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What size expansion gap should be left when installing laminate flooring?

An expansion gap is essential when it comes to laminate flooring installation. The recommended expansion gap is a minimum of ¼ inch. Expert installers say that the larger the space, the larger the expansion gap should be, as the floor needs more space to expand and contract with temperature. Since laminate flooring is a floating floor, it is not attached to the sub-floor and sits on top of the underlayment.

Laminate floors float on top of underlayment.
Laminate floors float on top of underlayment.

What Happens If I Don’t Leave an Expansion Gap?

With temperature changes, the floor has a tendency to expand and contract. It is important to keep this in mind, because when there is not a big enough expansion gap, the floor will expand into the wall. When you don’t have the proper expansion gap, the pressure caused by the natural expansion of the floor will need to go somewhere. This causes the floor to buckle and often leads to irreversible damage that calls for plank replacement.

Buckling: What happens when a floor can't expand properly.
Buckling: What happens when a floor can’t expand properly.

For a laminate flooring installation and correct size of the expansion gap, we suggest to use installation spacers that can be found in an installation kit, between planks and the wall to allow for the required 1/4 inch expansion space. Be sure to look at the installation instructions included in your flooring box as it can give you important information about installing your floor. Remember that some floors require a bigger gap than others.

An important thing to keep in mind: You will also need to leave this gap in front of built-in cabinets, pipes, pillars, transition moldings and/or any other object permanently attached to your floor.

Do you have more questions about laminate flooring installation? We will be happy to help! Post your question in a comments below!

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8 comments

  1. My installer did not want to slide the flooring under my door jams , he says it can’t be done on a manufactured home because of expansion issues but it looks awful. He’s caulking the gaps? Only around the doors. Is this right?

    • Ashley Tolfo

      Hi Terry – Your installer should not be using caulk on the gaps of your laminate flooring! This will cause expansion/contraction issues with your flooring – exactly what he was trying to prevent…

      According to this Kronoswiss Installation Video, this is how you should install your flooring next to a door jamb.

      When you install a laminate plank underneath a door jamb (or door casing that you’ve already trimmed) it will be the last plank. You’ll have two challenges:

      1) The vertical obstruction of the door casing will prevent you from being able to angle the plank (that’s the “limited clearance”) to employ its locking system because it has to horizontally slide under the door casing and therefore,
      2) It will need to be glued to the next-to the-last plank, so you’ll have to remove the upper part or “lip” of the groove on the next-to the-last plank to create a second tongue on which to apply glue.

      In the video, he demonstrates how you can use a standard utility knife to shave the upper lip of the groove off but it takes a little bit of work and will drag your knuckles across the subfloor. A better tool he recommends and demonstrates is the mini-trim planer.

      After that’s done, he demonstrates how to use PVA Type II Glue from a flow-control nozzle and apply it to the groove (now a tongue) where you’ve shaved-off the lip. He shows how you then slide the last plank underneath the door jamb, then pull it back into place horizontally and inserted into the next-to the-last plank.

      To hold the last plank and next-to-last plank together and in place, he applies a few strips of blue painter’s tape across the joint of the two planks; as well as extra spacers along the wall, to ensure that the hydrostatic pressure of the glue doesn’t push the planks apart as it dries, leaving an ugly translucent line. Wipe up the excess glue that oozes up in the joint and you’re done!

      Hopefully this video helps your installer! If you have any other questions, please feel free to reply to this comment, or email us at support@bestlaminate.com.

  2. It’s actually called ” foam rod” and is a 3/8″ compressing material that is used to stuff and insulate the expansion gaps while still allowing expansion. Keeps drafts out.

    • Ashley Tolfo

      Hi Chris, we are not familiar with this material. We would recommend checking with the manufacturer to make sure that using this material is within your floor’s warranty. If damage occurs because you use this material, it could void your flooring warranty.

  3. I believe that the strip of “material” that you’re talking about is silicon calk. As you said, the calk will stay resilient to allow for expansion and contraction. The added benefit would be that if liquid is splashed on the wall, the calk will prevent the liquid from getting underneath the laminate and damaging the sub-floor. As far as the look goes, cover the calk with base molding or 1/4 round and your flooring project will be finished.

  4. I watched a video where it showed them laying a strip of material between the wall and flooring that filled the space left by the spacers. This material would give so the floor could still expand and contract. What is this called and where would I find it?

    • Alana Kane

      Hi Judy! Thanks for the question. As far as covering expansion gaps, the only thing we can recommend are moldings. Depending on your need, there are wall bases, quarter rounds and other transition moldings that cover the gaps. We have no knowledge about a material you are describing, sorry! You can learn more about moldings here: http://www.bestlaminate.com/help/moldings-guide/

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