Checked and updated on March 11, 2021 by Aaron Barnett
Wood flooring is both classy and appealing. Laminate flooring is imitation hardwood with a natural look akin to real wood but at a lower price. It’s durable and both fade and scratch-resistant, although it can be hard to repair as it often requires you to redo floor areas.
Over solid hardwood flooring, though laminate flooring occasionally falls into the risk of swelling if exposed to too much water and moisture. You can save some time and money with this guide on how to repair swollen laminate flooring.
Reasons a wooden floor can bubble up
While wooden floors are definitely eye-pleasing, the problem is that they can’t really be exposed to too much water or moisture, they can form air pockets or ‘bubbles’ which can eventually lead to degradation, swelling, and loose boards.
Here are the most common reasons why wooden floors can bubble up:
Increased moisture levels in winter. In the case of laminate flooring, and wooden floors, they can expand and contract depending on the air moisture level. During winter, as cold air chills the exterior of your home, warm air from inside can condense on surfaces where it meets the cold, possibly causing bubbling. The moisture content in the air is also higher, and moisture could be rising up from the ground under your house.
Lack of expansion joints on wall edges. An expansion joint is a small separation gap that relieves the stress of structural movement brought about by material expansion or contraction. An expansion joint is usually just a gap but could also be a flexible material, like a sealant or water stop. Flooring that lacks expansion joints under the walls often experiences bubbling when there is increased moisture content in wood.
No moisture barrier between the ground and your building. Moisture naturally in winter due to the various changes in atmospheric conditions. The ground is porous and absorbs and holds moisture for a long time, this is a problem for houses with wooden floors but no moisture barrier to prevent it from evaporating upwards towards your house and floor. Most flooring problems can easily be fixed by lining the ground under your house with polyethylene that will stop moisture from rising up into your house and framing.
On a timber subfloor house, this can be done at any time, by crawling under your house and laying it down, just use some rocks or bricks to hold the polyethylene in place. After you do this you will also notice a dryer home in general.
On concrete floors, polyethylene needs to be laid before concrete is poured this is standard for many homes.
Although some sheds and garages do not require polythene under a concrete slab for building consent. So if you are having this problem in a remodeled garage or shed this could be the problem.
Change of humidity and temperature. Humidity is one of the primary ways in which moisture is introduced to flooring. Laminate flooring is not very good when it absorbs water and is manufactured to take relative humidity levels strictly between 30 – 60%. Changes in temperature can cause humidity levels to drop and spike, affecting the rate at which moisture is created.
Poor installation and lack of quality glue. There’s no mending poor servicing and the use of subpar adhesives. Any gaps during installation and using low-quality glue will definitely result in short-lived flooring. The gaps will only add to moisture absorption while the bad glue won’t even try to stop the laminate from expanding, leading to large, elongated bubbles.
Pipe leaks. Because piping usually runs through the structural framework of your house, any leakages can definitely cause moisture build-ups in either the walls or on the ground. Without fixing the leak, excess water from condensation will continue to run until it meets absorbent material, which in this case is ultimately the laminate flooring.
Poor material. Not all laminate flooring is made equal; though already processed from compound materials, there is still quality and subpar flooring. Flooring made from poor material of course fares worse. Not only is it likely to absorb moisture quicker, but also expands faster and wider. There is little to no resistance at all to swelling with these.
Water spills. Simply spilling water on the floor can cause it to expand, especially if it’s a large amount and was not immediately cleaned up. In the event of a water spill, quickly get a dry cloth or rag and soak up the water on the surface, then get a hairdryer or a fan to dry the affected areas.
What happens if you don’t fix a swollen floor?
If you don’t fix a swollen floor, then chances are that you might have no floor at all. We’re serious – since laminate flooring is manufactured in longboards and is assembled via tongue and groove, more on that later, then once a single piece swells, chances are that it will transmit absorbed moisture to other adjacent pieces as well, causing more bubbling and flooring damage.
It’s also generally harder to repair laminate flooring because you can’t really take out individual pieces once installed.
Do you have to remove laminated flooring fully or partially?
Before asking how to repair swollen laminate flooring without replacing it, inspect your floor properly. It’s going to depend on the extent of the damage.
