How to Fix a Laminate Flooring That is Lifting

Laminate flooring is a durable material that can withstand a great deal of traffic while looking great. But if your laminate flooring is lifting, it ruins the entire aesthetic. Moreover, it can be a fall hazard, conceal structural problems and contribute to moisture issues. Understanding the cause of lifting laminate flooring is essential for using the right solution to fix it.

Why is My Laminate Flooring Lifting?

Remember that laminate is usually not nailed into the substrate like hardwood flooring is. Therefore, it does allow for some movement. However, the planks should not be visibly or mechanically uneven. Your laminate flooring could be lifting for one of the following reasons:

  • It’s too tight – As you walk across the floor, you exert pressure downward. The material expands to the sides because it has nowhere else to go. If the planks are installed too tightly, they will buckle or lift with this force. Changes in humidity and temperature can also make the planks expand, and they will rise up if they can’t move laterally.
  • Subflooring problems – Issues with your subflooring will eventually show up on the laminate. If your subfloor is uneven, it can make the laminate lift. 
  • Improper installation – If the flooring is not installed properly, it can show signs of premature wear and tear. Using the right adhesive, snapping the planks together firmly and laying them straight reduces the chances of lifting in the future.
  • Failure to acclimate – Before installing any new material in your home, you should leave it in the intended environment for several days. This gives the laminate a chance to acclimate to the temperature and humidity levels in your home. As it does so, it changes in size and structure. Allowing this process to happen before you install the laminate on the floor reduces the chances of warping, buckling and lifting.

Identifying the Problem

If you’re wondering how to fix laminate flooring that is lifting, you should inspect the flooring first to ensure that it was installed correctly. Here are some questions to ask as you do so:

  • Is there an expansion gap around the edge? – Your flooring shouldn’t butt up to the walls tightly. There should be an expansion gap of at least ¼-inch around the edges. You might not notice this gap if you have baseboard moldings. However, shining a flashlight underneath the molding should give you an idea of whether there’s space.
  • Is your molding too tight? – Even if there is an expansion gap around the perimeter, you won’t be able to see it if your molding is too tight. That tight molding could also be causing the lift in the floors. 
  • Is it a moisture problem? – A gradual bubble beneath the flooring is often a sign of moisture intrusion. If moisture is trapped beneath the laminate, it soaks into the lower layer of the material. This causes that layer to swell at a different rate than the top layer, making the planks warp. A moisture problem in the middle of the floor could be caused by water trapped beneath the home. A moisture problem at the edges could indicate a leak in the walls.
  • Are you rough on the surface? – Laminate is made of several layers of different materials. The top layer includes a design as well as a wear layer that protects it from damage. Over time, that wear layer can become compromised. If moisture or dirt get underneath the wear layer, they can make the surface of the flooring lift and peel.
  • Is the adhesive uneven? – If you have glue-down laminate floors, the adhesive in some areas may not be sticking. This can make the planks above that spot feel loose and bouncy.

Steps for How to Fix Laminate Flooring That is Lifting

Based on the problems that you identified, you can take the following steps for how to fix laminate flooring that is lifting:

