Laminate flooring is popular in residential and commercial spaces because of its hardwood look, ease of installation, and affordability. It is one of the best ways to enjoy the look of hardwood flooring without the attendant challenges. Unfortunately, laminate flooring shares many of the same drawbacks as wood and other wood flooring materials, with water damage being the biggest problem.
To protect laminate flooring, it is important to ensure that water doesn’t get into the core while also preventing scratches to the surface. This is achieved by cleaning spills (water and other liquids) as soon as they occur and tackling all potential causes of scratches at the source.
In this article, we’ll go into detail on everything you need to know about protecting your laminate flooring. We’ll go over the primary threats that can cause damage to your floors and what you need to do in different situations.
A Brief Summary on Laminate Flooring
Laminate is a hybrid flooring material made of an image layer, a wear layer, and a particle board wood core. It’s a technology that was invented in 1977 by Perstorp—a Swedish company. They found a way to repurpose waste wood, converting it to durable floor covering with heat, binding chemicals, and high pressure.
Other brands have since started to make and sell their versions of laminate flooring. Laminate floors are a popular covering in most modern homes, and they are mainly used in areas that are not exposed to excessive moisture, such as bedrooms, hallways, living areas, and kitchens.
In the past, laminate was seen as an economy-flooring option in construction.
Today, however, it’s in use even in higher-end properties where engineered wood or solid hardwood flooring would have been the only options. The increased popularity is a result of better construction from manufacturers. The floors now perform better and have a more solid feel underfoot than when they first hit the stores.
How to Protect Laminate Flooring From Water
The chief materials in laminate (MDF substrates) means that it can soak up water gradually. The water damage isn’t always immediately visible, but the floor will swell up and splinter after some time. To prevent this from happening to your laminate floor, here are a few things you can do:
Apply a Polyurethane Top Coat
A polyurethane topcoat is one of the best ways to keep your laminate flooring protected against water damage. It’s not a foolproof solution, but it can offer a level of protection to your floorboards. However, applying a polyurethane topcoat on your laminate flooring isn’t always straightforward.
In many cases, the laminate will have a thin resin layer, making adherence difficult for the polyurethane. You can’t sand the floor to make it more receptive either, as that will ruin the aesthetic appeal and the durability of the laminate. The best way to get the polyurethane across the floor, therefore, is to use a mop or rag, apply one layer, wait for it to dry first, and then apply another one.
The number of layers you’ll need is dependent on the type of laminate, as well as on the brand of the polyurethane topcoat you choose.
Seal the Laminate Joints
After installing the laminate flooring, you’ll find gaps across the various points where the laminate planks meet. If the gap is left unsealed, it will increase water absorption speed and, ultimately, the speed of damage.
The best approach for this is to use a floor sealant. It won’t glue the gaps tightly, so you don’t have to worry about difficulty lifting the floor when you need to make repairs. Laminate companies sometimes have recommended floor sealants they offer alongside their products.
Be sure to check with your manufacturer to see what they have. Going with their recommendation reduces the chances of buying a rigid sealant that won’t expand or contract when necessary, which will cause a splinter. Apply the sealant carefully, and ensure you don’t leave lumps of dried sealant across the floor.
Mop Up Standing Water Quickly
Laminate flooring is designed to withstand water splashes or spills, but you can’t allow it to stand for long, or it will seep into the floor through any openings. Once you have a splash or spill, mop up immediately to ensure water doesn’t get into the laminate’s seams.
If you notice the spill or splash a bit later than when it happened, you should mop up and use a wet-dry vacuum to dry the area.
How to Protect Laminate Flooring From Heavy Furniture
Heavy furniture can deface most types of flooring, including laminate flooring. Here are a few things you can do to ensure your furniture doesn’t cause damage to your laminate flooring:
Cushion the Furniture’s Base
Before you place heavy furniture on your laminate floor, you should use some cover on its base. Options include glides, padded plastic cups, and felt pads, which you can install on the furniture pieces’ legs. If they don’t have legs but a solid base, you can cut out some heavy-duty felt in the base’s shape and attach them using adhesive. If you properly cushion the base of a heavy piece of furniture, you can put it anywhere on your laminate floor without damaging it.
Put a Carpet Underneath the Furniture
If you are worried about the furniture’s impact while directly on the laminate floor, you can create some cushion between its base and the floor using a padded-out carpet.
Don’t Drag the Furniture Across the Floor
When it’s time to move a heavy piece of furniture from one part of the house to another, load it into a dolly first and slowly push it across the floor. Pushing the furniture across the bare laminate floor will leave serious dents and could rip it apart in some cases. When you’ve moved the furniture to the right spot, get extra help to ensure it is lifted off the dolly and dropped carefully without slamming.
