Does Laminate Flooring Expand?

Does Laminate Flooring Expand?

The simple answer to this question is yes. Laminate floors have come a long way over the years, thanks to state-of-the-art technological advancements. Today, laminate floorboards are available in a number of designs with various key features for you without costing a fortune. However, they still consist of 90% natural wood and expand due to several environmental factors. 

This article dives deeper into valuable insights and tips about laminate flooring to help you understand it better. Continue reading to find out how and why laminate flooring expands.

What Causes Laminate to Expand?

Like every other floor, laminate floors also expand due to various reasons. But some of them are more common than others. If you want to know how to deal with the expansion, you must know what causes it in the first place.

Temperature and Climate

Temperature is one of the main factors that cause the expansion of laminate flooring. It keeps changing from time to time in any environment. Apart from that, humidity level also plays an important role. For example, laminate tends to expand as the temperature increases in humid summers. On the other hand, as the temperature levels drop in the winter season, your laminate floors starts to contract.

Moisture movement is another factor that contributes to expansion as the laminate tends to absorb moisture. The laminate expands in more humid, warm weather and contracts in dry winter weather or cold extremes. Some other materials, such as chemicals, can also get into the expansion gaps between the laminate planks, making them swell.

Any expansion in your laminate flooring is commonly a result of the weather at your place. Therefore, it is helpful to determine the temperature, humidity, and moisture levels by conducting a baseline survey prior to installing laminate flooring.

No flooring product can last forever. Floors eventually wear and need repairs for the cracks, dullness, and gaps in between the tiles. Likewise, laminate floors are prone to developing inconsistencies after expanding, which can create gaps. Laminate floors may be the most economical flooring to choose from, but they have the shortest lifespan. With time, the glue that binds the floorboards wears off and needs to be redone. 

Installation Issues

Bubbles and buckling are other issues that might arise with time. Often, these issues resulted from laminated planks being installed without being acclimated to the room’s temperature first. The professional floor installers would make sure to let the planks sit in the room for at least two to three days to let them acclimate to the temperature and humidity levels of the room. 

They also will not put down any new flooring without properly prepping the floor. 

The gaps and lumps in the laminated floors can lead you to replace the floors altogether, which is an incredibly tedious and time-consuming process. Therefore taking preventative measures beforehand will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Moisture is the leading cause of gaps and lumps in the laminated floors, which can be easily avoided by wiping any moisture or spills off the floor immediately. A dry cloth or vacuum cleaner will do a good enough job. 

How Much Can Laminate Flooring Expand?

Laminate wooden floors expand up to ¼-inch on average. Although every laminate floor plank goes through expansion, it shows the total expansion on the end edge of hardwood flooring. Due to this, there is a requirement for an expansion gap between the laminate and any doorways or walls.

The natural expansion of laminate floors varies with the size of the floor. The bigger the floor size, the greater the expansion rate is. For example, a floor with a length of eight meters will experience an expansion of eight millimeters. A longer floor will expand even more.

What Is the Minimum Expansion Gap for Laminate Flooring?

As a result of the change in temperature, humidity, and moisture, your laminate floor might expand or contract. The term expansion gap means the space left after the installation process to allow for freedom of movement in the laminate. There should be a sufficient gap to allow for either expansion or contraction in order to maintain an even surface.

You should finalize the exact expansion gap based on the estimated expansion capacity of the floor and the size of the room. Ideally, there should be an 8-10mm expansion gap on average for an 8×12 meter room. This gap should be incorporated such that the laminate flooring stays untouched by the sides of the walls, door frames, adjacent floorings, stairs, corners, kitchen units, water pipes, etc.

How Long Does It Take Laminate to Expand?

Here’s a lifesaving tip: Never install a laminate floor that has just arrived. Keep it in the room where it is supposed to be installed for about 24 to 72 hours so it can reach the same temperature. The reason is that laminate floors require some time to settle down and adjust to new weather conditions. During that time, they expand or contract based on several environmental factors as explained above. Once they are installed, they readily adapt to the floor’s atmosphere. The more time you give them to adjust beforehand, the less you’ll have to account for during installation.

How Many Layers Does Laminate Flooring Have?

Laminate hardwood flooring is divided into four layers. The two layers on the bottom are meant to strengthen and protect the laminate planks from water damage. Because laminate floorings are not suitable for damp areas and moisture content. The third and middle layer shapes the design and appearance of the board. Finally, the topmost layer guards the laminate against any damage to the surface flooring.

Tips for Installation of Laminate Flooring

Installing laminate flooring is a pretty easy task for a professional installer. However, it can still be a little intimidating if you’re doing it yourself. We want to share our pro tips for floor installation to ensure you’re well-informed before getting started.

Sub-Floor Method

When it comes to laminate floor installation, we call this an easy job because you have the option of building a new floor on top of an existing floor. With this installation technique, your laminate floor lies above another one. This can either be your existing floor, like vinyl planks or solid hardwood floors, or an uneven subfloor.

Floating Floor Technique

The installation process can be made easier by using tongue and groove laminate floor planks. For example, in the case of floating vinyl floors, you don’t need any adhesive material for an installation. However, you will require laminate flooring spacers to strengthen the locking system.

Tapering Method

Tapering both sides of the room will help you figure out the size of your starter row and make sure that the walls are parallel to one another. Without this, you may find yourself installing aminated floors that are a few inches narrower than the other side of the room. This will eventually lead you to rip a severely tapered last row, which will give a very unaesthetic appearance to the entire flooring. 

