Has a part of your laminate floor or floating floor started to look like a mini pyramid? A tent-like structure? If yes, then you most likely have a case of buckled laminate flooring.
The laminate flooring planks are designed to float on the floor because they expand or contract with the humidity. Perhaps, keep a gap of 10mm between the planks and the wall to allow for laminate expansion.
But, an improper installation can cause many laminate flooring problems, such as laminate floor lifting or buckling. Laminate flooring that is buckling can have several underlying causes. We will be heading deep into them, from the causes to the solution.
What Is Laminate Buckling?
Laminate flooring buckling is when two or more laminate boards of your laminate flooring look like a tent-like structure. Many underlying factors can cause this, but the general idea is that the laminate floor does not have space to expand, so they start to push into each other forming a pyramid-like structure.
The most common reason for this is MOISTURE. If a laminate floor buckles, it has picked up moisture.
Furthermore, let’s understand more about laminate floor buckling causes.
What Causes Laminate Buckling?
We know that buckling is caused by not having sufficient space to expand, but what exactly causes it?
Longterm Water Exposure
The laminate floor may buckle due to water damage. We all know that laminate flooring is not good when it comes to water, especially when it’s left on the floor for a long while. This can cause the laminate flooring to soak water and swell. Finally, they will be forced into each other without having enough room to expand, and the swollen laminates will buckle.
Generally, laminate planks can withstand water damage if submerged in water for 2-3 hours. Beyond this time, they will swell, and it’s almost impossible to get them back to their original shape. Therefore, spills of water on laminate flooring are unlikely to water-damage the floor. Nonetheless, prolonged contact with water can be dangerous.
Always check the floor for leaks, such as leaking slabs.
Subfloor Moisture Problem
Laminate floors can buckle due to excess moisture in the substrate. When a laminate floor is installed over a concrete slab, the concrete has to be pre-tested, ensuring that it is dry enough for a laminate floor to be installed on.
The moisture in the subfloor is one of the most common sources for laminate floor plank moisture exposure.
Additionally, if you’re installing laminate planks on a newly finished concrete subfloor, the free water can damage the laminate plank.
Always check the moisture amount in the subfloor by using an electrical moisture meter. Plus, moisture issues can be avoided by using a moisture barrier.
Laminate flooring without an underlayment that has a moisture barrier will end up buckling. Poor installation upon the underlayment and not flattening the floor properly can lead to buckling. Moreover, bad moisture barriers can cause buckling.
Some laminate planks come with pre-attached underlayment. In this case, you don’t need to buy an additional moisture barrier.
The most common cause of laminate plank expansion is humidity level. That’s why all house owners keep a gap between the wall and laminate plank flooring.
Well, if there is not enough space for the planks left to expand, the laminate flooring will end up buckling.
According to the manufacturers, it’s best to install laminate floors between 30-60% humidity.
Hence, give enough time (12-24 Hours or few days) to the laminate planks to acclimate to the house environment.
Trivia: The upper protective layer of laminate flooring prevents humidifiers from damaging laminate flooring.
How to Repair Buckled Laminate?
Fixing a buckled laminate is possible, though you might have to have replacement planks ready for it. If you do not have a replacement plank, you can use another method that involves trimming the buckled plank. Two methods you can follow to fix laminate flooring.
There’s a certain point where you can’t fix laminate flooring that is buckled. This is the time you need to replace the laminate boards.
The buckled planks will most likely be swollen and not in good condition due to the continuous pressure of pushing into each other. Buckling happens between two planks, so you are going to be needing two replacement planks.
You will have to remove the planks and replace them with new ones. This task is simple when guided. Let’s start with the tools you’re going to need.
- Safety goggles
- Putty Knife
Remove the Baseboard
Removing the baseboard is the first step in learning how to replace laminate flooring. A pry bar is needed for opening the baseboards that are at the corner of the wall. A pry-bar can be a reliable tool when it comes to unlocking baseboards, which have different locking mechanisms.
If you find any screws holding the laminate in place, unscrew them.
Removing the baseboard is necessary only when the laminate plank is attached to it. If you’re removing a laminate plank in the middle, removing the baseboard makes no sense.
Start Removing Planks
This step is self-explanatory. Start removing the planks that surround the buckled planks. You can remove the planks by using a pry-bar on the corner of the plank and lifting it. You can unlock it by wiggling it if the mechanism is sturdy.
Firstly, cut on the laminate plank with a skill saw per the above figure (the 3 dark lines).
Next, remove any of the two middle plank pieces.
Next, slide the other 4 pieces towards the middle so that you can break the locking system of laminate planks.
