To repair laminate flooring is not that hard. While they can withstand normal wear and tear for up to 25 years, it’s not immune to common problems such as gaps, buckling/lifting, popping up, scratches, chips, bubbles, and water damage. Luckily, most of these problems (if not all) don’t require a professional to fix them.
You can fix flooring gaps using a floor gap fixer or wood glue, buckling/lifting by getting rid of moisture and cutting an extension gap, and popping up by flattening your subfloor. Scratches can be fixed using wood putty, wax filler sticks/pencil, while putty or acrylic filler may help with chips.
In the rest of this post, we’ll explore the steps for fixing each of the above problems with just a few supplies. We’ll also cover how to address bubbles and water damage on laminate flooring towards the end of this post, so be sure to read all the way through.
How to Fix Laminate Flooring Gaps
More often than not, gaps in laminate flooring are caused by normal wear, so chances are you’ve experienced this problem if you’ve had your flooring long enough. If it hasn’t occurred yet, it likely will, so you might as well learn how to fix it.
There are two ways to fix laminate flooring gaps. One of the methods involves using a specialized tool known as a floor gap fixer, while the other entails using wood glue. Besides a wood glue and a floor gap fixer, you’ll only need a mallet and a heavy flat object.
Let’s take a look at the steps involved in each method.
Fix Laminate Flooring Gaps Using a Floor Gap Fixer
If you don’t already own a floor gap fixer, you’ll want to purchase one. It shouldn’t be hard to find online, too, with many options available for everyone’s taste.
If you love a bit of sophistication, we’d recommend an option like the FCHO Floor Gap Fixer, which comes in a sleek design and with suction cups as the binding mechanism.
For lovers of simplicity, the ideal choice is a Floor Gap Fixer (Tool and Mallet). This takes the traditional form of a heavy, compact rectangular block with an adhesive rubber face as the mechanism for binding to your flooring to provide the traction you need to work the out-of-position back into place with several taps of a mallet.
TIP: If keeping your repair project's overall cost is a top priority, you can make a floor gap fixer tool from scratch. Get a 4x4 piece of wood and coat one of its sides with double-sided adhesive tape and you're all set.
With your floor gap fixer tool at hand, start fixing the gaps in your laminate flooring using the following steps:
- Peel the protective backing of the adhesive face of your floor gap fixer tool. You won’t need to do this if you’re using something like the FCHO because the suction cups come ready to use.
- Place the floor gap fixer tool at the center of the plank you’re looking to move back into position and firmly press down to anchor it. If your gap fixer has suction cups, dampen the displaced plank and press the suction cups firmly against it to get a good grip.
- Tap one end of the gap fixer tool with a mallet to move the out-of-position plank back into place to close the gap. Work your way from the wall to the center of your floor. This way, you won’t shift the displaced plank towards the wall and end up with gaps at the center of your floor. If anything, you’d be better off with gaps at the far end (near the wall) because the baseboard usually covers that part.
- If you’re correcting several planks in the same row, move the next planks in line inward as outlined in step three above. This way, you’ll maintain consistent spacing between the planks and avoid widening the gap even more.
- Repeat the process for any other gaps on your flooring. Once you’re done, use a damp piece of cloth to wipe off dust and other debris that may have piled up on the adhesive pad of your gap fixer tool (that is, if you’re using the block type).
When fixing gaps in laminate flooring using this method, there are two critical rules you’ll want to observe:
- Do not strike your gap fixer tool too hard when attempting to move the displaced plank back into position. Doing this can undo the grip of the gap fixer or, worse, damage the underside of your flooring.
- Once you’re done correcting the flooring gap, pull up the fixer to remove it. Avoid yanking it sideways because this may move the plank and create another gap.
Fill Laminate Flooring Gaps Using Wood Glue
For this method, you can use any yellow or clear wood glue. However, if you want the work from your repair to last longer, consider investing in a high-strength adhesive. You can also use wood or caulk putty, but these may not be ideal if you’re trying to keep things simple because they may require additional equipment or applicators.
Assuming you’re going with wood glue, here are the steps for fixing gaps in laminate flooring using wood glue:
- Using a cotton swab, toothpick, or any other appropriate small household utensil, scoop a glob of wood glue. For even more precision, consider using a disposable syringe for glue application.
- Apply the wood glue onto the exposed tongue of the problem plank. You’ll see a square edge in the floor gap where the plank’s bottom is meant to fit onto the next plank’s top snugly. Apply a fair amount of glue to this part, ensuring end-to-end coverage. If in doubt, apply more glue than you feel you need; it’s better to use excess adhesive than to have the planks separate in a few days.
