Laminate flooring has grown in popularity over the past decade or so. Simulation of exotic woods and patterns combined with its cost effectiveness make an options for some homeowners over hardwoods.
Because of the ease of installation, laminate floors can be the DIY’ers flooring of choice. It also makes it a great choice to do a quick flooring makeover when it comes time to prepare your home for sale. A new laminate floor can capture a buyers attention.
As a real estate agent I see a lot of DIY laminate floor installations. Unfortunately, if you don’t learn how laminate flooring properly problems arise pretty quickly, if not immediately. We are going to cover common laminate flooring installation mistakes that can turn you new flooring installation into an unsightly mess.
There is nothing worse than a home seller boasting newer laminate floors, only to arrive to find soft spots, buckling, large gaps, bubbling or poor or unfinished transitions.
What is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring is a synthetic image laminated to a wood substrate with a laminate protective coating over the top. Its essentially a photograph on a synthetic material. It can simulate wood, stone, ceramic, painted tiles and more…..
The laminate flooring planks just sit on the subfloor and interlock. In most cases they are meant to float on the subfloor and are not attached.
Common Laminate Flooring Installation Mistakes
Installing laminate floors are certainly with in most DIY’ers skill set. But, take the time to learn the common laminate flooring mistakes for a great long lasting installation of your new floor.
#1 Choosing to Use Laminate Floors in the Wrong Areas
The one thing to remember is laminate flooring is not great when it comes to moisture. To avoid some common laminate floor installation mistakes is to choose your location wisely. Kitchens, baths, entry ways can all be problematic with bucking and bubbling when the underlying wood substrate has absorbed water.
While there are some products coming out saying they are water resistant or you can seal laminate floor edges with a sealant you may find better flooring choices for high moisture areas. While laminate floors may seem a less expensive option upfront, it will cost you more in the long run as it will need to be replaced more often.
#2 Not Sealing The Laminate Against Moisture
People use laminate in kitchens and baths all the time. There are many people torn on whether laminate is a good choice for bathrooms and kitchens. Primarlily the substrate for laminate floors is highly susceptible to water penetration.
If you do choose to use laminate in high moisture areas take the time to learn how to seal the joints.
There are several options to prevent water penetration, though I don’t think most manufactures would recommend it. Sealing as mention above. Gluing with waterproof glue is another, though the floor is meant to expand and contract. Or, using a silicon caulk between each seem as your are installing the floor is another option
Remember the substrate is usually a compressed board product and once there has been water penetration it could lead to trouble. Even the littlest spill from over watering a plant, a fish tank, water bowls for you pets etc… can be problematic if left unattended to.
#3 Not Letting Your Laminate Floor Planks Acclimate
This is important with any product susceptible to humidity as well as expansion and contraction. Get your materials into the area your installing so it can acclimate to the temperature and humidity of the work area. Follow your manufacturers recommendations but a good rule of thumb should be 48-72 hours.
Not doing so may cause bucking or unsightly gaps in your laminate flooring if it is not acclimated properly.
#4 Not Making Sure Your Floor Is Level
A huge pet peeve of mine is walking across a laminate floor that looks like stone and wood and having soft spots. Your sub floor needs to be perfectly level to prevent the soft spots. Soft spots can also lead to the edges receiving more wear an tear than they should.
Whether your applying over concrete, plywood or composite, make sure your floor is level. There should be no more than 1/8 of an inch tolerance (see #4). A combination of grinding, sanding, and using a self leveling material will get your floor level for proper installation.
#5 Not Using Underlayment
Because laminate flooring is so thin it offer no structural integrity and bends and flexes easily. Underlayment is a thin layer of foam that absorbs any small deviations in the subfloor below. It will take care of any dips or high spots in the 1/8 of an inch tolerance we talked about in problem #4.
It is critical to choose the right underlayment for your laminate floor installation, taking into consideration the location and the subfloor.
