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Home » How to Repair Swollen Laminate Flooring | The Complete Guide

How to Repair Swollen Laminate Flooring | The Complete Guide

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Laminate flooring is known for its durability, attractiveness, and affordability, and while this durable flooring is designed to withstand the occasional spill, excessive exposure to water and moisture can lead to bubbling, which eventually leads to swelling. So, is it possible to repair swollen laminate flooring?

When looking to repair swollen laminate flooring, you’ll first need to inspect the swollen area to determine the root cause. You’ll then remove the wall molding before removing the laminate board, replace the swollen planks with new ones, and allow a large-enough expansion gap when reinstalling.

Now, if you’re interested in learning more about how to repair swollen laminate floors, then you couldn’t be in a better place. Read on as we discuss steps to observe when fixing laminate flooring and ways to prolong the lifetime of this durable but fairly delicate flooring.  

How to Repair Swollen Laminate Flooring

What Causes Swelling in Laminate Flooring?

Let’s name most obvious reasons that will cause Swollen Laminate Flooring:

Tension Between Planks

Laminate floors tend to expand and contract in response to changes in temperature. Therefore, if you don’t leave enough expansion gaps during installation, chances are the laminate floor will eventually peak, bubble, and buckle. Extremely tight moldings can also lead to swelling, hence the need to be extremely mindful of this during installation.  

Moisture Damage

High moisture content in the immediate environment is a major cause of swelling in laminate flooring. Increased levels of moisture will eventually cause bubbling, more so once it reaches the laminate core

As a rule of thumb, you should avoid installing laminate flooring in areas prone to water exposure like bathrooms and kitchens. A dehumidifier can also come in handy in lowering overall humidity levels that can gradually lead to swelling.

Water Spills and Improper Cleaning

A pipe leak that isn’t immediately fixed will almost certainly lead to swelling. Allowing water spills to stay on the laminate surface won’t do you any favors, either. As a result, it is highly advisable to clean spills immediately to prevent moisture from seeping through the seams, which eventually leads to swelling. Try as much as possible to refrain from steam cleaning or wet-mop cleaning laminate floors, as doing so can lead to buckling and bubbling.

Excessively Thick Substrate Layer

It isn’t uncommon to have the substrate rolled up in several layers to level the floor. Excessively thick substrate layers are notorious for weakening the lock connections, which often leads to creaking, crumbling, staggering, and eventually breaking.

Poor Laminate Quality

Issues like board density, sheeting, and quality of lock connections play an integral role in determining laminate flooring’s durability. As a result, it’s best to buy laminate flooring from a trusted seller or manufacturer to avoid disappointments. 

Good laminate boards should not break under minimal physical impact, so you should check on overall density and strength before installation.

The sheeting should also be strong enough to withstand consistent pressure. Be sure to also check the locking mechanism since the laminate strips should click with additional effort. Boards with weak joints are the likeliest to break in the event of excessive stress.

Steps to Observe when Fixing Laminate Flooring

Ideally, laminate flooring shouldn’t be too hard to fix, more so if the damage isn’t severe. Here are some of the important steps to observe when looking to fix swollen laminate flooring.

Conduct a Thorough Floor Inspection

The first step you’ll want to take is performing a detailed inspection around the problematic area. It could be excessive moisture from a leaking pipe or flooding due to faulty appliances like dishwashers, or even a problem with the expansion gap. Either way, you’ll need to get to the bottom of it quickly.

Conducting a thorough inspection allows you to determine which boards need repair. Take note of bubbled or warped boards that don’t fit evenly. You can use a sticky note, marker pen, or a colored piece of tape to mark the damaged areas.

Consider hiring an expert to examine the flooring if you’re relatively inexperienced when it comes to installing and maintaining laminate floors.

Remove the Wall Molding and Laminate Board

Although a mostly assumed step, it is vital to remove the wall molding before removing the laminate board. To ensure that you remove the wall mold correctly, it’s advised to use a hammer and screwdriver. You should also remove the wall molding with caution to avoid causing irreversible damage.

Once you’re done removing the wall mold, next is to carefully pluck out the affected boards one by one. You might also want to remove surrounding boards to make sure that you’ve left nothing to chance.

To remove the laminate boards, slip the floorboards gently from the connecting board’s locking mechanism. If the swelling resulted from insufficient expansion gaps, you can easily fix the issue by reducing the overall tension.

