Tag Archive for: laminate floor expansion gap

Convenience, cost, and versatility mean laminate flooring is distinct from hardwood surfaces. However, as is the case with both solid and engineered boards, you must also provide a space between the planks closest to the walls, when installing laminate floors.

This space is referred to as an expansion gap and ensures your floor surface will remain even when the boards expand due to rising humidity and temperature levels.

Experts recommend a minimum of 8 – 10 inches (or a quarter of an inch, in some cases).

However, the right size depends on the size of the surface being covered.

Here we discuss the importance of expansion gaps and possible issues involving them to ensure you are equipped with the knowledge you need to get started with your laminate flooring. 

Do You Need An Expansion Gap for Laminate Flooring?

Yes, you do. To understand why this is the case, it is important to take a glimpse at the structure of a laminate floorboard and also to understand what happens if you do not provide an expansion gap during installation.

The Structure of Laminate Flooring

Laminate floor planks consist of four layers.

The first is the wear layer which is transparent and designed to protect the lower photographic layer from UV damage and wear and tear.

Next comes the photographic layer which consists of a high-resolution image of either wood, marble, or even non-conventional designs such as greenery or imagery.

Below this comes a board layer which is made from high-density fiberboard (also referred to as HDF) in laminate flooring produced according to the highest standards.

It is this layer that consists of wood that has been milled and combined with a binder and pressed into planks.

The entire structure is supported by a base layer, which provides it with stability.

The presence of the HDF layer (certain manufacturers may use MDF or medium-density fiberboard), means that a significant portion of laminate flooring consists of wood.

As a matter of fact over 90% of a board is made of this organic material which is not only porous but hygroscopic, i.e., capable of attracting moisture.

As a result, laminate planks are susceptible to the relative humidity of their surroundings.

That means that they will contract or expand owing to changes in this all-important factor, just like solid or engineered hardwood would, as well.

For this reason, a gap must be left between the row of boards closest to the wall and the wall itself during installation. 

What Happens When You Don’t Install an Expansion Gap?

When humidity levels rise, particularly during warmer seasons, the wood in your laminate flooring will expand.

If there is no space between them this may result in the following issues with your planks:

1) Peaking: This problem occurs when laminate boards push up against each other at the seams creating slopes on your flooring surface. 

It can be resolved by noting the direction in which the expansion occurs, removing the molding on the facing wall, and cutting the board which happens to be pressing into the wall causing the peaking in the floorboards.

2) Buckling: Like peaking, buckling in laminate floors is caused when humidity levels rise. However, it can also be caused by the direct exposure of the laminate floorboards to moisture as a result of wet mopping, neglecting to clean spills at once, or undetected leakages.

In the absence of sufficient space to expand, i.e., the absence of an expansion gap, the floorboards will push up against each other.

For the problem to be resolved, you will need to ascertain the cause of the excess moisture and repair any leakages or clean any spills. It may be necessary to replace your moisture barrier if it is insufficient for handling moisture from the concrete subfloor.

You will also need to remove the molding and cut an expansion gap if none has been provided.

What Size Expansion Gap Is Needed for Laminate Flooring?

The size of the expansion gap required for your floor will depend on the size of your surface and most manufacturers will provide you with the measurements you need. 

That said, most experts recommend a minimum of one-quarter of an inch.

Expansion gaps aren’t just needed close to the walls of a room but may also be required at the centers of rooms exceeding 8 meters in width and 12 meters in length.

They are also required when transitioning from one room to another, particularly in the event of different surfaces being involved, i.e., laminate and tile, for example.

Transition profiles that serve to cover these gaps will come in handy here: each board on either side will have to be placed 5 millimeters on either side of the bar of each profile.

Can You Have Too Big of an Expansion Gap for Laminate Flooring?

Yes, you can. There are a few issues that could cause the problem such as neglecting to use floor spacers.

This issue could also be caused by failure to acclimatize your laminate boards by placing them on the floor of the room in which they are meant to be installed for a minimum of 48 hours.

