As we mention in our guide on how to install laminate flooring, although installing laminate flooring is an achievable option for the handy homeowner, the trimming and cutting of the laminate planks does require some skill and practice.
So in this Home Flooring Pros guide we outline the tools you’ll need along with step by step instructions on how to cut laminate flooring like a pro. We include tips and tricks, do’s and don’ts and links to further videos and resources. This article will also help you decide if it’s even worth your while cutting laminate flooring yourself, sometimes hiring a professional can be cheaper in the long run than doing the work yourself.
Tools Used for Cutting Laminate Flooring
The tools you use will either assist you in producing quality laminate installation more easily or they’ll be part of the reason you work harder only to get inferior results. Here’s an annotated list of the tools you’ll need if you want to end up with a laminate floor you can be proud to say you installed.
Tape measure: You’ll do a lot of measuring, so find a tape measure that pulls out and returns smoothly without jamming.
Marking pencil or pen: The finer the point, the more accurate the cuts.
Laminate floor cutter: This is one of the tools every professional uses to cut laminate floor boards to length and is the key to how to cut a laminate floor. Rather than sawing the laminate, the cutter chops it using a tough blade and a long handle used to exert downward force. There’s no sawdust and no noise! Once you have one, your DIY buddies will be asking to borrow it – they’re that handy.
Cutters start at about $70 for the cheapest models. If you have one bedroom or a kitchen to do, a base model might get you through the job before the handle snaps or the blade bracket comes apart. You get what you pay for with laminate cutters, and you should consider purchasing at least an intermediate-grade tool in the $175-$250 range. Professional models cost $500+.
Two laminate cutters for DIY work with a good combination of reasonable cost and good durability are the:
- Bullet Tools 9” EZ Shear Sharpshooter Siding and Laminate Flooring Cutter: $250
- Roberts 13” Pro Laminate, Engineered Wood and Vinyl Flooring Cutter: $179
Blades on quality cutters stay sharp through hundreds of cuts. Replacement blades run $25 to $40. Tip: Make sure you get a cutter that can handle the width of flooring you’ll be installing.
Note on rental: Your local home improvement store or rental center might have a laminate flooring cutter. Rental prices range from $15 to $25 per day, so this might be an affordable option.
Jigsaw: This is an essential tool for cutting laminate flooring and is used to make odd-shaped cuts to fit around poles, pipes and other obstacles. It can be used for cutting boards to width, and if you don’t buy a laminate floor cutter, the jigsaw works for cutting boards to length, too. Plus, you’ll be using the saw a lot, and by day’s end, you’ll appreciate its lighter weight compared to a circular saw.
If you enjoy home projects, crafts and woodworking, you’ll use your jigsaw often. If so, it makes sense to spend a little more to get a quality tool. Top-rated jigsaws in a range of prices include:
- Porter-Cable PCE345 6-amp Orbital Jig Saw: $49
- Bosch JS365 120-Volt Top-Handle Jigsaw Kit: $99
- DeWalt Bare-Tool DC330B18-Volt Cordless Jig Saw: $129
Note on jigsaw blades: Jigsaw blades, specifically made for laminate, cut on the downward stroke, the opposite of standard blades. The advantage of this is that you can cut on the face side of the materials without chipping or marking it. A good pack of jigsaw blades like the Bosch Laminate Flooring Blades Assortment Pack of 3 costs $5-$8. Plan to go through several blades per job. It’s simply part of the expense.
Note on saws: You can use a circular saw, miter saw or table saw for the work, but you should buy a carbide-tipped blade. The dense resin binder and wood mix in laminate flooring will quickly dull standard blades. In addition, a dull blade might lead to the motor on the saw burning out as it struggles to get the blade through the wood.
Coping saw: Use a coping saw for delicate cuts that leave a thin piece of laminate around an obstacle. Install its blade so that that the teeth point toward the handle.
Profile gauge: Creating a pattern for oddly shaped cuts is made easy with a profile or contour gauge that will exactly replicate the shape of the cut you need.
Combination square: A T-square or try square is fine too, but the combo square has the benefit of allowing you to mark parallel lines very quickly when cutting boards to width.
So now you have your tools let’s take a look at exactly how you cut laminate flooring…
The Best Way to Cut Laminate Flooring – Step by Step
This quick guide covers all the laminate flooring cuts you’ll need to make. If it seems quite easy, be sure that it is with a little practice. You may make a false cut or two, but those pieces can be salvaged for later when a shorter piece is required.
Cutting laminate to length:
- Measure the length required using your tape measure
- Mark the board for the cut
- Use your square and pen or pencil to create a straight line across the face of the board
- Use your cutting tool to make the cut on the waste-side of the line, and use a damp cloth to remove any remaining ink
Cutting laminate to width:
Cutting to width is required for the last board to install before an obstacle such as a wall, cabinetry or fireplace. Keep in mind that laminate flooring requires an expansion space of about 1/4″ to keep the flooring from buckling when it swells slightly with warmth and humidity. The gap will be covered by the baseboard.
