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Humidity and Laminate Flooring: What You need to Know

You might already know that water and laminate flooring don’t mix, but what about humidity and laminate flooring?

The wood materials in the laminate flooring expand and contract with moisture. Depending on how humid your home is, the flooring could change widths. Too much humidity could impact your floors integrity if it’s not installed correctly.

Manufacturers generally recommend that you install your laminate flooring in no more than 60% humidity and no less than 30% humidity. This middle range will give your flooring time to acclimate so that you get the best fit possible for your home.

What Happens When Humidity and Laminate Mix

As the humidity levels rise above 60%, your flooring expands. Because laminate is installed using a tongue in groove, click to lock system, this expansion can push the sides of each plank into each other causing them to buckle.

Low humidity levels can also have an impact on your flooring. When it is extraordinarily dry (below 30% humidity), the flooring shrinks pulling each plank away from the other. This can cause your floors separate and expose gaps.

 

Humidity Damage (Photo Credit: NALFA)
Humidity Damage (Photo Credit: NALFA)

Installation Phase: What You Can Do To Prevent Damage From Humidity

The installation of your laminate flooring is the critical time to think about humidity.

Before you install your flooring, you must acclimate your laminate to the environment where it will be housed. To do this, arrange your boxes of flooring with flat and side by side. Don’t put them flush against the wall. Give them room to breathe and become used to the humidity level in your home. The full acclimatization process takes 48 hours.

After your flooring has sat at least two days, you’re ready to install. During installation, humidity should still be taken into consideration. Manufacturers suggest leaving ¼ inch between the flooring and the wall to allow room for expansion and contraction.

By following these steps you’ll be able to prepare your flooring for the humidity levels in your home, minimizing your risk of damage from moisture in the air.

Acclimate your flooring by cross stacking the boxes
Acclimate your flooring by cross stacking the boxes

Have another flooring question? Ask our experts before you start your installation! With our help and guidance, you’ll become a DIY installer in no time.

Learn More About Humidity And Laminate Flooring:

About Bestlaminate

Bestlaminate
Bestlaminate’s blog is dedicated to you by making the home improvement process easier and more affordable. We hope to make your home remodeling and maintaining a more positive experience.

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17 comments

  1. I have laminate in my kitchen, but when the huminity is high my floor looks wet and cant get it dry, you can see where every footstep is, can I do something to fix this or was it just not made for kitchen

    • Hi Norma, thanks for reaching out. Generally speaking, laminate flooring is not intended for use in areas with lots of moisture or humidity, so your floor may unfortunately be causing you troubles because of the humidity. We recommend using a dehumidifier to help for now! Long term, we recommend vinyl plank flooring as it is 100% waterproof and perfect for areas such as kitchens or bathrooms. Thank you!

  2. I may have read somewhere that when installing laminate flooring in a large room that more than a 1/4″ gap should be left- is this true?

    I have a laminate floor that is buckling, but only in a certain area of a large room- will it flatten back out as the humidity level drops? And once a floor has buckled is it going to be a repetitive issue?

    Thanks

    • Hi Lindsey, thanks for reaching out. Typically expansion gaps are about 1/4″ to 1/2″ and are left around all vertical obstructions; this includes walls, permanent cabinets, pipes, etc. If the proper expansion gap is not left during installation, and the planks on the sides push up against the wall, the pressure will cause planks elsewhere in the room to buckle. As your floor expands and contracts with temperature changes, you will notice the buckling slightly improving or worsening. You can learn more about buckling and how to fix it here: https://www.bestlaminate.com/blog/buckling-laminate-flooring/

  3. We are replacing our existing laminate flooring with new laminate. The installer said,since we had all ready had laminate, we would not need to put down an underpayment or vapor barrier, is this true?

    • Alana Kane

      Hi Pat, thanks for your question. Are you installing over your existing laminate? You should never install laminate over an existing floating floor. You will need to uninstall the laminate and lay the new boards over the subfloor. If you’re underlayment beneath your current flooring is in good shape, you can probably still use it, however, if you’re installing over a concrete subfloor, we’d recommend re-installing a vapor barrier underlayment. You will need an underlayment over your subfloor. Hope this helps!

