Although similar to wood in its aesthetic, laminate floors are not as durable. They cannot be sanded and refinished like natural hardwood floors. They are also prone to water damage if any liquid seeps beneath the surface.
With this in mind, we need to consider seal laminate floors and protect it from the wear and tear of everyday life and ensure it lasts a long time in your home.
When sealing, use flexible silicone caulk to seal the outer edge of your laminate flooring. This edge is hidden under the baseboards, so it is best to seal the floors right after they are installed. Sealing the other seams of the laminate is unnecessary unless it is in an area at a high risk of water damage.
If you are not sure, if your floors need to be sealed, is to water test them. Beside water testing, you will learn some more great tips discovering sealed floors – coins involved 🙂
Are you just installing Laminate floors or thinking about them? Make sure you read my Laminate flooring buying guide, where I explained everything you need to know before buying them.
Is laminate flooring Waterproof? Do I Need to Seal them?
The Laminate is considered waterproof flooring as far as the top layer of the actual board is concerned, but the inner part is not so we need to be extra cautious. This means that if any water seeps in under the surface board, it can cause warping on the surface of the board.
The most vulnerable spots of the floor are around the edges, where there is a ¼ inch gap to allow the floor to float, and any joints that are near a water source (like a sink or a bathtub).
If you seal these cracks with flexible silicone caulk, then your floors will be adequately sealed to ensure their longevity.
More about in my post: Is Laminate Flooring Waterproof?
How to Tell if Your Laminate Floor Is Sealed
There’s nothing worse than finding out the hard way that the floor you installed yourself isn’t sealed, or that the floor of your new home wasn’t sealed properly. Without a proper seal on your floor, you’re open to a wide variety of risks, such as mold. So, how can you tell if your laminate floor is sealed?
The best way too tell if your laminate floor is sealed is to do a water test. To do this, you will want to go to an inconspicuous spot and place a small amount of water on the floor. You will know your floor is not sealed if the floor color changes or the water soaks into the floor.
As long as you know the state of your laminate floors, they won’t cause you too many problems, but you need to be able to tell if they are sealed or not. The best way to do that is to do a small water test. Let’s take a closer look at some of the risks of unsealed floors as well as the best ways to seal your laminate floors.
Step 1: Pick a Spot to Test
To complete the water test, you’ll want to pick an area of your floor that you’re okay with getting a little damaged (in the event the floors aren’t properly sealed). The best place to try would be in the corner of the room that usually has a piece of furniture over the area. This way, if the floors aren’t sealed, the damage isn’t as pronounced.
Step 2: Spill Water on the Test Spot
Once you’ve picked your area, take a small amount of water, and spill it there. You should find out almost immediately if the floors are sealed or not. A sealed floor will cause the water to bead up and stay on the surface of the floor. However, if the floor is unsealed, the water will soak into the floor instead.
Step 3: Use a Coin to Check if the Floor is Sealed
If you don’t want to put water on your floor, you can use a coin to test the laminate floor. To do this, you’re going to want to pick an area of your floor that isn’t seen much, similar to the water test.
Once you’ve chosen your spot, you’ll take a coin and scrape the top layer of the floor. When you look at the coin after the scrape, there should be a small amount of a clear substance on the edge of the coin. This is the material used to seal the floor, which proves your floor is sealed. If you don’t see a clear material, your floors aren’t sealed.
Look for Signs of Water Damage
If you really don’t want to spill water or scrape up your floor, you can do a visual inspection of your floors. This may not be as accurate in determining if your floors are sealed simply because if there is no water damage, you might not be able to tell at all.
Look in areas that are most likely going to have water damage, such as near sinks or around toilets. You’re going to want to look for peeling edges or bulging surfaces on the laminate floor. If you see anything like that, it’s likely that your floors aren’t sealed.
Risks to Unsealed Laminate Floors
The good news is that most laminate floors you purchase will come already sealed. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t have unsealed laminate floors. When a floor isn’t sealed, it is easier for water to get underneath and sit on the subfloor.
Water on the subfloor can lead to mold and rot if it’s allowed to sit in one spot for too long. If your subfloor is wood or plywood, you’re opening yourself up to a big project if it starts to rot away.
Signs of Water Damage
There are easy ways to tell if your laminate flooring has water damage. If you see an area of the floor that is buckling or peeling, that’s generally a good sign that there’s water damage under the flooring. However, you can also tell if you see any signs of discoloration, cracking, or even mold. These are all signs that there’s water damage to your floors.
How to Avoid New or Further Damage to Unsealed Floors
Just because you have an unsealed floor doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get water damage. There are simple ways to avoid getting water damage on your unsealed laminate floors.
Use Candle Wax to Create a Temporary Barrier
One way that you can avoid water damage on your laminate floor is to use wax from a tea light candle. Wax is a natural water deterrent, so when you place the wax in the grooves of your laminate flooring, the water spill will have a harder time getting through.
