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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83 comments

  1. Thank you!

  2. This is a good article. It is a combination of fun and informative. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Hi Isaac. We recommend to not only nail the material to the walls but also use glue. This will ensure that the material will stay on the walls. I would still recommend using an expansion gap to let the floor expand and contract slightly on the wall with your heating and cooling process. You would be able to use a molding to cover the edges of that accent wall to cover that expansion gap.

  4. I’m covering walls with flooring material how important is it to leave gaps since we won’t be walking on it. The longest wall is only 5 meters. The type I’m using are “Vinyl planks with stone polymer composite core” I’m fastening it with a pin nailler which uses 20 gauge headless nails

  5. Hi Sandra. First we would recommend pulling up any baseboard and/or quarter round that you have in the area. Check to see if the expansion gap is at least a quarter of an inch from the wall and make sure those molding pieces were not pinning the floor down at the wall. Second, make sure there are transition breaks between all of the door ways. If you do not have transition breaks, this will also be causing buckling and cupping. If both of these areas are passable, you will likely need a angle grinder and a steady hand to be able to cut back an expansion gap. Hope this helps!

  6. I just purchase a coop and they were suppose to repair the buckling floor as they installed it incorrectly without leaving room fit expansion. Instead, they turned up the ax snd dried out the humidity and led me to believe it was fixed. I heard there is a tool that can be bought to cut around the perimeter of the room to creat this expansion space rather than remove all if the flooring (1300sqft). Could you tell me what this tool is called and where I can find it?

  7. Hi Steven, We suggest that when you are installing a quarter round, the quarter round can be sitting on top of the flooring when it is nailed into the wall. Do not put any downward pressure on the molding, because that will pin the floor down. Also always remember to nail the quarter round into the wall and never downward into the floor.

  8. Most everyone says to leave a quarter inch gap around all sides when installing laminate flooring but I have yet to see what gap if any should be between the top of the laminate flooring and the bottom of the quarter round molding the laminate slips under. I would assume as long as the laminate slips under the molding it should be ok. What is your suggestion regarding clearance?

  9. Hi Toni, thanks for the question. There should be a 1/4-inch expansion gap between each end of the tread and nosing and the walls. The risers can fit perfectly.

  10. Hi Pat, thanks for the question. I would advise not using caulk, as the flooring needs space to expand and contract. The caulk will limit the ability for the flooring to move this way.

  11. Hi, I’m installing laminate flooring on stairs. With the stairs being 11 inches deep and 3 feet wide, would I still need an expansion gap on the sides?

  12. Hi Alana, very informative page.

    It’s a variation on the oft asked! I am fitting laminate in 2 small rooms, each roughly 10m sq.

    I don’t want to take the skirting off, equally not sure I like the look of beading!

    Is there any way I could leave the 1/4inch gap all round, and use a flexible caulk to finish the edge?

    Thanks in advance.

  13. Hi Ty, thanks for the question. Vertical gaps will no affect the flooring.

  14. am installing vinyl plank floors. there is a gap under some of the drywall higher than the plank. baseboards are off and will cover when reinstalled. my question is will this gap allow the vinyl to move more than the 1/4 in space left? should I fill the gap in the spots where it is greater than 1/4 inch or will it not move that much?

  15. Hi John, you will want to leave a 1/4″ expansion gap. You can remove the spacers once you have the flooring installed, but the gap should remain.

  16. Hello. Do I need 1/4 inch spacers on both ends of the floor or should one end be flush against the wall.

  17. Yes, that is the expansion we recommend!

  18. Hello,

    Can I use 1/4 inch spacers for 10mm flooring 122 ft2 room? Thanks.

  19. Hi David, thanks for the question. You could either add additional grouting on the tile side or replace the last row of laminate (or cut a small piece to add on) so that it fits to the molding. I am not sure how much space you need to cover, but for a small amount, those will be your best options.

  20. The gap between my laminate and tile is to wide for the transition piece. What should I do to fix the problem?

  21. Thanks for the question. Having a gap beneath the baseboards is ideal. You should have a .25″ gap from the wall to your planks. Planks should stay in place once installed…they should only move with expansion and contraction. Trim is fine where it is. Usually it’s recommended to remove the baseboards to easily install the first and last rows. The quarter round will sit right above the planks and cover the expansion gaps.

  22. Hello and thank you for your time. We removed all our carpet and have vinyl plank flooring to install. We know we need to use spacers and our question is about those. The trim/baseboard is still on the wall and the spacers can obviously only go to that. But the trim is higher up above the flooring and the planks slide back further under them and hit the wall if we didn’t have the spacers. We are using 1/4″ spacers all around the room. However, what happens when we remove those spaces and the boards are able to move farther under the trim? Should we be lowering the trim first or is it ok and that extra space to the wall is accounted for? We’re will be adding quarter round as well, would that somehow hold everything in place? Thank you for your time, it is appreciated!

  23. Hi Donald, yes it would be a .25″-.5″ perimeter around the complete room. In this case, yes, I would add a t-molding transition between the rooms. That is a standard practice to add room to room, so I don’t think it will take away from the beauty of your new floors. Give us a call at 800-520-0961 if you have additional concerns!

