Expansion gaps along your floor's perimeter are necessary when installing laminate floors, as they ensure that the flooring doesn't buckle when it expands in hot weather. But if you'd like to cover these gaps and are unsure how to, you've come to the right place. Here's how you should go about it based on our research.
Gather transition profiles or transition strips to cover your floor's expansion gaps. Scotia beading, skirt boarding, and caulking are also alternatives.
Begin by fixing the scotia beading to the skirting board and over the top of the floor. Then use skirt boarding to cover up any space between the floor and the wall. If skirt boarding is already in place, you can use caulking as an alternative.
To learn more, keep reading to see how best to cover expansion gaps in your laminate floor.
How to Seal Laminate Floor Expansion Gaps
Several options are available for sealing expansion gaps in your laminate floor. One way is by using transition profiles: these are strips that you can snap in place, glue or screw down, or attach to flooring to cover expansion gaps.
Transition profiles or strips are available in various designs, making it easier to get ones that blend well with your laminate flooring.
You can also use scotia beading, skirt boarding, or caulking to seal the expansion gaps.
Scotia is a molding used to cover expansion gaps without having to remove the skirting. It is fixed to the skirting board and over the top of the floor.
Scotia is usually in concave or convex style. When it has a convex shape, it is called beading. Often, the beading is made of softwood. You can choose suitable beading from these three categories: solid scotia, veneered scotia, and MDF scotia.
It would be best if you nailed your scotia beading to your skirt boarding and not directly on your floor to allow the flooring to expand into the covered gap when humidity levels are higher.
Skirting boards or baseboards are wooden boards that run along the base of a wall, straddling the wall and flooring. By the nature of their design, they can cover up any space between the floor and wall or any other vertical permanent features.
Skirt boarding only works to cover the expansion gaps if you install it after the laminate flooring. If the builders fitted skirting boards before installing the floor, use scotia beading, caulking, or transition strips to cover expansion gaps.
Do You Need to Fill the Expansion Gap in Laminate Floors?
It is standard practice and even recommended to leave expansion gaps around the perimeter of the laminate flooring where there are vertical obstructions like walls, permanent cabinets, doors, and pipes.
It would be best if you also left expansion joints at strategic locations where the room is larger than 25x4o feet.
Having installed your laminate flooring with the requisite expansion gaps, you might wonder whether you need to cover up the gaps.
There's no yes or no answer to this, as it's largely down to personal preference. You do not have to fill the gaps. However, they might not be aesthetically pleasing and can accumulate debris, especially when they are wider than needed. In such instances, you might want to fill the gap.
However, the material used to cover the gaps should be easy to remove during the summer when the laminate flooring is sure to expand into the expansion gaps or such that allow expansion without needing removal.
What is the Minimum Expansion Gap for Laminate Flooring?
Generally, a minimum expansion gap of 3/8 inch between the laminate flooring and the wall or other vertical fixture is recommended. The essence of expansion gaps is allowing the flooring to expand due to weather changes.
For larger rooms, these dimensions might be unsuitable. The larger the flooring area, the wider the expansion gaps should be since the flooring will require more space for expansion.
Similarly, expansion gaps should be wider in extremely low or extremely high humidity areas as the flooring would expand more in extreme temperature changes.
What is the Maximum Expansion Gap for Laminate Flooring?
A maximum expansion gap of 1/2 inch is usually recommended for laminate flooring. However, where the room is larger than 25x40 feet, you would need expansion joints in addition to expansion gaps.
Does Laminate Expand in Summer or Winter?
Typically, laminate flooring comprises more than 90% wood. Consequently, it retains some characteristics of wood, such as its reaction to temperatures - laminate flooring expands or contracts proportionately depending on the temperature change.
You should therefore expect your laminate flooring to expand in the summer months and contract in the winter months.
How Do You Fix Badly Installed Laminate Flooring?
If the builders fail to provide expansion gaps when installing your laminate flooring, you could encounter some problems. Peaking, buckling, and damage to the flooring's click system are a few.
Fortunately, you need not reinstall the entire flooring. However, you have to make expansion gaps. Do this by removing the molding and cutting a sufficient gap between the floor and the wall or fixture. You can use a floor spacer to measure the right gap size needed.
Can You Use Sealant Around Laminate Flooring?
While sealants are generally touted as flooring protection, and rightly so, they could be your laminate floor's nemesis. This is because polyurethane, a major component of most sealants, harms your laminate's aluminum oxide surface.
However, your laminate owner's manual might recommend sealants that won't harm the flooring. So, you can refer to this. In the absence of such guidance, please refrain from using sealants as they might not only damage your flooring but also void any warranty.
If you intend to make your laminate flooring more water-resistant, you can apply a sealant to the joints but never directly on the flooring itself. Caulking the expansion gaps also helps your floor's edges stay water-resistant.
Can You Caulk Expansion Gaps in Laminate Flooring?
Caulking is one of several options for sealing expansion gaps in your laminate floor. It involves filling in the expansion gap with caulk.
You can use silicone or latex caulking. Silicone caulk is waterproof - use it if your flooring is in a wet area like the bathroom.
Latex caulk, though not as waterproof, is preferable for use in the living room. This is because it comes in a wide variety of colors, unlike the silicone caulk that is clear. Hence, latex caulk allows you to use caulk that matches your flooring to fill expansion gaps.
How to Caulk
You'll need a caulk gun and a caulk tube to caulk the expansion gap.
Check out this Solid Work hand caulking gun on Amazon.
- Insert the tube into the gun with the nozzle facing away from you.
- Cut the nozzle at a 45-degree angle and at a size equal to the gap you want to seal.
- Use a nail or metal wire to pierce the internal seal in the nozzle. Some caulk guns come with a metal rod that can come in handy for this.
- Place the caulk tube's nozzle on the gap at an angled position and pull the trigger.
- Slide the nozzle across the length of the expansion gap.
- Clean up any excess caulk quickly so it doesn't set, then run the caulking tool over the length of the caulk to smoothen it.
How Do You Fix Long Side Gaps in Vinyl Plank Flooring?
Side gaps in any flooring are unsightly, and you probably want them to disappear as fast as they appeared. Particularly for vinyl plank flooring, side gaps detract from the uniformity and evenness of the flooring.
Thankfully, they are surprisingly easy to fix. You would need two flat wooden rods the length of the gap, two bar clamps, and two-sided masking tape.
- Attach three pieces of masking tapes to a side of each rod and face them down on the taped side on either side of the gap.
- Apply sufficient weight to the rods by standing on them or using a mallet.
- Use your bar clamps on the edges and across the length of the rods to close the gap.
While expansion gaps are necessary for proper laminate flooring installation, you don't have to sacrifice your floor's beauty for them. There are a wide array of options for sealing them in a way that allows them to remain fit for purpose without affecting your room's aesthetic.
To read more on laminate floors, check out the following articles:
Can You Put Laminate Flooring Over Carpet?