Therefore, if you notice that the gap between the wall and board is less than ¼ an inch, you might want to make it larger by extending it to at least ¼- ½ inches. To increase the expansion gap, take a sharp-enough utility knife and cut (accurately) the board close to the wall.

Replace the Damaged Laminate

After removing the problematic laminate boards, it’s time to make the replacements. Ideally, it’s best to replace with similar laminate boards, preferably from the same manufacturer. Once you have the replacement laminate on standby, you’re good to start the replacement process.

Slide the new laminate floorboard in place of the damaged one. Take extra care when inserting the tongue of the replacement laminate board into the adjacent board’s groove. While it isn’t necessary to remove unaffected boards, you can opt to replace boards that appear peaked or weakly connected to ensure you do a thorough repair job.

Return and Inspect the Flooring

Once done with fixing the problematic area, you should carefully return the undamaged floorboards to their rightful positions. Remember to check on the expansion and contraction gap since a small gap will have you repairing the laminate shortly after the new installations. Cut the edges of the laminate boards adjacent to the wall if you need to increase the expansion gap.  

After you’re done clicking the new laminate boards in place, you should inspect the flooring for any other issues. Please note that swelling might occur in glued down laminate flooring as the boards absorb the glue’s water content. However, the swelling is usually short term and is typically gone within three to four weeks.  

How to Prevent Swelling in Laminate Flooring

Leave ¼- ½ an Inch Expansion and Contraction Space

The greatest issue with DIY laminate flooring installation is assuming that randomly set expansion gaps are sufficient; this should highlight why you’ll need to be extra careful when setting up the expansion gaps. Try your best to take measurements and leave a gap that’s around ¼- ½ an inch. Large enough gaps allow for sufficient expansion and contraction, which in turn prevents your laminate flooring from swelling.

Clean Up Spills and Sitting Water Immediately

Chances of damage to your laminate flooring increase whenever the floor is exposed to water. As a result, you should always clean up spills and leaks before they make the floor soggy. If you have pets, be sure to place high-quality waterproof mats like the AUDWUD Silicone Waterproof Pet Feeding Mat in their feeding area to prevent water or food spills from ruining your laminate flooring.

Once you identify that an appliance or pipe is malfunctioning and leaking water to your floors, your best bet is to fix it immediately to avoid water build-up. Appliances like dishwashers, fridges (depending on the brand) are notorious for causing spills, hence the need to be extra careful when setting laminate flooring beneath them.

Acclimate your Flooring Before Installation

The importance of allowing laminate flooring to acclimate before installation cannot be overstated. Most manufacturers usually indicate important details about the flooring and will often advise the ideal acclimation period. 

However, with laminate flooring, it’s best to allow 2-3 days for the flooring system to acclimate to your home’s environment. You should do the same with replacement laminate boards, especially if you’re replacing a large number of damaged boards.

Check on your Cleaning Techniques

Your laminate flooring won’t last if you expose it to soap, water, and liquid cleaners. Wet mopping laminate floors is also a major cause of swelling. Dry mopping is a great way to keep your laminate flooring neat and well-maintained.  

The trick when using a dry mop is to clean the floors as frequently as possible. For instance, you can dry mop high-traffic areas like the kitchen and living room once or twice a day to keep your flooring clean. Generally, you’ll need to mop (dry) or vacuum your laminate floors more frequently if you have several children and pets.  

High-quality microfiber mops like the Turbo Mop Floor Cleaning System is soft enough to dry mop laminate floors. If you must use detergents or cleaning products on your laminate flooring, ensure you buy one that’s specifically meant for use on laminate floors.

Avoid spraying the floor-cleaners directly on your laminate floors. Instead, spray a small amount on your microfiber mop before gently cleaning the laminate flooring.

Regulate the Humidity Levels

Laminate flooring usually expands when humidity levels rise above 60%. The main reason for the expansion is laminate flooring’s click to lock system, which often pushes the sides of the laminate planks into each other.

Low humidity levels, too, can have a huge impact on your laminate flooring, especially when overall humidity gets below 30%. Low humidity, more often than not, leads to shrinkage, which is characterized by the planks pulling away from each other.

Consider using a dehumidifier to maintain a constant humidity level, especially through the summer. A relative humidity level of 33% to 60% should be enough to protect your laminate flooring from humidity-based damage.

