Expansion Gap

What Size Expansion Gap is Required for Laminate Flooring?

In Flooring, Laminate, Skirting Board by Sam Sinton

When laying laminate flooring it is important to remember to leave a gap around the edge of the room, whether it be walls, fireplaces, doorways, or even radiator piping.

What size expansion gap is required for laminate flooring? As a rule, the larger the space the larger the expansion gap should be. The gap should be a minimum of 5/16 of an inch (8 mm). 

An expansion gap should be a minimum of 5/16 of an inch (8 mm)
Within this article, we will cover everything you will need to know about why this gap is left, what happens if you fail to leave an adequate gap, the size of the gap, as well as how to hide the gap once your flooring has been fully installed.

An expansion gap is NOT optional, and failure to leave one could mean your whole floor could need to be redone (perhaps in only a matter of weeks).

Why Do I Need An Expansion Gap?

When temperatures increase so does humidity, your laminate flooring will absorb the moisture in the air causing your flooring will expand. If your flooring expands without the necessary space to do so your floor may buckle, bubble, or crack. Once this humidity has decreased your floors will then contract, reducing the space required.

The expansion gap provides your laminate floor the room to cope with this natural expansion and contraction, caused primarily by changing temperatures.  While laminate flooring expands and contracts to a lesser extent to other woods the process still occurs and must be accounted for.

If no expansion gap has been left the potential for serious problems is far more likely to occur.

What Happens If I Don’t Leave An Expansion Gap?

When an adequate expansion gap has not been left and humidity rises it is likely your laminate flooring will buckle under the pressure because its movement is restricted. Many examples of such problems can be found on the internet, here are just a few:

 

What Size Should The Expansion Gap be?

For the majority of household rooms, an expansion gap of between 9.5mm and 12mm will suffice unless the room you are laminating is larger than most normal sized household rooms, or the area where you live suffers from extreme hot and cold weather throughout the year – even in these cases, 12mm should be OK.

It is best to leave as large an expansion gap as possible, but be very careful to ensure that your skirting boards or beading being used will cover these gaps even when your laminate contracts in the colder months.

There are many DIYers online that claim success with smaller expansion gaps, though I believe you should always air on the side of caution.

Most laminate flooring guidelines advise you to lay the floor when the temperature within the house is between 60ºF – 80ºF (16°C and 26°C) as this is considered a normal household temperature – between each hot and cold extreme.

How Do I Hide The Expansion Gap?

The main problem with having to leave an expansion gap around the whole room is that it needs to be hidden. Otherwise, the room will never look how you had hoped when you started the project. Luckily there are a couple of options for doing this. We’ll look at them in more detail below.

Baseboards (Skirting Boards)

laminate flooring under skirtingThe preferred method for most is to have the expansion gap below your rooms skirting boards, however many DIYers shy away from this as they believe removing the skirting boards will be a difficult job and don’t want to have to replace these altogether if they get damaged.

Most professional companies that specialize in laying laminate flooring will offer this as an option, however, it will almost always be more expensive than simply using beading.

Beading

The easiest method and arguably the most popular is to fix beading along the already present skirting boards to hide the expansion gap. In certain circumstances, the beading can actually add to the aesthetics of the flooring though it is almost always the second choice of finish.

The main problem with beading is that over time it can come loose, and may need to be replaced on occasion. It can also prove difficult to cut to a professional finish.

Use Transition Strips

Transition strips help you to hide the expansion gap at the entrance of the room while also tying two laminate floors (or laminate and carpet) together in a seamless manner.

Radiator Pipe Covers

These covers have been designed to hide the expansion gap around radiator pipes.

A Cautionary Note: Don’t Ever Glue or Nail Laminate to the Sub-Floor

I have heard of many people that have attempted to glue or nail their laminate flooring to the subfloor in an attempt to curtail any expansion or contraction due to changes in humidity, this WILL NOT work so please don’t even try it.

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