Now, repeat these steps and remove all the affected laminate planks one by one. Keep removing planks until you reach the wall.
Finally, you’ll have the laminate floor free of damaged laminate planks.
Check the Subfloor Condition
Now inspect the subfloor and check if there is any water leakage or moisture issue. Additionally, check if the underlayment is in good condition.
If you find anything suspicious, stop replacing laminate floors and start fixing the subfloor first.
Because if the subfloor or moisture barrier underlayment is not in good condition, no matter how many times you lay new laminate planks, you’ll still have the same issue.
Install New Laminate Planks
Remove the planks that are buckled and install the new planks. Start putting back the planks. The edges can be glued tightly together by adding hard glue and hot glue. No matter if your laminate planks have a click-locking or tongue-and-groove system, you can lay them in the same way.
Put the baseboard back in place when done.
In case you do not have any replacement planks, follow this method.
Trimming the planks is an alternative way to fixing laminate floors without the need for any additional planks. The laminate plank does not have any room to expand, so it buckles. It can perfectly fit in the laminate flooring space if we trim the extra width.
- Safety goggles
- Putty Knife
- Skill Saw
Remove the Baseboard
As with the general method, we will be removing the baseboard in this method as well. Use a pry bar to remove the baseboard and unscrew any screws holding the laminate in place, if any.
Start Removing Planks
Start removing the planks that surround the buckled planks, as shown above in the replacement guide. Not to mention, check the subfloor condition as described in the above section.
Different planks have different mechanisms; feel free to your manufacturer regarding the removal of your planks.
Work on The Buckled Planks
Use a cutter to cut the laminate flooring plank straight line; you can use any other tool you find sufficient. Cut off the expanded edges of the laminate.
Remember you will have to leave some expansion gap, so cut accordingly. Do not cut too much of the plank.
**This is a risky step; you need to cut the plank in a perfectly straight line. Any mistake and your laminate plank will be trash.**
Repaired Planks to Its Original Shape
Once you’re done cutting off the planks, it’s time to get them back into their original shape.
Firstly, dry the laminate plank. This is to get rid of moisture the laminate plank has absorbed. You can use a hairdryer for the same.
Finally, add some heavyweight to it for at least a day, so the plank to flatten the plank. You can use a 100lb roller available in any hardware store.
Reinstall Laminate Floorboards
Now, reinstall laminate planks, same as we installed the replacements in the above section.
How to Prevent Buckling?
Since we are aware of the causes, we can prevent buckling to an extent. There are several rules to follow and ways to prevent buckling. All these rules are mandatory.
Address the Source of Water/Moisture
Moisture causes a laminate floor to buckle, but what causes the moisture? The answer could be humidity or the way you clean your floor. The solution to buckling planks could be as simple as avoiding cleaning the floor with water.
Finding and addressing the cause of the moisture is essential in preventing it. If you have a moisture barrier, check if the moisture is seeping into the subfloor.
If you do not have a moisture barrier, inspect the area of the buckled planks. You might find water or moisture residue.
Moisture generally occurs from humidity and harmful cleaning practices such as using excessive water or different solutions. Temperature changes are a factor as well.
Consider investing in a proper ventilation system if that is the case.
The underlayment should be entirely flat and leveled to prevent laminate floors from buckling.
Some underlayments do not come with a moisture barrier, if that is the case, consider installing a moisture barrier on the underlayment or underneath the laminate flooring boards. That will keep your laminate flooring safe from moisture and water from the sub floor.
Proper underlayment with a good moisture barrier is essential in a good laminate floor.
When laminate flooring is being installed properly, it is crucial to see that every plank has enough gaps to expand. This is usually done by letting your floor acclimate before installation.
Leave the laminate planks to expand for around 2-3 days. This will allow them to expand and contract based on the temperature.
If you are looking to repair the buckled laminate, leave some expansion gaps for the new planks.
A good installation of the laminate floor will prevent it from buckling, it ranges from the underlayment to the glue used to stick the laminate.
Leaving gaps at the corners of the laminate, using water-resistant glue or a moisture barrier underneath the laminate is considered an appropriate installation.
Buckling of laminate floors can be caused by many factors, but a keen eye can help avoid it. Always remember to clean your floor without using excessive water and have proper ventilation in the area.
While the floors may buckle, remember that the benefit of having laminate flooring is that you can replace them with ease. It won’t take long for a DIYer to finish the job. If you feel you lack the skills, you can hire a professional to get it done for you.
Along with the causes, we have provided you with ways to prevent buckling. If you follow it, surely you will not need to replace the planks or trim the damaged boards.