  • Remove the baseboards – Give your flooring a chance to expand and contract as it breathes. If you suspect that the edges are too tight, remove the shoe molding that appears to hold the laminate in place. Consider placing a flat, heavy object over the buckled area to restore its shape. Wait about 24 hours to determine whether the laminate will even out with the pressure freed up.
  • Fix the expansion gap – If you don’t have an expansion gap, you’ll have to create one. To do this, you can use a jigsaw to trim the molding around the edges of the room. This is a tedious process, but it will allow your floor to last much longer.
  • Correct moisture problems – If you have experienced a known leak, track the progression of the water to make sure that it hasn’t compromised your flooring. You may need to remove some of the floorboards to access the space below it. Repair any moisture problems at the source, and replace damaged flooring.
  • Repair the subflooring – When the subflooring is the problem, you can’t fix laminate flooring that is lifting without getting to the bottom of it. It’s necessary to remove the affected flooring and repair any issues with the subflooring and underlayment. In some cases, floating flooring can accommodate some unevenness in the subflooring. However, if a wonky substrate is making the laminate lift, take steps to flatten it out before proceeding.
  • Add adhesive – If your subflooring is in good condition but you suspect that the adhesive beneath the laminate is compromised, drill a small hole in an inconspicuous area where the laminate is lifting. Inject caulk or adhesive through the hole using a syringe.
  • Cut out the affected part – Some causes of laminate floor lifting are not easy fixes. For example, if water damage has affected the top surface of the material, there’s not much that you can do. You may be able to lightly sand the surface and reapply sealer. However, you’ll probably be better off replacing the affected boards. In this case, you can use a circular saw set to the appropriate depth to cut out the damaged area. 

How to Prevent Laminate Flooring From Lifting

Waiting to fix laminate flooring that is lifting can result in a big project. If you’ve let the issue go on for too long, you may need to replace the entire section of material. But you can prevent laminate flooring from lifting by following the tips below:

  • Protect your floors – Keep sharp, abrasive objects away from the floors. Avoid dragging heavy furniture across the floor or scraping it with hard heels. Cover up high-traffic areas with rugs to prevent wear and tear on the laminate surface. Use furniture pads under chairs and table legs.
  • Avoid moisture – Don’t let your laminate flooring get too wet. Avoid mopping with excessive water, and clean up spills as they happen. Make sure that you seal well around the edges of the flooring if you use laminate in high-humidity areas, such as bathrooms and laundry rooms.
  • Use the right cleaning products – Certain chemicals can damage laminate flooring. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning your floors.
  • Use a professional installer – Hire a reputable company to install or repair laminate flooring. You’ll get the best results and reduce the chances of making a mistake that can cause your laminate flooring to lift in the future.

How to Protect Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring allows you to create a customized look that often mimics tile, stone and hardwood for a fraction of the price of those materials. All types of laminate flooring have similar maintenance and care needs no matter what they look like. This material is resilient and reliable, but you can damage it if you’re not careful. If you’re wondering how to protect laminate flooring, you have come to the right place. Follow the guidelines for protecting laminate flooring to get the most from this versatile material.

Install it Properly

The best tip for how to protect laminate flooring is to install it correctly. Many types of laminate are convenient for advanced DIY-ers to install themselves. But you need to make sure that you’re using the right type of moisture barrier and technique. If you don’t have the skills, hire a professional. Investing in the installation can save you money and headaches down the road.

Protect Your Laminate Flooring From Furniture

Chairs might be laminate flooring’s worst enemy. Every time you drag a chair across a laminate floor, it creates the potential for damage. Protect the surface by attaching felt pads to the feet of any movable furniture. If you have furniture with casters, replace the firm wheels with soft rubber ones. Lift heavy furniture if you have to move it across the floor.

Use Rugs Intentionally

Areas that encounter heavy traffic can wear out before other parts of the floor. Protect them with strategically placed rugs. Prime spots for throw rugs or welcome mats include the following:

  • Hallways
  • Entryways
  • In front of sinks
  • Beneath desks
  • Under dining tables

A high-quality, non-slip rug pad will prevent falls. Natural rubber and felt pads are safe for laminate floors. Avoid cheap rug pads because they may be made with plastics that damage and discolor the flooring. If you don’t use rug pads at all, you run the risk of scratching the laminate by grinding trapped dirt particles into it every time you step on the rug.

Instead of a rug, you could use a waterproof floor cover. These are excellent options for kitchens, playrooms, laundry rooms and pet areas.

Keep the Floor Clean

Cleaning properly not only improves appearances but also serves an important role in protecting laminate flooring. As people and pets walk across the floor, they deposit particles of dirt, food and dust. Although these grains are tiny, they are abrasive. As you track them across and grind them into the flooring, they create scratches. Repetitively abrading the surface erodes the wear layer and shortens the lifespan of the flooring.

