When homeowners ask us which type of hard floor covering is the easiest to repair, laminate is not on that list. While an affordable alternative to hardwood or engineered flooring, one of the drawbacks of laminate is the fact it’s challenging to repair. With that in mind, we have a number of tips that can help repair damaged laminate flooring whether it’s been damaged by water or is simply scratched.
Why Laminate is hard to repair
Understanding how flooring is made is the best way to tackle any type of repair. It’s something we’ve covered in-depth with laminate as it’s a product that can be deceiving to homeowners. While these planks appear solid and can be up to 12mm thick, they are actually constructed from several different layers.
The layer that makes the laminate look like wood or stone is commonly referred to as the design layer. It is protected by a wear layer that keeps the flooring from becoming damaged during daily use. The core in the middle provides stability, and while the bottom layers are important, most of the damage occurs within the first few layers.
One exception that can wreck every layer in a laminate plank is water. It can cause the flooring to swell or mold to take hold of the subfloor beneath the flooring. This can lead to a variety of problems, and even the best waterproof laminate still has a measure of organic material that can be affected by excess moisture or a water leak.
Repairing Scratches in Laminate Flooring
Scratches are something that can happen to any style of laminate flooring, despite a thick wear layer. Jagged nails on a large dog could leave scratches behind, and scooting large things like refrigerators and furniture are a sure-fire way to damage your floors.
If your floors have a scratch that isn’t too deep, a laminate repair kit will do the trick. Finding the right one can be difficult, however, given the number of options available. These kits can use markers and putty to lighten or remove scratches.
Most have everything you’ll need, although kits for deeper gouges or scratches may require a putty knife. Some companies have their own branded floor kits, but there are also unique options like this one that uses wax and is designed for furniture or flooring.
Pens and markers can be easier to color match and are ideal for very light scratches or touch-ups. In some cases, you may need a very light grit sandpaper to prep the area around the floor when using filler. Acetone is common in these cases, but the important thing to remember aside from color matching is to follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Preventing Scratches on Laminate Flooring
The best way to keep laminate flooring in your home from becoming scratches is to set up a line of defense that starts at the door. That means using a high-quality doormat at the entry and exit to your home.
Simply keeping debris off the floor is half the battle, as a small pebble in a shoe can quickly scratch floors. We also recommend using furniture pads beneath objects on the laminate that could potentially scratch the flooring.
Repair Separated Laminate Flooring
One of the first tips we give homeowners that plan on installing laminate flooring themselves is to remember the expansion joints. They will help you keep your flooring straight, but also prevent separation. The most common cause of laminate boards separating is improper installation as the flooring expands and contracts throughout the year.
If you have a gap in your flooring, the easiest way to attempt a fix is with something like this Floor Gap Fixer Tool. There are several different styles available, but the concept remains the same. They stick or grab onto the board and allow you to close the gap by tapping the block with a rubber mallet. As long as the block will stick to the laminate board, this is an unobtrusive way to close small gaps.
For larger gaps or boards that are glued into place, you’ll need to use a filler product similar to the ones we described in our scratch prevention section. Wood glue and wood putty are also options, but you may have difficulty matching the color. This video is a good example of how to close a gap and keep it closed using a bit of glue.
Preventing Laminate Flooring Separation
While there’s only so much you can do to remove gaps in laminate flooring, preventing them from occurring in the first place is simple. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions on acclimation as some brands will need to sit in the room for up to 3 days before being installed.
This allows the boards to become accustomed to the conditions in your home, but the subflooring and underlayment are critical as well. If the subfloor is uneven and not leveled beforehand, it can lead to separation over time. The same goes for any underlayment that’s been overlapped or has a large wrinkle that wasn’t smoothed out before the flooring was installed.
Repair Lifting Laminate Flooring
If you’ve ever seen two laminate boards that are raised where the ends meet, that’s generally referred to as lifting. This is another problem that can happen because of acclimation issues or poor installation, and something that needs to be addressed promptly.
As the temperature fluctuates inside your home, the boards can expand and cause the laminate to lift. In many cases, this is due to spacing around the perimeter of the room or lack thereof. While you can’t fix this with a repair kit, you can address the issue with a hammer, a handful of nails, a pry bar, and a little bit of patience.
