Today, more and more people are becoming a part of the do-it-yourself movement. Why pay an overpriced contractor to do a job that you can easily accomplish with your own tools.
You are making progress, but you notice that there are gaps between the flooring seams, and some of the pieces are not locking in the way they should. You may be wondering why this is happening and how you can fix it before it is too late.
Some common factors that can cause issues when installing laminate floor are:
- Debris in the grooves or on the sub-floor
- Laminate that has flaws or is bowed
- Uneven or sub-par, sub-flooring
Most issues can be avoided or easily corrected by following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
If you are considering laying your laminate floor or are already in the process and have run into issues, continue reading this enlightening article for tips on properly installing laminate flooring and how to look out for pitfalls.
Laminate Won’t Lock – Reasons Why
As previously stated, most installation issues can be avoided or easily corrected if you pay close attention to what the manufacturer recommends. Taking your time and paying close attention to detail as you go along with your flooring project will ensure that you don’t have to take it all up and start over again when you get to the end.
The most common reasons that your laminate flooring is not locking in place or has seams is usually due to one or more of the following things:
Debris In the Grooves
Every piece of laminate board has grooves that lock into each other. If these grooves get any type of debris in them, they will not fit properly. If you try to force them and keep going, you will be greatly disappointed because you’ll have a flawed end result.
As you continue laying flooring with debris in the grooves, there will be gaps showing, and your floor will not line up properly. It is a lot harder and costs a lot of time to take the whole floor up versus initially taking the time to be sure the grooves are clean before you begin the installation process.
To clean the grooves of your laminate flooring, simply use a brush or some compressed air to blow out any debris.
Flaws or Bowing in the Laminate Board
When you purchase wood from the lumber store, there is always a chance that some of it will have flaws or bowing. It is no different with laminate flooring.
While the boards are machine-made, there is still some room for error, so it is important to check each piece of flooring before you install it to be sure that it is free of flaws or bowing. If you find that you have a piece that is not in tip-top shape, save it for when you need a small scrap.
Many times you can easily trim the board to remove the damaged part and use the rest. Sometimes scrap pieces work great when putting a floor in a small space such as a closet or pantry.
Uneven or Sub-Par, Sub-Flooring
When building or installing anything, if you don’t have a good base to start with, your project will be difficult and fight you the entire way. It is important to use the proper materials for your sub-floor.
It is also very important to be sure that it is level and even all the way through. If not, your laminate flooring will have waves and seams between the boards. The most common material to use for sub-floor is plywood. There are different grades and types of plywood.
- It is recommended that you use marine-grade plywood in areas that have the potential to come in contact with water or moisture.
- If you are laying laminate flooring in an area with the potential for moisture or water spilling, it is also a good idea to use laminate floor silicone around the edges. This will ensure that water does not seep below the floor.
It is also a good idea to check with the manufacturer to understand their recommendations for sub-flooring material to use with their particular product.
Additional Causes Resulting in Uneven Flooring
While the laminate floor is water-resistant, its core can absorb water if it reaches the area between the sub-floor and the laminate board and cause bubbling and bowing in the floor.
Other issues that can cause your floor to be uneven are nail and screw heads that may not be recessed enough. Be sure to check the entire sub-flooring area before laying your floor.
Any type of debris on the sub-floor can potentially cause your floor to be uneven and not lock together properly. Sawdust or any other construction debris needs to be swept or vacuumed before installing your new floor.
Another sign that your floor is uneven is if you walk across it and hear popping sounds. Unfortunately, there is nothing that you can do to fix this issue except to take the floor up and start over.
Temperature Affects Laminate Floor Installation
You may not think of this, but if you plan to keep your flooring in the garage or an outside building until you are ready for the job, think again.
Keeping laminate in the cold can cause it to become brittle and bow, essentially leaving those pieces useless when it comes time to install it. Be sure that you store your flooring supplies inside where they can adjust to room temperature before attempting to start your job.
Tips to Aid the Installation Process
When installing your laminate floor, it is absolutely necessary to get the first row correct, or the whole floor will be off. You will be struggling the whole time you are laying each piece while you’ll also most likely be thinking to yourself that you should have hired a professional.
Pro Tip: Another important tip is to stagger the boards as you go along. If you try to line the end seams up with each other, the floor will not look natural, and you will see every seam.
Some people say that you need to use a rubber mallet and a long thin piece of board to tap the boards into the grooves. Do not do this unless the manufacturer specifically tells you to. Tapping the boards into the grooves can damage the edges and cause them not to lock correctly.
Considerations for Humid Environments
Moisture and humidity are also a factor to consider when installing your laminate flooring. It is important that you do not attach your trim directly to the sub-floor. You need to leave a very small amount of room around the room’s entire edge to allow the laminate material to expand and contract as the temperature and humidity change throughout the seasons.
Not giving your flooring proper “breathing” room can cause bowing and unlocking issues in the long run.
Quality is Worth the Cost
Choosing quality materials makes all the difference when purchasing laminate flooring. There are so many options now that you really need to do your research before settling for the one with the best price.
Many laminate floors now come with padding already attached, so you don’t have to lay any extra materials down, thus saving you time and money. Purchasing lower quality, less expensive products can sometimes end up costing you more in the end because it will not last as long.
In the End, It’s All About the Beginning
If you don’t pay attention to details and use low-quality products at the beginning of your project, you will have a poor outcome. However, if you take your time when purchasing your flooring and pay close attention to everything you are doing, you will have fewer issues and be pleased with the way your floors look for years to come.