9 Laminate Floor Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Laminate flooring can be a great option for many homes thanks to its durability, easy maintenance, and affordable price point. However, there are some common mistakes that homeowners make when installing or caring for laminate floors that can lead to damage. Being aware of these pitfalls and how to avoid them will help ensure your new laminate flooring looks its best for years to come. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover the top 9 laminate floor mistakes DIYers make and provide tips on how to fix them.

Not Allowing Floors to Acclimate to the Room’s Humidity

One of the most common mistakes when installing laminate flooring is not allowing the planks to acclimate to the humidity level of the room where they’ll be installed. Laminate floors, like wood floors, will expand and contract with changes in humidity. Not giving them adequate time to acclimate can lead to gapping or buckling once installed.

How to Fix:

  • When you first bring home laminate flooring, do not immediately start installation. Place the sealed boxes in the room where they’ll be installed for 48-72 hours prior so the planks can adjust to that space’s humidity level.
  • During acclimation, do not remove boards from packaging. Keep them sealed in boxes as they get used to ambient moisture levels.
  • Use a hygrometer to monitor humidity in the room during acclimation and maintain 40-60% RH levels.
  • If humidity is too low, use a humidifier. If too high, turn on A/C or a dehumidifier before installation.

Following proper acclimation allows planks to avoid dramatic dimensional changes once installed that lead to floor damage. Taking this essential first step will get your new floors off to the right start.

Not Leaving Enough Expansion Gap Around Edges

Laminate floors expand and contract with temperature fluctuations in addition to humidity changes. Not allowing enough room for this natural movement by leaving expansion gaps around the perimeter during installation can make floors buckle.

How to Fix:

  • When laying laminate planks, always leave at least 1/4″ expansion gap around all vertical surfaces like walls, cabinets, pipes, etc.
  • For large floor spans over 30 feet in any direction, the gap should be increased to 5/16 – 3/8”.
  • Never butt planks flush against any fixed vertical surface. The gap lets the floor safely expand and contract.
  • Use spacers during install to maintain correct spacing around perimeter. Remove spacers after flooring is complete.
  • Don’t place cabinets, baseboards or moldings directly against the floor’s edge. Cover gaps with trim but don’t pinch boards.

Allowing adequate expansion space is key for preventing floor buckling or planks pushing up against fixed surfaces. Take measurements carefully and use spacers diligently during layout.

Not Staggering End Joints Between Rows

Proper staggering creates a more seamless look and helps laminate floors remain level and even over time.

How to Fix:

  • When installing laminate in plank format, start each new row with a plank cut at 1/3 the length of a full piece. This ensures joints don’t line up in adjacent rows.
  • Stagger end joints by at least 6-8 inches between rows. Vary staggered distances randomly for a more natural appearance.
  • For plank lengths under 47”, use minimum stagger of 12”. For longer planks up to 95”, stagger by 1/3 of plank length but not less than 8”.
  • Avoid ‘H’ patterns where joints align across rows. Always offset seams between rows.
  • Plan layout to use cut pieces from ends of rows as starters for next rows to maximize stagger.

Staggering laminate flooring correctly minimizes obvious seams and prevents rows from becoming unleveled over time as temperature and humidity fluctuate. Take time with layout to get plank staggering right.

Not Providing Adequate Underlayment

Quality underlayment is crucial for laminate floors to help prevent moisture issues, smooth out subfloor imperfections, and reduce noise. Improper or lack of underlay can ruin planks.

How to Fix:

  • Use underlayment recommended by laminate manufacturer. Polyethylene foam works well to cushion floors.
  • Underlay should be at least 2-3mm thick but check floor warranty for minimum thickness required.
  • Butt edges of underlayment tight but do not overlap seams. Tape joints if needed.
  • Extend underlayment up walls just short of height needed to cover expansion gap.
  • If replacing only sections of floor, remove old underlay completely before putting down new.

A proper underlay levels subfloor, insulates from moisture damage, and helps prevent noises. Take time to install underlayment correctly before laying laminate planks.

Not Following Staggering Rules Between Rooms

When installing laminate across multiple adjoining rooms, proper staggering between rooms ensures a seamless look.

How to Fix:

  • Plan plank layout across rooms before starting. Stagger planks so joints between rooms are offset at least 16”.
  • Do not align first row or end joints in adjacent rooms. Offset by at least 1/3 of plank length, but no less than 16”.
  • Use ‘top down’ method when moving between rooms. Complete entire first room then move to next.
  • Doorway transitions between finished rooms provide flexibility and prevent buckling.
  • Remove any tongue and groove edges on planks where rooms meet before installing transition molding.

Careful pre-planning and staggering between adjoining spaces maintains pattern flow and prevents floor damage. Take time with layout before starting mult-room projects.

Not Providing Transitions Between Rooms and Floor Types

Allowing laminate floors to float freely across rooms and flooring types prevents damage from subfloor movement.

How to Fix:

  • Install transition moldings between laminate and other floor types like tile, hardwood, etc. to allow floors to move independently.
  • Use T-moldings in doorways between laminate floors in separate rooms to maintain expansion gaps.
  • Remove tongue and groove from planks underneath transitions so floors can move freely without buckling.
  • Do not glue, nail, screw or otherwise fasten laminate planks directly to any other flooring type.

Transitions between rooms and flooring types accommodate natural movement and prevent buckling or gapping. Allow floats to remain separate and free-moving.

Using Wrong Kind of Underlayment

Laminate needs underlayment designed for its unique installation requirements. Using the wrong type can cause major issues.