Check out the process on how to use a candle to protect your laminate floor:
Do Monthly Maintenance Checks on Water-Based Appliances
Make it a habit to fully check all of your appliances that use water at least once a month. By doing this, you can spot a problem before it becomes one. This will allow you to keep an eye on your flooring as well.
Best Options to Fix Unsealed Laminate Floors
Now, if you realize that your laminate floors are damaged, don’t rush to replace the entire floor just yet. You might be able to fix just the damaged area and leave the rest of the floor (and your wallet) alone for now. There are some easy ways to fix laminate floors that have water damage.
- Use leftover pieces from the installation: This is a great option, especially if you installed the floors yourself. If you’re the type to hold onto leftover material because you might need it later, this is probably the best plan for you. You already have the material, which means all you have to do is remove the damaged pieces and repair your laminate flooring with the leftovers.
- Buy from the same manufacturer: If you happen to remember where you purchased your laminate flooring, purchase the same planks from the same manufacturer. This will ensure that your floor looks the same throughout your room when you replace the damaged planks.
How can you seal Laminate floors?
Luckily, most laminate floors lock together tightly in a way that protects them from water damage. This means that you don’t have to coat the entire floor with silicone sealant. Only the ¼ inch space around the outside edge of the floor really needs to be sealed. This is the area that would typically be covered by the baseboards.
NOTE: You should always check the manufacturer’s guidelines for sealant suggestions.
Best time to seal your laminate?
The best time to seal your laminate floors is when the floor is first installed. Around the outside edge of your floors, you will have a 1/4-inch expansion gap. This gap allows the floors to expand, contract, and float. Before you install the baseboards, you will seal this gap.
Follow these steps when sealing your laminate floors:
If you are sealing a floor with floor boards already present, these need to be removed first.
- Use a knife to cut the caulk where the baseboard meets the wall.
- Use a leverage device like a pry bar to gently dislodge the baseboard, moving across the baseboard evenly.
- You can place a block of wood between the pry bar and the wall to protect the wall and help with expansion gaps.
TIP: You should take note of which baseboard belongs where either by numbering them or labeling the back. Also, keep track of which end is the top if the style makes it unclear.
Insert a tube of polyethylene foam (PE foam) in the gap around the edge before you caulk it. Shove it into the opening and press it down just past the surface of the laminate.
After the foam is in, use flexible, silicone caulk and drag the tip along the foam. Use your finger to spread the caulk a bit deeper and make the surface uniform.
Caulk around any vents, radiators, or other openings in the surface of the laminate. You do not need the foam for this. Simply cover the entire opening with caulk and spread it with your finger.
Useful Tips when sealing laminate flooring
- Check to make sure that sealing your laminate floors won’t void your manufacturer’s warranty before you begin your project.
- Always laminate sealers according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Wet your finger every couple of minutes before you smooth the caulk. This prevents the caulk from sticking to your skin. You can carry a paper towel with you to wipe off any unwanted caulk.
- Some people have had success at home protecting laminate seams by rubbing wax from a candle. This should be preferably a color close to the flooring shade. You rub it into the seam and buffing the extra off with a cloth. This is a quick DIY seal that can give you extra time to clean up a spill, but it does not waterproof your floors completely.
Can I Wet Mop My Laminate Floor?
This is a bad idea. You do not want loads of standing water on your laminate floors because it will soak in and damage the floors. Use a pre-moistened wet cloth (like a Swiffer wet mop) if you need to mop your floors. Usually, a dry mop will be enough to clean your laminate.
Can I Still Use Polyurethane to Seal the Whole Floor Just to Be Safe?
There may be laminate flooring brands that allow for some sort of sealers to be applied over the entire thing (wax, polyurethane, etc.), but most don’t recommend this. Because the top coat is already non-porous and waterproof, it can’t soak up the laminate floor sealant.
The joints are also already pretty well-fitted together. If you let the laminate soak up the sealant from the joints, it could warp, causing the damage you were trying to avoid in the first place.
NOTE: Sealing the laminate floor completely can make it extremely slippery so avoid this by any means.
If you are very concerned about water damage, then you can use clear silicone caulk to seal the seams of cracks only in the areas at a greater risk of water damage. This means caulking the boards around a sink or a bathtub. Don’t caulk the entire floor’s seams.
TIP: Consider buying vinyl flooring which is waterproof and worry-free alternative. Vinyl flooring option will cost you a bit more at the end but it is highly recommended if you have any sort of moisture problems from before in your home.
Cons of Sealing an Unsealed Floor
Here are some thing cons of sealing your floors on your own:
- Sealing it could void out the warranty: If your flooring came unsealed, the manufacturer might have a good reason. Sealing the floor yourself might be against their policy, which could void the warranty. Check with them before deciding to seal the laminate floor yourself.
- Some laminate floors aren’t meant to be sealed: If that’s the case, you risk losing any warranty you might have on the flooring. Always check with your laminate flooring manufacturer before sealing the floor.