What can happen to laminate flooring without the proper expansion gap?

Are you installing laminate flooring soon? Then you should know you need to leave an expansion gap around the perimeter of your room, right? Because you know that things like this picture below can happen. This is called buckling and this is the most common thing that happens when you don’t leave the proper expansion gap.

What is Buckling?

Buckling occurs when laminate flooring does not have enough space to contract and expand with temperature changes. Since it is a floating floor, the planks tend to contract when it is cool and expand when it is warm. Therefore it is crucial to take precautions to prevent buckling.

Buckling Diagram from Kronotex
Buckling Diagram from Kronotex

How Can I Avoid Buckling?

In order to achieve a proper and successful installation you must leave an expansion gap between the installed planks and the wall. 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. Buckling floors are repairable, however, they are a major inconvenience and can be tricky. To achieve the right expansion gap with your floating floor, cut the tongue off planks where they meet the wall, and use spacers to ensure that you are leaving a uniform gap. Take extra care when installing under door jambs to make sure you undercut them deep enough.

Leave proper expansion gap

Have more questions? Leave us a comment below and we will help you!

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28 comments

  1. Alana Kane

    Hi Al, yes, it should be fine here as long as you have room to move on the other edges.. It seems like your strip is acting as a transition.

  2. Avatar

    Hi

    I have a tiled area that I am looking to transition a laminate floor against a steel tile strip. I put a steel plate strip on the length of the tile. I am hoping to join the laminate flush up against the strip on the narrow end of the laminate plank. I understand that the laminate may need room to expand, but will it get that from the 8-10 mm i leave on the other 3 sides ( 2 sides and far end) of the room?

  3. Alana Kane

    Hi Terri, thanks for the question. Vinyl flooring tends to expand less than a laminate, but if you have big changes in temperature or humidity, it could lead to an issue. Try to keep your temperature consistent and you should be ok!

  4. Avatar

    My vinyl plank flooring was installed without the use of any spacers. The installer basically “eyeballed” the amount of space he left between the flooring and the baseboards. The “spacing” around the perimeter is erratic. Will this cause for gaps to form?

  5. Alana Kane

    Hi Dave, thanks for reaching out. I am a bit confused with your question. The 3/8 inch gap would have been fine in your situation. No need to fill in any gaps, as the floor will need to expand.

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    My installer didn’t leave a consistent 3/8 inch gap on all walls. This is what I did. I removed the baseboard, filled the gap with backer rod, reinstalled the baseboard 1/4 inch above the laminate and installed quarter round to hide the 1/4 inch gap. Was this an adequate solution ?

  7. Alana Kane

    Hi Dan, thanks for the question! You will not need to take the whole flooring up, but you will need to uninstall the last row of planks and cut them for the expansion. This will require taking up the edge moldings and then the last plank around the whole perimeter. You’ll be able to just re-click them into place after you cut them to leave an expansion gap.

  8. Avatar

    Hi my floor was installed with no expansion gap, anyway I can fix that without taking the floor up?

  9. Alana Kane

    Hi Michael, thanks for the question. Yes, the caulk you used should be fine. It is still flexible!

  10. Avatar

    We installed pergo outlast plus in the kitchen/living room of our home (open floor plan). On the kitchen side we filled the expansion space with 3/8” backer rod, caulked and covered with 1/4 round as recommended. However, we accidentally used “Alex acrylic latex caulk plus silicone” instead of a 100% silicone caulk. Do you think the Latex caulk with silicone additive will be flexible enough to allow for proper expansion/contraction?

  11. Alana Kane

    Hi Dennis, thanks for your question. Buckling can be caused by several things, but this is definitely a big factor. Not properly installing with a gap around all edges can void your warranty and cause issues. I would recommend having the gap on all edges. If the floor needs to expand on the side that there is no gap, there is a strong potential for buckling to occur.

  12. Avatar

    If I install flush on one side of a room and leave extra space on the opposite wall, what is the likelihood that buckling will happen?

  13. Alana Kane

    Hi Jared, thanks for the question. I would advise not going with a floating floor in this case, unless you will be flood proofing the basement. You’re better off working with the concrete floor if you can. Water will only cause issues for a laminate flooring and ruin it if it floods again.

  14. Avatar

    Hi Alana,

    I have a basement that has flooded a few times. Do
    You think I should go with laminate flooring or do some sort of an acid stain on the concrete. Right now the wood is warped.

  15. Alana Kane

    Hi Al, thanks for your question! Do you have a consistent temperature in your home? As long as you keep your home at a level temperature, the flooring will remain the same and it is safe to install during the summer. If you happen to use windows and fans, less humidity could cause the laminate to shrink slightly. You will want to acclimate and install your floors in a consistent temperature.

  16. Avatar

    Hi Alana, I live in Las Vegas where humidity is less than 20%. In the dry, desert climate, will a floating floor actually expand and contract? And if the laminate floor does expand and contract, does it make sense to install the laminate floor in the summer? Thanks.

  17. Alana Kane

    Hi Ron, thanks for the question. If you have ever had a door exposed to humidity, you’ll find it getting stuck or not shutting. Wood will typically move when exposed to temperature changes. This is the same with laminate flooring. Since it floats and moves as one piece, it is necessary to have the expansion around the perimeter. Let us know if you have any other questions about this!

  18. Avatar

    Why is it needed on laminate flooring and not on any other wood such doors, skirting and architrave?

  19. Alana Kane

    Hi Mike, sorry to hear about the issues you’re having. I would reach out to the contractor that installed you planks and see if they will fix the planks or add an expansion gap around the perimeter. As a professional, they should stand behind their work and be willing to fix the damages since you paid them to have it done properly.

  20. Alana Kane

    Hi Michael, sorry to hear about the issues you’re having! Yes, I would reach out to the builder or contractor that installed the flooring. They should have insurance for these types of claims. It seems it is a definite mistake on their end. Be sure to have the inspector paperwork as well!

  21. Avatar

    I have konectco installed in kitchen professionally in my new build house, they never left expansive gap by walls-flush to walls, now I have gaps in seams, what do I do?

  22. Avatar

    My builder left no expansion gaps on any wall with my konecto flooting floor in kitchen now I have gaps and they even nailed quaterround through the floor. Can I go back on builder? I didnt know this until inspector came out

  23. Alana Kane

    Hi Hannah, the expansion gap will be around the perimeter under the moldings. The moldings will cover the gap! Best of luck with your installation.

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    Hi, we have an area of 60 square meters, would an expansion gap around the outside of the room underneath the skirting board still be ok? Many thanks for your help

  25. Alana Kane

    Hi Kim, thanks for your question. Sorry to hear you’re having some issues! Your installer should have left an expansion gap on all walls. This could be your problem. Another problem could be having a consistent temperature and proper humidity in your home at all times. You can add an expansion gap fairly easily on your vertical walls to see if this alleviates the issues. Check out this post to learn how: https://www.bestlaminate.com/blog/buckling-laminate-flooring/

  26. Avatar

    Hi, I had an issue on my laminate floor. The installer installed my laminate floor on May 2018. However on September 2018, the floor was buckling(hump) so my installer repaired it but now February 2019 the floor was buckling again. I noticed The installer only leave the expansion gap on the horizontal walls and no gap on the vertical walls. He told me that not necessary to leave gap on all the walls. Is that true? Please tell me why my floor had hump again and again. Thank you

  27. Alana Kane

    Thanks Arturo! Glad you enjoyed it.

  28. Avatar

    Great article!