In order to relieve pressure in this area, you will have to remove the baseboard and trim. If you are unfamiliar with this process, you can find out how to do this in our laminate removal guide. Depending on how the flooring was installed, this alone may allow the boards to settle back into place over a few hours.
If not, you’ll need to remove the planks that are too tight and close to the wall and trim the edges. Keep the baseboard in mind, however, as cutting too much off could leave a gap that requires quarter-round moulding or a wider baseboard. When complete, reattach the baseboard and any trim along the wall in that section.
How to prevent Laminate Flooring from lifting
As with laminate boards that have separated, the best way to prevent a floating laminate floor from lifting is to make sure it’s installed the right way. That means using spacers along the wall for an expansion gap and making sure the subfloor is free and clear of any serious imperfections.
If your flooring was installed by a professional and is lifting, our advice is to contact the company that installed the flooring before attempting to repair it yourself. The flooring itself could still be under warranty and the company that installed it should be made aware in case the issues were caused on their end.
Dealing with Water Damaged Laminate
All of the problems with damaged laminate we’ve touched on are common, and things that most homeowners can fix themselves. When it comes to water damage, things are different as it can result in buckled or swollen flooring that cannot be repaired and must be replaced.
If your home has recently experienced a flood or leak and you notice the floors are buckled, there’s no need to think about why there are swollen boards. If there is just one section that has buckled and there has been no water damage that you are aware of, there are a few steps you can take.
You’ll need to remove any baseboard or trim in that area that would prevent you from working your way to the buckled boards. Remove pieces of flooring until you reach the section, and then inspect the boards for damage.
If you notice water damage in the area or the boards appear swollen, skip ahead, otherwise, replace the lifted boards and piece the floor back together. You may need to apply a weight to that section temporarily or use smaller spacers against the wall in that area until the boards lay flat. When complete replace the baseboard.
For laminate flooring that has been damaged by a flood or leaky appliance, the process largely remains the same. You’ll need to remove the baseboard and work your way to the damaged area inspecting the boards along the way. Any that are damaged or swollen will need to be discarded and replaced, but the subfloor will need to be inspected as well.
Mold and mildew can grow quickly if left unchecked, so make sure the subfloor is dry, undamaged, and free of any mold before installing new laminate. Depending on the type of laminate used, you may need to remove and replace large sections of underlayment as well.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to keep Mother Nature from flooding your home and nobody can sense when a pipe will burst or a refrigerator will decide to leak. Any water that stands on laminate flooring can damage it, especially if it manages to find its way between the edges of the boards.
One thing you can do is use high-quality waterproof laminate in any area that may be prone to water damage. That includes kitchens and laundry rooms; two places where plumbing and appliances that rely on water are found. We also don’t recommend installing laminate flooring in below-grade rooms where humidity could cause issues along with flooding.
Hiring a Professional for Laminate Flooring Repairs
As mentioned, most of the common repairs with laminate flooring can be handled by homeowners and are inexpensive to attempt. In the worst-case scenario, you may need to rent a saw if you can’t borrow one from a neighbor to trim the edges of a few boards.
If the laminate flooring in your home is scratched or has small gaps where it has separated, there’s no need to call in a professional if you feel confident using a few hand tools. We feel the same way about sections of flooring that have buckled or lifted, as long as the spot is easy to access.
Homes with large rooms or people that might need several areas repaired will want to consider a professional or a handyman service. The cost of these can vary wildly from one area to the next, but most simple repairs should only set you back a few hundred dollars at most. If the flooring has water damage, you’ll need to take things a step further.
Laminate flooring that has been damaged by flooding should be assessed by a professional. They can look for things homeowners might miss, like water that’s leaked into other areas or weakened the subfloor. If mold is found, you will need to contact a mold remediation service in your area before the water-damaged flooring can be addressed.
These services can remove any bad or moldy sections of flooring and dispose of them properly to keep particles from spreading throughout your home. Once complete, a contractor or flooring expert can assess the situation and give you the best idea on how to proceed. If you are interested in finding a flooring professional in your area, our quote tool can help you narrow the field.
Laminate may be one of the more challenging styles of wood-like flooring to repair, but as you can see, certain types of damage can easily be addressed. The important thing to remember is the cost of any major repairs vs. the price of new laminate flooring or comparable options that are 100% synthetic like luxury vinyl flooring.