- Push the displaced plank onto the next one in line to close the gap. Don’t wait too long because wood glue does dry pretty fast. When pushing the displaced plank back into position to close the gap, you can use both hands to guide it into place. Alternatively, you can use a floor gap fixer tool to move the plank back into the right position.
- Finally, use a damp piece of cloth to wipe off excess glue. This is an essential step because any dried-in excessive adhesive may cause mild discoloration on your floor. If you used wood putty or caulk to fill the gap, let the residue dry before sanding it down. For a smooth finish, use sandpaper with a grit rating of 180 and above.
How to Fix Laminate Flooring Buckling/Lifting
Moisture is often the cause of buckling and lifting in laminate flooring. When the board’s fiberboard core soaks up water, it causes the board to expand and push against the next one in line.
If there isn’t an expansion gap around the floor’s perimeter to absorb some of the movement caused by this expansion, there’ll be nowhere else for the board’s swollen edges to go but up. When the edges curl upward, the board will assume an unsightly concave shape, resulting in buckling. If the edges don’t curl upwards, the middle of the board will, leading to lifting.
What Causes Buckling Laminate flooring?
- Water Damage – Laminate floor may buckle or lift for several reasons. Moisture or water damage are most common. This can happen from the moisture in the air, moisture seeping up from below, or standing water on the surface.
- Low-Quality Construction Another cause is poor construction. Laminate boards need a rigid balancing layer to distribute the pressure used in construction. Low-quality glue-less laminates may also start to separate, allowing moisture to seep underneath the floors.
- Poor Installation – A underlayment with a moisture barrier should have been installed under your laminate flooring if you have problems with moisture. If the laminate was not installed properly, or the floor was not properly flattened, buckling can also occur.
- No Expansion Gap – Laminate flooring may expand and contract when the temperature changes. An expansion gap around the edges allows room for the laminate floor to expand without lifting or buckling.
In extreme cases, both buckling and lifting can cause cracks in laminate flooring. You don’t want that, of course, so follow this steps to fix your buckling laminate flooring
Step 1: Trace the Source of the Moisture and Address It
Before you even get to fixing the buckling or lifting, you’ll need to address the root cause of the problem. Usually, moisture that causes buckling and lifting in laminate flooring seeps through the subfloor or originates from high humidity and poor cleaning practices; if you need some assistance with the latter of these two, you can find more information from our article on cleaning laminate floors.
Addressing the moisture problem may be as simple as avoiding cleaning the floor with water. If high humidity is the issue, you might want to invest in a more efficient ventilation system than you currently have. In the meantime, deploy a dehumidifier as a short term remedy.
If moisture is seeping through the subfloor, check the moisture barrier. Usually, laminate floors have it underneath. However, the underlayment can sometimes be inadequate, especially with concrete subfloors. If the barrier is the problem, you’ll need to replace it. In case you don’t know how to do that, here’s a quick video with the steps for installing your new moisture barrier:
Step 2: Cut an Expansion Gap
When tracking down the moisture source, be sure to also check for the expansion gap on the edges of your floor. To do this, remove the baseboards; you should see a gap between the wall and the floor. If there isn’t such a gap, you’ll need to make one.
To do this without removing the whole floor, you’ll need a rotary tool with a mini-saw accessory. If you can’t find one locally, get the Dremel 4000-2/30 High-Performance Rotary Tool Kit and pair it with the 670 Mini Saw Attachment from the same manufacturer.
Next, use the mini saw to cut an ¼” (6.35mm) gap around the perimeter of the floor. The cut doesn’t have to be perfectly uniform; as long as you keep it less than ⅜” (9.525mm) wide, the baseboards will conceal it.
Step 3: Assess the Damage and Fix the Buckling/Lifting
With the root cause of buckling or lifting handled, you can proceed to repair the damage. Depending on the damage’s extent, you could be looking at minor repairs such as simply flattening/replacing a couple of boards or replacing the whole floor.
If you’re dealing with mild buckling/lifting due to cleaning malpractices or high humidity, drying things out may be enough to prompt the boards to resume their standard shape. To speed things up, consider putting something heavy on the affected boards to hold them down and flatten them.
If there are only a few damaged boards and you’re confident that the subfloor isn’t damp, replace them.
You can also fix laminate floor lifting by injecting an adhesive or silicone caulk if your floor has a glue-down installation. To do this:
- Get a rotary tool and drill a small hole on the affected plank.
- Next, inject silicone adhesive or silicone caulk into this hole using a large syringe and seal the hole using a wood putty that matches your floor’s color.
NOTE: Again, all the above fixes will only work when just a few planks are affected. If the moisture has damaged so many boards that it beats logic to replace all of them, there isn't much else you can do except replace the entire floor. That will require a substantial amount of work and expertise, so you might want to outsource.
How to Prevent laminate floors to buckle?
