Laminate flooring can be susceptible to water damage from spills, leaks, flooding, or other sources. When the inner wood fibers get wet, they can swell, warp, and develop mold, mildew, and bacteria over time. This leads to an unsightly appearance, unpleasant odors, and potential health hazards. Thankfully, water-damaged laminate floors can often be repaired. Let’s walk through the step-by-step process.
Assessing the Damage
The first step is to assess the extent of the water damage. Water damage to laminate floors progress in severity the longer they remain wet. There are three categories of laminate floor water damage:
Surface Damage: The upper protective layer becomes swollen or warped but the inner structure remains dry.
- The laminate surface should dry within 24 hours with minor clean-up and removal of excess water. These issues can usually be resolved with damp cleaning.
Seepage Damage: The moisture has seeped into the lowest layer’s internal structure for over 24 hours but has not yet spread uniformly throughout the flooring.
- The edges may be gapping, warping, swelling, bubbles, or the sealant layer may have de-laminated. Spot repairs and deep cleaning or full area replacement may be required.
Saturation Damage: The laminate floor boards have been fully saturated with water and overwhelmed the inner water-resistant barrier.
- This calls for complete removal of the planks and sections that have been damaged or have de-laminated. To determine if saturation has occurred, push your foot down firmly on the floor to identify inconsistency and weak areas.
Perform Emergency Water Extraction
For water-damaged laminate flooring, time is of the essence. Putting off water extraction risks permanent damage, mold, and rotting from the inside out. You’ll want to follow these steps immediately:
- Use a wet vacuum, towels, rags, or a mop to remove all pooling or standing water from the surface and seams of the flooring.
- Use fans to circulate air over the wet areas. Point them perpendicular to the length of the boards to quicken evaporation.
- Remove shoe molding or quarter round trim to reach seeping water trapped underneath.
- Don’t use heat sources like hairdryers or heaters as these may warp, shrink, or crack the laminate.
After extracting excess liquid, assess the extent of the damage across the whole floor to determine next steps.
Clean and Disinfect the Floor
After extracting as much water as possible, thoroughly clean the entire floor surface. Even if damage appears isolated, bacteria, mold, and mildew spores could spread if not properly eliminated. Follow this straightforward deep clean routine:
- Mix a laminate floor cleaner or gentle detergent with warm water in a bucket. Avoid harsh chemicals like ammonia that can cloud and damage laminate.
- Dip a hard-bristle scrub brush or microfiber cloth into the solution and agitate areas with damage. Scrub seams and gaps diligently to lift trapped grime.
- Use a damp rag or towel to wipe clean the whole floor surface. Frequently rinse and replace rags when they become dirty.
- Allow the floor to fully air dry. Check for overlooked pooling water or damp pockets that may need an extraction touch-up.
- Once dry, inspect again for delamination, gaps, puffing, or discoloration of the surface.
After cleaning and drying, the floor is ready to be treated and/or repaired. Routine cleaning will also help prevent bacteria and moisture build-up indoors.
Repair Swelling, Bubbling, Gapping and Warping
If there are isolated areas of swelling, bubbling between planks, gapping along seams, or slight warping across several boards, spot repairs may do the trick. Start by trying these steps:
- Clamp swollen bubble areas by using painter’s masking tape along the edges of the affected boards. Apply for 24 hours until the floor flattens.
- For slight gaps or raised edges, place a weight like heavy books or bricks wrapped in towels along the length of the seam.
- Use a laminate floor seam sealer formulated for moisture damaged floors. Tint matched colors are available. Apply small amounts with a rubber sealant applicator, wiping away excess. Allow to fully cure for 24-48 hours.
- Consider adding T-molding strips along swollen seams if gaps fail to close fully. These attractive transitions covers problem edges. Measure carefully for a precision fit.
Monitor any spots closely after repairs, especially along the perimeter of rooms and around seams prone to water exposure. Repeating spot treatments may eventually be needed.
Replace Severely Damaged Sections
For areas with saturation damage, de-lamination, permanent warping greater than 1/2 inch height, mold growth, or foul odors, full board replacement will be necessary. This intermediate skill DIY project involves:
- Clear the area of furniture and belongings. Pull up baseboard trim sections for access underneath the lowest boards.
- Cut through the damp boards as close to the wall as possible using a jigsaw or circular saw. Make relief cuts out from walls at doorways to simplify product removal.
- Carefully pry up the damaged boards with a putty knife or pry bar without damaging the underlayment. Break boards into smaller pieces as needed for removal.
- Use vents, dehumidifiers, and fans to fully dry the exposed underlayment for 72 hours or replace affected underlayment sections.
- Cut to size and install new tongue and groove planks snug to remaining boards, nailing 2 inches from seams. Replace trim and refinish floor.
With concentration and care, DIY laminate repairs can be a satisfying home improvement project that restores great looks and renewed indoor air quality. Be sure to address and fix moisture issues prior to prevent repeated water damage.
Determine & Correct the Water Source
Identifying and resolving moisture problems is a mandatory step before repairing or replacing water-damaged laminate flooring. Otherwise, new flooring risks getting flooded again down the road. Here is how to get to the bottom of leaks:
- Check along the perimeter – Use a moisture meter to scan walls, corners, and edging to identify moisture hot spots traveling to the floor from an external leak, flooding, hydrostatic pressure, or landscaping runoff.
- Assess under appliances – Refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, and sinks can harbor slow leaks and overflow causing localized damage. Review hoses and supply lines for wear and proper connections. Place leak trays underneath units.
- Inspect plumbing fixtures– Search for drips underneath sinks and around toilets, tubs, and showers that may travel unseen under the flooring surface before appearing. Confirm flooring, grout and caulking meets impermeability standards to stop water migration.
- Test windows and walls– Use a moisture meter on exterior facing walls and windows to determine if rain, snowmelt, or groundwater is infiltrating under siding materials and dripping down to laminate floors below. Address exterior drainage issues, gutter extensions, flashing and seals.
Getting to the root cause of excess moisture is required to ensure new or repaired laminate flooring performs well long term. Quick action decreases risks of recurring issues or health hazards. With prep work done, beautiful floors can be restored worry-free.
Repairing water-damaged laminate flooring helps restore appearance, function, and property value without requiring full floor replacement. By assessing damage levels accurately, mitigating moisture right away, deep cleaning methodically, conducting spot repairs promptly, replacing affected sections completely, and uncovering and correcting the underlying moisture sources responsibly, previously sodden laminate can rebound with minimal effect moving forward. With some tools and techniques covered here, we can tackle this project ourselves, but don’t hesitate to call professional water damage company for large-scale water damage or instances where the source is not readily determined.