how to remove laminate flooring without removing skirting boards

How to Remove Laminate Flooring Without Removing Skirting Boards (DIY Guide)

Lifting laminate flooring is easier if you remove the skirting boards, but sometimes that’s not an option. I found this out to my cost when renovating a Victorian house. The skirting was old, rare, and nailed every six inches! 

Instead of trashing the skirting, I opted to take a different route to remove the laminate flooring. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to remove laminate flooring without removing skirting boards. 


Tools and Materials

Before starting any DIY task, you must gather the right tools and materials. Luckily, the tools you’ll need for this project are pretty basic. 


Tools

  • Multi-tool
  • Long-nose pliers
  • Circular saw
  • Pry bar
  • Lump hammer
  • Chisel
  • Vacuum Cleaner

Materials

  • Masking tape

Safety Gear

  • Face mask 
  • Safety gloves
  • Goggles

How to Remove Laminate Flooring Without Removing Skirting Boards – Step-by-Step Instructions

There are several ways to lift laminate flooring without damaging the skirting boards. Some use power tools, while others require more elbow grease. 


Using a Multi-Tool

Multi-tools are versatile because they can sand, grind, polish, and cut. This Dewalt Oscillating Multi-Tool is a great example of what’s available because it comes with all the accessories you’ll need. 

However, multi-tools are not the fastest option for removing laminate flooring, so you’ll need patience. On the plus side, multi-tools are great for cutting straight lines, and you can get much closer to the skirting than using a circular saw. 

Attach the cutting blade and hold the multi-tool at a 45-degree angle. Cut the laminate boards about half an inch from the base of the skirting, working from one end of the room to the other. 

When you reach the end of the first wall, continue along the next section so that the cut lines up. When you’ve completed the entire room, the laminate should be ready to lift out using a pry bar. 

Once you get the flooring up, you’ll still need to remove the edge of the laminate left under the skirting. Use the long-nose pliers to pull it free. If you need more impact, use the hammer and chisel to knock the laminate free. 

Finally, attach the hose to your vacuum cleaner and suck up the dust and debris. 

Don your safety gear before starting your project. Cutting laminate creates particles that are harmful to the eyes and lungs if exposed.


Circular Saw

If you need speed, a circular saw will do the job in double-quick time. However, using a circular saw means you won’t get as close to the skirting. While this isn’t critical, it does mean more work removing the leftover pieces later.

Using a circular saw also makes it challenging to join the cuts. To make life easier, try cutting across the corners at a 45-degree angle to join up the cut line. 

Most laminate measures 6mm to 12mm in thickness, so you’ll need to set the saw so that it cuts to that depth or you risk slicing through the joists. 

You can lift the laminate with the pry bar when you’ve worked around the room. For the bits left over, use the same techniques as above. Finally, vacuum up the dust and debris with the hose attachment on the vacuum cleaner. 

Pro Tip: If you want to lay down fresh laminate, check out our Best Thermal Underlay for Laminate guide.

Not everyone has the skills, tools, or inclination to remove laminate flooring. If you’re looking for somebody to do this job for you, use Rated People to find top-rated professionals in your local area.


Using a Pry Bar

While multi-tools and circular saws are more efficient at lifting laminate flooring, you’ll need a pry bar if you’re working without power. Note: If you try to remove the laminate around the edges nearest the skirting boards, you risk damaging them when the flooring lifts. 

Either start on the second row from the edge or in the middle of the room. Use the pry bar to wedge between the planks and then push down. The downward pressure causes the flooring to break apart. 

Okay, this is not the neatest way to lift laminate, but it helps relieve your anger issues while working. As you get nearer to the skirting board, switch to a less damaging method to remove the last remnants of laminate.

Long-nosed pliers could be the answer here. Grip the edge of the laminate plank and pull it out from under the skirting board. 

Pro Tip: A hammer and chisel could be the best technique if long-nosed pliers work. 


Lump Hammer and Chisel

Lump hammers have the clout to drive a chisel into the laminate. They weigh between two and four pounds, compared to claw hammers that weigh 16 to 20 ounces. 

A hammer and chisel will cause maximum damage to the skirting, so start on the second row from the edge closest to the wall. Hold the chisel against the seam between the laminate boards at a 45-degree angle and give it a whack with the lump hammer. 

As the chisel drives under the plank, it lifts and breaks the seal with the adjoining board. Repeat this process, working towards the edges of the room. Use the pliers for the laminate wedged under the skirting. 

If you accidentally damage the paintwork on your skirting board, check out our Best Paint for Skirting Boards guide. It could be a lifesaver!

Pro Tip: Cover the bottom two inches with masking tape to protect the skirting from damage. The tape will take most of the impact if you slip and hit the woodwork. 


Why Not Remove the Skirting Boards if it’s Easier?

Most skirting is cheap and readily available from DIY stores, but it’s harder to replace in older homes. Therefore, removing the skirting is often more manageable if you live in a modern home. 

I said at the top of this piece that I learned these techniques while renovating a Victorian house. The skirting was unique and over 120 years old! 

It was almost impossible to get it out without breaking it because it was nailed every six inches. While I could have ripped it out and opted for modern alternatives, it removes the character from the house. 

I could have commissioned a timber yard to cut me new skirting boards replicating the design, but that would have been expensive. It would also have removed the character because even though it matches, it’s another non-original element. 

I call it the “Trigger’s Broom” theory. In one hilarious “Only Fools” episode, Trigger claims his old broom has had several heads and handles. He’s asked, “How can it be the same broom then?” 

And that’s the point. If you rip out the original features and replace them with replicas, how can they be the same original Victorian features?

So, keeping the skirting boards in place was my best option when faced with solving this problem. 


Final Thoughts

If you’re into renovations, you’ll have respect for ornate skirting boards, and ripping them out is like tearing off an arm. So, removing the laminate with the skirting in situ is your only option. 

Pro Tip: If you want to replace your old laminate with carpet, check out our guide to carpet fitting costs


FAQs – How to Remove Laminate Flooring Without Removing Skirting Boards

Can you replace laminate flooring without removing skirting boards?

Yes, you can replace laminate flooring with the skirting in place. A gap should be under your skirting, which your laminate can slide under to create a neat edge.

How do you remove laminate flooring without removing baseboards?

You either use a circular saw, multi-tool or take the manual approach with a pry bar or chisel. However, it’s faster with power tools and creates less mess.

Can you install laminate flooring without removing baseboards?

Under the baseboard is a small gap. You can slide the laminate under that gap as long as it fits. 

You can also lay the laminate against the skirting boards and use spacers to leave an expansion gap, allowing the laminate to expand or retract in changing temperatures. 

You can disguise this gap using a thin piece of beading, typically glued in place.

How do you install laminate flooring under existing skirting?

Most laminate measures between 6mm and 12mm thick, so as long as the laminate fits, it will slide underneath.