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.