- Lay a full piece of laminate on top of the second-to-last piece, snug it against the wall, and measure the amount of overlap
- Cut a guide out of laminate scrap that is as wide as the overlap plus 1/4″ to mark how much of the laminate must be removed
- With the piece still against the wall, place the guide you’ve made on top of it, also against the wall
- Run the guide down the length of the board, holding your pen at the base of the outside of it to mark the last piece for cutting
- Cut the piece on the waste side of the line, and use a damp cloth to remove any remaining ink
Cutting laminate around pipes and other obstacles:
- For pipes, measure the length and width to the center of the pipe
- Make a mark on the laminate piece where the center of the piece would be
- Use a hole saw about 1/2″ in diameter larger than the pipe diameter to create an opening for the pipe
- Cut the laminate piece in half across its width through the center of the hole
- Fit the pieces around the pipe, and use glue suitable for laminate to attach the pieces together
- For cutting around odd-shaped obstacles, use the profile gauge to replicate the profile of the obstacle
- Lay the profile gauge onto the piece of laminate, and trace the profile onto it with your pen
- Use the jigsaw to cut out the profile, cutting on the waste side of the line
Best Practice – Do’s and Don’ts
These important steps can take the finished laminate floor from good to great as well as minimize potential future problems.
Buy 5% to 10% more material than required given the square footage to account for waste and mistakes and to have spare boards from the same lot of material for future repairs.
Bring your laminate flooring inside several days before the job starts, and open the boxes. Laminate expands and contracts, so it is important that the material have a chance to acclimate to the humidity level and temperature of the house. Failing to do this can be problematic. For example, if laminate flooring stored in a humid location is immediately installed in an air conditioned home or heated home with low humidity, it will begin to contract once installed, and pieces may pull apart. The reverse conditions in the warehouse and home might lead to expansion and buckling of the flooring.
Remember to include an expansion gap around the perimeter of the room. As noted, laminate flooring expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity. Therefore, there needs to be a 1/4″ gap on all sides to allow for this process.
Cut 1/4″ spacers out of scrap material, and set them along the wall every one to two feet. You can then snug up the first row of boards to the spacers. If you buy a laminate floor kit, rubber spacers will be included.
Don’t forget to remove the spacers once the floor is complete, so that the floor field has room to expand.
For the best-looking results, the first and last boards in the room should be the same width. To ensure this, measure the entire width of the room, and subtract 1/2″ for the sum of the two 1/4” spacers. Then, divide that width by the width of the board. Let’s say you come out with 20 pieces of laminate with 4 inches left over. Divide the 4 by 2, and make your first board 2 inches wide. This should mean your last board is also 2 inches wide. This produces a balanced look.
Don’t factor the tongue into your measurements since it will disappear into the groove of the previous piece. Start measuring from the top edge of the board.
For the first board in the room, cut off the tongue on both the long and short sides of the laminate plank that will be closest to the wall. Then, measure, mark and cut the first board using the technique just explained, so that the first and last boards are the same width.
For the remaining boards in the first row against the wall, cut off the tongue on the wall side (long side) only.
Don’t cut the groove off of the first boards. The groove is required to receive the tongue of the second row of boards.
Stagger the boards. Use a full piece to start the first row and a half piece to start the second row, but only if this will leave an end board of at least 8”.
Seams are where one board butts to another on the short end in a row. When staggering side-by-side rows, make sure that seams are at least 6” apart for aesthetic purposes.
Set your jigsaw to its highest speed, and go slowly for the most accurate laminate cuts.
If you do use a circular saw, make your cut line on the back of the laminate. If you use a table saw, make the line on the front of the piece. This will ensure that the blade teeth enter the face side first, and this reduces chipping on the face.
Tips and Tricks
These laminate floor cutting tips and tricks will improve your experience and the quality of the job you produce.
A 12’ tape measure in a small housing is sufficient for laminate floor installation. It is lighter than a 25’ measure, so it’s handier to use and less likely to scratch the flooring surface if it gets away from you.
You want to be able to remove marking lines easily, and non-permanent ink wipes off with a damp cloth if you get to it within a few minutes. Some use a wax pencil, but the wax dulls quickly and might get gummed up with sawdust.
If you rent a laminate floor cutter, ask about the age of the blade, and consider requesting that a new blade be installed before you rent it.
If you find it difficult to cut straight with a jigsaw, clamp a straight edge to the piece you’re cutting to use as a guide.
If you do use a circular saw or table saw, choose a blade with the most teeth available. More teeth mean a finer cut and less chipping.
Videos and Other Useful Resources
- This is a comprehensive tool guide for cutting laminate flooring – www.carpentry-tips-and-tricks.com
- This is a helpful video from Starrett on the proper use of a combination square, an essential tool for making accurate cuts. – www.youtube.com
- This video is a quick demonstration on the proper use of a profile gauge – www.youtube.com
- A professional installer provides a good overview of laminate flooring installation –laminatefloorblog.com
- These tips from a laminate flooring manufacturer discuss installation under various conditions such as over concrete and wooden subfloors – us.quick-step.com
- This video demonstrates how to mark, measure and cut laminate around a door frame – www.youtube.com
- Here’s a video guide to laminate floor installation from start to finish from Build Direct – www.youtube.com
Have we missed anything? Share your experience of cutting laminate flooring in our comments section below.