How to Prevent Water Damage to Laminate Flooring

This article comes from The Spruce.

How to Prevent Water Damage to Laminate Flooring

When water dries on laminate floors, the laminate flooring will never return to its original dimensions. Given this, it is absolutely critical that water is kept away from laminate flooring as much as possible.

1. What to Do About Water on Top of Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring can get wet, but only the top. Laminate flooring’s sides, open seams, damaged areas, and bottoms can never get wet.

Mop up standing water quickly, as water can migrate into the laminate’s seams. The edge areas of the laminate are more of a problem since the edges are cut and exposed. If the water has reached edge areas or open seams, thoroughly extract the water with a wet-dry vacuum.​

If you install laminate flooring in a full bathroom, you must take extreme precautions given by laminate manufacturers. Installation in guest or half bathrooms without precautions is acceptable because water is not as prevalent as in rooms with bathing facilities. In these rooms, the main areas of concern would be around the toilet and below the sink.

2. What to Do About Water Under Laminate Flooring

When the water reaches under laminate flooring, the water must be removed immediately. If a small amount of water has leaked toward the edges of the flooring, pull up any quarter-round (shoe molding) or baseboards around the perimeter. If the water is not pervasive, you may be able to extract it with a wet-dry vacuum.

Your best bet is to remove the affected floorboards. Floorboards that run parallel to the spill may be simple to remove (after the quarter-round and baseboards have been taken up) since the last course of parallel laminate boards should tilt upward. You can then progressively take up boards as far as you need.

Floorboards that run perpendicular to the spill, as well as the first course of boards, cannot be removed so easily. In this case, you need to remove all of the laminate floorboards.

3. Replacing Water-Damaged Laminate Floorboards

Many types of floors, not just laminate flooring, are subject to damage when hit with enough water. Solid wood flooring will warp and swell when water-logged. Since wood fibers in real wood run lengthwise, the weak direction is sideways. When natural wood bends in this direction, it crowns or cups. Even water-resistant floors like vinyl can be affected if the water works its way under the flooring and begins to degrade the paper backing.

The difference between real wood and laminate is that real wood can potentially be saved. Even cupped or crowned wood can be sanded down flat. Laminate flooring cannot be sanded. Does that mean it cannot be fixed?

While damaged boards cannot be repaired, they can be replaced on a one-for-one basis. Most installations use packs of laminate boards. Because there is a set number of boards in each pack, it is inevitable that boards will be left over. You or a previous owner may have stored extra laminate boards in a closet or attic.

If the board is at the end, remove the baseboard and pull out the affected board. If the damaged board is at the center, cut it out, using a fine-finish blade on a circular saw.

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