After a while, laminate floors start to separate and detach. Why does this happen, and how to fix it?
To fix separating laminate floors, use a floor gap fixer. This device will push (or pull) the separated planks together. Some floor gap fixers must be hit with a rubber mallet at the flat end to put the planks back in place.
However, a gap fixer will fix only a small lateral separation. For larger or longitudinal separations, you must remove the planks and reassemble them.
Should The Planks Move?
It’s not normal for laminate boards to move after installation. They should stay still (in place) without moving. Also, no gap should be between them. If there’s a gap, water will seep through and damage them from underneath.
Laminate should only move during the acclimation phase, which lasts 3-5 days. Once it acclimates and settles, it shouldn’t move or have gaps.
So, if it moves a few weeks after installation, the movement isn’t normal and indicates something wrong with the boards or subfloor.
Why is Your Laminate Floor Separating?
There are different reasons for separation in your laminate floor. But before we go on to the causes, you should know that there are two main types of separation; lateral and longitudinal.
The lateral separation or gaps is when the planks get separated at the end of the plank. Lateral gaps are smaller and easier to fix. On the other hand, longitudinal separation is when the floor separates on the long side. Longitudinal gaps are larger and harder to fix.
Here is why the floor is separating:
1. Uneven Subfloor
An uneven subfloor is the main reason for a longitudinal separation. This is when the base of the floor is patchy, bumpy, or rough. If the subfloor has bumps, the boards will sit on the bumps (or gouges) and pressure the laminate to detach or fall out of place.
The subfloor is the foundation or base of the floor. The subfloor can be concrete, wood, or a custom material you install. This is where the planks will sit. So, if it is rough, uneven, or patchy, it will prevent the boards from sitting straight (even).
If the subfloor is faulty, the edges of the boards will raise and separate, leaving spaces underneath and between the laminate flooring.
2. Moisture or High Humidity
Though the laminate floors are water-resistant, the planks will get damaged if exposed to constant water. If they are exposed to high moisture or water for prolonged periods, the water will seep underneath (and between) the planks and cause them to detach.
If that’s the case, you will notice lateral or small gaps at the end of the planks.
3. Inadequate Dry or Acclimation Time
You must allow the boards to acclimate for 3-5 days before using them. If you don’t leave enough time for acclimation or you place heavy furniture too soon, the boards will separate. This can cause both longitudinal and lateral gaps.
4. Temperature Changes
Temperature changes can cause both lateral and longitudinal gaps. This is when rapid and extreme changes in temperature cause the boards to shrink and expand excessively. The continuous shrinking and expansion will eventually cause separation or gaps between the boards.
5. Improper Arrangement
If you arrange the laminate boards incorrectly, they won’t lock with each other and will separate.
Installing laminate boards is like solving a puzzle. Just like not all pieces of the puzzle will fit together, not all boards will fit together.
The boards are designed with a click-and-lock mechanism. If you apply the boards correctly, you will hear a “click” or “snap”; if you don’t, you won’t hear a sound.
The click-and-lock mechanism prevents the boards from separating. So, if they aren’t arranged properly, the click and lock won’t work, so the boards will separate.
How To Fix Separate Laminate Flooring?
There are two ways to fix laminate flooring separating. You can either push the planks back together or reassemble them.
This guide will discuss both methods, how they work and when to use them.
Method 1: Push The Planks Back Together
To push the boards back together, use a floor gap fixer and a rubber mallet. Then, you must manually push (or pull) the separated planks back in place and use the locking mechanisms to lock them back together.
However, this method won’t work for large or longitudinal separation. This method only works for small or lateral gaps in the floor.
Here is a guide for this method:
- Inspect the floor to check where the gaps are.
- Check the side and end of the separated plank to know where the lock is.
- Put (fix) the floor gap fixer device at the end of the separated plank.
- Hit the side of the gap fixer with a rubber mallet.
- Once the planks are close to each other, use the locking mechanism to lock the planks.
Using the floor gap fixer, you must move both of the planks near each other. You shouldn’t just move one plank as it can create more gaps.
Tip: Don’t kick the planks back in place using hard rubber boots. That’s because kicking planks can damage the planks, even with rubber boots. Also, you won’t get any accuracy by kicking the planks together. You risk compounding the problem rather than fixing the gap.
Method 2: Remove and Reassemble The Planks
To fix longitudinal or large gaps, remove and reassemble the planks. This method is difficult and time-consuming, but it’s a permanent fix.
Here is a guide to using this method:
- Inspect the floor to check where the gaps are.
- Put on a thick pair of work gloves.
- Remove the planks (one by one) using a laminate pull bar.
- Sweep, vacuum, and clean the subfloor.
- Inspect the subfloor and check if it’s uneven or wet. If it is damaged, fix it with a filling compound.
- Sand the subfloor using a random orbital sander.
- Apply a water-resistant underlayment on the subfloor (if it doesn’t have one).
- Optionally, apply laminate glue under the planks.
- Reassemble the planks and lock them with the lock mechanism.
- Use a rubber mallet to tap the planks together.
After you reassemble the planks, allow 3-5 days for the planks to acclimate before using them.
Glue Won’t Fix Separating Laminate Floors
Glue won’t fix separating laminate floors. That’s because the glue will keep the planks in one place and prevent planks from locking with each other. Also, the space between the planks will be filled with glue, making the floor look bad.
However, you can use glue to fix small gaps between the planks. If the gap between planks is small, you can apply glue to prevent planks from moving and fill the small gap.
You can also glue the planks into the subfloor while installing them. The glue will keep the planks in place and won’t allow the planks to separate. The glue will also prevent water (or moisture) from penetrating underneath the planks and damaging them.
So, applying glue on planks will prevent plank separation. But, if the laminate boards are already separated, the glue won’t fix it.
Preventing Planks From Separating
Here are some expert tips to prevent gaps in your floor:
- Arrange the boards properly.
- Use a waterproof underlayment to prevent water from seeping under the floor and separating the planks.
- Place a waterproof mat or carpet over the floor.
- Always allow the planks to acclimate for 3-5 days after installation.
- Ensure the subfloor is even and smooth.
- Use glue to keep the planks in their place.
You can fix laminate gaps and spaces using a floor gap fixer or by reassembling the planks. If the gaps between the planks are small or lateral, use a floor gap fixer. If the space between the planks is large or longitudinal, remove and reassemble the planks.
Also, you shouldn’t use glue, caulking compounds, or wood filler between the longitudinal gaps.