#6 Not Using A Vapor Barrier When Necessary
When there is any chance of moisture coming from underneath a moisture barrier is a must. So it should go with out saying that concrete floors in your basement family room will need a vapor barrier. Consider vapor barriers that also act as underlayment as well.
If you laying your laminate floor over wood subfloor on a first or second floor, skip the vapor barrier as wood is a natural product that is meant to breathe.
#7 Not Leaving Room for Edge Expansion
As I mentioned earlier a laminate floor is meant to float, it interlocks and moves together. Do not cut your laminate floors tight to baseboards or a wall. You must provide a gap for most installations of laminate floors of 3/8’s of an inch. This is the most common reason for buckling!
Also a separate problem but falls in this category is nailing your quarter round into the floor through the laminate rather than into the baseboard. It doesn’t give your floor a chance to expand and contract.
#8 Not Allowing for Appropriate Expansion Joints
This problem occurs in extremely large rooms or where you are doing one entire level of a house. Any run with anything over an appox. 24 foot width or 36 foot length will require an expansion joint or a transition that allow for expansion between each room.
Your floating floor is going to expand and contract. To prevent buckling you need to give your laminate floor room to expand.
#9 Read the Instructions For Your Laminate Floor Installation
Your manufacturers instructions will cover the proper installation of your floors. Proper installation of your new floor is no secret.
Read the instructions first!
#10 Finish the Job
A lot of DIY’ers just don’t finish the job. Transitions are left undone, laminate flooring fit under an undercut door jamb,
mouldings not properly put back into place, quarter round not installed to cover the gap, etc… Take the time to finish your laminate floor installation correctly.
#11 Taking Care of Your Laminate Floor Properly
Cleaning your laminate floor properly is critical to many year of enjoyment. Avoid wet mopping your floor or even using a steam cleaner. Using a laminate floor cleaner you spray on to a cloth or pad is best.
Lastly clean up an spills immediately!!
Final Thoughts on Properly Installing a Laminate Floor
Installing a laminate floor as an upgrade in your home is certainly easy enough for a beginner to intermediate DIY’er. But, take the time to read the instructions there is a little more to it than just laying laminate floors down.
Also don’t think laminate floors will replace or have the value of real hardwood floors. For most areas of the home, hardwoods reign supreme.
With any improvement project around the home, think carefully about your investment and how it plays into the resale of your home. While a laminate floor can certainly spruce up an area with outdated floor an improperly installed laminate floor will cost you in the end. No home buyer wants to pay for poorly completed renovation projects that need to be finished or worse yet…. completely redone.
Video- Preparation Tips For Laminate Floor Installation
Opens in YouTube Video- 1:50
Like almost any project around the house a quality job starts with the proper preparation of the area. This video covers the preparation steps to take before you install laminate floors in your home.
- Remove old flooring
- Remove nails, staples residue, etc…
- Remove baseboards and number to reuse later.
- Scrape off caulking off the wall.
- Secure any loose spots in the sub floor.
- Undercut door jambs.
- Sand high spots and fill low spots.
- Thoroughly clean.
- Lay a QUALITY under layment.
Other Real Estate Resources:
- Debbie Gartner 6 Reasons Laminate Floor Popularity is on the Rise
- Bill Gassett Improvements That Will Increase Your Homes Value
- Paul Sian How Stage Your Home for a Quick Sale
- Kyle Hiscock Home Improvements to Avoid For Resale
- Property Workshop Improvements That Enhance Your Homes Value
11 Common Mistakes When Installing Laminate Floors is provided by Kevin Vitali a Massachusetts REALTOR located in Tewksbury MA. If you would like to sell your home or buy a new home give me a call at 978-360-0422 and let’s get the process started.
Real Estate Services in the following areas: Northeast Massachusetts, Merrimack Valley, North Shore and Metrowest. Including the following communities and the surrounding area- Amesbury, Andover, Billerica, Burlington, Chelmsford, Dracut, Groveland, Haverhill, Lowell, Melrose, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, North Andover, North Reading, Reading, Stoneham, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, Wakefield, Wilmington, Westford