Laminate floor peaking, buckling, cupping, words often used to describe peaking, though somewhat different problems. Each of these conditions is coupled with excessive moisture, and often installation related concerns. In this article we will discuss laminate floor peaking and touch on the buckling and cupping of laminate floors.
Laminate Floor Peaking, Buckling, Cupping Descriptions
Laminate Floor Peaking
Laminate floor peaking is a condition where the board edges are pushing together and peaking upward, forming a high spot at the joint that appears as a shallow peak. Unlike cupping the boards will not have taken on a concave appearance. The boards are not severely tented on the side as seen with buckling.
Laminate Floor Buckling or Warping
Buckling laminate planks form a peak. This is a severe laminate floor peaking condition where the flooring is growing excessively. With buckling the laminate will lift entirely off the floor. The buckling is caused by excessively high moisture. The moisture is usually below the laminate such as high moisture in a concrete slab or flooding. It can also be caused by high, uncontrolled relative humidity. A vacant house without, or inadequately operating HVAC system is a perfect candidate for buckling. Excessive moisture during cleaning can also result in buckling.
Buckling is aggravated by improper installation. There are several potential installation concerns. Examples are, laminate planks not being properly acclimated, moisture level of substrate too high at time of installation, not enough expansion space, nails and other fasteners through the laminate flooring and not using required transitions.
Laminate Floor Cupping
With laminate floor cupping, the boards develop a peak with a shallow wave-like appearance. The boards will be high at the edge of the boards and low in the center. When you have a high moisture related concern within individual pieces of flooring the cupping frequently develops gradually, the moisture imbalance is usually on the underside of the flooring. A subtler cupping can be caused by lack of proper acclimation.
Laminate Floor Peaking Causes
- Laminate floor peaking is commonly caused by the failure to allow for sufficient expansion space. If sufficient space has not been left the floor becomes locked in or pinched. As the floor expands it has no place to go other than up.
- Moldings at doorways or quarter round or base at walls, nailed through the laminate. Fix by removing and replacing the molding or quarter round. Place nails directly into the wall or cabinets, not the flooring. If necessary, cut back the laminate to give more expansion space. A wider molding may be required.
- T-molding not used between rooms or areas. Correct by cutting the laminate flooring between the rooms or areas and adding the proper T-molding.
- Floors can also peak from excess moisture in the substrate below. When installing laminate flooring over a concrete slab, the concrete should be pre-tested to make sure that it is dry enough for laminate flooring and a vapor retarder should be placed between the concrete and laminate flooring.
- Excessive moisture, standing water, leaks, excessive water used in cleaning or improper cleaners used (i.e. wax, oil, polish, solvent, steam mops) can lead to swelling at the joints, often appearing as peaking.
- Occasionally peaking can occur from over tapping of the planks during installation, which has resulted in too tight of a fit. This type of peaking is rarely seen
Laminate Cores Can Absorb Water
- Laminate floor products are manufactured with both high-density and low-density fiberboard core. High-density fiberboard HDF is more expensive and more resistant to moisture. Excess moisture damages high and low density cores just as with wood flooring.
- While many people refer to laminate flooring as a wood floor, the wood grain they are seeing is a picture of wood, much like wallpaper. This picture is adhered to the fiberboard and a coat of protective plastic coating applied on top of this picture. The protective coating helps to make the surface of the laminate floor more resistant to water. Both liquid and airborne water can be absorbed by the edges and back side of the boards.
- As laminate floor takes on moisture from cleaning, relative humidity and other forms it will expand. As the moisture level in a laminate floor decreases such as during the heating season when the relative humidity is lower, it will contract. Laminate floor peaking occurs with expansion and laminate floor gaps usually occur with contraction of the flooring planks or tiles.
- Laminate flooring is a good product though problems such as laminate floor peaking can occur, especially with improper installation or unregulated site related conditions.
Correcting Laminate Floor Peaking
If the peaking is not too severe, it can normally be corrected by removing all baseboards, locating the area(s) where the flooring is locked in and add expansion space. Expansion space can either be added by cutting the planks or in some situations undercutting the drywall so that the laminate has more room to expand. The peaking can take weeks or even months to go down. If there is a stubborn area, try weighting it down for a period of time.