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Laminate Flooring Water Damage Repair - Complete Walkthrough

Unlike hardwood flooring, which is pretty much all wood from top to bottom, laminate flooring is made of a pressed wooden core topped with image and wear layers. 

This makes laminate flooring partially made of wood but also of paper and melamine resin on both the top and bottom.

Melamine resin is meant to protect the rest of the flooring but at times, water can get around the seams and edges of the flooring and eventually reach the core layer. 

When this happens, homeowners may start seeing signs of water damage. 

Today, we’ll cover some typical signs of laminate flooring water damage and how to repair it.

Let’s go!

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Signs of Laminate Flooring Water Damage

First, let’s quickly elaborate how laminate flooring is structured, just so you get a bigger picture and how water actually causes damage to your laminate floors.

Laminate flooring is made of four layers:

  1. Wear Layer: The topmost layer, also known as the wear or surface layer. It is a transparent, durable layer made of melamine resin used to protect the floor from stains, fading, wear, and, well, water.
  2. Decorative Layer: Beneath the wear layer is the decorative layer, which contains a high-resolution photo or image of the material the laminate is designed to resemble (usually either wood or stone).
  3. Core Layer: Made of either high-density fiberboard (HDF) or medium-density fiberboard (MDF). In the intro, we’ve said that when this layer gets wet, the entire flooring will start displaying signs of damage. 
  4. Backing Layer: The bottommost layer, which provides additional support and stability. It also serves as a barrier to moisture, preventing the floor from warping. This layer is also made of melamine resin.

When we talk about laminate flooring water damage, we really mean the damaged core layer. The top and bottom layers are made of water-resistant melamine resin and the decorative layer can get water-damaged too; it’s just not as prone to it.

Now, let’s make sure that what you have is actually water damage. Look for the following signs:

Swelling

One of the most common signs of laminate flooring water damage is swelling of the boards.

When water gets through the seams and edges, the core layer often absorbs moisture, causing the boards to swell. This results in an uneven or raised surface.

Why does this happen?

Wood is hygroscopic, meaning it can absorb and release moisture from the surrounding environment.

Whenever there is a leak that reaches your laminate flooring, there is a high chance of your floor swelling. 

Warped Edges

The edges of your laminate boards can warp if there’s enough water for enough time. Your core layer is actually more exposed at the edges of the board than the surface. 

When there’s water around these edges, it can lead to local warping. 

Discoloration

Your decorative layer can bleed or fade away when there’s a leak.

This may result in quite a noticeable change in the appearance of your laminate flooring, with colors becoming less vibrant or altering in tone.

Layer Separation

Water infiltration may lead to bubbles forming between the layers of the flooring, especially if the adhesive used in the lamination is affected. This bubbling can create an uneven surface. 

Then, if things get really bad, delamination will occur, and the layers of your laminate flooring will separate. This separation can be more visible at the seams or edges of the individual boards.

Buckling

Prolonged exposure to water can lead to the entire floor (or sections of it) buckling or lifting away from the subfloor. This is a serious problem that often requires replacement of the damaged boards.

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How to Repair Water-Damaged Laminate Flooring

You first need to know what actually caused the damage to begin with.

Find and Remove the Moisture Source

There could be multiple sources of the leak that caused damage to your laminate flooring.

Start looking around the damaged area. Check to see if nearby appliances, like dishwashers, have leaked. If you’ve got pipes behind the walls next to or beneath the flooring, inspect and see if they leaked.

Pipe leaks will often be accompanied by other signs of water damage, usually visible on the walls, and mold. 

But let’s hope for the best. Look in your basement and see if there’s a leak there.

Once you’ve found what the source of the moisture is, have it repaired right away.

This will then enable us to deal with our laminate floors without a fear of a leak happening again. 

Dry Out the Area

Before you start repairing your damaged boards, get rid of the water. Use dry towels or rags to soak up as much water as possible.

If there’s a lot of water, a wet/dry vacuum can help extract the water from the area. In this case, we also recommend renting out some drying equipment, like a dehumidifier and air movers.

Place a dehumidifier in the room to help reduce humidity levels down.

Air movers are handy devices that can be used to target specific damp spots. You’ve guess it, we’d use these for our wet floorboards. 

But if you don’t have access to these, regular fans should be able to help you.

Get New Boards for Replacement

Light surface scratches or minor damage can often be repaired using a laminate floor repair kit. These kits include putty, markers, or crayons that can help conceal small parts of the floor.

However, water-damaged laminate planks that started swelling, warping, or buckling will have to be replaced. Note that the new planks you get should match the design of your current floor.

This may or may not be challenging, depending on how old your flooring is and whether or not you can purchase matching planks. 

If not, either get a design that closely matches your current one or replace the entire floor.

In some cases, companies offer custom printing or design services for laminate flooring. This could be an option if you’re unable to find an exact match, but it may come with additional costs.

We recommend also inspecting your subfloor if you haven’t already. In case your subflooring also got wet (this usually happens when water comes from beneath the flooring), if the drying with air movers or fans doesn’t work, you’ll need to replace the subflooring too.

Remove the Damaged Boards and Install New Ones

You should use a pencil or masking tape to mark the damaged boards you plan to remove. Then, measure and cut replacement laminate boards to fit in.

If your laminate flooring is installed with baseboards, carefully remove them from the wall to access the edges of the damaged boards.

Use a circular saw or handsaw to cut along the seams of the damaged boards.

Set the saw depth to match the thickness of the laminate flooring to avoid cutting into the subfloor.

Now, carefully lift and remove the cut boards. Use a pry bar if needed to lift the edges. Once the damaged boards are removed, use a chisel to remove any remaining pieces of the tongue and groove along the edges.

Make sure the subfloor is free of any debris. Apply wood glue to the exposed joints of the adjacent boards.

Carefully slide the replacement boards into place, ensuring a snug fit. Use a tapping block and a mallet or hammer to secure the boards and close the seams. Once the replacement boards are in place and the glue has dried, reinstall the baseboards along the walls.

If needed, a pull bar can be used to help close the seams between the new and existing boards. Place the pull bar against the edge of the board and tap it with a hammer to close the joint.

Conclusion

And that’s it! Laminate flooring water damage repair can be tricky but it’s still doable with enough will and hard work.

Make sure to consult with a professional if things get out of hand and there’s a lot of water damage or mold. Use RepairSprout to locate a restoration professional near you!

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