Squeaky Laminate Flooring Problems Cause and Prevention
Squeaky laminate flooring problems are a major laminate flooring problem. The flooring may look absolutely beautiful until you walk on it. As you walk, squeaking sounds like a rubber duck. Or the “snap, crackle and pop” sounds like an amplified bowl of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies. One lady told me she didn’t mind the squeaks. She said, “The crackling sound let me know when my kids were trying to sneak out of the house.” For most families a bit of parenting and squeaky, complaining kids would be more desirable than these squeaky laminate flooring problems.
Cause of Squeaky Laminate Flooring Problems
I have heard many people say that squeaking laminate floors are normal. Periodic random squeaks that occur with changes in temperature and relative humidity are normal. Excessive squeaking is not normal.
Abnormal squeaks are a constant irritant with loud creaks and pops that will not go away and will not stay away. They are often more irritating than the neighbors dog that keeps doing its business in your yard, you chase it away and it returns and leaves another missile for you to clean up.
So what causes these squeaky laminate flooring problems and how can these squeaks be prevented or corrected? These abnormal squeaky laminate flooring problems may be laminate flooring manufacturing problem, the subfloor below the laminate flooring, installation, maintenance, a site, environmental or maintenance problem.
Most Installers Are Great – There Are a Few Hacks
Having inspected hundreds of floors, I can tell you that most problems are the result of the floor not being installed properly. Don’t get me wrong, most laminate flooring installers are great. Most installers want your recommendations. As with other trades there are hacks that are more interested in collecting a check than doing the job correctly. Fortunately the hacks are not as common as the good installers.
- Just because an installer has been installing for the past 30 years does not mean that they have been performing proper installations for the past 30 years.
- The greatest carpenter that will build you a beautiful house, is not necessarily the best flooring installer. Not all trades are the same no matter how similar they may appear.
- Some D-I-Y-S individual and installers think that their way is good enough. and they end up with squeaky laminate flooring problems. Keep in mind that the installation requirements that work for one product do not always work for another.
- Some individuals don’t seem to understand the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” They do not take the time to read and follow the manufacturers instructions for the floor that is being installed.
While most squeaky laminate flooring problems are installation related there are many types of installation related problems:
- The problem may be improper subfloor preparation where there are high or low spots or a squeaky subfloor.
- A floor that severely expands or contracts at time of installation, may not have been properly acclimated.
- It may be another cause all together such as improperly installed trim. As and example, a single nail through a floating floor can cause a squeak.
- Improper milling that prevents a proper fit of the planks.
- There are site related and environmentally related problems such as high moisture and poor air circulation in the crawlspace or excessive moisture in a concrete slab.
- Often overlooked are squeaky laminate flooring problems resulting from the uncontrolled temperature and humidity. This is common in houses that are not occupied for periods of time such as vacation homes.
Maintenance problems such as over wetting during cleaning or using a floor steamer on a laminate floor – drying it out can cause squeaks.
Prevention Tips Squeaky Laminate Flooring Problems
The following steps taken during installation will prevent most squeaky laminate floors. Should a warranty condition arise, be prepared so show that the manufacturers installation and maintenance requirements have been met.
Prior to Installation
- Read and understand the manufacturers installation requirements. Make sure these are the instructions for the exact product you are installing or having installed. Even if you have hired an installer read them. If the installer tells you his way is better than the manufacturers, perhaps you need a different installer.
- Use the installation products that the manufacturer requires in their installation instructions.
- Use the manufacturers specified foam or other underlayment and not something else.
- Try to purchase flooring with a single lot number on it.
- Carefully check planks from different cartons to make sure that the locking mechanisms fit together properly. Avoid mixing lot numbers on the same installation.
- Floating floors require the existing subfloor to be clean, flat, and sound. Repair loose subfloors prior to installation. The subfloor needs to be flat within the laminate flooring manufacturers requirements, often but not always 3/16″ in 10 feet or 1/8″ in 6 ft. Subfloors that are not flat are a major cause of squeaky laminate floors.
- Acclimate the laminate prior to installation, per the manufacturers installation instructions. Often a minimum of 2-4 days and in the rooms it is to be installed. During this time the HVAC must be set at normal living conditions. If the salesperson or installer tells you that they acclimate the floor in their warehouse prior to installation and the installation instructions say differently, insist that it be acclimated in accordance with the installation instructions.
- Some manufacturers claim that their floor does not need to be acclimated. Even with those floors if you have the time it is wise to still acclimate those floors.
- Leave expansion space at all walls and fixed objects. Most manufacturers require the expansion space to be the thickness of the floor or from ¼” to ½”. Leave extra expansion space for larger spans.
- Install the proper “T” transitions between rooms and areas. Always check the manufacturers installation instructions to determine where transitions are required. Some manufacturers instructions are not that well written so read them carefully to determine if transitions are required. Some people avoid the use of “T” transitions as their appearance takes away from the continuous look and the laminate looks less like hardwood. If you must insist on not having the proper transitions than either install nail down hardwood or accept the plank separation and squeaky laminate floors that may result.
- Do not install cabinets or a kitchen island on top of your floating floor. On a new construction this may be easier but the cabinets will lock in the floor and you will have spongy, squeaky laminate floors.
- Do not create a pinch point by installing your wall base or quarter round too tightly against the laminate. Leave a space at least the thickness of a credit card.
- Do not nail your quarter round or other base through the laminate or allow the nails to be on such an angle that they rub against the floating floor. Nails must go into the wall or cabinet without touching the laminate.
- Do not install any screws or nails through the laminate floor. If you must install a mount or other object make sure to first drill a hole at least a quarter inch larger than the screw to allow for expansion.
- Do not install planks with broken tongues. Locking mechanisms are designed to hold the planks together. Planks with broken tongues will move.
Take pride in your work and follow the manufacturers instructions for installation and maintenance and you will prevent most squeaky laminate flooring problems.