Cleaning the floors also reduces static. While static buildup won’t damage your floors, it is annoying. Keeping the surface free of dust reduces the static electricity that makes you get shocked every time you touch someone in your home.

You should never use an oil-based product to clean your laminate floors. It can damage the material and make the floors slick. Also avoid using steam mops, which introduce moisture and cause buckling.

Use the Right Vacuum

Don’t use a carpet that’s designed for carpet on laminate. Cleaning equipment with hard edges or rigid wheels can scuff the flooring. Use a vacuum head that is protected with felt or another soft material. Avoid using vacuums with rotary brush heads. Better yet, use dry cleaning pads to attract dust, sand and grime and leave your laminate floors looking spotless.

Maintain Steady Humidity Levels

Laminate flooring is especially sensitive to humidity. Excessive moisture makes the material expand. This creates bubbles and waves in the flooring. Keep the humidity levels in your home between 35% and 65% to protect your investment.

Using central air conditioning and keeping your windows closed in warm weather helps you achieve this goal. You might also use a dehumidifier in damp areas, such as basements and bathrooms.

Wear Socks More

Shoes with hard soles can scratch and dull laminate flooring. You can make it a habit to wear socks or soft-soled shoes around the house. But you can’t make your pets wear socks. Keep their nails trimmed to avoid marring the finish with pesky surface scratches.

Be careful when you’re cleaning your laminate flooring, though. If you walk across damp floors with socks, you’ll create temporary marks that look dull when the light reflects off of them. Make sure that the flooring is completely dry before you allow anyone, including your pets, to step on it.

Can you Make Laminate Flooring Waterproof?

Laminate flooring has a relatively tough wear layer on the surface. However, the absorbent core can swell if water makes its way to it. Therefore, take measures to prevent water from seeping into the cracks.

  • Seal the seams – Seal the expansion gap with caulk or silicone. This is essential in high-moisture rooms, like the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Add sealant – Coating the floor with polyurethane provides an extra layer of protection. You can also use sealant in the locking systems to fill the gaps between the planks. However, you should check with the manufacturer to find out which sealants they recommend.
  • Install waterproof flooring – Some types of laminate are more waterproof than others. Use these in areas that are exposed to moisture and spills. No laminate is completely waterproof, though. You should use these recommendations for how to protect laminate flooring even if you have the waterproof version.
  • Wipe spills quickly – Don’t let liquids pool on the floor; keep the surface dry at all times.

Don’t Ignore Problems

Gouges that penetrate several layers of the material, warping and peeling issues should be addressed as soon as they happen. If you compromise the wear layer at the surface, dirt can get in and cause deeper erosion. Moisture can also enter, creating bigger problems.

If you notice that the laminate is warping, buckling or bubbling, you should investigate the source of the moisture issue. Leaving damp laminate on the floor can create further moisture issues and encourage mold and mildew growth. But you might keep encountering the problem if you don’t identify the cause.

Remove the boards and look for water damage around them. Address leaks in the perimeter of your home or from pipes. Replace the damaged parts of the floor with fresh laminate.

Contact a flooring expert if you’re not sure how to protect laminate flooring. They can guide you toward the right methods and products. A professional can also help you make repairs to extend the life of your floors.

How Soon Can You Walk on Laminate Flooring After Installation?

Having laminate flooring installed is exciting. It enhances the appearance of your space and upgrades the feel of your environment. In fact, you may like your new flooring so much that you’re hesitant to walk on it. But flooring has to be as functional as it is stylish. It goes underfoot, and you probably wonder how soon you can walk on laminate after installation.

How Soon Can You Walk on Floating Laminate Floors?

Laminate is an engineered material that is made with a fiberboard core. The top layer contains a high-resolution photograph of the suggested surface, making the laminate look like wood, stone, tile or another flooring material. The pieces are coated with a clear layer that protects them from scratches, stains and fading.

