Laminate Flooring (Expand, Gaps Required, Time to Settle)

Laminate flooring features a close resemblance to hardwood but is more durable given its resistance to discoloration and scratches. This flooring option can also withstand heavy traffic, hence ideal for offices and busy homes. However, certain elements, including temperature and humidity, can affect this flooring’s durability.

So, does laminate flooring expand? Laminate flooring is a floating floor and will expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity. An increase in temperatures will result in an expansion, while a decrease will cause contraction. These changes will affect how you lay the planks and understanding how much your flooring expands or contracts is necessary.

With most homeowners switching to DIY installations to save on cost, knowing the technicalities in installation is necessary for a professional finish. To achieve this, I will help you know whether laminate floors expand, if you need to leave a gap around laminate flooring, and whether laminate floors need time to settle. Read on for more information.

Laminate flooring is becoming popular given its ease of installation and durability. As such, DIY homeowners are installing them in their offices and homes. Understanding the behavior of this flooring with changes in certain weather elements is necessary for proper installation and durability.

Laminate flooring expands by up to ¼ inch with temperature changes. As such, you should leave an extension gap during installation between the laminate and doorways or floors. The expansion is dependent on the size of the floor.

Normally, one meter of your laminate flooring will shrink or expand for about one millimeter. Thus, if you have an 8-meters long floor, you can have a gap of 8mm and so on. On these gaps, you can install expansion joints to prevent buckling.

Before getting into the details of the laminate expansion, it is worth understanding what laminate flooring looks like. Laminate flooring comprises four layers, with the two bottom layers providing strength and moisture protection. This is considering laminate will not perform well in damp areas. The third layer is the design layer, giving the board its appearance. The top layer protects the flooring from surface damage.

When it comes to laminate flooring expansion, the materials making up this flooring respond to the changes in temperature and humidity. Laminate flooring expansion is a natural process, even though this flooring is not natural wood.

When the temperature rises, laminate flooring will expand. Laminate flooring may also absorb moisture in the air and expand. This change will cause it to peel and warp, affecting its durability. As such, a baseline survey before installation is advisable to establish the moisture and humidity levels.

Laminate flooring can also shrink. Unlike expansion, shrinking will occur mostly due to environmental factors. In the cold weather, the temperatures will decrease and shrink laminate by up to ¼ inches. Like expansion, the rate at which laminate shrinks will depend on the flooring size.

With the expansion and contraction in mind, you should properly install your laminate flooring to ensure durability. During installation, ensure that your laminate flooring does not touch the walls, stairs, kitchen units, pipes, or adjacent flooring.

You should not worry about these gaps since, depending on their location, you may cover them with door bars, radiator collars, beading, and skirting boards. It is also advisable to use laminate spacers to avoid too small or large gaps. With these spacers, you will avoid common laminate flooring issues by attaining the correct gaps between your floor and adjacent objects or flooring.

Given that laminate flooring will expand or shrink with changes in temperature and humidity, it is advisable to acclimate your flooring before installation. To acclimate your laminate flooring, place it where you want to install the flooring and let it settle for about 48 hours.

Failure to acclimate laminate flooring will cause it to shrink and expand at unexpected rates after installation and solving this won’t be easy. With the unexpected shrinkage and expansion, there is a likelihood of your laminate planks breaking.

Do You Need To Leave a Gap around Laminate Flooring?

As discussed above, laminate flooring expands with temperature changes. This expansion is not an issue with proper installation and will not affect your flooring’s durability.

When installing laminate flooring, leaving an expansion gap around the floor perimeter is advisable to allow for expansion and contraction. Ideally, the extension gap should be ¼ to ½ inch around the vertical obstructions. Without the expansion gap, changes in temperature and humidity will push your planks on the sides against the wall, causing them to warp or buckle. Buckling floors are repairable, but they may affect the floor’s durability if you fail to repair them in good time.

During installation, your laminate flooring should not touch the stairs, walls, kitchen units, adjacent flooring, or pipes. Instead, you should leave these gaps, which you can cover with door bars, skirting boards, radiator collars, or beading, depending on where you install the flooring. Spacers come in handy in achieving the above, and with them, you can ensure correct spacing to prevent laminate flooring problems.

Laminate flooring installation is easy, and as a DIY homeowner, you can do the installation with a few simple steps. The process is also affordable as you need not remove your existing flooring.

As such, your laminate flooring is a better choice than hardwood and vinyl, which you cannot install on the uneven subfloor or existing floor. Since laminate flooring is a floating floor, you need not use adhesive in the installation process.

Rather you will need spacers to ensure correct spacing. You should leave a 10-12 mm expansion gap, with the last row having a 10mm space from the vertical surface to prevent buckling.

While it is good to leave a reasonably sized expansion gap, you should be sure that the beading and skirting boards that you will use to cover these gaps fit the spaces in the colder months when your flooring contracts.

Like any other flooring, you expect laminate also to have its set of drawbacks. In most cases, homeowners complain of gaps developing after installation, something that will make your floor unattractive.

Moisture levels and temperature are the culprits in these cases, thus knowing how to address this is paramount. The gap problem increases with failure to acclimate your flooring before installation. This explains why most prefer the floating installation method to glue down the planks.

