How to Install Click Laminate Flooring without Removing Baseboards

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How to install click-laminate flooring after installing baseboard.

The following is a guest post from an esteemed DIY’er (at this point professional DIY’er) on a tough subject: how to install click laminate flooring without removing baseboards. As a  current resident of these recently completed accommodations, I have to say they are absolutely stunning–a vast improvement from when the house was originally purchased eleven years ago.

One of the more “creative” parts of the renovation–one of many projects to finish out a dark, damp, unfinished basement–was how to install that last line of click lock laminate flooring under the previously installed and painted baseboard. The directions of click-lock flooring of any type are easy enough to follow. Except what happens on the last row…if the baseboard is already installed?

Enjoy!

Installing Click Laminate Flooring without Removing Baseboards

Vinyl click-together flooring?

*checks web site name*

*yup, it’s that tile blog*

*keeps reading*

Are you installing board and batten walls in a space that doesn’t have the finished floor installed and you want to install the baseboards so that you can install the battens and you want to have everything installed so that you can paint everything at once without worrying about getting paint on the finished floor?

This is your lucky day.

Click-together flooring is made for spaces without baseboards. This is because–according to the instructions–you have to tilt each subsequent row into the row preceding it, which requires vertical space. Vertical space which already-installed baseboards would deny. So if you find yourself in the relatively rare position of wanting to paint everything–the walls, trim, and baseboards–at once, you might want to install the floor first and use dropcloth technology.

But let’s say you’ve had some bad experiences. Dropcloths have failed you in the past, or you’ve found a way to spill paint down the wall and onto the edge of the floor you were trying to protect. Or you just hate everything about painting and want to remove as many risks and consequences as possible, and so you decide that the best way to protect your finished floor is to not install it until after the paint runs have finished drying.

The good news is that there is a way to do this. There’s probably dozens of ways, in truth–but when you find yourself in need of a solution, you grab the first one that works. The following was this writer’s way.

First things first: if you’re going to install baseboards before installing the floor, you have to make sure you have the proper gap to allow the flooring to get tucked under the baseboards. This should seem obvious, but…well, if you make the gap under the baseboards too small for the flooring to fit, then a hammer and a wonder bar might be the only tools to get you to the end of your flooring install job.

So once you’ve got the baseboards in, the gap correct, and everything painted, it’s time to install the floor. Let’s get to it…

Pretty much any breathing monkey can install flooring in a room with baseboards installed on the wall where the flooring starts and the perpendicular walls.

Installing the first row of click laminate flooring with baseboard installed.

Click laminate flooring requires a gap along all sides of the room to allow for the house to expand and contract.
Since you have already installed the baseboard, how do you maintain this quarter inch gap between the flooring and the wall?
One way is to snap a line where the first row of flooring should end, including the 1/4″ gap in the measurement. Then, after you start working on the second row, you snap another line to show yourself where the second row of flooring should end while maintaining the gap.
After that, the floor usually weighs enough to keep itself from moving around. If in doubt you can still keep measuring until you feel comfortable.
By the time you get to the last row, the floor is definitely not moving. And it’s that last row where you are really beating on it to get it in place (as seen in the next section).

Installing the last row of click laminate flooring with baseboard installed.

The trouble is on the row where the last row of flooring is installed.

Installing click-lock laminate flooring without removing baseboards is not covered in the installation instructions.

This is not covered in the installation instructions.

What do we do here?

Click-together vinyl flooring is pretty tough stuff. One of the biggest installation benefits, however, is its slight flexibility–flexibility which we’ll be using to our advantage. It isn’t truly necessary to bring each subsequent row into each preceding row at the dramatic angle which the instructions indicate to be necessary.

This is not what you want to do.

This is not what you want to do.

So, no…to get those last pieces into place, you don’t bring it in at an angle and smash it with a hammer. That’s just stupid. The trick is to slide the last piece under the baseboard on the last-row wall, then slide it under the baseboard on the perpendicular wall, and then pull it back into place to where the click-together grooves are line up. Those first three steps are accomplished using your fingers.

Installing the last row of laminate flooring without removing baseboards: Get those grooves lined up...