How to Fix:

  • Avoid carpet padding, foam underlays for vinyl, and soft underlay like cork. These compress too much and prevent planks from locking tightly.
  • Use 2-3mm polyethylene foam underlay specifically made for laminate floors. It cushions without compression.
  • Check manufacturer recommendations for acceptable underlayment types and minimum thickness.
  • If underlayment feels spongy or compresses more than 1mm when walked on, it’s likely the wrong kind for laminates.

Using proper dense, thin underlayment prevents uneven plank locking and long term floor damage. Check with manufacturer if unsure whether an underlayment suits laminate floors.

Not Ensuring Level Subfloor Before Installation

Uneven spots in the subfloor telegraph through laminate floors causing dips, uneven joints, and popping sounds when walked on.

How to Fix:

  • Check for low spots and high points on subfloor and correct with leveling compound prior to underlayment and laminate.
  • Ensure subfloor is flat to within 3/16” over 10 foot span and 1/8” over 6 foot radius.
  • Use self-leveling compound or cement-based patch to fill any low areas. Let cure fully before installing underlay.
  • Sand or grind down any high spots to be flush with surrounding subfloor.
  • Never use extra underlayment to try and compensate for unlevel subfloor.

Taking time to properly level and prep the subfloor prevents uneven finished floors down the road. Don’t cut this crucial step short.

Using Wrong Cleaning Products

Many common household cleaners contain oils, soaps, and other ingredients that can break down laminate floors’ protective wear layer causing damage.

How to Fix:

  • Avoid vinegar, ammonia, silicone, soap-based cleaners, wax, and steam mops on laminate floors.
  • Check manufacturer guidelines and use only their recommended products. Typically diluted vinegar-free cleaner is safest.
  • For everyday cleaning, dry microfiber mops and damp cloths are gentler than harsh chemicals.
  • Wipe up spills quickly to avoid moisture being absorbed under protective top layer.

Using gentle cleaners designed for laminate protects the finish and prevents breakdown or dulling over time. Harsh products can lead to permanent damage.

Not Addressing Moisture Intrusion Quickly

Water leaks or flooding on laminate flooring can cause permanent swelling and warping if not remedied immediately. Time is critical for potential fixes.

How to Fix:

  • At first sign of moisture intrusion, wipe up excess water and use fans and dehumidifier to dry out flooring and room.
  • For minor swelling, place weight on raised areas to flatten back out as they dry. Monitor for 48 hours ensuring moisture is gone.
  • If planks are cupped or edges warped more than 3mm due to excessive moisture, replacement of damaged boards is likely required.
  • To replace individual planks, remove baseboard and uninstall by angling boards out. Install new, acclimated planks in same direction as existing floor.

Swift action to remove moisture gives the best chance of saving laminate floors from irreversible damage. Don’t delay addressing leaks or flooding.

Allowing Furniture Legs to Sit Directly on Floors

The focused weight from legs of heavy furniture can cause dents and abrasions over time. Protecting laminate beneath furniture helps avoid this.

How to Fix:

  • Use wide floor protectors under all furniture legs. Felt pads at least 1” in diameter help diffuse weight.
  • Replace plastic or narrow felt glides with broad protectors. Ensure protectors sit flat and don’t swivel under pressure.
  • Avoid rolling casters on furniture directly on flooring. Use broad, flat glides instead under legs.
  • When moving furniture, lift to carry rather than sliding across floors to prevent scratches.

Checking for adequate furniture leg padding helps preserve the quality and appearance of laminate flooring long-term. Rotate or replace protectors periodically to prevent indentation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some tips for choosing the best quality laminate flooring?

Look for laminate with an AC rating of 3 or higher which indicates more durability. opt for thicker flooring around 12mm for stability. Choose boards with embossed textures which hide scratching better. Check warranties and buy from reputable brands.

How can you cut laminate flooring easily?

Use a power miter saw with a carbide tipped blade made for cutting laminates. Cut planks face up with the finished side visible. For holes around pipes, drill from the face side at a 45° angle to the corners. Make several smaller holes then connect them for clean cuts.

Can you use laminate flooring in bathrooms?

Laminate is not recommended for bathrooms or rooms with frequent moisture. While some modern planks are water-resistant, exposure to regular humidity risks permanent warping or swelling damage not covered by warranties. Use vinyl or tile for baths.

What is the best way to clean laminate floors?

For routine cleaning, use a microfiber mop and soft cloth dampened with water. For deeper cleaning, use laminate manufacturer approved cleaner diluted in water. Avoid wax, ammonia, vinegar, abrasives, or steam cleaners which can dull or damage the protective top layer.

How can you minimize noise and echoes from laminate floors?

Use quality underlayment made for laminate like 2mm thick polyethylene foam. Avoid soft underlays that compress too much. Felt furniture pads help reduce shuffling noises. Area rugs in rooms also help muffle noise. Closing underfloor HVAC vents can minimize echoing from below.

Can you install laminate flooring over existing flooring?

In most cases laminate should only be installed over bare subfloor. Existing floorings don’t provide a smooth, firm foundation. However, you can install over 1 existing layer of vinyl if it’s in good shape and firmly bonded to subfloor with no creaking. Never install laminate over carpet.


Installing laminate flooring has some nuances but avoiding common mistakes like allowing proper acclimation time or using the right underlayment can lead to years of enjoyment from this resilient and attractive flooring. Learning how to remedy issues like moisture damage or dents under heavy furniture legs also helps keep your floors looking great long-term. With the tips in this guide, you can install laminate floors successfully and fix any issues that pop up over time. Paying attention to the details will help your floors continue looking fantastic despite kids, pets, parties and everything else life brings.