Why Is My Laminate Floor Separating?

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With any flooring product you choose to install in your home, there will come a time that you will experience drawbacks. Solid hardwood floor tend to warp, ceramic tile can crack, the engineered floor has a thin veneer layer that can eventually wear down to its plywood base, and even one of today's best economical options, laminate flooring, are prone to developing unsightly gaps.

What is your laminate floor separating? What caused wood laminate flooring to develope space between boards that was glued down? One usual cause of gaping in laminate flooring is high moisture levels. As the weather becomes hot and humid, the laminate planks expand and contract, resulting in gaps. Read on to learn more on why this occurs and how you can fix this issue.

What Causes Laminate Flooring To Develop Gaps?

One of the most common reasons why laminate flooring develops space between floorboards is temperature. A rise in temperature leads to expansion, while a decrease in temperature leads to contraction. The likelihood of having this issue increases when laminate planks are installed without previously being acclimatized to the room's temperature. Aside from separation, bubbles and buckling are also likely to occur. Moreover, poor installation of the laminate plank may have also led to glue obstructing the interlock system, consequently causing gaps. Another factor to consider is that your laminate boards may also come undone due to an uneven subfloor resulting in open joints.

Most homeowners are wary of this concern. Hence they use the floating floor method for their laminate flooring, which is seldom glued down to the subfloor. A floating wood floor is not a floor covering itself but rather installing planks, boards, and sometimes tile flooring. The floating floor installation makes the flooring material react to changes in a room's humidity by either expanding or contracting without buckling. The laminate flooring planks are joined together on the edges and end with a custom tongue-and-groove system known as "click-lock." The shape of these grooves may differ depending on the manufacturers.

Aside from laminate flooring, the floating floor method is also applicable to engineered hardwood flooring or engineered wood flooring, luxury vinyl plank or vinyl flooring, and solid wood flooring. While floating floors are great because of their ease and speed of installation without specialized tools, they have downsides. Floating floor problems can occur like chipping, peaking, and molding.

How To Fix Laminate Floor Gaps

Fortunately for homeowners, there are several ways to repair flooring gaps. Follow these steps to restore your separating floorboards to their original positions:

  1. Ready the tools required for the project, including a floor gap fixer, a hammer or mallet, a chisel, and a crowbar.
  2. Identify which side of the floorboard moved that caused the open joint, then remove the baseboard on this side of the board via hammer and chisel. 
  3. Without the skirting board, you can now clearly see which side of your laminate board moved out of place. Knock the misplaced board back to its position using your floor gap fixer and hammer. 
  4. You can prevent future movement of the same plank by applying wood glue.
  5. Finish off by gluing back your baseboard.

You may also consider using wood glue through this method: 

  1. Clean the gaps between the laminate planks, as glue sticks better to clean surfaces. Dust off the debris that has been gradually building up.
  2. For precise application, scoop the wood glue between the narrow gaps. You can use an improvised tool like a toothpick, cotton swab, or a disposable syringe. 
  3. Apply the glue to the exposed part of the misplaced floorboard, ensuring to aim at the interlocking grooves within the displaced plank and the next. Repeat until there's a thick layer of glue on the interlocking grooves.  
  4. After applying glue, reattach the separated laminate floorboards by pushing the misplaced plank towards the one adjoining it.
  5. Lastly, clean up and residual glue using a wet piece of cloth, as excess dried glue can discolor your laminate floor. 

How To Prevent Laminate Flooring Gaps

Two men laying laminate flooring in a house

Replacing laminate flooring with developed gaps can be costly while fixing the separating floorboards one after the other can be tedious and time-consuming. This is why it's always recommended to take preventive steps. Here are some ways to protect your laminate floor against gaps:

1. Acclimatization

Installing new planks without proper acclimatization leads to expansion and contraction, which causes gaps between the boards.

Thus, before placing a new laminate floor, you must do a floor prep by letting the floor boards sit in the room to be installed for at least 2 to 3 days. This lets the planks acclimatize to the temperature and humidity state. 

2. Professional Installation

Relying on professionals to install your laminate wood flooring will help you in the long run. Do-it-yourself is discouraged as you can have missteps during the process. A professional installer is likely to notice details like your plywood subfloor is uneven and will use a leveling compound to level it before installing the laminate floorboard.

3. Moisture Prevention

A simple case of moisture can cause your laminate flooring to form gaps and lumps. This is why whenever water or any liquid beverage spills on your laminate floor, you should wipe it off immediately. A dry piece of cloth or a vacuum cleaner can quickly get the job done.