Most laminate flooring comes in the form of click-and-lock planks. Each segment has a tongue-and-groove mechanism that connects it to the next piece. You assemble the floor as an interconnected mat. When you cut and shape it to your room dimensions, it fits in place perfectly. A floating floor doesn’t need to be nailed or glued to the subfloor.

Some people confuse laminate with vinyl or engineered hardwood. Both of those materials are available as floating floors.

Vinyl and laminate are quite similar. Both are made of various layers of compressed material. They are usually created to look like wood or another luxury flooring type. Like laminate, vinyl is available as a floating floor.

Engineered hardwood also features tongue-in-groove planks and installs as a floating floor. However, it feels different than vinyl and laminate. With engineered hardwood, real wood veneer is sandwiched on top of a layer of plywood. Because it’s real wood, its grain pattern is more realistic than that of vinyl and laminate. It is also more durable.

Does the Floating Floor Require Adhesive?

Whether you install true laminate or another type of floating floor, it’s safest to avoid walking on it for about 24 hours. Some experts say that you can walk on it immediately because you don’t have to worry about disturbing the adhesive curing process. But it’s a good idea to let gravity work on the planks, allowing them to settle evenly onto the subfloor before putting weight on them.

While floating floors are not affixed to the subflooring, they may require adhesive to secure the planks together. If this is the case, you need to wait the appropriate amount of time for the glue to dry and cure. Follow the directions on the product label. When in doubt, give the floor 24 to 48 hours before exposing it to foot traffic or moving your furniture back.

How Soon Can You Walk on Glue-Down Laminate Floors?

Some types of laminate are meant to be glued down instead of installed as a floating floor. In some ways, these floors are more durable than floating floors. The material won’t shift as much under pressure, and it’s less likely to buckle from moisture damage.

But it’s important to use the right type of laminate if you plan to glue it down. Flooring material that’s not intended for this purpose may not adhere properly. It may also buckle or create gaps due to natural expansion and contraction.

Installing this type of flooring is more time-intensive than fitting a floating floor. It’s especially important to keep the humidity levels low. You should also wait about 72 hours after washing the subfloor before gluing down laminate segments.

After you have completed the installation process, you’ll need to wait for the glue to dry and cure. This time frame may be different for distinct types of adhesives. However, it’s usually about 24 hours.

If you walk on a glue-down laminate floor before the adhesive has cured, you risk shifting the planks from their perfect position. Moreover, the planks may not adhere properly. The best way to install glue-down flooring is to go over it with a weighted roller after the application. This ensures that the segments bond evenly with the subfloor and reduces the risk of buckling and bubbles.

You should also follow the 24-hour guidelines when installing glue-down vinyl floors. They behave similarly as laminate and need time to cure before accommodating foot traffic.

How Soon Can You Put Furniture on Laminate Floors?

After you install laminate floors, you are probably eager to see how it looks in the context of the environment. You can’t get the full impact until you place your furniture where it belongs. Many homeowners wonder how soon they can put furniture on laminate floors after installation.

You should wait about 24 hours before replacing your furniture. This will give the flooring time to settle and acclimate. However, some experts say that you can move your furniture back right away.

When you move your furniture onto your new floor, protect the material from damage. Enlist help to lift heavy items so that you don’t drag them across the floor. You might want to place cardboard under your feet to prevent scratches and scuffs. Consider affixing felt pads to the undersides of your furniture to avoid damage to your flooring in the future.

But if your glue-down floors are vinyl, don’t use furniture pads that contain rubber. The chemical reaction between rubber and vinyl generates permanent yellow stains.

How to Avoid Walking on Your Floors During Installation

We have all seen the cartoons in which the characters paint themselves into a corner. You may feel like the same thing will happen to you when you’re installing laminate flooring. To avoid walking on the surface while you’re installing it, follow the steps below:

  • Start at the corner or edge farthest from the door.
  • Work your way toward the exit door.
  • Leave an unfinished path to walk along until installation is complete.
  • Wear socks, and tread lightly if you must walk on the surface.
  • Consider spreading out your weight by laying a wooden board on the floor before stepping.

