Gas burning fireplace over Pergo: how do I remove the Pergo and keep the fireplace?

Oh, what the hell …

There’s other threads on the SDMB where I described some of the shoddy and poorly-executed DIY projects of the previous owner of my house. This is an example of one of them, only I’m stumped about how to fix it.

My living room of my mid-century house has a hardwood floor; not in the best of condition because it’s “gappy”, but still much better than the laminate flooring the previous owner installed.

I’m fixing up the house, and trying to remove the laminate flooring. It’s much harder than it should be, because the previous owner nailed the laminate to the hardwood. Not only that, but they also built a gas-burning fireplace and mantle on top of the laminate.

My question: how can I remove the laminate without removing the fireplace and mantle? Damaging the floor underneath isn’t a concern; I’ll find a way to conceal it. Here’s what I’ve tried so far …

  • Drywall saw (FatMax): very, very slow. After about a half-hour of cutting, I maybe made it a third of the way through one laminate plank.

  • Drill cutter: again, slow.

What about other options?

  • Jigsaw: not likely, considering that the floor and the stone in front of the fireplace are offset; there’s no even surface to rest the saw.

  • Power saw: again, there’s the uneven surface. On top of that, with the nails in the laminate, hidden in the snap joints, there’s the risk of kickback. I’m already very, very cautious when I use my mitre saw; I’m normally terrified of power saws.

EDIT: Holy shit! IMG tags work here?

Hmm …

… yes they do.

When I laid our laminate floor about the only thing I could cut it with was the circular saw, nothing else would really make a dent in it (and I bought the spiral cut and bits for laminate specifically to cut out the vent holes, burned up two bits cutting one hole and just knocked the rest out with the circ, at $4 per bit I think I can live with a little kerf here and there, it’s covered up by the vent covers anyway).

What are your reservations about lifting out the fireplace or finding some way to raise the bottom enough to get the lam out?

ETA: Quick, before TPTB realizes it, someone IMG a pic on photobucket to see if I can view it (I can view anything else at work but not photobucket for some reason).

It’s HUGE. It’s in a rock mantle that is eight feet high and six or seven feet wide; it reaches from the floor to the ceiling. (Of course, the mantle is on top of the laminate.) If I dismantle it – it simply can’t be removed – there’s no way I could reassemble it.

EDIT: if you can’t see Photobucket at work, you won’t see any Photobucket images in an IMG tag either.

Crap, I was hoping that Photobucket was just timing out on our firewall and ref’ing through The Dope would speed it up enough to slip through. Oh well.

Per your floor, the only thing I can think of would be to take as much of it up to the hearth as possible and then hammer and chisel the rest flush with the stone. You might scar up the hardwood underneith a little but not as much as a saw would and the rough edge of the laminate can be conceiled with quarter-round or mortise depending on how much damage you do to the original floor.

A hammer and chisel has to be faster than the sawzall you described in the OP.

Okay … got a chisel, and it’s cutting a bit. Thing is, because the laminate is nailed to the floor, I can’t get too deep; it’s not giving way. The laminate doesn’t break easily, and if I pull up the planks closest to the fireplace, the fireplace goes with it.

I’m fucked, right?

Do you have/have access to a Dremel-type tool? With a smaller wheel like that you’d have more control over the depth of the cut and there are heavy-duty attachments that should be able to cut through the laminate. That stuff is amazingly difficult to cut - as we found out first hand.

A Dremel might work, I know they make little toothy saw blades and other gizmos that could cut through the laminate.

After staring at that picture for a while I did get an idea of what I would probably do (after whacking at it with the chisel of course). What if you nailed a board to the laminate about a half an inch away from the hearth. Use shims if necessary to make the board exactly the same height as the hearth. Then use the board and the hearth as a guide for a circular saw set deep enough to cut the laminate but not the hardwood. If you are concerned with kick back then set the saw a little shallow so that it misses the nails but cuts most of the rest of the way through the boards. As you pry the laminate boards up whatever did not cut toward the bottom should just snap off fairly clean.

I’d offer to let you borrow my Craftsman in exchange for your scrap laminate (I still need some for my back bedroom) but I have no idea how far Obamawanda is from Barack home again in Indiana and it sounds like the nails might have messed up the snap lock pretty badly.

In any case, I would also suggest finding the person who nailed that stuff to the floor and familiarizing them with the principals of gravity and the fact that an 8" rock fireplace will hold the whole thing down quite nicely.

The scrap laminate is in rough shape; it’s scratched and gouged to hell. (I have no idea how the previous owner managed to get deep scratches and gouges in laminate, but they did it…) The laminate was also nailed down to the hardwood underneath with brads at random intervals ranging from an inch to a foot, so it doesn’t come up neatly. The only the scrap laminate is good for is firewood.

I think I found a way to get the planks out, though. Chisel a score line as deep as possible where the laminate meets the stone. Then, chisel out a wedge from about 3/4 inch/1.5 cm from the stone to the score line. Chisel out the plank as far as possible from the adjacent plank. Pry the plank out, and it will break at the wedge cut. Use the chisel to trim the laminate at the stone.

It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to pull out a plank, but it works. I’m not looking forward to the plank at the end, where I’m going to be dealing with a long perpendicular cut.

Leave the flooring underneath the FP alone.

Use a power circular saw with a carbide tipped blade to cut the Pergo. It will cut through nails easily and won’t kick back if you proceed slowly and confidently. Wear goggles. Keep the wide part of the saw plate (usually the left) on the slab for maximum stability. If the surface is horribly uneven (doesn’t look like it to me) make it more even with a flat piece of something such as 1/4" ply or a metal 4’ ruler placed along the edge you want to cut. Double sided 3M sticky pads will hold it in place. Set the depth of the saw to cover only the deepest point so you aren’t unnecessarily digging into the subfloor.

The safest tool is almost always the most powerful one used correctly, in my opinion. Don’t dink around w/ a Dremel for teardown.

Ditto … with a carbide-tipped blade and a sturdy guide, you should have no problems and be done in a few minutes. All you really need is a straight cut, fairly flush and you can trim it out after you refinish the floor. Don’t forget to set your depth!
Being afraid of the tool you are using is sometimes more dangerous than the tool itself. You should practice controlling your skill saw until you are comfortable using it. Plan ahead, be firm and in control, and if something unexpected should occur, let go of the trigger.