We can prevent buckling on laminate floors by following below rules:
- Use quality product – The best fix for a problem is to avoid it entirely. By using high-quality laminate, you may be able to avoid a costly repair later.
- Appropriate installation – The subfloor must be completely flat before laying laminate flooring. If the subfloor is concrete, you also run the risk of humidity seeping up through the floor. Water-resistant glue or a moisture barrier can help alleviate this problem. When the floor is laid, it is also important to allow a gap around the edges, as laminate will swell with changes in temperature.
- Proper cleaning – Regular cleaning of your laminate floors is really important. Wipe up spills immediately. Do not use wet mops or steam on any area. If you don’t want to repair them, try to keep it dry.
How to Fix Laminate Flooring Popping Up
More often than not, the problem of laminate flooring popping up is caused by an uneven subfloor. Having humps on your subfloor puts pressure on your boards. If this pressure is continuously exerted on a joint, it’ll either pop or create a gap on your floor (see previous sections on fixing gaps on laminate flooring).
To fix laminate flooring popping up, you’ll need to pull up the entire floor and flatten the uneven surfaces on your subfloor. Here’s how to do that:
- Clear out the entire room and use a pry bar to remove the baseboards. You don’t need to remove any baseboards beyond the affected boards.
- In one of the corners, pry off a panel to start disassembling your flooring. To do this, use a sponge grouting float to push down on the board you’re looking to remove as you simultaneously push the grouting float to the corner. Doing this will disengage the board, after which you can use a pull bar to raise its outside edge and remove it. Remove the entire first row of panels using this technique.
- To remove the remaining boards as you work your way to the damaged part of the floor, lift their outside edges as you pull them off the floor. Stack them in the same order you remove them because this will help you figure out which boards go where when reinstalling them.
- After removing the panels up to the damaged area, you’ll have uncovered the subfloor. However, the foam underlayment will still be in your way. Remove it and start checking your subfloor for humps. If you can readily spot the humps, use a straightedge tool to check for any raised areas.
- If your subfloor is made of wood, use a belt sander and a sanding belt (100-grit works best for this purpose). If you’re up against a concrete subfloor with large humps, you’ll need to chisel them down using a cold chisel and a hammer. Alternatively, you can spread floor-leveling compound on the entire subfloor. Either option works just fine; the point is to create an even surface on your subfloor.
- With the humps flattened, you can now reinstall your laminate flooring. Put the underlayment back on the subfloor and then reinstall the boards you removed earlier. If a few of them are damaged, this is your chance to replace them. With the flooring down, round up your repair project by nailing the baseboards back to the walls using 1-½” ( 38.1mm) finish nails.
How to Fix Laminate Flooring Scratches
Even though laminate flooring is durable, it scratches and scrapes easily. Since you can’t sand the surface, you can only repair scratches and scrapes with either a wax pencil or wood putty. Wax pencils are best suited for shallow and narrow scratches, while the wood putty is ideal for moderately deep and wide scratches. For major scratches, you’ll need wax filler sticks.
Regardless of what you use, you’ll want to match its color to that of your floor. If you know your flooring manufacturer, this should be easy because laminate manufacturers usually offer repair kits to help consumers fix minor damage. In such kits, you’ll find colored putty, putty knife, and wax pencils.
In case you can’t find the manufacturer of your flooring, you can always take a color sample (or even a photo) of your floor to the store and try finding a repair kit that matches its color. Alternatively, you can find a repair kit that lets you mix things up to create a custom color that matches your flooring.
With color matching handled, let’s look at how to fix shallow and deep scratches.
How to Fill Shallow Scratches on Laminate Flooring?
As you might have gathered, you’ll only need a wax pencil to fix minor scratches on laminate flooring. The goal is to fill the scratch with wax and bring it to level with the rest of your floor’s surface.
To Fill Shallow Scratches of your laminate flooring rub your wax pencil’s tip in a back and forth motion across the scratch/scrape using short, controlled strokes and work against the scratch’s general direction. Also, be careful with how much filler you apply because the more you use, the darker the surface will look.
Whenever in doubt, use the least amount possible at first because you can always go back and apply more filler to match your floor’s exact color shade.
Once you’ve filled the scratch with wax and are satisfied with the results, use a clean, soft piece of cloth to buff and smoothen the wax filler until it blends in with the rest of the surface.
How to Fill Medium-Depth Scratches on Laminate Flooring?
When the scratch is too deep and wide to fill with a wax pencil, wood putty can be a solution. Here’s how you do this:
- Start by spreading the putty across the scratch using a putty knife. If you don’t have a wood putty knife, a wooden craft stick will do just fine.
- Next, hold the knife/craft stick 45 degrees to the floor surface and press down the putty across the scratch until it’s filled.
