Buckling is a common issue with laminate flooring, and it is characterized by the floorboards arching in the center. Warping is when the floorboards dip inward in the center and curve upward at the edges. Both of these issues are caused by the same factors and require the same remediation steps. Before you can properly repair laminate floor buckling or warping, you need to identify and address the cause of the damage.
What Causes Laminate Floor Problems Buckling?
There are two primary causes of laminate floor buckling or warping. The most prevalent issue is water damage, which can be caused by direct exposure to standing water, light moisture remaining on the floorboards for too long or even an environment with high humidity. The other common cause of warping or buckling is an expansion gap issue. Laminate flooring will adjust slightly based on environmental conditions in the home. Your flooring should have been installed with a reasonable expansion gap to account for these fluctuations. In many cases, a homeowner will notice a small area of the floor that is buckling or warping. Depending on the cause, the damage may spread to other areas if the root cause is not addressed. With this in mind, the first step to take to deal with buckling or warping across your laminate wood flooring is to identify what is causing the issue. If you simply replace the floorboards, you likely will deal with the same problem again in the near future.
The Importance of Addressing Moisture Exposure
You may be aware of direct moisture exposure on the affected floorboards, so you may not need to do any investigative work to identify the cause. On the other hand, the moisture may be coming up from a leak in the slab foundation or from another hidden source. When you remove the damaged floorboards, look for signs of mold growth or general moisture. You can also check your thermostat for a humidity reading. Ideally, you should maintain a 40 to 50 percent humidity level in your home. If the laminate flooring is installed in a room with high humidity, such as a bathroom, investing in improved ventilation is important.
Installing replacement floorboards should not be done until the moisture source has been properly dealt with. Otherwise, the new floorboards likely will be exposed to moisture and could suffer the same fate. If moisture is coming from the subfloor, you may need to focus on the condition of the underlayment material before replacing the floorboards.
How to Address Expansion Gap Issues
To install laminate flooring properly, the material should be acclimated in the environment as a first step. This generally means that the floorboards should sit in the room where they will be installed for a few days. This enables them to naturally expand to account for the regular humidity level in the space. When this important step is not taken, the floorboards may expand after installation. This can cause the floorboards to either buckle or warp. This problem may be more significant when the flooring is not installed with an expansion gap. An expansion gap is a small space between the flooring material and the walls, transition spaces and other fixed objects in the room. The easiest way to determine if this is the cause of your flooring issue is to remove the baseboards so that you can see if a gap is present. If a gap is not present, you should create a gap in essential areas throughout the room before you replace the damaged floorboards.
How to Fix Damage from Laminate Flooring Buckling
Regardless of the cause laminate floor buckling in your home, the damaged floorboards cannot be salvaged or repaired. They must be replaced. You will need to remove the baseboards and molding along the wall closest to the damaged area. Then, remove all of the floorboards that connect to the damaged area. The quality floorboards can be reinstalled, and the damaged floorboards should be replaced with new boards. Be aware that the area should be completely dry before you replace water-damaged boards. If you discover mold under the floorboards, this problem must be properly addressed first as well.
Is It Time to Replace Your Laminate Floor?
If a significant area of your laminate floor is damaged or if you need to replace the underlying material, it may be time to install new flooring throughout the room. As you search for a new material, look for high-grade laminate that may have a built-in moisture barrier. Consider hiring a professional to install the laminate floor planks properly with an expansion gap to prevent damage to the new floor.