  4. Hi. We purchased a home built in 1978. At some point the former owners installed ceramic tile on the wooden subfloor. The tiles are breaking and the grout popping out. We want to replace the kitchen flooring with either vinyl or laminate. We are on a tight budget, but want to get it right. We have been told to use underlayment for either and a vapor barrier. I was also told we should use Masonite hardboard as well. I’m pretty confused at this point! The kitchen is only 234 square feet. It is also the highest traffic room in our home. Any advice will be appreciated. Thank you!

    • Alana Kane

      Hi Sally, thank you for your question! The biggest thing you need to do here is to make sure your ceramic tile is smooth and level. We usually recommend getting some self leveling cement and allowing that to fill in the grout and height differences. Once you have a level subfloor, you’ll need to wait until the cement is completely dry. After that, you’ll install a vapor barrier underlayment if you’re installing a laminate. If you’re going with a vinyl, you can put it directly over the subfloor, or you can opt for an LVT underlayment. Hope this helps! Let us know if we can help you find the perfect floor for your kitchen.

  5. I’d like to ask a question when the humidity is is real high outside can it make your laminate flooring feels sticky I can’t find answers anywhere

    • Alana Kane

      Hi Carol, thanks for your question! This should not cause a floor to feel sticky. What you may be feeling is moisture drying on the top layer of the flooring. If you do not have a temperature controlled space, we would recommend it. The humidity can cause buckling with your planks.

  6. Hi, we had some rain getting under our laminate floor that stayed a few weeks…we removed the laminate completely and had the bare concrete drying with a dehumidifier for several days now. I have a relative moisture meter that measures a large difference between the “unnafected” areas and areas that had water ( coincidentally darker in color)…difference is as large as 60% and unchanged for days. It is dry to the touch and no more humidity smell in the air….what do I do?….do I need the concrete to be homogenesously dry?….how long?..looks like .months if ever before I can reinstall new laminate flooring.

    Thanks!

    • Alana Kane

      Hi Miguel, thanks for your question! With a moisture meter or a Calcium Chloride Test, the concrete moisture rating should be at 4.5% or below to install on top of. Typically after a slab is poured, it is recommended to wait 60 days. You may not have to wait the full 60, but it may take a week or so. We’d recommend doing a reading before doing your installation!

  7. The Woman Club is trying to change the floors, the building is very old, vinyl tile or down now. But there is moisture coming up around the sides of the floor tile. I think the moisture barrier due to age has broken. What can we do. We have a limited amount of money. We are a non profit club. We make money to help people.

    • Alana Kane

      Hi Sylvia, are you looking to replace the flooring, or just find a fix for the moisture? If there is moisture coming through the vapor barrier, there is a possibility for mold to grow where moisture is trapped under planks. We would recommend lifting a few of the planks to check for mold before making any decisions. If the planks are clicking vinyl, you should be able to uninstall the planks, correct any damage to the subfloor that may be causing moisture to occur, install a new vapor barrier and re-install the same vinyl planks if they are not damaged. That would be the most cost effective option! Hope this helps.

  8. Roseann Vachal

    We had laminate flooring installed 4 months ago and I noticed that when I walk down our hall that is about 3 ft. wide it makes a sound like as if your shoe laces were untied and are hitting the floor. Not loud and nothing is buckled. I am unsure as to what the sound is caused from and is it normal?

    • Alana Kane

      Hi Roseann! Thanks for the question. All types of flooring absorb sound differently. Laminate will almost always produce a sound when you walk on it, which is just a natural characteristic of the flooring. Depending on the subfloor and underlayment installed, the amount of noise will vary as well. So yes, what you’re hearing is normal! Let us know if you have any other concerns. Have a great day!

      • Roseann Vachal

        Thanks so much. I can put my husband at ease before he has someone come in and rip the whole floor up. We only noticed it in the hallway when everything is real quiet. No where else. I appreciate your answer. I love my floors.

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