Installing the last row of laminate flooring without removing baseboards: Start by getting those grooves lined up…

Get those grooves lined up like this.

…like this.

The next step, however, is accomplished using a long piece of scrap wood–say, 18 to 24 inches–with a second, smaller piece of scrap attached to one end. This smaller piece of scrap is installed in such a way as to serve a striking point for a hammer. Then, shockingly, you’ll need a hammer. And then–not surprisingly–you’ll need…a roll of carpet tape. The light duty kind will do fine.

The floor installation tool and its accessories.

The floor installation tool and its accessories.

We’ll call this assembly your “floor installation tool.” And, moving forward, we’ll use that term without quotation marks.

And the schtick goes like this: you wrap one end of your floor installation tool with carpet tape. Then remove the wax paper from the tape, so that you have a sticky surface on the end of your tool. *smirk* You then use that sticky surface to attach the tool to that last piece of floor, which has been waiting patiently for you.

Just like this.

Just like this.

After checking one last time to make sure that the click-together grooves are lined up, you press down on the sticky end of the floor installation tool. Then you take a hammer and hit the striking surface of the tool so as to draw the click-together grooves tight.

Follow these directions.

Follow these directions.

Successfully forcing the flooring together in this way is more a matter of technique than power, so don’t be getting out the mini-sledge if your first hit doesn’t result in a perfect joint. Just keep hitting the tool until either the adhesive on the carpet tape allows the tool to start sliding–at which point you can add more carpet tape to the floor side–or until each section of floor joint is perfect. Then you move the tool a few inches, add new tape, and repeat the process.

Keep it up until this first photo...

Keep it up until this first photo…

...looks like this photo.

…looks like this photo.

It’s not fast, but it’s a nice trick to have available in certain circumstances. And it makes for a really nice result if you can be patient.

But what about the next piece–the piece whose end overlaps the piece which was just installed?

The technique is really similar. Line up the overlapping ends, and slide the next piece under the baseboard.

Line up the overlapping ends, and slide the next piece under the baseboard.

Next, using the same floor installation tool, you pull the flooring piece into place. Then you tap or roll the overlapping end into place until it is tight.

Next, using the same floor installation tool, you pull the flooring piece into place. Then you tap or roll the overlapping end into place until it is tight.

As for the last piece–which has an overlapping end and tucks under baseboards on two walls? Is it hard?

Nope.

Start by putting the baseboard end of the flooring under the first baseboard at an angle. Then slide the long edge of the flooring under the other baseboard, straightening the flooring piece into place.

Installing the last corner of laminate flooring without removing baseboards: Start by putting the baseboard end of the flooring under the first baseboard at an angle. Then slide the long edge of the flooring under the other baseboard, straightening the flooring piece into place.

Then line up the overlapping end, use the floor installation tool to pull the last piece into place, and tap the overlapping end until it is tight.

Time to put the tools away.

Time to put the tools away.

And then…your room is done. Remember how the walls are already painted?

Right.

When you finish installing laminate flooring without removing baseboards you are done! No trim work or painting needed!

Cheers! *A toast with Eos, a phenomenal Hefeweizen from the Nebraska Brewing Company–a crew we ran into during 7 Cities Century Bike Ride in Norfolk, NE. Really good people and tasty beer.

Check out this calculator if you are looking to see how much laminate flooring you will need for your project: Laminate Flooring Calculator – Box Count & Cost

General FAQ for Installing Laminate Flooring without Removing Baseboards

Should I remove baseboards when installing laminate?

Absolutely not, if there is enough space to slide in the laminate. Read this how-to if this is your situation. If there is not enough space you can either take off the baseboard or commit to installing quarter-round moulding in front of the current baseboard.

Should I paint before installing flooring?

Yes! This includes installing and painting baseboard too, if you install the baseboard with a gap to accommodate the height of the planned flooring. Eliminate drop cloths, errant paint drips on the new flooring, and other consequences.

Should baseboards be installed before flooring?

It is easier to install baseboards after flooring. However, it is easier to paint (baseboards included) with no consequences of ruining newly installed flooring. It is possible to install the baseboard with a gap to accommodate the height of laminate or hardwood flooring.

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