The best course of action in this case would be to split the difference between the first and last rows of the room and taper them. This way, neither side will be as noticeable.

Starting the Installation

Installing laminate floors is a tricky job, especially when you are first starting. Installing the floor planks around the doorways is exceptionally hard. The professionals would usually simplify the job by starting with the walls. It’s better to get the doorways over with first than have to deal with them at the end. Certainly, you would still have to undercut jambs and trim but in the end, it’s going to pay off well.

Adequate Expansion Gaps

You must ensure that the laminate flooring you are getting installed has an adequate expansion gap. It should not come in contact with other surfaces like walls or doorways to prevent the floor from buckling, cracking, and bubbling. The recommended expansion gap is 10-12mm.

Though it is great that you may have the confidence to install laminate floors all by yourself by carefully following all the steps, it is always the best option to hire a professional to do the job for you. Do-it-yourself won’t guarantee you the finish you desire, and you may miss out on a step or so during installation. 

The professionals not only have the required skill set for installing floors that will help you in the long run, but they also have a keen eye for the unevenness of the plywood subfloor. They will be able to lay a leveling compound with more accuracy before installing the laminated floors. 

Most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In Which Season Does the Laminate Flooring Expand?

The laminate floor gets stressed when it does not have freedom of movement and can’t expand or contract due to limited space. The variance in temperature directly impacts the laminate as it is a floating floor. The floor planks are likely to expand in warm weather and contract in cold weather. The common reasons for expansion in summer are the open house environment and high moisture content in the air. 

Since laminate is attracted to moisture, it absorbs and thus, expands. On the contrary, laminate floor contracts in the winter season due to the moisture barriers and low humidity levels. Therefore, you should take necessary measures to compensate for any expansion or contraction that will occur.

Can Laminate Flooring Get Wet?

The answer is yes. The top area of laminate flooring can get wet. However, the sides, open joints, and the floor must always be dry. If you install laminate flooring in a guest room without taking any safety measures, you shouldn’t run into too many issues. However, installing laminate in a bathroom is much riskier.

How Thick Should My Laminate Floor Be?

Thicker laminate floors are quieter underfoot with lesser echo, give a more natural hardwood feel, hide subfloor imperfections, and have increased impact resistance. The perfect laminate thickness would be around 10mm to 14mm thick. 

Laminate comes in a range of thicknesses which usually start from 6mm. However, a thin laminate floor is not suggested as the quality is often compromised, and performance is poorer than the thicker laminates. 

Can Laminate Flooring Be Painted?

There’s no harm in painting your laminate floor, but there are specific steps to take. Before applying the paint, you should first clean the space properly to preserve the glossy laminate finish and use an oil-based primer. All you need to do is ensure that you have the right cleaning products and tools to carry out the painting process. If you do it the right way, your room will look like a completely new space.

Can You Lay Laminate Flooring on Furniture?

A few common questions related to laying your laminate flooring on a piece of furniture are whether laminate flooring can be put over carpet or whether laminate flooring can be put over tile. To clarify, you can place the laminate flooring over both without removing them. Once the laminate settles on the floor after the installation, you can put any furniture on top of it.

What Is Laminating Floor Made of?

Laminate flooring is often referred to as a “Hybrid” floor because of its high-density fiberboard (HDF) core led by the image and wear layer. Usually, the laminate wear layers are waterproof and aid in protecting the floor from scratches and stains. The wear layer often has a rougher texter to it, with natural-looking scratches to give it a more realistic appearance.

Laminate floors often come either in a stone-like appearance or wood-like. The image layer determines the pattern. The core layer’s job is to ensure the floor’s durability and stability. This layer consists of high-density fiberboard, which also aids in making the floor resistant to water. The backing is the last layer of the laminate flooring which must be of high quality to ensure that water does not seep into the sublayer in case of a spillage. 

What Are the Advantages of Laminate Flooring?

Scratch Resistant: Homeowners with children and pets would find laminate floors to be the best possible flooring choice as it is resistant to harsh scratches and stains.

Do-It-Yourself Installation: Laminate floors are the best economical floors in the market. They don’t require any kind of adhesive, nails, or tape during installation. Instead, it has an efficient interlocking plank design that allows the laminate floor to be placed effectively on the sub-floor. 

Easy to Clean: Laminate floors require minimal maintenance against the other floorings. Its spill-resistant ability allows one to clean the floor easily using a dry cloth of a vacuum cleaner. 

Hyper-realism: People who want to have a wooden or stone flooring installed at a much lower price would find laminate floors to be an ideal solution. The floors mimic the look of wood floors almost perfectly, from scratches to wood knots.

What Are the Disadvantages of Laminate Flooring?

Moisture: Although traditional laminate is prone to wearing off after contact with moisture over time, newer laminates that entail new technology are 100% waterproof and resistant to spills. 

Refinishing: Laminate floors may be able to give a hyper-realistic wooden floor appearance, but you cannot actually refinish them like solid wood.

Should Laminate Flooring Move When You Walk on It?

You might be wondering how much time you should let a newly installed laminate floor rest. To be safe, you should leave it for at least 24 hours or more in some cases to let them settle properly. If the floor is not healed completely and you start walking on it, the floor planks might slide.  

Final Thoughts

Laminate floorings look nice, come at an affordable price, and have an easy installation process. To prevent your laminate floorings from buckling, you must include expansion gaps and an expansion joint if needed. 

This will prevent any irreparable damage and prolong the lifespan of your laminate flooring planks while allowing them to expand and contract freely. We hope that you found this article helpful in helping you understand why and how laminate flooring expands with the change in weather conditions.