Protecting Laminate Flooring From Future Damage

Your new laminate floors may look so good that you hesitate to walk on them. But you want to feel comfortable in your home and live your life without worrying about ruining your floors.

Fortunately, laminate is incredibly durable. Regular foot traffic shouldn’t impair its function or appearance.

Still, you can protect the longevity of your laminate flooring by:

  • Taking off your shoes inside the house
  • Placing mats at entryway doors to collect pebbles and dirt, which can scratch the floor
  • Putting felt pads underneath furniture
  • Replacing the felt pads before they have a chance to wear out
  • Using plastic flooring pads under furniture with casters
  • Placing rugs in high-traffic areas
  • Checking with the laminate manufacturer to determine the best type of rug pad to use
  • Keeping the indoor temperature and humidity consistent

Following the guidelines above will keep any type of flooring looking its best for as long as possible. Laminate flooring should last 15 to 25 years before needing to be replaced. However, walking on it too soon and failing to protect it will shorten its life span.

How to Remove Paint from Laminate Flooring

An unexpected spill on your laminate floor during a painting project? Dried paint drips you have just now noticed that were left behind from that renovation project?

Don’t panic! First of all, laminate floors are very durable and much more forgiving than wooden floors. The top layer is composed of aluminum oxide particles and melamine resin, which gives the floor it’s durability, as well as scratch, moisture, seepage, and stain resistance. If you react fast to a spill, you can use a damp cloth to wipe it up without issue! However, for paint that has dried, it can be a little bit more complicated, but there is still no need to panic.

There are multiple ways to successfully tackle the removal of dried paint on your laminate floor. It will require a little more patience and take slightly more elbow grease for the cleanup, though. Fortunately, we can give you several different tips and techniques to ensure that the laminate floor in your renovated space looks just as great as the paint job!

Tools You Will Need for the Removal

Keep in mind, in spite of its durability, you can still damage the surface of a laminate floor if you aren’t careful. Depending on the amount of spillage or drips, there are a variety of things you might need. Basically, with all, or at least some of these items used in proper combination, you will be able to take on the job efficiently and effectively.

Luckily, most things you will probably already have at home and you can avoid an emergency trip to the store. Here is a list of what you may need:

  • A vacuum cleaner, mop, broom, small bucket, cloth rags, and small bristle brush for the initial and final clean up. 
  • Plastic putty knife, tweezers, or even a credit card can be effective tools to “pop” paint spots off when used with care.
  • Dish detergent and warm water will create a suitable mild cleanser.
  • White vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and a spoon for stirring if creating a homemade remedy.
  • Acetone nail polish remover or ammonia-based window cleaner, either of which may also do the trick quite nicely. 
  • Wood floor cleaner and floor degreaser for cleaning up residue. 
  • Paint thinner or paint remover can be used as a last resort. They contain powerful chemicals that are not usually necessary for laminate floor paint removal. 
  • A pair of rubber cleaning gloves to protect your hands during the process, no matter what technique you use.  

Tackling the Small Dried Paint Drips and Specks

Any paint drip that has even a small edge will come right off the floor as long as you wait for it to harden. This is when the plastic putty knife or old credit card will come in handy. Be careful if you use the tweezers, as it is possible if you use too much force, you can end up scratching or marring the surface. Small spots, such as those left when a roller splatters paint or specks from overspray will come off with just a little effort. For larger drips, you can try using a small hammer and tap lightly on the top of the plastic tool at the edge of the spill. The plastic will bend before the weight of the hammer will damage the floor, but be careful not to cut or accidently injure a finger or hand in the process. By being too aggressive with any type of metal tool on the cleanup, you will end up creating a lasting scar and one that is completely unnecessary. This is when your patience has to kick in!