Fortunately, if your flooring has gaps, you can repair them with a few steps. First, assemble all the tools you will need for this job, including a mallet or hammer, floor gap fixer, crowbar, and chisel. Next, establish which side of the floorboard shifted, causing the open joint, and remove the baseboard on that end using your hammer and chisel.

After this, you will now see the shift and knock the misplaced board to its position using your hammer and gap fixer. You can apply wood glue to the plank to prevent future movement and then reinstall your baseboard.

While it is possible to repair gaps on your laminate flooring, it is advisable to take preventive measures during installation to prevent their appearance. Among the things you can do to achieve this include acclimatization, professional installation, and moisture prevention.

As mentioned earlier, failure to acclimate your laminate flooring before installation causes unexpected expansion and contraction hence the gaps. Thus, let your floorboards sit in the room you want to install them for about two days to acclimate with the temperature and humidity.

If you are an inexperienced DIY homeowner, a professional installer may come in handy to prevent such gaps in the future. These installers will notice details, including uneven subfloors that could cause gaps, and level them before installing your floors. Finally, you should wipe out water or liquid spills on your laminate flooring immediately to prevent their seepage, which could cause lumps and gaps.

Once you notice gaps on your laminate flooring, you should fix them as soon as possible since as the gaps increase in size, you may need professional assistance, increasing the maintenance costs.

Small gaps will also require simple fixes such as caulk or fillers, unlike those with large gaps that may force you to uninstall certain sections on your flooring. However, if unsure how to fix the gaps, contact a professional to avoid preventable losses.

Do Laminate Floors Need Time To Settle?

Laminate flooring features a cost-effective and durable flooring option, explaining its increasing demands by the day. While DIY homeowners can do the installation, nothing will be perfect if you hurry up the process.

Laminate floors need time to settle. Even with proper installation, leaving room for expansion and contraction, your laminate flooring may move after installation. Before installation, you should accustom your laminate flooring to its new environment by giving it at least two days to do so.

Laminate flooring features a wooden porous core. This core has tiny openings that allow air and moisture in. If you keep your laminate in a humid region, the planks will swell, and with lower humidity, they will shrink. While these may be slight changes, their impact could cause gaps after installation, which is why you should acclimate your laminate flooring before installation.

Despite their high quality and durability, you should be cautious when installing laminate flooring as one slight move may end up affecting the entire flooring. To prevent this, wait for at least 48 hours before working on your flooring.

Besides settling the laminate, acclimation ensures durability. Acclimation also conditions and settles your laminate floor. Poor conditioning of your flooring will cause it to expand or contract after installation. In addition, the laminate flooring may also feature trapped air or humidity, which is not noticeable from the outside. To remove this moisture and prevent lumps on your flooring, consider acclimating.

When acclimating your laminate, put them in the middle of the room you want to install them and the boxes side by side. While doing this, avoid the exterior walls and wait for about 48 hours for the flooring to acclimate.

Stacking your cartons on the floor creates pressure. This pressure is important in removing the air and humidity from the laminate. However, do not stack your laminate upright, lean them against a wall or place other items on them as this may cause them to bend out of shape.

Laminate comes in a shrink wrap. Some manufacturers will recommend that you leave them in the wrapping during acclimation, while others will say otherwise. Thus, the acclimation process you use will depend on the manufacturer’s instructions, and you should read them beforehand.

After installation, you should wait for at least 24 hours before walking on your flooring. This allows complete curing of the floor. Walking on your laminate before the expiry of this duration is unadvisable as the laminates may not be completely dry.

As such, the planks will slide from their position. Similarly, you should wait for 24 hours before placing any furniture on your laminate lest you displace the laminates and create an uneven floor.

Despite laminate being a floating floor, you should not worry about placing heavy furniture on it. The weight of the furniture will not damage your floor as long as you prepare it well and move the furniture properly.

Failure to handle the furniture properly will scratch, crack, dent, or chip your flooring. As such, when changing the position of your furniture in the room, look for assistance to lift them instead of dragging them from one corner of the room to the other.  Unloading should also be gentle, and you should not drop heavy furniture on your floor.

Finally, you can protect your laminate after installation by putting rugs and carpets, using rubber wheels in place of plastic casters, maintaining the humidity levels in your home, and avoiding mopping with too much water. Also, in case of spills, wipe immediately to prevent seepage through the cracks and joints on your flooring.

Wrap Up

Laminate flooring features durability and cost-effectiveness, and homeowners are switching to this option. During installation, you should factor in that laminate flooring is responsive to changes in temperature and humidity and will expand and contract with these changes.

This is courtesy of the porous material in its core that can hold in moisture and air, responding to the external elements. As such, you should install this flooring, leaving expansion gaps between the planks and vertical walls to prevent buckling and ensure durability.

Finally, laminate flooring needs time to settle before and after installation. Before installation, you should acclimate your flooring to the room temperature and humidity. This you can do by stacking your flooring in the room for about 48 hours before installation.

After installation, wait for 24 hours before walking on the laminate or placing furniture. When placing your furniture, you should be gentle to avoid cracking, chipping, or scratching your laminate flooring.

Recent Posts