Dolly, plastic discs, and furniture sliders will accomplish the same thing. If you don’t have any of these on hand, you can use heavy blankets or thick towels as an alternative. Remember: don’t attempt to move the furniture alone. You may still end up damaging your floor in that scenario even with the sliders or blankets—in addition to the risk of injuries to your lower back or spine.
Sweep the Floor Regularly
Heavy furniture sitting on top of lots of dirt will scratch your laminate floor underneath with the slightest movement. You should sweep the floor around the furniture regularly to reduce the possibility of the base getting in touch with dirt.
How to Protect Laminate Flooring in Bathrooms
We mentioned above that laminate flooring isn’t recommended for bathroom floors because water can damage it. However, there are other reasons why people will want to install laminate on their bathroom floors, especially where there’s a tub or a compartment that ensures water won’t splash directly on the laminate.
Ensure the Joints Are Sealed
We’ve touched on how the spaces between the laminate planks can allow water into the base of the flooring in the event of a spill or a splash. In a bathroom where those two things will happen fairly regularly, you need to keep the spaces sealed—especially around the portion of the floor that will see the most moisture.
Don’t Use Slip Guard
Laminate floors are slippery, so it’s common for people to install slip guards on the floor. Unfortunately, these can hasten damage by accumulating moisture underneath the surface. If you’d like to keep your laminate bathroom floor dry, you should explore other ways to prevent slips.
Keep the Floor Dry
Keep a mop handy in your bathroom to clean up any spills or splash on the floor as soon it happens instead of waiting for it to dry off naturally. Waiting for the water to dry naturally will only mean giving the floor enough time to soak it up. Clean the excess water immediately, and there won’t be much for the laminate to absorb.
How to Protect Laminate Flooring in Kitchens
The kitchen floor doesn’t see as much moisture when compared to the bathroom floor, but it can still get exposed to a lot of water from time to time. Laminate flooring here needs all the protection it can get to keep it from damage.
Ensure the Sides of the Floor Are Sealed
As you’ve seen above, the sides of a laminate floor are its weakest point. The top is generally sealed with a wear layer, and the bottom is coated. So, the sides are responsible for soaking up water. Sealing up these edges reduces the chances of water getting into the laminate core.
Clean Up Spills Quickly
Laminate floor designs in the market today will hold up against some water, but only for a limited time. You should take care of pooled water immediately to ensure it doesn’t make its way down into the core of the laminate flooring.
Address All Sources of Moisture
What are the main sources of moisture on your kitchen floor? Spills or splashes? You can address those by working more carefully in the kitchen and keeping a mop handy in case of accidents.
With more dangerous moisture sources like leaking supply lines or faucets, you have to get out in front of the situation by eliminating the leaks as quickly as possible. Call a plumber as soon as you notice the leaks if you can’t complete the repair with a bit of DIY.
You should also consider proactively protecting areas that may come in contact with water in the event of an accident with rugs. You can only stop leaks if you find them early enough. If you only noticed a leaking supply line after a couple of days, the laminate floor base may have already soaked a lot of water. With some rugs around “red zones,” you can limit the damage.
How to Protect Laminate Flooring From Dog Urine
Like water, dog urine is bad for laminate flooring (you already know what lots of moisture can do to the base of the flooring), but there’s also another problem – Urine becomes acidic after a while if ignored. This is why it has a strong odor and also why it can hasten the decay of your laminate flooring.
Clean the Urine Immediately
This is the obvious place to start. Cleaning off the urine quickly means the moisture won’t seep into your floor. The urine won’t have enough time to become acidic and start damaging the coating on your laminate floor.
It’s unrealistic to expect that you can catch your dog’s urine when it’s still warm every time. This is why you should be a bit more proactive in the way you handle the problem. You can potty train your dog to only urinate outside or around a specific part of the house.
If you haven’t potty trained the dog but have seen that it favors a specific part of the house, you can cover that part of the floor with materials resistant to urine and moisture. A plastic rug or a laminate-friendly mat can do the job. Choose options you can wash with a bit of hosing.
How to Protect Laminate Flooring From Dog Nails
Dog urine isn’t the only way your furry friend can damage your laminate flooring. It can use its nails to leave deep scratches all around the surface, ruining the top coat protection and making the floor more susceptible to damage. To prevent this from happening, here are some methods you can adopt.
Put a Pet-Friendly Cover on Their Favorite Spots
If your dog spends a lot of time around a specific area, buy a material that can absorb the scratches it will leave and place it around this location. As with dog urine, rugs can work here, but dog beds are a good idea as well.
Use Dog Nail CapsThese go over your dog’s nails, ensuring that they can’t leave scratches on your laminate flooring as they dash up and down the house. The Soft Claws Dog Nail Caps is a good option to go with. However, getting the dog to wear the cap could be difficult. There’s also the possibility of losing the cap now and then, as the dog will most likely remove them. The cost of buying new sets of nail caps from time to time can add up.
