What Causes Slight Bows in Laminate Flooring?

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A rising laminate flooring dilemma or planks that lift, buckle, or separate are more common than you think. Thankfully, there are methods to find and repair these issues.

What causes slight bows in laminate flooring? Poor maintenance is one major reason. Whether the laminate flooring in your house has been there since before you moved in, or you newly installed it yourself, you want to keep it in good shape. Sadly, problems do come up sometimes. You can often mend the problem by not replacing the whole room's laminate floor board or the entire laminate planks/laminate pieces.

Common Laminate and Floating Floor Problems

1. Peaking

Peaking is a condition where the laminate floor boards push up toward each other. After this, they end in high points at the joints. There are several reasons why this happens. The most common cause of this issue is the lack of expansion space between the walls around the installation's perimeter and the laminate floor. Another would be the expansion space right between the laminate floor and laminate moldings.

This situation can be easily solved. Follow the peaking board's perpendicular to the wall or frame, remove the specific molding- if against the wall, remove the baseboard and cut out a portion or enough of the laminate board that faces the wall or molding that will give the floorboard more space to expand.

An added reason for peaking could be because the moldings in the doorways or around the room's perimeter have been fixed/nailed to the floor, thus limiting the floor from expanding. Take note that a laminate floor is a floating floor and must not be set to the sub floor or frames at any point as this will prevent the floor from expanding and contracting, as these wooden floors normally do.

Peaking also happens because an ongoing flooring area is too long in one direction, and it doesn’t have a center "T" molding expansion joint that relieves the pressure. This will normally happen in spaces where the floor runs for over 27 feet in any direction. Take note that this number varies per manufacturer.

2. Buckling or Warping

Buckled wood floors are almost always a result of moisture damage.

Laminate flooring is stirred by water in various ways. High moisture content in the air triggers buckling or warping. Unnecessary water on the floor surface can also cause warping or buckling. Thus, it’s important not to wet mop a laminate floor.

The most common reason why edge-warping or buckling happens is dampness or water that rises from the subfloor along with the lack of a sufficient moisture barrier.

Buckling or warping can also be a result of inferior product construction. One example is when laminate floor surfaces are laminated under extremely high pressure. Due to this, it’s important that you have a balancing layer on the bottom of the boards. The said layer is created from a rigid material, therefore equalizing the pressure exerted from above.

3. Gapping

Gapping isn’t usual with laminate flooring. It’s when laminate flooring boards have the tendency to draw away from each other. This leads to gaps within the boards.

4. Mold and Mildew

Problems with mold and mildew are becoming a huge concern and gaining attention from residential and commercial property owners and even the public. In practically all circumstances, if there’s a mold issue, there’s an excessive moisture issue. Therefore, to stop, control, or eradicate mold and mildew, one must first know, evaluate, and reduce the source of excessive moisture.

Before discarding an existing flooring or installing a new floor, or fixing an existing laminate floor, if there are obvious indications of mold or mildew or a strong, musty smell in the portion where flooring is to be uninstalled or installed, the cause of the problem should be discovered and remedied.

5. Expanding High-Density Fiberboard (HDF)

The laminate floor plank's core is built from HDF. Most laminate cores, however, are handled with water repellent chemicals. Therefore, if your flooring is water damaged, your only remedy is to replace the affected boards.

6. Chipped Corners

Excessive chipping on corners can be a result of any of the following:

  • Using wrong methods of installation. Be careful when you use a tapping block and mallets when installing floating floors. Poor installation usually leads to chipping, marks, and indentations.
  • Picking the floor with a vacuum cleaner-beater bar attachment.
  • Handling poorly.

How to Repair Slight Bows in Laminate Flooring

Although very enduring, it’s customary to find minor scratches due to daily wear and tear. Luckily, this condition is easily remedied with the help of a laminate floor repair kit available at your local home centers. They typically come with acrylic or latex putty, crayons, or wax pencils. It also helps that they’re color-coded so they match the floor.

For more severe damage, it might be necessary to replace the damaged boards. However, the availability of glueless laminate flooring has resulted in an easy-fix floor to install and repair.

For this, you’ll need different laminate flooring. To repair boards that are located close to walls or frames, follow these steps:

  • Begin by taking out the baseboard, plywood, or frame. 
  • Lift the boards starting from the molding until the damaged board is reachable.
  • Change the damaged board and the other boards you lifted by clicking them back in place.
  • Replace the molding.

How to Prevent Laminate Floor From Bowing

Installing laminate flooring. Yellow film vapor barrier and green foam underlayment. Person's hand seen putting the planks together.

1. Take out all of the baseboards in the room where the laminate flooring will be set up. Also, cut under the edges of the door frames and the doors.

