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Kitchen Design/Remodeling/tile over laminate flooring??

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Diane,

I'm going to tile my 80 square foot kitchen floor, and did a little exploring today.  It seems there is ceramic tile installed on top of laminate flooring, with a plywood substrate.  I'd really rather not replace the plywood if I can help it. Should I try to remove the laminate flooring and the tile, or would removing just the tile be sufficient?  Is there an easy way to do either?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Debra

Answer
Hi, Debra.

Removing the tile and laminate is going to be a messy project! Until you do some exploratory de-construction, you won't know how the tile and laminate were installed. Of course, wear clothing that completely covers your arms and legs, heavy gloves, and protective goggles.

To tell how thick the existing tile and laminate are, measure the height of a base cabinet toekick. Normally, toekicks are about 4" tall. The difference between that and what you have will tell you approximately how thick your tile and laminate flooring is. This will be important when you are removing the laminate flooring (more on that in a little bit).

Laminate flooring is often referred to as a "floating floor," not attached to anything. If you're lucky, you have this type of laminate flooring. The easy way to tell is if there's a gap between the flooring and your base molding, covered by rounded molding called a base shoe. If you're dealing with flooring that was a D-I-Y project, you won't know if the laminate and tile were installed correctly. It's possible that whoever did the tile installation removed the base shoe molding. To discover this, it will be necessary to remove the tile.  Here's what I suggest that you do:

Apply masking tape to define the area you want to remove, and also apply a criss-cross asterisk (*) pattern on each tile, to prevent large shards from flying when you break the tile. Attach padding or a moving blanket to the wall or cabinet to protect it from damage. Carefully break some of the tile with a hammer (about 1 - 2 square feet) to see if it can be removed easily from the laminate flooring, near an edge.  Then use a small pry bar or the claw side of a hammer. Hopefully, you'll be able to remove the tile, so you can see the laminate flooring.

Before you remove any more tile, carefully measure the thickness of the tile. This should tell you how thick the laminate flooring is. If you can see a gap between the cabinet (or baseboard) and the flooring, it's very likely that you do have a floating floor, but there are no guarantees that it's a true floating floor until you put the edge of the pry bar or hammer claw under it to see if it lifts up. Hopefully, the laminate flooring wasn't glued to the substrate plywood.

After you know how the tile and laminate were installed, then you can plan to remove the rest of your flooring. It's going to be tedious, and challenging. I recommend that you remove as much of the tile as possible, to make it easier to remove the laminate flooring. After all (or most) of the tile is removed, the laminate floor can be scored and removed. A small circular saw with a guide to set how deep the cut is will be perfect for this. Remember, you measured your toekick with the tile and laminate, and you measured the thickness of the tile, so you can score the laminate without damaging the plywood substrate.

After you've scored an area about 2 - 3 square feet, pry up the laminate flooring with the pry bar or the claw of a hammer. Hopefully, the laminate flooring is a real floating floor, and the removal process will go smoothly, so you can install the flooring you really want. If the laminate was glued to the plywood, you will need to replace the plywood.

Debra, I don't envy you! If there's any way that you can afford to hire a professional to do this, I highly recommend it. Although you have a small kitchen floor, it's going to take you a couple of weeks to do this job, worst-case scenario. A professional could have the flooring removed and ready for new flooring in a couple of days. My husband and I have been D-I-Yers for over 35 years. From personal and professional experience, D-I-Y projects save money, but take a lot longer. One of my first interior design instructors said it best, "There are only two ways to pay for anything: You take it out of your wallet, or you take it out of your hide."

Wishing you the best of luck with your floor removal and replacement. Hopefully, both the tile and laminate will come up easily and quickly. Be careful, take your time, and keep thinking about how much you're going to love your new floor!

Regards,

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ
D. P. Design
"See the Possibilities. Create a Positive Difference."  

Kitchen Design/Remodeling

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Diane Plesset

Expertise

I will answer questions about kitchen design, remodeling: appliances, cabinets, countertops, lighting/switching, accessible kitchens, kitchens for multiple cooks, kitchen trends, flooring, windows and doors, ventilation, safety, function, and style.

Experience

25+ years as a kitchen designer; over 10 years as a Certified Master Kitchen-Bath Designer. Hundreds of projects completed, in all styles, all ranges of investment. Multiple design awards and published articles (see below). Public speaker and lecturer about home remodeling. Co-host of a local radio program for over three years, currently the host of "Today's Home" on Lifetime WebRadio every Sunday afternoon (website: http://www.todays-home.com)

Organizations
NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association); NAHB (National Association of Home Builders); PRO (Portland Remodelers' Organization); IDPC (Interior Design Protection Council)

Publications
"THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling" (book published in 2003), Gentry Magazine, Designers' Illustrated Magazine, Interior Coordinator Magazine (Japan); San Jose Mercury News, San Mateo Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Oregonian, Statesman Journal Newspapers.

Education/Credentials
Multiple degrees, including bathroom design, kitchen design, lighting design, and residential interior design. Classes and seminars attended frequently, to maintain current knowledge about products, trends, codes, and technology.

Awards and Honors
Multiple certifications: Certified Master Kitchen-Bath Designer (NKBA), Certified Interior Designer (NCIDQ, National Council of Interior Design Qualification), and Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (NAHB). Awards include: Henry Adams Designer of the Year, CoTY, Master Design, Chrysalis, Best of the Best, Excellence (Best home in its category), and NABE (Best how-to book, 2003).

Past/Present Clients
To see photos of completed projects, please visit my website: http://www.dp-design.com/portfolio

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