More than identifying whether you should fully or partially cut your laminate flooring out, you must 1st identify and solve any prevalent and pervasive moisture problems, such as a leaking building and/or pipe leaks.
Once you’ve sorted out the moisture issues, you can proceed to fully remove the flooring in the event of extensive damage and spread, otherwise, partially if only a few pieces that need replacing.
How to glue down loose boards?
Flooring with noticeable end gaps has loose boards. Though not necessarily bad, over time it can be a detriment, reducing the durability and overall quality of your flooring. If you want to know how to repair damaged laminate flooring with loose boards, take a power drill and drill a small hole on the loose area, inject glue or a binder solution, then place something heavy on top and allow it to settle. Once intact, use a wood filler to cover up the hole.
When is it necessary to dismantle laminated flooring?
The primary reason for you to dismantle flooring is when it needs to be replaced; laminated flooring with signs of peeling, cracking, and prevalent gaps mean that it’s high time to have it replaced. Outside of replacement, interior and home improvements might also require you to temporarily dismantle flooring if important structural adjustments need fixing as well.
How to remove laminated flooring?
Though stated to be difficult to repair, installation and removal of laminated flooring are actually quite simple and easy. All you need are a few simple tools and a little care and finesse. Here are the steps:
How to remove only a single board for replacement?
Depending on where the board to be replaced is located, you might have to cut it out in order to have it replaced without damaging the surrounding boards that are intact.
One particularly popular joinery method for laminated flooring is via tongue and groove, which basically snaps together 2 identical pieces. If a board is somewhere in the middle of the floor, and you only need to replace a single board or 2, you have to lift up 2 or 3 mating pieces to disconnect the tongue and groove. But for removal, you can cut down the middle of a board to remove it.
Once you have your replacement board, measure and plane the tongue for an easier connection when you snap it back in.
How to repair laminated floors that is separating?
To repair laminate flooring with gaps, you can make use of a floor gap fixer tool – usually an aluminum block with a special sticky substance. It’s not all that complicated to use as well, simply take the block and begin by removing the protective backing. Place the block an inch upside-down from the edge of the loose board/s.
Use the included rubber mallet to tap the block in the direction of the gap until it and all others are closed. You might have to use a wedge on wall edges under the skirting if access is limited.
How to repair scratches on laminated flooring?
You can easily conceal scratches on laminate flooring using a laminate flooring compound filler. To begin, get yourself some tissue or a paper towel and rub clean the scratches you want to be removed.
Next, take the filler and apply it to the scratches, making sure to get it down to the grooves. Take a plastic putty knife, so as not to scrape the boards, and press it down onto the fillers to cover the scratches. Lastly, wipe off any excess and there you go! This method does not really remove scratches but lightens them so as not to be as noticeable.
How to repair chipped laminated flooring?
Laminated flooring can chip and crack over time due to accidents and mishaps, making them unsightly hazards. To repair chips on laminate boards, you can either use acrylic or putty filler.
Using acrylic filler
Using putty filler
Tools you need when fixing laminated flooring
How to prevent swollen laminate flooring?
Take the steps to prevent moisture, in the first place and you will not need to worry about how to repair laminate flooring that got wet.
First there are several actions you can take in order to prevent laminate flooring from swelling and bubbling. You should 1st identify and address any moisture problems you might have, such as pipe leaks and thermal imbalances.
Next, also check if you have the appropriate expansion gaps in the perimeter of your flooring, no allowance for movement can cause lifting of boards with expansion. Lastly, consider adding a waterproof coating on top of your laminate flooring to protect against spills and allow for wet-mopping.
How to clean laminated flooring?
You can use a vacuum cleaner to gather up dust and debris, just be sure to use non-abrasive attachments. You can still use a mop and a water-detergent solution but only damp the floor, don’t soak it.
Laminate flooring is a more affordable alternative to hardwood flooring without losing much of the aesthetic appeal. Not only does it cost less, but it’s also better suited for busy and bustling homes with a lot of foot-activity. The main thing to remember with laminate flooring is that it doesn’t take too kindly to too much water and moisture or high heels.
The moment you see any type of swelling or bubbling, act immediately so as to minimize damage and save on repair efforts by fixing the cause of the problem. If you want more options for flooring, then check out our guide on types the lightest and strongest wood.
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