Home improvers and DIY renovators know the power of precision well. Whether hanging picture frames or replacing insulation, you need a flexible action plan for changes and repairs in any job. Flooring installation is no different, especially in the enticing method of floating floors. To achieve the rich color and hardiness that comes with it, you must plan for floating floor expansion and gapping.
Floating Floors — The Basics and Benefits
Floating flooring is popular with many home renovators for its ease of installation. Instead of using glue or nails, these planks interlock together and click into place. Unlike traditional methods, they are not glued to the subfloor either.
You can use many types of planks in this method, including engineered wood, laminate, and vinyl. These materials work well with the interlocking design as both economic and hardy materials. Though this flooring is ideal for many homeowners, it is crucial to consider which material will work best in your home. Additionally, it’s important to account for floating floor gapping in your design and implementation.
What is Floating Floor Expansion and Contraction?
Laminate and vinyl planks are hygroscopic, meaning they naturally absorb moisture from the air. In humid temperatures, they will take in more water and expand in size, pushing outwards from the center of the room. In times of less humidity, they will decrease and shrink in size, pulling away from the walls.
The floating floor will expand and contract as seasons change due to the temperature and humidity levels. Therefore, you need an expansion gap.
To allow the planks to expand, you must leave 3/8 to 3/4 of an inch of space around the perimeter for hardwood floors and 1/4 of an inch for vinyl flooring. There should be expansion gaps around walls and objects such as fireplaces, columns, vents and pipes.
With this extra space, your planks can expand and contract without issue. If completed correctly, these floating floor expansion gaps should be unnoticeable. If not, the planks could buckle and peak or leave large gaps of space between the floor and perimeter walls.
As a reminder, floating floors should be unsecured. If any plank is screwed or glued down, then the expansion will appear more significant as the planks move towards the one secured plank. Instead of the movement spreading evenly across your floating floor, the opposite end of the secured plank will bear the brunt of the expansion or contraction, often leaving a large gap or buckling movement. Ensure a proper expansion gap in your installation method to avoid bumps and peaks.
How Do I Prevent Unintentional Floating Floor Gapping?
While you create gaps to accommodate natural expansion and contraction, you may find egregious gaps between the planks if installed incorrectly. However, you can take actions to ensure there are no significant and unintentional spaces in your flooring.
1. Acclimate the Boards
Because these planks can be so reactive to temperature shifts, consider the weather when you start your project. If you are in the midst of warm, wet months, consider a smaller expansion gap. Your planks are retaining a lot of moisture right now, but they will contract as the weather cools. They do not need a lot of expansion space now.
Patience is also vital. Consider leaving your planks for a day or two to acclimate to the humidity and temperature inside your house.
2. Control the Temperature
Maintaining a proper temperature throughout your home is also essential. Using air conditioning and dehumidifiers can do a world of good when keeping unintentional floating floor gapping at a minimum.
3. Check Your Subfloor
Though your floating floor is not glued or nailed to the subfloor, they are still neighbors below your feet. If the subfloor is warped or damaged, then it may affect your floating floor. Underlayment between the subfloor and floating floor ensures an even surface.
4. Keep an Eye on the Materials
Finally, ensure the quality of your planks. Everyone wants to be economical, but low-quality planks may expand and contract in extreme ways or not lock into place as easily as higher-quality materials.
Mind the Gap — Fixing Your Floating Floor
There may be circumstances where a large gap appears in your floating floor, but not to worry. You can often remedy these gaps with a few tools and a sharp eye.
In most cases, you can shift the floating floor planks back into place. Use rubber gloves or shoes with good traction and slide them into place.
If you are having trouble sliding, use a pull bar to grip the edge of the boards while you hit the other with a hammer. This works to slide the planks back into their desired position with a little more force.
Your floor may require reinstallation in some cases. Significant damage to the subfloor or planks themselves may lead to an uneven buckle or large gap that cannot slide back into place. Calling a professional or trusted home renovator can provide helpful advice on the issue.
Exploring the World of Floating Floors
Floating floors are great projects for home renovators and those who like to complete DIY projects around the house. With some precision, tools and a knowledgeable plan for accommodating floating floor expansion, you can have a stunning new aesthetic floor design in your living space.