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Laminate Flooring

So, I installed my first laminate floor a couple of weekends ago. In case it's unclear, these are the composite materials that look like hard wood flooring, but just have a veneer and a protective coating on the top. The flooring is an Amber Oak, which we picked up from Sams Club. The floor looks quite nice, and has a pretty authentic look. It wasn't too hard to put together, mostly "folding" down into the previous piece. There was quite a lot of hammering and smacking with a dead blow mallet and a 2x4 to protect the piece. Even being careful, I managed to break a few pieces, especially on the "tongue" side, where the top surface is < 1/8" thick. We put down around 400 square feet of flooring in just over one day, although much of it was one large room, and didn't require any fancy cuts. Progress slowed significantly when we had to deal with doorways, transitions, and closets.

I started out cutting everything with a 7 1/4" plywood blade on a handheld circular saw. This worked well, until it started to rain, and we had to move into the garage. Because of a lack of space in there, I switched to using my 10" Craftsman Table Saw. By the end of the job, the blade on the circular saw was clearly dull beyond use (all of the saw blade tips were rounded). Just yesterday, I tried to use my table saw to cut some boards at 45 degrees, so that I could build a square box. I had a devil of a time with it, I suspect because the saw blade is very very dull. The carbide tips are all intact, but it doesn't cut worth anything. Apparently the surface on the laminate is hard enough to dull any cutting tool. Alas, this means I need to have that blade sharpened, or buy a new one, as I can't make the kind of precise cuts that I need in order to make furniture without a sharp blade.

All things considered, I think I prefer installing full thickness (3/4") hardwood flooring over the laminate. With a pneumatic nailer, it's pretty quick to install, and a LOT harder to break or damage than this stuff. We'll see how the finish holds up on this compared with the prefinished hardwood.

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