Call A Professional As Soon As You Detect Serious Problems

This point hinges greatly on your ability to perform DIY repairs on your laminate flooring. If you aren’t too sure about your chances of success when fixing your laminate floors, consulting with experts is highly recommended. 

Professional installers will ensure that a large enough expansion gap is left during installation. Even more importantly, professionals play a pivotal part in unearthing potential problems with your flooring system.

When dealing with laminate floors, it’s highly advisable to act fast whenever you detect underlying problems. Failure to call in professionals before the problem gets worse might leave you replacing the entire floor, which can prove costly and time-consuming.  

FAQs About Laminate Floors

What is an Underlayment?

A laminate underlayment is a unique, soft pad that’s usually installed beneath laminate flooring. It’s main purpose is to help laminate planks connect better and lay smoother, thus allowing for a softer underfoot feeling when walking on the planks.

Underlayment can either be attached or separate. As the name suggests, the attached underlayment comes attached to the flooring, meaning you won’t need to add any other underlayment to install. On the other hand, separate underlayment doesn’t come attached, meaning rolls must be bought and installed separately.  

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Do Laminate Floors Need Underlayment?

Since laminate flooring is naturally thin and made from fiberboard instead of solid wood, proper installation can be difficult without the support of an underlayment.

Laminate underlayment softens footfall and is crucial in sound absorption. Besides absorbing sound, underlayment helps to lock planks together while also bridging minor imperfections in the subfloor. Underlayment is also pivotal in moisture control, more so by preventing moisture in the subfloor from reaching the laminate planks.

Where Can I Install Laminate Wood Flooring?

Although highly versatile, there are some areas that aren’t too suitable for installing laminate flooring. You can install laminate over wood, concrete, or even above or below ground. However, the rule of thumb is to avoid installing laminate in bathrooms, saunas, washrooms, or even enclosed verandas that might need wet mopping.

But if you must install laminate flooring on rooms that are likely to have spills, the best plan of action is to apply glue to provide additional protection. When adding glue to the laminate planks, target the seams of the locks to waterproof the wood. Either way, you should always wipe spills immediately if you want to prevent your planks from swelling.  

Is Laminate Flooring Water-Resistant?

You’ll find that most laminate floors are designed to be water-resistant. However, despite being water-resistant, laminate flooring isn’t 100% waterproof. 

While the laminate floor can resist the occasional spill or water droplets, you’ll need to be extra cautious of stagnant and flooding water. Once saturated with water, it will only be a matter of time before your laminate boards start to buckle, warp and delaminate.

If you have pets, try placing waterproof mats next to their feeding areas to reduce the chances of staining or spilling. 

How Long Do I Have to Clean Standing Water on Laminate Floors?

There is no specific time frame for cleaning up spills on laminate floors. Of course, thicker laminate floors with superior top layers can hold still water for longer than cheaper options. But the general consensus is that water shouldn’t be allowed to sit for more than an hour on laminate floors.

If your laminate boards have been exposed to water for extended periods, then it’s best to replace them before the moisture spreads to other parts of the flooring system.

Will I Need to Replace the Subfloor Beneath Water-damaged floors?

The course of action when repairing water-damaged laminate floors should depend on the extent of the damage. And as mentioned earlier, it’s crucial to investigate the laminate flooring to determine the problem’s origin before commencing with necessary repairs.

Once you’ve identified the problematic boards, remove them gently and peel back the underlay to expose the subfloor. If you don’t know the basics of inspecting a subfloor for potential problems, it’s best advised to call in an expert to assess if the subfloor is fit for use.

Always examine the subfloor when dealing with moisture problems in your laminate flooring. Failure to uncover underlying subfloor problems can lead to constant swelling and board replacement, which does little to solve your problems.

Wrapping Things Up

Although durable, laminate flooring is known to swell when exposed to various elements. For instance, failure to clean spills for a couple of hours can lead to moisture absorption inside the seams, leading to swelling.

To repair the swollen laminate flooring, you’ll need first to investigate the problematic area to address the problem’s root. After inspecting the floor, remove the wall molds and the laminate boards carefully. You’ll then need to replace the affected boards by using similar colored laminates. Once done, return the flooring and molds and inspect the expansion gap to ensure it’s wide enough.

You’ll need to use laminate-friendly cleaning detergents if you’re to prevent laminate swelling. Therefore, before purchasing a particular cleaning product, check whether it’s meant for use on laminate flooring. And when it comes to cleaning, you should dry mop the floors as opposed to wet mopping.