The expansion gap is a small, but very important step in your laminate flooring installation. If the expansion gap is done incorrectly, you could end up with some problems that are costly and inconvenient. In most cases, people leave no expansion gap, or too little of one. You can also make the mistake of making your expansion gap too large. Let’s discuss what can happen to laminate flooring without the proper expansion gap.
Why are Expansion Gaps Necessary?
First, let’s talk about what expansion gaps are necessary for laminate flooring installations. Laminate flooring is a floating floor made from wood. This means that temperature changes and humidity can cause the planks to expand and contract, just like a solid hardwood floor. With that said, the planks need extra space on the edges to accommodate for that movement.
What Happens if There is No Expansion Gap?
If there is no expansion gap, or a gap that is too small, the flooring can buckle. When there isn’t the space to move, the planks can begin to lift at the seams, creating an uneven surface and an unsightly look. 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.
What is the Proper Expansion Gap for Laminate Flooring?
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.
What Happens if the Expansion Gap is Too Large?
There are a few issues you can encounter if the expansion gap is too big, over 1/2″. As mentioned, the laminate can also contract. If the planks have too much space to shrink, you can end up with large gaps at the seams. This can affect the stability of the floor, but also invite dirt and debris to fill the gap. If the gaps are filled with debris, this limits their ability to expand back into the seam. Lastly, if the gap is too large, you could have trouble covering it with a molding when you go to finish the project.
Before you install your floors, be sure you have the correct spacers and ready the manufacturer instructions thoroughly to make sure your laminate floors will last for years!
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