Trim the Dog’s Nails
If you don’t want to keep spending money on nail caps, you should learn to trim your dog’s nails every 2-3 weeks at least. This way, they won’t get sharp enough to leave scratches on your laminate floor. If you’re looking for a product that can make the process easier, the Dremel 7300-PT 4.8V Cordless Dog Nail Grooming & Grinding Tool is a good option.
How to Protect Laminate Flooring From Rugs
There are a few reasons why you’ll have rugs on your laminate flooring. Firstly, “pathways” can develop across the floor after a while, highlighting areas of heavy foot traffic. Rugs around these areas can keep the laminate floor from looking worn out.
Secondly, rugs are good for trapping pebbles, dirt, and sand from shoes or your feet, which can scratch up the laminate floor surface. Rugs in front of doorways and within foot traffic zones mean that the bulk of the dirt will get trapped.
How can you keep your flooring safe from the rug, with some of them being coarse enough to leave scratches? There are a few things you can do:
Make the Rugs Hard to Move
If you have rugs that have coarse undersides, it’s best to limit their movement across your laminate flooring either with some light adhesives or by tucking them into the base of your furniture pieces. If the rug can’t move around, it won’t leave scratches.
Put Felt Pads Between the Rugs and the Floor
Dense felt pads act as a buffer between the rug and your laminate floor and allow air to circulate between the rug and the floor surface. You can buy precut sizes that match the dimensions of your rug. Gorilla Grip Original, Aurrako Non-Slip, Mohawk Home Dual Surface Non-Slip rug pads are some excellent options in the market today. These pads will prevent scratches and also ensure your rugs won’t slide around.
Replace Rugs With Options More Suitable for Laminate Flooring
When buying rugs for your laminate floor, you should choose options that are made of natural fiber, including cotton, wool, bamboo, grass, or jute. These won’t leave marks and scratches on your laminate flooring over time.
How to Protect Laminate Flooring From Rolling Chairs
Rolling chairs can easily damage and leave marks on laminate flooring, so you should take precautions if you have one of these in your home or office. Your options to protect the floor from this problem include using chair casters made for laminate flooring (instead of the wheels on the chair) and buying a rolling chair mat that you put in the area directly under your chair.
For the best result, however, you should use chair casters instead of the mat—unless you’re fairly certain that the mat will cover the distance the chair can go. If you’ve got kids, they can drag the rolling chair well away from the mat and all over the rest of the floor.
If you’re looking for some chair casters you can trust, you can go with the Lifelong Wheels Replacement Rubber Fit. The product is easy to use, and it is versatile enough to work with most rolling chairs.
Other General Care Tips for Your Laminate Floor
1. Maintain the Right Level of Humidity Around the Home
You should ensure the humidity level of the room is between 35-65%. This way, you can ensure the laminate floor doesn’t warp due to the contraction and expansion of the construction materials. You can use a humidistat to measure the humidity level in the home.
Check to see if you already have one in your thermostat or humidifier. If the room’s humidity is lower than the recommended limits, turn on the humidifier to moisturize the room.
2. Stick to the Cleaning Instructions That Come With Your Laminate
Most manufacturers include instructions on how to clean their laminate floors. Read the instructions as some brands have specific recommendations and may recommend products to use.
3. Embrace Dry Mopping
A running theme in this article is that too much moisture is bad for your laminate floor. This is why you shouldn’t practice wet mopping with conventional soap and detergent. The excess water can seep into the base of the floor quickly, and the chemicals in the soap and detergent can damage the topcoat of the flooring.
You should get a spray cleaner designed for laminate flooring and use a dry mop when cleaning the floor.
4. Don’t Use Vacuum Cleaners With Rotary Brush Heads
Vacuum cleaners with a beater bar or rotary brush head can damage your laminate flooring. You should get a felt or brush vacuum. Before you start vacuuming, looking at the wheels to ensure they haven’t accumulated some grit and dirt that can scratch your laminate flooring.
You should vacuum and sweep once a day to reduce the amount of grit and dirt on the floor. This way, you can avoid scratches as much as possible. Don’t use any abrasive materials to sweep up debris, or the purpose is defeated.
5. Don’t Allow Repairs to Linger
Minor damage to laminate flooring can lead to bigger problems in the future. You can carry out minor repairs on your own by getting a laminate floor repair kit (often available in home improvement stores). The box will typically contain wax sticks and silicon filler. For more serious damage, you’ll most likely need replacement planks or tiles. Call in an expert as soon as possible for repairs that will need such replacement.
Wrapping Things Up
If you’re looking for an affordable flooring solution that is easy to install, there are few options better than laminate. However, to ensure the floor’s longevity when finished, you need to take important steps to preserve it as much as possible.
Preventing water damage and sources of scratches and dents is the bulk of the care package for laminate flooring. By eliminating these two problems or reducing them to the barest minimum, your floor will last as long as the manufacturers originally intended.