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What Size Expansion Gap Is Needed For Laminate Flooring?

What Size Expansion Gap Is Needed For Laminate Flooring?

When laminate flooring is installed it is crucial that an expansion gap is left between the wall and floor, but what size expansion gap is needed for laminate flooring and what is its purpose?

It is recommended for an expansion gap to be at least 1/4 inches (6.35mm), but in larger rooms, it can be larger and possible exceed 1.2 inches (12.7mm). It’s always worth having a larger gap than anticipated as it can be easily hidden using a baseboard or beading.

Expansion gaps are crucial for laminate floors, and in the rest of this article, we will explore their function and what the consequences are if you don’t have one.

Do You Really Need An Expansion Gap?

Expansion gaps are not something that you can choose to have, but are a necessary part of any laminate flooring installation.

An expansion gap allows for the floor to acclimatise to different seasons and household conditions. As the moisture of the floor increase, which happens in more humid environments just like a hardwood floor, the floor will increase in size and expand.

But, aren’t laminate floors meant to be acclimatised before installation anyway?

Pre-Installation Acclimatisation vs Changing Environment

It would be great if all you needed to do with a laminate floor was to acclimatise it before installing and it would stay the same size forever – but this is not the case.

Acclimatising before installation is great for preparing the laminate for installation, but it only acclimatises the floor to the conditions at that time. In any home, the humidity levels are changing pretty much every day.

This is why, despite acclimatising before installation, a gap is still required.

Does Laminate Flooring Underlay Need An Expansion Gap?

It can be confusing to know whether the underlay needs an expansion gap as well, but in the majority of cases, it doesn’t.

The reason for this is that laminate flooring is almost always fitted as a floating floor, which means it is not connected to the subfloor. In other words, the subfloor in the case of laminate flooring is there for cushioning and doesn’t require an expansion gap.

How Do You Create An Expansion Gap?

If you pay for a laminate floor to be installed professionally then the fitters will take care of the gap, but how can you do this if you are fitting the floor yourself?

In most cases, you can use floor spaces to create the desired expansion gap during installation. These come in a variety of sizes to suit your room and are easy to use, just make sure that your laminate has been acclimatised before you start and you will have no problems.

What Happens If You Don’t Have A Gap?

You may be wondering at this point what problems can occur if you don’t have an expansion gap, so we’ve rounded up the major ones below.

Buckling

Without a sufficient gap to expand into, a laminate floor can start to show signs of buckling.

Buckling occurs when the floor begins to expand with no room (expansion gap) to expand into. When this happens, the laminate can start to peak as it pushes up from the floor.

Buckling can be a major problem and sometimes irreversible if it happens to a great extent.

Wall Damage

The laminate flooring will give out well before your wall ever will, but the expansion into the wall can still leave some pretty bad scratches and indentations.

How Do You Fill Gaps Between Laminate And Floors?

Expansion gaps, although practical, look very unaesthetic – especially on new projects where the floor is new.

Luckily there are some easy things you can do to hide the gap without preventing it from doing its job.

Baseboards

Baseboards, also known as skirting boards, are found in pretty much every room and cover the perimeter of a floor.

They can vary in size and color to suit any room, and are great at covering the expansion gap on a laminate floor.

Beading

Beading acts in the same way as a baseboard but has a slightly different appearance.

Laminate floor beading

An example of beading

While baseboards crawl up the wall slightly, beading is applied directly to the corner where the floor and wall meet. This is another great option for covering an expansion gap on a laminate floor.

What Happens If Your Expansion Gap Is Too Big?

While we recommend using a slightly larger expansion gap than is necessarily needed for worse case scenarios, you can take this too far.

If your expansion gap is too big to hide with a baseboard or beading then you will simply be left with a large gap between the floor and wall. You will also be unable to fit a baseboard or beading to cover it, which will leave your floor looking terrible.

It will also leave your floor more susceptible to moisture and water spills which, as previously mentioned, can cause damage like buckling.

Final Thoughts

If you weren’t sure what size expansion gap is needed for laminate flooring before reading this article, we hope that you have a good understanding now.

Remember that an expansion gap is a crucial part of a laminate floor and shouldn’t be ignored. With how easy it is to hide them, it should be a no brainer to have one.