The Best Way to Cut Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is generally made of thin planks of particle board topped with wood veneer or plastic. It's much easier to lay than wood flooring (most laminate systems don't even have to be nailed down), but cutting them is another matter.
Laminate flooring is generally made of thin planks of particle board topped with wood veneer or plastic. It's much easier to lay than wood flooring (most laminate systems don't even have to be nailed down), but cutting them is another matter. Laminate is notorious for its frailty and tendency to chip during the cuts that you have to make to install it. There are a few tricks you can use to minimize the problem. In all cases, wear protective eye goggles when cutting the laminate.
For most of your cuts on the floor, you'll use a miter saw set at 90 degrees, to cut the ends of the laminate boards at a right angle. The piece sits on the saw platform, and you just lower the saw blade down through it. Use a fine-tooth carbide-tipped blade. Install the blade backward -- that is, with the tips of the blade pointing up rather than down as they come down into the piece. This will make each cut go a little slower, but it will also prevent chipping.
You may have to rip-cut a course of flooring at the end of your project to fit against the wall, meaning you'll be trimming a little bit off the entire length of the boards. The trick with laminate boards is to prevent them from lifting as you feed them through your table saw, since they're not as thick and rigid as wood. To hold the laminate in place, press the narrow edge of a one-by-four board along the length of the laminate plank as you feed it in, keeping the one-by-four just to the inside of the blade. Make sure your hands are not directly above the blade at any time.
For detail-cuts or notch-cuts around doorways and other obstructions, you'll have to use a hand-held jig saw, which creates the biggest danger of chipping the laminate. Pick a fine-toothed blade. Clamp the laminate board firmly on a workbench. Mark your lines on the piece, then lay masking tape directly over the lines. Re-draw the lines over the masking tape. Make the cut, moving the jig saw slowly, letting the blade do the work. The tape will hold the laminate surface in place and help prevent chipping.