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Laminate flooring: Common mistakes and how to avoid them

It’s important to properly prepare the area you’re going to be working in and follow installation instructions to avoid laminate flooring problems and costly repairs. Common mistakes can happen so it’s wise to know what these are and how to fix any issues if they crop up. 

Laminate flooring problems

There are several laminate floor installation problems to be aware of. These mistakes can lead to various issues and affect how long the flooring lasts or what it looks like. Here are some common laminate flooring mistakes to avoid.

Poor acclimatisation
Laminate flooring needs time to settle into the place you install it. Let the laminate planks sit in the room for at least 48 hours before fitting them so they don’t expand or contract after installation, making gaps in the flooring or buckling. 

Not preparing the subfloor
The subfloor (that you’ll lay the laminate on) should be clean, level and dry before installing laminate flooring. To avoid this laminate floor installation problem, fix imperfections, address moisture levels and clean up debris on the floor. If you don’t, you could be left with an uneven surface and the laminate can get damaged over time.

Installing laminate flooring

Small expansion gaps
Laminate flooring needs room to expand and contract as the temperature and humidity levels change. Not leaving enough expansion gaps around the room's edges can make the planks buckle or warp, as they don’t have space to move.

Using the wrong underlay
Underlay gives the laminate a cushioned layer and helps reduce noise. Using the wrong type or quality of underlay is one of the most common problems when laying laminate flooring. Doing this can mean the laminate flooring doesn’t work well and might not protect against moisture.

Incorrect installation technique
Laminate flooring usually locks together using a tongue-and-groove system. Not properly clicking the planks together or staggering the joints incorrectly can give you an unstable and uneven floor.

Low-quality laminate flooring
Choosing low-quality or poorly made laminate flooring can result in more wear and tear and more serious damage. Pick laminate with a durable layer to make it last longer.

Not following manufacturer guidelines
Each laminate flooring product comes with installation instructions from the manufacturer. Not following these guidelines can void warranties and lead to installation-related issues.

Not cleaning properly
Harsh chemicals, lots of water and steam mops can potentially damage laminate flooring. It’s important to only use the suggested cleaning methods and products to protect the floor.

Dragging heavy furniture
Sliding or dragging heavy furniture across laminate flooring can scratch or dent it. Always lift furniture or use protective pads to stop damage.

Ignoring maintenance
Good maintenance is important to help keep laminate flooring looking beautiful and last longer. Clean the floor often, don’t ignore spills, and try not to use abrasive tools or cleaners.

How to fix laminate flooring

Fixing laminate flooring problems quickly and properly helps stop further issues later on. 
Here are some of the most common laminate floor fixes.

Gaps between planks
If you have small gaps between the laminate planks, use wood filler or a colour-match putty to fill the spaces. Carefully apply the filler, wipe off any excess, and let it dry according to the instructions.

Buckling or warping
Buckling or warping can happen when there is too much moisture in the room. Find and fix where the moisture is coming from, looking for leaks or places with humidity. If the buckled or warped area is small, may be able to fix it by carefully removing the damaged planks and reinstalling them correctly. 

Scratches and dents
You can use a laminate floor repair kit with touch-up pens or markers for small scratches. These pens have the same colours as the laminate, making it easier to cover the scratches. This solution is best for scratches after installation, so your client should buy one for a quick laminate floor fix.

The entire plank might need to be replaced for deeper scratches or dents, so correctly installing laminate flooring is important. You should also encourage the homeowner not to drag heavy furniture across the floor.

Damaged laminate flooring plank

Loose or unstable planks
If a plank is loose or not locked correctly, you should carefully take apart the area and put them back together, following the manufacturer's instructions.

Uneven floor
If the laminate floor feels uneven or bouncy, it might be because the subfloor is uneven. Fix any subfloor problems using a levelling compound or other levelling method before reinstalling the laminate.

Damaged planks
For really damaged planks, the best solution is to replace them. Remove the damaged plank and making sure not to knock or scratch other planks, and install a new one following the installation instructions.

Incorrect expansion gaps
If the expansion gaps around the edge of the room are too small, carefully remove the baseboards or mouldings, make proper gaps, and then reinstall them. 

Incorrect plank staggering
Incorrect plank staggering makes laminate flooring look less neat and is one of the most common problems laying laminate flooring. If the staggering is off, you should take apart the area and reinstall the planks in a correct stagger pattern.

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