Laminate flooring has so much going for it – it’s a budget-conscious way to get the look of solid wooden boards or stone without the hefty price tag. It also lasts years, but laminate’s nemesis is water damage, causing tell-tale bubbling at the edges, making it look old, tatty and worn. This guide will show you how to repair laminate flooring that got wet, how to deal with water under laminate flooring and ultimately how to prevent water damage.
The pros of laminate flooring for kitchens and bathrooms
If water damage is laminate flooring’s arch enemy, why do we fit it in the wettest rooms in the house in the first place? Well, as mentioned, it’s a cost-effective way to get the look of uber cool solid wood or ceramic floors, without spending an arm and a leg. Plus, thanks to advances in printing and manufacturing techniques, nowadays you can get ultra-realistic simulated wood knots and grains, along with bevelled edges and authentic textures, giving you all the feels of a much more expensive floor. Many designs now have click-together installation systems too, so laying your laminate floor doesn’t have to be an all-day exercise in frustration.
However, solid wood and (especially) ceramic flooring can handle a lot more… oops! spills. If you want your laminate flooring to look good for years to come, you need to take care of it by preventing water damage. We’ll show you the simple measures you need to take below.
Why is laminate flooring prone to water damage?
Well, laminate flooring is a dense fibreboard that does actually have some wood materials in it, and it’s those materials that are susceptible to water damage because they expand and contract when they come into contact with moisture.
When laminate becomes supersaturated with water, it starts to absorb the moisture which breaks down the composition of the material and causes the top image layer and wear layer to delaminate from the rest of the board. If the puddles left by plumbing leaks, wet mopping and liquid spills are left unattended, you’ll notice that some ‘planks’ begin to bubble, buckle or bend in awkward ways.
Signs that your laminate floor has water damage
To identify if your laminate floor has water damaged, look out for these signs:
Sadly, if your floor is showing one or more of these symptoms, the plank or area of flooring probably can’t be saved, and you’ll need to replace it, or worst case, the whole floor. If the damage is severe and you’re a busy homeowner or landlord, you can hire a professional to get the job done.
Humidity and laminate flooring
Because the wood-sourced materials in the laminate planks expand and contract when moisture is present, it’s not just spills that should be minimised. The amount of humidity in the air of your bathroom or kitchen can cause your laminate to change widths, or for the top layers to delaminate.
Manufacturers generally recommend that you protect your flooring from too much humidity by making sure your bathroom or kitchen is between 30% and 60% humidity. You can buy an electrical humidity sensor for as little as £8 online or from your local DIY shop – a small price to pay for not having to replace your flooring every few years.
What if my bathroom humidity is above 60%?
If humidity is high in your home, you may also have problems with damp or mould, which can lead to structural and health problems. Make sure you do some or all of the following to prevent floor damage, damp and mould:
- Install a bathroom extractor fan in the bathroom window
- Open windows every time while showering or bathing (or keep ajar all day)
- Get a dehumidifier
- Dry towels properly – either outside in the summer or on a radiator or heated towel rail in the winter
- Take shorter showers or baths
Can you fix water damaged laminate flooring?
Yes and no. You’ll find you need to replace rather than repair the damaged boards – but you may not need to replace an entire floor. Here’s a sensible method for repairing laminate flooring that’s got wet:
How to repair laminate flooring that got wet
Stop the source of the water damage first
Don’t try to fix your laminate floor just yet if it’s still getting wet or in danger of getting wet again. Find the source of the leak and fix it. You’ll certainly want to put your laminate floor repair job on hold until you’re sure the leak is sorted.
Identify the damaged planks
Our top tip here is to get yourself some mini sticky notes and colour-code the damaged planks according to the severity of the damage. Be thorough in your evaluation, checking for all the symptoms mentioned above, including warping, bubbles, discolouration, etc. This way you can see the full picture of the damage and what will need to be removed.
