I remember when laminate flooring was introduced to the United States and attending several manufacturer training/certifications and going through the hands-on process of board replacement. When laminate flooring was introduced in the United States in the nineties, there were not the number of glueless joint systems you see today. It has been a challenge when doing board replacements and maintaining a strong joint. Those of you who have done board replacements have probably experienced this. The fact that there is not much of a joint to glue to and hoping that the phone books or whatever weight you can find and leave for 24 hours is not always the most comforting feeling for the installer. Especially, when they tell the customer to remove the weight after 24 hours and hope that the board edges are all flat. That and the temporary joint swelling that generally occurs when using adhesive to bond the joints can create headaches for installers and retailers. Some installers have gone to using a 5-minute epoxy to alleviate the potential problems of using the “weight” and pray method. The 5-minute epoxy allows the installer to maintain weight on the board for the 5 minutes it takes for the epoxy to set up and does not cause edge swell as it contains no water. Be careful when using epoxy that you do not get build up of adhesive that will cause ledging of the board; also make sure to clean up immediately if epoxy gets on the surface of the board; once the epoxy is set it is permanent. Up until the introduction of a radio wave tool, our company used the 5-minute epoxy method; now we use the radio wave tool technology extensively for board replacements for floating floors as well as nail down or glue down floors. We have gone from 24 hours to 5 minutes to the present, where it takes seconds to adhere a board and it creates a much stronger joint with elastomeric properties.
The biggest difference between the glue type joints and the glueless joints is the use of a router. Glue joints require the use of a router around the entire plank with a manufacturer’s specific router bit to remove the existing adhesive and glued joint. This creates a groove joint that receives a spline that is glued into the groove on one side and one length. This article will cover board replacement of the glueless joint, as these types of joints are more prevalent nowadays.
Board replacement is considered the last solution; if the installer can use color pens, wood/laminate filler or hot wax to make any corrections, that is the best approach. If board replacement is necessary, there are a couple of ways to approach the replacement. If the board that requires replacement is fairly close to a wall, the installer may be able to “unclick” the flooring, replace the bad board and “re-click” the flooring. What if the board that needs to be replaced is out in the center of the room? It will be much easier at this point to just do a board replacement rather than “unclick” and “re-click” the floor back together. Cutting out the existing board is basically the same for floating laminate and hardwood.
Tools that you will need for board replacements:
• A pad to place your tools on while you work so you don’t end up scratching and then replacing more planks than you had planned on (Photo 1)
• Sharp chisels
• Center punch (regular and self centering)
• Utility knife
• Pry bar
• 18 inch x 4’ section of 0.028”-0.032” thickness countertop laminate
• Laminate snips
• Drill with 3/16” drill bit
• Circular saw
• Table saw
• Blue tape
• Felt marker
• 5-minute Epoxy
• Paint thinner (for immediate clean up of epoxy on surface)
• Kool Glide hard surface tool
• Utility tape, double stick tape, carpet tape (Seam Master Ind., Only tape that will work with Kool Glide tool)
• Carpenters square
• Channel lock pliers
• Suction cup ( to assist in lifting out board after dry fit)
• Floating flooring
First, make sure that the board you are going to use for replacement will fit the area to be repaired. This article covers boards that are the same dimensions. It may be necessary to cut boards to length at times, this requires more time, tools, and is another article.
Place blue tape at the corners of the board to be replaced; this gives you a visual aid so that you avoid damage to the surrounding boards (Photo 2). You can also place tape along the length of the board. Using a felt tip marker and a carpenters square, draw lines from the corners at a 45-degree angle towards the center of the board; do this at both ends of the board. Next, draw lines along the length of the board approximately 1/2” to 1 1/2” (depending on manufacturer) in from the edge of the board (Photo 3). I make two marks toward the center of the board at a diagonal for ease of removal; this is not necessary but I have found that it makes it easier for some of those boards that are more difficult to remove (Photo 4). Corners now have to be addressed. Using a circular saw right to the corner will have the potential of cutting into the adjacent board; to avoid this, it will be necessary to either drill or punch out the corner. A drill with a sharp 3/16” drill bit or center punch is used to create a space where the circular saw can cut to without cutting into the adjacent board. If using a drill, a self-centering punch is a handy tool to use as it is spring loaded and makes an indentation into the board (Photo 5). Place the drill bit in the center of the punch set making sure that the edges of the drill bit do not touch the edges of adjacent boards when drilling through the board. If the drill bit is not sharp and you do not use a punch, you may find that the drill bit will spin across the surface of the board and possibly cause damage to adjacent boards. You can also use a regular center punch. It is not necessary to use a drill when using just the center punch. Position the center punch so that it will not touch any adjacent boards, use a hammer and drive the center punch through the board (Photos 6 and 7).