Failing to take these precautions may result in you having to fix expansion gaps which turn out to be too large as a result.

How to Hide an Expansion Gap?

Several methods can be used to resolve or even prevent large expansion gaps.

These include:

1. Adding Molding or Beading

When using either option you will need to select a product that matches your color scheme as closely as possible. 

You will also need to ensure you select the appropriate size of molding or beading and nail it into the skirting board as opposed to nailing it in the planks since doing so will restrict them from expanding or contracting.

2. Adding Caulk

Caulk can be an especially versatile solution in this regard. It is not only capable of accommodating the expansion and contraction of your boards but can also be used to enhance the water resistance of laminate surfaces in rooms exposed to a high degree of moisture.

It will also be possible for you to obtain products that match your preferred color, with this option.

3. Make Use of Flooring Spacers

These accessories are extremely useful for ensuring you get your expansion gap right the first time and come in different varieties.

Some of the most popular examples include:

a) T Floor Spacers

Robust enough to withstand minor accidents, these spacers will remain in place, unlike tabs that may slip during the installation process.

As a result, these accessories which are capable of measurements of ¼ and ⅜ inches (depending on which sides you use) will enable you to lay your laminate boards in a straight line.

And they’re affordable too, making them well worth their value for money.

If the room you happen to be working on is larger than 500 square feet in size, you may need to consider buying more than a single pack.

b) Tezoro Floor Spacers (24 pack)

These scientifically designed triangular floor spacers are just what you need to achieve that perfect quarter-inch expansion gap.

And they’re pretty stable too. That means you’ll be able to focus on installing those boards without having to keep a sharp lookout for spacers that simply won’t stay put.

All of which makes these accessories ideal whether you happen to be a professional or DIY enthusiast installing a laminate surface.

c) Bessy Floor Spacers

Made from glass-filled nylon, these spacers are adjustable in terms of measurements and tightness.

Their size also means they won’t slip out of sight while you work with them.

What’s more, their special design means you will be able to lay impressively straight rows even when working with slightly irregular walls.

And once you’re through, you will simply be able to loosen them with a twist.

These features ensure the Bessy Floor Spacers are able to provide the ideal blend of convenience and accuracy. 


Expansion gaps are necessary when installing laminate surfaces since they provide the space the planks will need to expand as ambient moisture levels change.

If they are omitted issues such as peaking or buckling may result.

According to experts, the minimum recommended size for expansion gaps is a quarter of an inch. However, the size of the gap will depend on the size of the surface being installed. 

It is worth noting that this gap will also be required at intervals for areas larger than 12 meters in length and 8 meters in width. Expansion gaps are also necessary when transitioning from one surface to another and may be concealed by transition profiles.

To prevent your expansion gaps from becoming too large or visible as humidity levels fall, you will need to make use of spacers and also acclimatize your laminate flooring. You may also need to use humidifiers during colder seasons.

In the event of your expansion gaps being too large or becoming noticeable, you will have the option of concealing them with molding, beading, or caulk.

The laminate flooring in warm golden brown tones not only looked just like real wood but also came at a price that was a fraction of the real deal. What’s more, your favorite cousins promised you it would be easy to install. 

And when they were all done it made your dining room look as though it was worthy of a feature in Architectural Digest. Until you started noticing the presence of tell-tale spaces close to the walls, when winter set in.

Were the expansion gaps left when installing your floor actually too big? Or could the issue have been caused by other factors? What could the reason be for their becoming especially noticeable?

Laminate floor planks are mostly made up of wood (about 90%). Owing to the porosity of this material they tend to shrink and expand due to changes in humidity and temperature, just like solid or engineered hardwood planks.

As a result, they can expand when the weather gets warmer and contract when it gets colder, making any gaps or spacing especially visible.

Noticeable expansion gaps can be fixed by the following methods:

  • Removing and replacing your planks
  • Adding molding 
  • Adding beading
  • Caulking

Below you will be able to find detailed information on each of these options. You will also be able to find additional helpful pointers such as the perfect size for expansion gaps and how to ensure you get it right the first time. 

