How Much Do Laminate Floors Expand? (A Helpful Guide)

If you’re considering installing laminate flooring in your house, you might want to know how much they expand and how much gap you might want to leave before taking any steps. Luckily for you, you’ve come to the right place.

Laminate flooring tends to expand between a minimum of ¼ to ½ inches. This varies based on the humidity or temperature changes and how fast these changes occur. Each room in your house might have a different expansion rate, so it’s important to keep an eye out for this when buying new floors.

This article covers everything in detail expansion of laminate floorboards and why gaps are left between the planks. You will also be able to learn how to manage expansion gaps to ensure that they do not disrupt the aesthetic appeal of your space. But if you have gaps that are too big and don’t know what to do, I have a separate article explaining and showing how to fill those gaps.

Do Laminate Floors Really Expand?

Yes, all laminate floorboards expand. In fact, all types of flooring expand (except for Loose Lay Vinyl Planks). All rooms in your home will experience an impact, some more than others. It all has to do with the type of the room, the area you live in, and some other factors which will be discussed in the next section. 

Ultimately, you cannot avoid the expansion of laminate flooring or any flooring for that matter. Changes occur all the time depending on the season, whether it’s summer or winter

Why Do Laminate Floorings Expand?

Below are several reasons why your laminate floorboards expand. Understanding the causes can help you come up with appropriate measures to manage these gaps as well.

  1. Temperature

It is quite usual for your laminate planks to expand on account of temperature changes. Various materials out there expand when there is a rise in the surrounding temperature. Laminate eats the same way. It not only grows in size but moves when there is an increase in temperature. However, one should note that this happens when the changes are extreme. 

  1. Humidity

Air is also responsible for causing an expansion or contraction in laminate panels. As a result, your floorboards may expand if the weather outside is humid. And when the temperature rises, so do the chances for humidity. 

  1. Foreign materials

Most people do not take this seriously, but it is a fact that liquid chemicals and moisture can cause significant harm to your laminate floors. In addition, they can also lead to creating expansion gaps. This is mainly because such materials tend to enter the space present between the floorboards. Of course, this is only true when it regularly happens. Spilling one time glass of water won’t have the same effect. 

How Much Do Laminate Floors Expand?

Laminate flooring tends to expand around ¼ (minimum) to ½ inches, depending upon various vertical obstructions, such as pipes, permanent cabinets, etc. Some rooms may expand more than others. Of course, again, this has to do with the level of difference in temperature and humidity. 

How Much Is Expansion Gap Needed For Laminate Flooring?

For most rooms, you need an expansion gap of between a minimum of ¼ and ½ inches. However, if you are installing laminate flooring in a larger room than most, you need to ensure that the distance between the planks is a little more. This distance should also be maintained in rooms that experience extremely cold or hot temperatures at different times of the year. 

Bear in mind that you should leave as big of an expansion gap as possible without ruining the aesthetic appeal of your room or compromising the integrity of your floors. It would be best if you also made sure that the beading or skirting boards are also only installed after the laminate flooring and not before. At the same time, ensuring they are big enough to cover these gaps. This especially needs to be taken care of when winter rolls around, and your laminate floorboards start to contract. If the skirting boards are installed before the laminate flooring, this guide will help you.

When Does Laminate Floorings Expand?

Humidity and temperature levels in your humble abode can often be impacted due to seasonal changes. Laminate flooring will then respond by contracting or expanding. Typically, your panels will expand during humid and warm weather, which comes around in the summer months. 

On the other hand, cold and dry weather can cause your laminate to shrink and give way to cracks between the panels. 

However, there is no specific time during the day when the flooring will contract or expand. It can happen at any point during the day when the temperature fluctuates more than unusual, especially right after installation. Talking about after installation, don’t forget to make sure to let your laminate flooring settle which is really crucial to avoid extreme damage when the flooring starts to expand.

If you want to know more about how much flooring can expand or contract in the summer and winter months, I strongly advise you to read those two articles.  

How Long Does It Take For Laminate Flooring To Expand?

Once you lay down your laminate floors, they need at least 24 to 72 hours to settle down and it’s crucial you do it correctly or your floors may start peeling because of it. This is the same amount of time that it takes before it starts to shrink or expand due to changes in temperature and humidity levels. 

Just like it takes time for the floorboards to adjust to the environment after they have been installed, it takes time for them to get used to changing levels of temperature in the summer as well as winter. 

Even if your panels have been installed for months and years, they can still expand on account of fluctuations in humidity, moisture, and temperature. 

How do you manage the expansion gap?

If the expansion gap in your laminate flooring has become noticeable, it is time for you to take steps to manage it. You can use a couple of straightforward methods mentioned here below:

  1. Utilize molding

If the gaps are wider than 9.5 to 12mm, you need to bring in the big guns. Molding can turn out to be especially helpful when it comes to concealing large expansion gaps.