  24. Alana,
    Thanks for your advice.
    When you stated “go anywhere up to 0.5″. Do you mean 1/2″ gap on both ends? or 1/4″ gap on both ends total 1/2″ gap combined?
    In my case, I have an entry/living room area (inverted L shape). The entry is 244″L x 74″W, connecting to a Living Room which is 202″L x 171″W. If the laminate flooring in the entry/living room is lay in the same direction, the max length = 244″+202″=446″=37′-2”. Would you suggest placing a “T” transition between the entry and living room to reduce the long run?
    Donald

  25. Hi Donald, thanks for the question. This is quite a large space gap, so you could go anywhere up to .5″ if you’d like. The larger the piece that needs to float, the more square footage that needs to move. There is no “real” way to calculate, so it is always better to play it safe.

  26. HI Alana,
    I am using going to use “Home Decorators Collection Embossed Silverbrook Aged Oak 12mm think laminate flooring in my house. Baseboard Moulding 5/8″ thick x 5.25″high. The longest length, running from entry to end of living room, is 37′-2”. Would 1/4″ gap at the walls be enough?
    What would be a good way to calculate the expansion/contraction for 12mm laminated floor?
    Thanks.

  27. Hi Liam, thanks for the question. You should never install flooring under a cabinet or built in. You will need an expansion gap around the full perimeter, so I don’t see this being a problem. You will just need a quarter round or molding to cover the gap.

  28. Currently laying laminate click clack flooring down and have encountered an area where we cannot place it to the wall cause of the built in kitchen (it has space underneath which is too small for the flooring) we are leaving a massive space under there. Is this okay?

  29. Glad you found it helpful!

  30. Hi Alana Kane
    Overall I thing your guideline gives me better idea how to installing laminate flooring. Thanks to you for sharing your idea with us.

  31. Hi Brian, great question. I think you will be fine cutting it flush to the baseboard, however, you may not be able to have it perfect and could see some gaps. A bigger expansion doesn’t really matter – and we actually recommend .5″ for larger projects. When we use moldings, they don’t attach to the floor, so they will just be sitting under the perimeter moldings regardless. Hope that helps!

  32. Hey, thanks for the help. So, I removed carpet and left the base boards. The gap under the base boards allows for the laminate planks to side under, so I was originally going to have the planks under the baseboard and leave an expansion gap (hidden) under the baseboards. Then I realized the last row was be a problem to install and click in place. I don’t want to remove baseboards. So, if I’m just going to add 1/4 rd, does it matter about the gap. Should I just leave 1/4 in perimeter gap and don’t worry about the fact the planks can side under? Or lay them flush and let the gap be my expansion space? Thoughts?

  33. Thanks for sharing Ayon!

  34. Hi Rich, great question. If you have a large room with more need for expansion, you can go up to .5″ around the perimeter. Leaving .25″ is just the base line!

  35. Do you ever need to leave more than a 0.25 inch expansion gap?
    What if a room is particularly large (30ft x 20ft)? Still just a 0.25 inch gap on all sides?

    Thanks

  36. I think i have written an article like you. What do you think?

    https://www.pickamachine.com/cutting-laminate-flooring-with-miter-saw/

  37. Hi Lawrence, thanks for the question. Anything with a click lock system will connect very easily! You can decide for yourself if you think an Angle-Angle or Standard Click Lock installation will be easiest for you. You can read about types of installation here: https://www.bestlaminate.com/help/guide-to-laminate-flooring-installation/

  38. Hi again,
    Can a guillotine be used for cutting laminate flooring

  39. Which is the easiest laminate board to connect plz

  40. Hi Michelle, thanks for the question. A proper flooring installed will have a quarter inch gap on the edges for expansion and contraction. These are typically covered with a quarter round or transition molding. You purchase a t-molding or end cap to cover the gaps.

  41. Hello, I recently had a floating floor installed and the end of the planks do not have a baseboard over top of it which causes a quarter inch gap between the short ends of the planks in the threshold of the doorways. Is this supposed to look like a large gap? I am not certain that the Installer finished the ends properly. He told us we would need to purchase shoestring molding and glue it down. What do you recommend? I would like to attach these photos but I’m not certain how to show you how poorly this looks.

    Should I fill first with silicone caulk?

  42. Hi Mark, thanks for the question. Good news is, your flooring should be acclimated and ready to be installed. You will still need to have an expansion gap for installation, as the flooring can still move with temperature changes throughout the year. It is very important to avoid buckling in the future! You can check out our guide to laminate installation here if you still have questions: https://www.bestlaminate.com/help/guide-to-laminate-flooring-installation/

  43. The laminated flooring I bought has been sat in packs in the house for over a month (been busy!). Will i still need to leave the gaps for expansion or would this of already happened?

  44. Hi Kevin, yes you will need an expansion gap. The manufacturer will specify how much you need, usually only .25″. It will not unclick. A proper finishing molding will cover the gap!

  45. “unclick” *

  46. I am covering my 10 year old basement floor (grey painted) with vinyl click tiles. Do I need to allow for expansion at wall edge on this 10 year old concrete floor? I am concerned the “click” will unblock lol.