Helpful Tips on Repairing Gaps

1. Don't Delay

If you notice gaps in your floor board, you mustn't delay having them fixed. The number and size of gaps and how stable the floor feels will determine how to fix them. Planks with small gaps will need less repair than those with broader or too many voids or soft and bouncy floors. Observe cracks and spaces and note when they appear and whether they close up when the weather changes. If so, the void is deemed normal and nothing to worry about. However, it's best to have a carpenter or professional installer check it out if you are concerned.

2. Repair Products

If the floor has heaps of gaps and damage, replace it entirely. But if damages are few, you can use caulk putty, filler, wood, or long pieces of string. These will fix the gaps and prevent drafts from through the floor at the same time. These fillers will fill in the gaps resulting to your floor's original smooth finish if done right. 

This first step in fixing your floor is to clean out debris from between the floorboard. Using your fingers, apply enough filler to overfill gaps. Once it dries up, smoothen the rough edges using a fine-grit sandpaper. Add more putty if needed and stain to match the floor. 

3. Wide Gaps

If the floor has wide gaps, using strips of wood, wood shims, or pieces of rope is more time-consuming but more beautiful and long-lasting than using wood filler or paste in large voids. Do these repairs when the weather is humid and when the spaces are the tiniest. This will prevent your repairs from cracking when the floor board expands 

Once the shims are in place, add glue and finish by sanding them smooth and stan to match the rest of the floor. 

How To Properly Maintain Laminate Flooring

Cropped close up image of barefoot young woman in casual clothes washing laminate floor

1. Follow the manufacturer's cleaning instructions 

It's important that before you get to cleaning, consult the manufacturer's instructions and follow them carefully. The brand may have specific inputs based on the materials used. Most have detailed product guides on how to clean floors on their websites. 

2. Don't let stains sit on the floor.

You will inevitably encounter spills from time to time. To clean up small spills of liquid on the laminate flooring, use a paper napkin or a piece of cloth to wipe up. Be sure to wipe all spills as soon as possible. Liquids can damage laminate floors, so it's a must to minimize exposure. If your laminate floor is in an area that is prone to spills, such as the kitchen or playroom, it's best to seal the planks along the edges with glue to protect the joint and the locking system. 

3. Avoid abrasive tools

Even if your laminate floor has a thick wear layer, rubbing stains out of the floor with an abrasive pad or brush is not a good idea. Instead, use a soft, damp cloth. For debris, a soft-bristle broom or dust mop works perfectly. 

4. Mop your laminate floor every two months

To keep your laminate floors in their best condition, mop every other month. Damp mops are microfiber and are gentle enough to use on laminate floors. Regular mops can be used too, as long as you wring it out and it's completely dry. 

5. Don't use too much water.

Never mop laminate floors using too much water. The best explanation for this is that the water can seep in the seams and damage like floor bubbling, swelling, staining or fading. 

6. Don't use cleaning products that aren't made for laminate.

Avoid cleaning products that are not made for laminate. Oil-based cleaners can leave residue and damage to the protective sealant of the floors. Never use wax or polishes on laminate floors. 

7. Consider using a DIY laminate floor cleaner.

You can make your floor cleaner using readily available household items. For regular cleaning, combine a teaspoon of clear, unscented dish soap with a gallon of hot water. You can also mix a gallon of hot water with a white cup of vinegar, a natural cleaning agent, and does not damage the laminate surface. 

8. Protect the surface from future damage

To prevent future scratches, add a floor covering such as furniture pads. Floor mats and rugs will also help prevent wear and tear. Also don't forget to use a welcome mat to get rid of the dirty shoe bottom and dust that can be one of the biggest enemies of your laminate floor faces. 

9. Trim your pet's nails

If you're a pet owner, it's best to keep your pet's nails trimmed. Your cat or dog's nails can scratch up your laminate floor. Keeping a pet's nails trimmed will prevent damage to your floor as they roam around.

10. Use vapor barrier or Moisture Barrier

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. If water vapor enters through a concrete slab sub floor, the vapor diffusion retarder slows the moisture movement, preventing damage to the floor. 

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. More so, use an underlayment with a moisture barrier built built-in for water vapor control. 

Zothex Flooring At Your Service

Fixing gaps, cracks, bubbling, and molding are among the few 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 personalized and one-of-a-kind customer service experience you can only find at a small family business. Contact us today and let our team of experts help you with all your flooring needs. 

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