Installing laminate flooring is significantly less troublesome than fitting carpet or installing hardwood flooring, but it can still lead to some serious problems further down the line if you don’t get it right. Fortunately, most of the common problems that occur during installation are easy to spot as long as you know what you’re looking for.
- Make sure you have at least some confidence in what you’re doing. Laminate flooring installation requires the right toolset, a keen eye and a steady hand, but above all else it requires patience. If you think you might not have the requisite patience, you might be better off hiring a professional.
- Always check the subfloor first. Generally, these will be build from concrete and might be weak or uneven, in which case you will need to grid down certain areas and fill in others with concrete. Use a spirit level to measure how flat the subfloor is and measure any gaps. If you’re installing on a wooden surface, meanwhile, you might need to get the hand sander out. An uneven floor will always eventually lead to compromised laminate, so don’t take a short-cut here.
- Choose hard-wearing laminate over cheap material that will warp and buckle with heavy use. Do your research regarding the best brands and manufacturers and don’t be afraid to ask for opinions regarding what kind of laminate flooring should be installed depending on the room and your individual circumstances.
- Always purchase a little more than you think you’ll need, as if boards are damaged you can easily replace them later thanks to the simple lock and groove installation of modern laminate boards.
- Make sure you install a proper underlay before laying down your laminate flooring, as you don’t want to be installing it directly onto the concrete. The best underlay for laminate flooring should also be moisture resistant, as moisture getting between the boards can lead to the wood in the laminate expanding. The underlay will also absorb sound and insulate your home, hopefully saving you a few pounds on your monthly heating bills. It also creates a softer, more comfortable feeling underfoot.
- Allow the boards to acclimatise in the room in which they will be installed for at least 48 hours prior to installation. Wood does not respond well to sudden changes in temperature, so to avoid any cracks and humps in the future, make sure you’ve given your new laminate time to settle.
- If your flooring comes with manufacturers installation instructions, make sure you follow them exactly whenever possible.
- Don’t overdo it with the hammer. You might want to use a hammer and a block to gently help the boards fit together, but if you hit it too hard you could end up breaking the edges so that the boards won’t lock in properly.
- Inspect each board separately for defects and to make sure that the pattern isn’t identical to the previous board. Once the whole floor has been laid, it will be that much harder to replace one rogue board than during the initial installation. It’s also unlikely that the manufacturer will cover a defective board once it’s been laid down.
- Whilst we can try to prevent it, expansion will always happen, which means you should leave a small amount of space around the edges (10mm should do it) to accommodate this natural occurrence. Note, however, that how much space you should be leaving around the room will ultimately depend on the room and the climate of your area/home.
- Make sure the boards are locked tight, as if they are even slightly loose they will drift further apart with time and will create unsightly visible gaps that are also a magnet for moisture and debris. Watch out for dark lines between your boards and rectify it with a rubber mallet if you have one to hand. Never use metal or wood on your laminate flooring as it could scratch the wear layer.
Common Laminate Flooring Problems
Peaking refers to the edges of your laminate flooring boards pushing together and ‘peaking’ upwards. This is generally caused by leaving insufficient space during installation, as when the boards expand they push against the other boards and have nowhere to go but up! Peaking also commonly occurs when there is excess moisture in the subfloor, so always make sure the ground is dry before beginning any installation. Peaking can usually be rectified by removing the laminate boards, finding the area where expansion has occurred and making a little extra space. Once you’ve sorted the problem, it might take a few weeks for the peaking to subside, but it will eventually. If you’re growing impatient, try using something to weight it down.
Laminate flooring gaps are, as the name suggests, gaps between the boards that are too wide and begin collecting moisture and debris. This can lead to serious troubles, so gapping is something you want to correct as soon as possible. Gaps are generally caused by poor laminate board alignment, and joints not being locked together properly. It also doesn’t help if your subfloor is uneven or the underlay is too thick (or not thick enough). At any rate, the key here is to discover what the reason for the gap is before you set about correcting it. Also, certain models of laminate flooring will always be built with a slight gap that collects dirt, so before you panic, try running a mop or a brush over the gap. If the dark gap is removed as a result – you don’t have a serious problem.
Laminate floor buckling is a more severe form of peaking that happens when the boards move up against each other so much that they start to lift from the subfloor. Also known as ‘tenting’ this also happens when you don’t leave enough space at the edges during installation or when there has been a lot of moisture leaking in from the subfloor (possibly from a ruptured pipe air excessive humidity). Once again, the only fix here is to remove the boards and create more space for them to grow, but it might be too late at this point.
Noisy Creaking Floors
Squeaks and creaks are a frustrating problem in any floor and whilst they are arguably much more common in hardwood floors, laminate floor noise does occur. However, it’s generally not the laminate flooring itself that’s making the noise. More often than not, it’s the subfloor that’s actually making the noise. This could be either because there are rogue nails pulling away from the joists, or it could be because the subfloor is uneven or there’s no underlay. It can also be caused by the laminate boards expanding and shrinking. To fix, you’ll, unfortunately, need to remove the boards where the noise is occurring and explore further, fixing the problem with the subfloor before reinstalling the laminate boards.
Slippery laminate surfaces
Whilst laminate flooring can give you a hardwood effect without the cost and the drawbacks, certain floors can be quite slippy. Non-slip laminate flooring (or anti-slip flooring) is an option, but if you already have relatively slippy floors installed, there are ways to make your floors less slippery. You can apply an anti-slip treatment to the floor for a permanent fix or place rugs in areas of heavy traffic for a temporary solution. Also, make sure you never clean your floors with polish, as this will almost certainly lead to a slicker surface.
Scratches and surface damage
Laminate flooring scratch repair is one of the most common troubleshooting fixes, because whilst laminate flooring doesn’t scratch easily, it can happen during heavy use. Whether through dragging furniture, tracking in grit, pet scratches or ‘playful’ children, if you have an active home, you will have to deal with a scratch or a scuff at some point. Unfortunately, with scratches, chips and dents, there is very little you can do to treat it besides replacing the affected boards. What you can do, however, is prevent surface damage by using felt protectors on all furniture legs, keeping the nails of your cats and dogs well trimmed and placing rugs strategically throughout the navy use areas. Also, always remember to take your shoes off when entering the home!
Laminate flooring bubbling or ‘blistering’ refers to bubbles and blisters that form in the top layer of the laminate – the plastic wear layer. These manifest as pimply blemishes that can be difficult to spot during installation and are the cause of a manufacturing defect. Unfortunately, once the flooring is installed most manufacturers will refuse to replace boards, but if you manage to spot these bubbles before the boards a laid down, you should be able to get a replacement.
One of the top questions manufacturers often get asked is – does laminate flooring fade? Unfortunately, most boards will fade over time in either fade or hue and there’s not much you can do to fix it once it’s happened, other than replacing the offending sections of the floor (check with your manufacturer to see if it’s covered on the warranty). Thankfully, severe fading is rare, so it will generally be quite a slight effect. Fading is caused by exposure to sunlight, of course, so the best way to mitigate the effects before they become a problem is to limit the exposure using curtains or blinds when possible.