Laminate is a popular, beautiful flooring option that can give your room the look of wood without the same maintenance hassles and costs of the material and installation. Laminate floor installation is much easier compared to hardwood options, which reduces costs to the consumer. However, this does not mean problems can't occur. Common mistakes can be made during the installation process that will lead to problems with your flooring later on. Fortunately, most installation problems can be easily fixed, and your laminate floor installation can go off with minimal fuss.
Common Floor Installation Problems
The first thing to do is understand what the most common laminate floor installation problems are. Only by being aware of them will you be able to figure out how to avoid them.
Like anything involving construction or home improvement, materials matter. There are manufacturing differences from brand to brand, so quality inevitably varies. Low-quality laminate cannot stick as well and can warp, buckle, or stain easier, and basically cause you headaches. Speak with someone in the know—a contractor or tiling expert—to learn about the different qualities of the brands you’re considering so that you can make an informed decision.
Having a Damaged Sub-Floor
The sub-floor, as the name implies, is the surface the flooring actually sits on. It's the floor's floor, if you will. Most sub-floors are made of wood or concrete, and over time, they suffer wear and tear like anything else. Water damage, dry rot, erosion, and other factors can degrade the integrity of the sub-floor and compromise its ability to support the laminate. Whenever you install new flooring, take a look at the sub-floor, and get a professional to inspect it if you aren't sure what the warning signs are.
Not Accounting for Expansion/Contraction
While laminate flooring is not as porous as hardwood, there will still be some minimal expansion and contraction depending on climate conditions. In addition to giving a little space around each tile to permit expansion without collisions and cracks, you can minimize the severity by using a proper underlayment. An underlayment is placed beneath the tile and protects it from moisture that can come up from below, particularly if the sub-floor is made of concrete. The plank can absorb this moisture and expand, so it's important to minimize its exposure when you can. Plus, as an added bonus, proper underlayment provides extra insulation against noise and cold.
Installing Cold Flooring
As mentioned, laminate expands and contracts, so if you're installing flooring that has been sitting in a cold truck or in a chilly warehouse, the material is fully contracted. Even if you attempt to give proper clearance space around the planks, you would likely miss the mark since the planks would be going from smaller than normal to larger than normal. Over time, this process will create a "hump" in your floor. Fortunately, this issue can be avoided by letting your flooring warm up to room temperature overnight before installation.
Not Minding the Gap
Unless a laminate floor is locked together—which some brands can't be due to design—the planks will eventually drift apart over time. Dark lines will form between planks that are actually gaps in which debris and dirt can fall and collect in. Simply be mindful of the floor and use a blunt rubber mallet, or similar tool, to tap the pieces back together if you spot a space.
Find a Source of Installation Advice
As you may have noticed, most of these installation problems arise by not taking the time to properly assess your materials and work environment, or from technique during installation. If you are unsure about any aspect of your laminate floor installation, it may be beneficial to speak with someone more trained and experienced to get some pointers. As a leader in tiling options since 1933, we at Centura Tile have staff on hand who are fully knowledgeable in tiling and flooring projects of all types. To learn more about how you can avoid common pitfalls in laminate installations, contact us or visit a Centura Tile dealer near you.