Why does the laminate wood floor move when I walk across it?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Most laminate flooring materials do not attach to the floor slab or wood sub-flooring. They are designed to be “float” over the floor and have either a pad attached to their underside or sections of padding are fitted across the floor before the laminate is installed, to soften the feel of walking across the floor and to dampen noise both in the room and rooms below. A stable base of plywood or oriented strand board is configured with a tongue-in-groove edge and a sturdy laminate printed finish is applied as a top layer. Laminate flooring, like laminate counter tops are recognized for their easy care and durability and can add value to a home renovation if professionally installed. 

    Laminates are popular because of their low cost, large selection of patterns and colors and ease of installation. Homeowners are not intimidated by the process of connecting the planks. A board that is not cut to the correct dimension is much easier to change out compared to one that has just been glued or nailed to the sub-flooring. However, some basic power tools—and the skills to use them safely and correctly—are still necessary.

    We see the same two laminate flooring installation defects over and over when doing home inspections:

1) Not following the manufacturers installation instructions by placing the planks too tightly together. Like any material, laminate flooring needs room to expand and contract when confronted with temperature and moisture changes. Looking across a room, rises, lumps and boards that are cupping show the incorrectly installed material as it tries to expand, but has no room. This wrinkling of the floor is what moves underfoot when you walk across it. Floors that appear flat and even when viewed but have consistent damage to the seams and edges show the wear incurred at the time that the flooring was buckled-up. 

2) Flooring poorly fitted against the base trim and at door openings. This is where carpentry skills and the correct tools—plus some previous experience—comes into play. A professional installer will remove the base trim or shoe mold at the walls so that the flooring is installed underneath the trim, and it is not replaced tightly as to “trap” the floor covering. Also, professionals use a specialized saw to undercut the doorway trim and run the flooring comfortably below it. 

    Unfortunately, when a home has flooring that was obviously installed incorrectly, it tends to make a homebuyer concerned about the areas that are not visible, and doubtful about electrical, plumbing and HVAC upgrades, even if they appear to be alright.

    Also, see our blog post How can I identify what kind of wood flooring I am looking at?

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Here’s links to a collection of our other blog posts about STRUCTURE AND ROOMS:

What are the building code requirements for notching and boring holes in a wall stud? 

What causes dark or light "ghost" lines on ceilings and walls?

Can you access or exit a bedroom through another bedroom?

What is the difference between a carport and a garage? 

What are simple ways to find the cause of a ceiling stain?

What is the minimum size of habitable rooms in a house according to the building code? 

Why is my garage ceiling sagging? 

Why does my concrete floor slab sweat and get slippery?

What is the minimum ceiling height for rooms in a house? 

Why are there score line grooves in the concrete floor of the garage?

How much can I cut out of a floor joist? 

How can I tell if my floors are sloping?

Why do the floors slope in this old house? 

What are the common problems when a homeowner converts a garage to conditioned living space, such as a family room?

• How can I tell if a wall is load-bearing? Which walls can I take out? 

   Visit our STRUCTURE AND ROOMS page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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