- Now turn the knife or craft stick on its edge and gently scrape across the repaired spot and onto the surrounding surface to level everything. Allow a day for the putty to harden.
How to Repair Deep Scratches on Laminate Flooring
When the scratches are too deep and wide to fix with either wax pencils or wood putty, your only option is to use wax filler sticks. These resemble wax pencils, except they’re typically wax blocks. As usual, you’ll want to match the color of wax filler sticks to that of your floor when shopping. Here’s are the steps involved:
- Melt the wax filler sticks. Warm-up an ordinary knife or hold a butane torch close to the sticks to melt them.
- Apply the melted wax onto the scratch to fill it. Use a warmed up knife to spread the wax evenly onto the blemish.
- Allow 30 seconds for the wax to cool off. Once the wax cools off, use a stiff card (your credit card will do) or any other tool such as a putty knife to level it. Be gentle to avoid scratching other parts of your floor.
- Buff the edges of the repaired area with a clean, soft cloth. Doing this removes excess wax and helps blend in the repaired scratch with the rest of the surface.
How to Fix Laminate Floor Chips
Laminate flooring chips often occur due to bad installation practices or by dropped objects, and you can fix them in two ways:
Method 1: Repair Laminate Floor Chips Using Acrylic Filler
To fix laminate flooring chips using acrylic filler, you’ll only need the following four steps:
- Wet a lint-free piece of cloth and use it to clean the chip and the area around it.
- Slot the acrylic filler tube’s tip into the chip’s opening and squeeze until the chip is full.
- If the chip is wider than ¼” (6.35mm), apply two to four acrylic layers, allowing about four hours for each layer to dry before applying the next coat.
- Once the chip is filled, use a wet rag or a finger to smooth the repaired area and allow four hours before stepping on or putting any heavy item on that part of the floor.
Method 2: Fix Laminate Flooring Chips Using Putty Filler
To do this, follow these steps:
- Use a damp, lint-free piece of cloth to clean the chip and the area around it.
- Using a putty knife, scoop a small amount of putty filler and apply it to the chip.
- Angle the putty knife slightly and drag its straight edge over the putty to level it with the rest of the floor surface.
- Let the putty filler sit undisturbed for four hours before putting any weight on it.
How to Fix a Laminate Floor Bubbling
Bubbling in laminate flooring is somewhat related to the buckling and lifting problems discussed earlier. These issues are caused by swelling of the planks, typically when moisture finds its way to the fiberboard core.
To fix laminate floor bubbling, you’ll have to replace the affected planks. We’ve already covered in post about swollen laminate floors but here’s a video to save you some time:
How to Fix Laminate Floor Water Damage
While there are quite a few things that can damage your floors, it seems like water damage is the number one culprit for a host of laminate flooring problems. So before you begin to fix its damage, you’ll want to track down the moisture’s root source and plug it.
Once you address the source of the water, you can fix the damage using the following steps:
- Check your floor for bent, warped, or cracked parts. These are the typical signs of water damage, and identifying them can give you an idea of the affected parts of your floor.
- Inspect your floor for mold and other signs of discoloration and mark the affected parts with sticky notes. Doing this will help you map out the affected parts of your floor to understand better which planks need replacement.
- Using a putty knife or a butcher knife, pry up the affected planks. If you accidentally pry up an undamaged plank, save it for reinstallation.
- At this point, the baseboards should be exposed; Remove them one at a time to avoid doing further damage to your floor. You should see the bare floor underneath; inspect it for mold and clean it.
- Get the replacement planks (they should look like the ones on your floor) and push them against the undamaged ones you left intact. Leave some space along the length of the planks for fitting the nozzle of a flooring adhesive bottle.
- Squeeze flooring adhesive into the small space you left in step five above. Place a heavy object to hold the planks in place as they set, and leave the repaired part of the floor undisturbed for a few hours.
Is it normal for laminate flooring to move?
Laminate flooring is floating floor so it is typical to mose. It also swells with humidity and changes in temperature so you may see small gaps between the floor boards, or between walls and the floor.
Should I replace my laminate flooring with something else?
Laminate is a beautiful, affordable, and durable alternate to wood flooring, but it is does have some downfalls. One in particular is the risk of water damage. In basements, laundry rooms, and other areas where prolonged exposure to moisture is likely, your better options are ceramic or porcelain tile, stone, vinyl, or concrete.
Should I even try to fix my laminate flooring myself?
If you have some experience with home improvement projects and a full day to dedicate to the job, this is a reasonable DIY project. You might have to remove a large area of flooring, and piece it back, board by board though.
Plan ahead so you know you will have time to dedicate to the work this will take. If you do it right, the first time, your flooring should last awhile so you can focus on improving your home, instead of making repairs.