2. Use a vapor barrier for your moisture problem. Water vapor can cause serious harm to your floor. If your floor gets wet, it could cause irreparable damage to your floor. A vapor barrier helps prevent the floor from getting wet. These are sheets of plastics that slow moisture from moving through the floor. For example, if water vapor enters through a concrete slab subfloor, the vapor diffusion retarder slows the moisture movement, preventing damage to the floor. 

Laminate flooring consists mainly of solid wood floors, and wood responds to moisture by expanding or warping. So it means that constant exposure to moisture is also harmful to laminate flooring. A vapor barrier is the most effective in protecting it. It stops the moisture from below from entering the flooring. You'll typically need a vapor barrier if you're installing flooring over concrete, and if you're, you're using the floating floor method. Aside from laminate flooring, homeowners also use vapor barriers in a solid hardwood floor, engineered wood flooring, and vinyl flooring.

For flooring that needs a floating installation process, laminate, vinyl plank, or engineered wood floor, apply a six-mil plastic sheet as a moisture barrier. Also, be sure to use an underlayment with a built-in moisture barrier for easier and more effective water vapor control. 

Laminate flooring that often gets wet is more prone to mold and mildew. This can also damage your floor over time. Thus, vapor barriers are there to help stop the floor from getting damp. A floor vapor barrier, or moisture barrier, is a sheet of plastic that can hold moisture from running through a subfloor or wall. It’s used for installing floors or walls in spaces that are prone to excess moisture or dampness. Flooring moisture barriers are set beneath the underlayment of the floor. You can grab a barrier separately or get underlayment with a built-in. moisture barrier 

If any water vapor infiltrates over a concrete subfloor, the vapor diffusion retarder decreases the moisture movement, stopping damage to the floor. For any flooring that needs a floating installation method, be it laminate plank or vinyl plank flooring, use at least six mils plastic sheet as a moisture barrier. More so, you can apply an underlayment with a moisture barrier built-in for water vapor control.

3. Place the underlayment over the plastic sheeting and apply tape over the whole seam. 

4. Place the laminate floorboards based on the manufacturer's instructions. It’s important to leave this space within the laminate and the walls. This lets the floor expand and contract, limiting buckling in the center of the room.

Place T-molding in doorways within rooms. Mark and trim the laminate boards correctly, letting a 1/4-inch space on each side of the molding's base. Fasten the molding to the floor, not to the laminate.

5. Change the baseboards in the room. Don't fasten the baseboards to the flooring; connect them to the wall only. Place the baseboards somewhat over the laminate so the flooring can move, expand, and contract as the room's humidity and temperature shift.

6. Clean laminate floor boards using a dry dust mop. Never mop a laminate floor; spot cleans it with a manufacturer-approved laminate cleaner and rag if it’s dirty.

7. Prevent putting large objects on the laminate floor. Large and heavy items like a bookshelf can stop the floating floor from changing its position, but they cause buckling in the center of the room. Certain coasters that distribute weight can be purchased at pool table and piano supply stores.

8.  Use the floating floor method. Floating floors are well known for many types of floor coverings. However, the term "floating floor" doesn't refer to a type of flooring material. Instead, it's a method of installation for engineered hardwood flooring and luxury vinyl flooring. Individual planks connect edge-to-edge, forming one mat-like surface on the underlayment. 

Many homeowners favor the floating method as it enables the wood flooring to react to changes in a room's corresponding humidity by expanding and contracting without buckling. Besides, floating floor installation saves funds and helps installation go faster due to its ease and simplicity. A good floating floor installation needs a well-prepared subfloor. In some situations, it can have a hollow feeling underfoot that’s less pleasing than the solidity of nailed-down engineered hardwood or bonded ceramic tile floor.

9. Install in the right areas. With tight seams and a great baseboard, properly installed laminate flooring can endure moisture content for some time. However, laminate flooring is poor for family bathrooms or other areas where standing water is likely. If you're installing underfloor heating within the floor joist of your laminate floor, the standard rule is to not let the temperature exceed 27°C.

10. Make Sure to acclimate. To acclimate laminate flooring, you must leave it for enough period in conditions that it will get used to when laid. However, the most common way is to set the laminate flooring in the center of the room. Keeping the wood floor far from the exterior walls is recommended to prevent any significant temperature difference. Your laminate flooring can be piled but lay it flat the best way you can. The longer you leave the laminate flooring, the better the output. 

High-Quality and Durable Laminate Flooring by Zothex Flooring

Fixing gaps, cracks, bubbling floor, sagging floor, wood floor cupping, and warped wood floor are among the concerns of homeowners with laminate flooring.

These problems can be solved if one has the time, energy, and proper tools. But if you'd instead leave it to the pros, trust only Zothex Flooring. We're a family-owned business that provides high-quality flooring products and services in Sacramento. We take pride in providing a one-of-a-kind customer service experience. So get in touch with us today and let our team of experts help you with all your flooring needs. 

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