Laminate floor peaking, buckling, cupping, words often used to describe peaking, though somewhat different problems. Coupling excessive moisture with these conditions often results in 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 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. Unlike buckling, with tenting, the boards are not severely tented on the side.
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. Excessively high moisture caused buckling. The moisture is usually below the laminate such as high moisture in a concrete slab or flooding. High, uncontrolled relative humidity also causes buckling. A vacant house without, or inadequately operating HVAC system is a perfect candidate for buckling. Excessive moisture during cleaning can also result in buckling.
Improper installation and aggravate buckling. There are several potential installation concerns. Examples include:
- Improper acclimation.
- Moisture level of substrate too high at time of installation.
- Not enough expansion space.
- Nails and other fasteners through the laminate flooring.
- 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. Lack of proper acclimation often causes a subtler cupping.
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Floor Peaking Causes
- Failure to allow for sufficient expansion space will cause peaking. 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. Use wider molding to cover the gap.
- 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.
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. The picture is adhered to the fiberboard. Protective plastic is applied on top of the image.
- 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.
Peaking that is not too severe, can normally be corrected by adding expansion space. Remove all baseboards and locate the area(s) where the flooring is locked in. Add expansion space by cutting the planks. In some situations you can undercut 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.