Before Using Any Products in the Removal Methods

Be sure the floor is cleaned properly before using any products on the dried paint area. Use a vacuum cleaner or broom to remove excess dirt from the laminated floor. It is best to start with the cleanest area possible. Debris, particles, or tiny pieces of metal or rust that are overlooked may become embedded in the cleaning materials and can actually cause an unexpected scratch or damage to the floor just from using your elbow grease!  

  • Mildest Method of Removal

If paint does not easily pop off, you can next try placing a soggy rag on top of the paint spill. Keep it there for 15 to 20 minutes to allow the water to soak into the paint. Then try using the plastic putty knife to carefully insert underneath the paint and see if it will peel up off the floor. If the paint does peel up, then the remaining residue can be wiped up with dish soap and water. If not, move to one of the other methods.

  • Home Made Cleaning Solution

Mix equal portions of rubbing alcohol, vinegar, and water together and then add a few drops of liquid dish soap.  Stir the mixture until the liquid starts forming suds. This mixture will work well on both water-based and oil-based paints. The vinegar dissolves water-based paint and the rubbing alcohol and suds of soap will dissolve and remove the oil paints. Again, use dish soap and water for the final cleanup.

  • Nail Polish Remover

If your homemade solution does not work to remove the paint completely, you should try nail polish remover. Make sure the bottle is not labeled “non-acetone.” An acetone nail polish remover is needed to loosen the chemical bonding in the dried paint. It does take time to work, so after the application let it sit for a few minutes, and then attempt to wipe off the softened paint from the floor using a clean microfiber cloth. Once the majority of the paint is wiped off, pour some clean water on the floor. Then use a clean mop to remove the water and that should take away the rest of the residual as well. It might require repeating the process a few times to completely remove the paint. 

  • Window Cleaner

Window cleaners are made of mostly ammonia-based chemical solutions. Ammonia is known to cut through many different kinds of paint ingredients. It also has a reactive capability to destroy the bonding in paint in just a short time. Once you apply the window cleaner on the floor surface, wait for a few minutes to permit the ammonia to work on the paint. Then scrub the floor with a rag or a soft-bristled brush. Rinse with warm water. Wash off the surface of the laminate with a wood floor cleaner and cloth rag.

  • Paint Removers and Paint Thinners

If all else fails, you can use paint thinner or mineral spirits to remove the paint. Paint thinner was made to remove overspray and paint spill from concrete floors, so it is very harsh. We don’t recommend it as your first option for laminate flooring, as the other methods are usually effective and less caustic. However, there may be a time when you have paint spills that have cured for a long time, or are from exterior oil-based paint or artist’s paint, or you have found the other methods just haven’t worked.  

Rub the paint spills and splatters with turpentine or white spirit, (which is another name for paint thinner), using either a rag or a soft bristle brush. It’s usually safe to use turpentine and white spirit on a laminate floor because generally these will not harm the finish. Again, here is where your patience is required! Test the product on a very small spot first to make certain it does not discolor or harm the floor.  Give it time to work and penetrate the paint. If the floor tolerates the test application, proceed by working in small areas at a time and make sure the room is very well ventilated. Clean up with a floor degreaser for heavy oil residual and then by using dish detergent and water.

That Wasn’t So Hard, Was It? 

Painting spills and accidents can happen, even when you use drop cloths and even when you have carefully planned out your project, so be prepared for the unexpected.  Luckily, paint removal from laminate floors is fairly easy when you know the appropriate solutions. Most of the items you will need to remedy the situation you will already have at home in your pantry or with your cleaning supplies. Other than that, you will just need to be patient and careful as you perform the techniques we have discussed. 

Start with the mildest methods of paint removal and go slow with the entire procedure to ensure that there’s no damage done to the laminate floor. In most cases the dried paint will chip right off or be easily removed with household products without leaving any evidence it was ever there. After that you can step back, admire your work, and be proud it was another job well-done!