What you’ll need:
- Matching replacement planks (make this a priority – see below)
- Flooring adhesive
- Putty knife
- Stanley knife
- Measuring tape
- Cleaning solvent
- Replacement underlayment material
- Safety goggles
FYI: Finding matching laminate planks is NOT easy
This is often the reason why many homeowners and landlords choose to replace the entire room’s flooring instead of just fixing the damaged bits. If you’re lucky you’ll have a whole load of leftover planks from when your flooring was initially installed. If not, go back to the same laminate flooring supplier, or at least find a replacement that will match up convincingly. As mentioned, make sure you source the replacement flooring before you do anything else, as it may take some time to get the right match.
Remove the damaged laminate planks
Carefully pull up the damaged planks by running your putty knife under the damaged edges. You’ll need to take away the whole plank even if only a fraction or edge of it is damaged. You may also need to remove some of the skirting boards as you pry up the planks. Check the sub-flooring underneath for mould. If there’s no further damage, reinstall the planks that have popped up.
Replace the damaged planks
Try to match up the printed pattern on the planks as closely as you can. Use the correct amount of adhesive for the material (check the manufacturer’s instructions, as it can be a different amount for different materials). Now place a heavy object on your new laminate to weigh it down evenly.
Water under laminate flooring
After a significant leak or spill, water may get under your laminate flooring. What a lot of homeowners and landlords don’t know is that they should remove that water immediately to preserve the flooring. If water has leaked towards the edge of a room, remove the skirting boards around the edge to check how bad it is.
If the spill isn’t too bad, you might be able to extract it in time with a wet-dry vacuum. However, we recommend you err on the side of caution and remove and replace as many floorboards as were affected. The planks may only show signs of minor damage at the moment, but water damage gets worse over time so you’re saving yourself the hassle by nipping it in the bud now.
How to prevent water damage to laminate flooring
Treat your laminate flooring well and it’ll stay good-looking for years:
1. Wipe up spills immediately
This is probably the best way to prevent water damage. Use the proper methods for cleaning up different kinds of spills to not only prevent your floors from being damaged, but also to keep them looking their best.
2. Regularly check your fixtures and appliances for leaks
A bit of regular home maintenance will do wonders for the state of your flooring. Once every few months, go round your radiators and appliances to make sure they’re working properly and are free from leaks. Make sure you check under sinks and behind the toilet, around radiator pipes and around any less visible piping for any signs of potential problems. This isn’t just great for your flooring, but for your general peace of mind too!
Love your laminate
Fixing water damaged laminate floors is a simple find-and-replace task for a seasoned DIYer, but it may not be something you want to tackle yourself. In which case, we recommend you find an experienced professional with great online reviews or – even better – a personal recommendation from a friend. However you choose to tackle it, we hope you can repair your laminate floor without having to reinstall the whole lot.
If you’ve uncovered water leaks or damage that you’re not sure how to treat, or you want to make sure you’re protected in the event of any unforeseen problems, our Plumbing and Drainage cover could be just what you need. Our experts can also be there in an home emergency if anything goes wrong with your boiler, radiators, pipes or home appliances. We’ll be on our way in no time.
Can you fix water-damaged laminate flooring?
Sadly not. Once laminate flooring has been significantly damaged by water, it’s done. This is because water makes the wood materials in the laminate expand, contract and go all misshapen. But don’t replace the entire room’s flooring – yet! You can replace individual planks and match them up convincingly with a bit of skill.
How long does it take for water to damage laminate flooring?
Good question. In tests, it takes a couple of hours of being submerged for the various materials in laminate flooring to break down or peel away. This is why it’s vital that you keep your laminate flooring as dry as possible if you don’t want to have to replace it because of bubbling, swelling or peeling.
Can you replace damaged pieces of laminate flooring?
Yes! Follow our five-step process to replacing individual pieces of laminate flooring and make sure you prioritise getting a good match with your existing flooring – it could take a while if you don’t have any leftover planks lying around.
Can you mop laminate flooring?
Yes you can, but you MUST make sure the mopping is brief, you use water sparingly and the flooring fully dries out. You may need to open doors and windows until you’re sure there’s no damp patches.