To prepare to cut the damaged board, adjust the circular saw blade to the depth of the board; keep safety in mind and make sure to remove the battery if using a cordless saw and unplug if using a corded saw (Photo 8).
Start by cutting the diagonal cuts along the marked lines into the corners, making sure to stop short of the corner at the hole that was drilled or punched (Photo 9).
Use the vacuum to maintain a clean work area; many floors have ceramic or aluminum oxide finishes which can scratch the surface of the surrounding flooring. Next, cut the lengths and then the two diagonals (Photo 10).
Vacuum again and start the removal process by removing the diagonal piece in the center of the board; you may need a hammer and chisel to cut the piece loose (Photo 11).
Continue removing each cut piece. When removing the corner pieces, a pair of channel lock pliers comes in handy (Photo 12 and 13). Gently rock the piece up until it starts to loosen; once it loosens up it can be removed.
Be careful not to put too much of an angle on the corner piece when removing as it may cause some edge damage to the adjacent board. Take the channel lock pliers and do the same to the length pieces. Once everything has been removed, vacuum the area. If there is a moisture barrier attached to the underlayment and you happen to cut through the underlayment, use duct tape or manufacturer recommended tape to treat the cut.
The table saw will now be used to prepare the replacement board. The bottom half of the groove needs to be removed on the length and the end of the new board (Photo 14).
Adjust the saw blade so that it cuts only the bottom half of the groove (Photo 15).
Next, align the guide rail so that only the portion of the groove that extends past the main board is cut (Photo 16).
We use three different types of tape depending on the product and amount of traffic. If the board is being replaced in a minimal traffic area, use the KoolGlide hard surface tool and carpet seam tape with a thin film of epoxy along the edge where the groove joint that is cut, meets the tongue portion of the existing floor. If it is in a heavy traffic area, use the KoolGlide hard surface tool with either the double stick tape or the utility tape with a laminate backer. Countertop laminate in thicknesses of 0.028”- 0.032” work the best. Cut to 48-inch strips approximately six inches wide. The laminate backer is thin enough yet rigid enough to support the joint with the use of tape. Laminate backer can be cut on a table saw with a 60 to 80 tooth blade or with a hand held laminate cutter (Photo 17).
The double stick tape and the utility tape have a pressure sensitive adhesive on the backside protected by a removable paper. Peel and stick the tape to the laminate backer and center the tape and laminate backer along the laminate flooring joint under the tongue portion of the installed flooring (Photos 18 and 19). Place a section of the laminate backer around the two groove sides of the installed flooring; it is not necessary to place any tape as this just helps to maintain flatness of the replacement board.
To dry fit the board, depending on the manufacturer’s tongue and groove joint system, it may be necessary to start by slightly twisting the board at one end and applying pressure to where it lays in flat. With a tapping block, lightly tap on the opposite end and then along the length of the board until the board fits.
If you prefer using epoxy on the tongues with the tape for added strength, dry fit the board and if it fits, use a suction cup to remove the board and apply a thin film of epoxy to the exposed tongue portion of the existing flooring (Photo 20).
(Photo 21) After replacing the board, center the Kool Glide tool over the board joint using the white alignment marks on the front and back of the tool.
A microprocessor calibrates the amount of time that the tool is activated. (Photo 22) The L,M,H buttons are used for different substrate temperatures; the higher the setting, the longer the activation time. Installers will have to determine settings based on temperature conditions of substrate and type of flooring for bonding.
The T button is used when there is not a full length of tape underneath the tool for it to activate. If there is less than the distance from the front arrow to the back arrow, the tool will not activate properly. By turning the tool perpendicular to the tape and depressing the “T” button, this allows the tool to activate. Align the center transverse arrows to the center of the tape and joint. Make sure to deactivate the “T” button when activating the tool over full length of tape. Activate the tool by pressing either side of the green tab; a light will appear in the center of the green tab indicating the activation of the tool. Once the light turns off, apply pressure to bond tape and laminate. (Photo 23) Mark with your finger next to the front side advancement arrow of the tool. Move the tool until the back advancement arrow aligns with your finger (approximately 8 inches), and activate. You will need to repeat this process each time you move the tool forward. Do not move the tool while the activation light is on.
Because it is a floating floor, the thickness of the laminate backer and tape, approximately 0.04”, will not affect the appearance or overall flatness of the flooring but it will add significant strength to the joint. For more detailed information about the KoolGlide tool, log onto www.kool-glide.com and download the safety and ops manual.