up the floor from the tongue side.
Most people will recommend a chisel. This is fine once you get things out from the wall a bit, but when you’re first starting to make the pull it can be extremely tedious. It’s also quite damaging if you’re working over a laminate subflooring.
A pry bar also makes a passable tool for getting things done here, but once again the length and angle can make it hard to get into the side of the wall. It’s certainly a better option for getting started than using a chisel, however.
A pull bar designed for floors works well too, and you’ll be able to reuse it if you’re installing a similar floor. The small head will allow you to get down and the ninety degree angle on the end makes it ridiculously easy to get under the flooring.
Whatever tool you decide to go with, drive it under the flooring at the corners and then pull upwards. With a pry bar or pull bar you can make a rocking motion that will help to separate things more easily, just don’t get too overzealous. A board split down the middle can be a pain to remove.
If you’re not particularly concerned about keeping the boards and this proves to be too difficult, you can use a chisel and a mallet one board back from the wall. Break the board between the gaps and you’ll have two options.
On a concrete subfloor, you should be able to get a pry bar or a chisel underneath the board next to the wall fairly easily. Tap with the mallet if you need to, but be careful not to just slam it since you don’t want to crack your foundation. Then just pry upwards, pushing the board towards the wall.
On a wooden floor, things can be a little bit more chancy. Switch to a pry or pull bar as soon as you’ve cracked the gap and be careful not to drive the chisel too deep. Hit along the edge until you have broken a seam roughly 4”-6” for the best results. It’ll give you more wiggle room.
Use the chisel’s tip to carefully bring the board up a bit then slide the other tool in and break as normal. This works best if your pry bar has a rounded edge, since it has less of a chance of damaging the flooring underneath.
In either case, breaking out the first board is the hardest part of the whole process. Once you’ve done that, it’s smooth sailing for the rest of the job except for the effort required.