The important part is to make sure that you pick the right size that will properly conceal all the spaces between the floorboards and the walls. It is also an excellent idea to choose a molding that comes in a color that resembles your laminate panels as closely as possible. 

You will also need to use nails to attach the molding to the baseboard. Ensure that you secure it as tightly as possible to avoid issues in the future. 

Remember that you do not nail the molding and the laminate together. This is because the floor needs ample space to expand and contract when the temperature and humidity change. 

  1. Bring in beading

Using beading is not the most popular method because it requires more care than any other method. This entails that you need to take your scales and start measuring the length of beading required, along with the total width of the visible expansion gap. The reason behind this much care is to make sure that when you make a choice, you pick out the right beading. It doesn’t mean it’s not a good option, but rather not one for someone who has not much experience. 

In addition, as you do with molding, you must ensure that the color you pick out matches the laminate flooring. Your beading should also be waterproof, especially if you intend to use it in a space with higher chances of water spills, such as a mudroom, bathroom, and kitchen. 

It is also possible that you will need to cut the length of the laminate panel at an angle of 45 degrees. This is usually done in cases where the floorboard you are laying down will be placed alongside another in the corner of the room. 

If you’re afraid of cutting incorrectly, then purchasing a miter saw might not be a bad idea. With it, you’ll be able to cut it much easier. 

Next, you will require an adhesive, like super glue, to stick the angled ends of the panels together before you can fit them into the corner of the room. Be sure to hold them together for a couple of seconds, giving ample time for the glue to bond the laminate panels effectively. 

Same as it is done with molding, you need to attach the beading to the skirtboard and not the laminate floorboards themselves. This ensures that there is enough space for expansion and contraction, as well as general movement on account of increased traffic on the surface. 

Bear in mind that if you are using glue, it needs to be of a strong type. Once the entire process is complete, take a cloth to wipe off the excess and clean the floorboards thoroughly. Sometimes, you may even need to place heavy objects against the beading until you are sure the glue has dried.

On the other hand, feel free to work with nails to fasten the skirtboard and the beading together if you don’t want to use glue. 

  1. Try applying caulking

If you want this method of managing expansion gaps to work, you must ensure that the caulk you purchase is of excellent quality. The reason behind this is to ensure that it can accommodate the movement of your floor whenever there is a change in humidity and temperature. Even in this case, you will need to ensure that the product you obtain matches your preference or the floorboards’ color. 

The first step in this method is to get a vacuum cleaner and remove any dirt and debris from the expansion gaps that you are hoping to manage and conceal. 

One of the most important things to keep in mind in this process is the application of pressure. This needs to be consistent, especially when triggering the caulk gun and drawing it backward. Afterward, you will have to drag your finger along the area where you have applied the caulk to press it lightly. Then, it needs to be left to dry for at least a whole day. 

Moreover, you can also use caulking to seal the gap that has appeared between the shower stalls and tubs. 

By doing so, you will be reducing the susceptibility of your laminate flooring to deterioration caused by water that could make its way beneath the panels. 

Where choosing the type of caulk is concerned, you can talk to the professional at your local store. However, research suggests that silicone caulk is mostly beneficial for such purposes. 

  1. Get some floor spacers.

Floor spacers have different varieties and measurements. You may not know this, but they also exist in the shape of a rectangle, which allows you to easily slip in between the wall and the laminate floorboards during the installation process. You will also find floor spacers in a triangle shape that offers greater stability to the user. 

Similarly, you can also find floor spacers that can be placed flatly on the ground and be tightened and adjusted. It is well-known that tools such as this one are especially useful because they allow you to install your laminate floorboards in a row that is straight as an arrow. 

Another wonderful thing about floor spacers is that you can also make them yourself. You do not need to spend money on them. Rather, just gather a couple of yardsticks, and you will be good to go.


Do Laminate Floors Expand And Contract?

Yes, laminate floors will expand and contract as a result of a change in humidity and temperature levels. Thus, there must always be small gaps between laminate planks to ensure that your room’s integrity and beauty are not compromised. 

Does Laminate Flooring Expand In Summer?

Laminate floorings usually expand due to exposure to heat. In the summer months, you will notice that the temperature and humidity remain high. Consequently, the panels expand when they experience these changes. 

Does Laminate Flooring Expand In Winter?

In colder months, laminate floorboards contract instead of expanding. Instead, they start to shrink. When the expansion occurs due to heat, contraction occurs because of a temperature fall. 

Does Laminate Floor Expand In Both Directions?

Laminate floorboards tend to expand lengthwise, primarily in the direction where you have left the expansion gap. If no gap has been left, the panels will expand in any direction that provides them with even a small amount of room. 

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