  47. Hi Martha, no, a .5 inch gap will be fine. You will just need to check that your molding will cover the gap.

  48. Would 1/2 or 1 inch be too much of a gap on sides of the wall if error were made when cutting planks.

  49. Hi Shara, thanks for your question. When you are getting quotes with installation included, a company may charge differently for installation which is reflected in the price. To find the real price, I would look online or in a store without installation and see what he sqft would be. You can compare flooring costs with installation included or see what the price of buying the floor on your own and paying for installation would cost.

  50. I received two quotes from two different flooring companies for installing laminate flooring in my house. One company is charging $3.49 per sqft for Unifloor Swiss Aura laminate and the other is charging only $2.99 per sqft. Can these companies just charge anything they like? How can I find out what the real price is per sqft?

  51. Thank you, Alana.

  52. Hi Shara, the standard .25″ gap will be fine for your project!

  53. Hi, how much expansion gap do I need to leave between the floor and the baseboard for my room that is 368 sqft.?

  54. Hi Peter, you can use .25″ expansion gap for your project! If you have any other questions, let us know.

  55. What expansion do I need to leave in a room 15m?x10m

  56. Hello, all sides of the flooring need to have a quarter inch gap between it and the wall.

  57. Hi there, my understanding is that ideally you should allow for around 10mm expansion gap on all sides of the room. Our dining room is 2.7 metres wide with skirting board on the one side and fixed floor units on the other side. If we allow for a say 10-12 mm gap under the skirting board, would we still have to allow for a similar gap on the other side or could the flooring be fitted up flush to the units. ?
    Appreciate your advice
    regards

  58. Hello, this would be a result of either incorrect install or install planks that were already damaged. Typically installers that follow the instructions per the manufacturer have no problems such as this. If they refuse to help out or even come look at it, I would contact the retailer you purchased from.

  59. I’m having a lux vinyl floating floor installed. Installation is almost complete. Planks are 16×32.
    Over last 2 weeks now seeing chips along a few of the planks and a few planks have gaps and are raised with sharp edges. What could be the cause of this? How do you fix the chips? Do the planks need to be replaced? Contractor already installed 1/4 rd moldings with silicone.

  60. Hey Tom! Always leave a quarter of an inch for expansion!

  61. Hi Tyler, I am about to lay laminate flooring over a large area, approx 12 meters x 5 meters, what size expansion gap should I leave? Thx. Tom

  62. Hey Zara, thank you so much for reaching out. Unfortunately you are going to want to remove the molding so you can trim back the floor. If the floor were to expand in that direction you could start to see buckling. Let me know if you need anything else!

  63. While doing my laminatin floor I forgot to keep space in one side of my room but I kept space in three other sides of my room. What should I do now?

  64. Hello, thank you so much for reaching out to us! If you are installing a floating floor, a quarter inch gap is still needed along the perimeter of the room. Thank you for reaching out!

  65. If you acclimate laminated boards to the room they are going to be installed do you still have to leave a gap at the wall

  66. Hi Teela, do you experience a wide range of temperature fluctuations? If so, we’d recommend finding a way to keep a consistent temperature in your space at all times. This will help keep the floors from large expansions and contractions.

  67. I’m working on my floor now and I just checked wall and the floor moved it’s almost an inch away from the wall now 🙁

  68. Hi Robert, great question. A table saw will be your best bet here – the blades will last longer. The miter saw works well for trim work. Here is a video from Pergo talking more about cutting laminate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvRomPRS1PE

  69. What type of blade do you use to cut the laminate planks?
    I did a small 200 sqft room, and went through 2 saw blades on miter saw just cutting the end plank on each row.
    The ac vent hole was just as bad, even a diamond blade on dremel was stopped by this stuff. I ended up drilling holes all they way around, then a hammer and chisel to cut out the rectangle.
    I want to do almost 1500 sqft in new house. But don’t want the headache of changing saw blades every 8 cuts.

  70. Hi Keren, thanks for your question! That is a larger expansion gap than recommended, but it should not cause any problems. This will just allow the floor to move as one piece easier. You do not need to fix it, but how are you covering the gaps? A very large molding?

  71. I ended up installing laminate with gap of 1.5″
    I live in canada
    My friend told me its way to big and in short time the laminate will move and separate from one another.
    OMG is it true?
    Should i start all over again ?
    How can i fix it?
    Thanks

  72. Hi Nancy, thanks for your comment. With any floating floor, it is necessary to have an expansion gap around the perimeter to allow the floor to float, and expand and contract with temperature changes. We recommend uninstalling the floor, and reinstalling with a quarter inch expansion gap around the perimeter of your room. Unfortunately, without an expansion gap, you run the risk of your floor buckling and getting damaged over time. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  73. We just laid our entire living room with wpc plank flooring with an underlayment over concrete but did not use spacers. We butted right up to wall.
    Now what.

  74. 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.

  75. 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?

  76. 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.

  77. 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.

  78. Thanks for sharing Paul. We’ll have to look into this idea more!

  79. 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.

  80. 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/

  81. 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?

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