How Big Should Expansion Gaps For Laminate Floors Be?

Expansion gaps are essential when installing your laminate floors to ensure your planks have enough space for movement when they start to expand during those sunny summer months.

Failure to account for this may result in their pushing against each other as temperature and humidity levels rise, an incidence which may result in buckling laminate floors. (Conversely, falling  temperatures, and humidity levels may result in your laminate floor planks separating.)

In addition to detracting from the aesthetics of your surroundings, buckling can also damage the interlocking mechanism of your laminate planks, resulting in extra expenditure to have them replaced.

The minimum recommended size for an expansion gap is a quarter( ¼ ) of an inch. This precaution must be taken around any structures such as cabinets, stairs, and pillars.

How to Fix an Expansion Gap That Has Gotten Too Big

If your laminate flooring expansion gap has gotten too large, you will be able to rectify the issue using a number of straightforward methods explained in detail below.

1. Replace the Entire Floor

Depending on the size of the floor and the state of the room and whether you have furnished it, this may prove to be rather labor intensive.

What you will need to do is remove the molding and then starting with the first row closest to the wall remove each plank. You will need a chisel to lift up each board.

Special care should be taken when removing the planks to avoid damaging the click mechanism.

You will then need to reinstall your floorboards taking special care to leave the required expansion gap recommended by the manufacturer of the laminate floor.

2. Make Use of Molding

Molding can prove especially helpful in concealing wide expansion gaps in your laminate floor.

Ensure you select the correct size which will cover the spaces between the walls and your floor; the material should be solid wood.  

It is also a good idea to select molding in a color that is as close as possible to your laminate flooring. However, it may also be possible to stain it.

Once you have obtained a suitable product, you will need to nail the molding into the baseboard.

The molding must never be nailed into the laminate itself since the floor needs to be left free to contract and expand.

3. Make Use of Beading

When using this option you will need to measure the length required as well as the width of the visible part of the expansion gap to ensure you make the right selection. 

(As is the case with molding, you will also need to ensure that the color of the beading is pretty close to your laminate flooring. You should also make sure it is waterproof if you intend to use it in a kitchen, bathroom, or mudroom.)

You may also need to cut a 45° angle at the end if the length you will be fitting will also be meeting another at a corner in the room. You will need to use a miter saw to achieve a perfect cut. 

An adhesive such as super glue will be suitable for sticking the angled ends together before fitting them into a corner. (Holding them together for a quarter of a minute will ensure the glue will bond both pieces together effectively.)

As is the case with molding, the beading should be attached to the skirtboard and not the laminate flooring to allow for contraction and expansion or even movement as a result of traffic.

If using glue, opt for a strong variety and wipe the excess off with a cloth once you are through. (You may also need to push heavy objects up against the beading until the glue dries.)

Alternatively, you may also use nails to fasten the beading to the skirtboard.

4. Make Use of Caulking

This method can be especially beneficial owing to the ability of caulk to accommodate the movement of your floor. It is also possible to obtain a product which matches your preferred color.

The first thing you will need to do before getting started is to use a vacuum cleaner to thoroughly clean the expansion gaps you intend to cover. 

When applying the caulk, you will need to apply consistent pressure on the trigger of the caulk gun while drawing it backwards.

Next, you will need to pull your finger along the line of applied caulk to press it down lightly. It will take about an entire day to dry.

Caulking can also be used to seal the space between tubs and shower stalls and reduce the susceptibility of your flooring to damage by water that may seep beneath the planks.

Building experts specifically recommend the use of silicone caulk for this purpose.

How to Prevent Big Expansion Gaps

Remembering to provide expansion gaps when installing your laminate flooring is important. However, it is just as essential to ensure they are the right size while also taking into account the sensitivity of laminate flooring to changes in temperature and humidity.

Taking the following precautions will enable you to do so:

1. Make Use of Floor Spacers

Floor spacers come in different measurements and varieties. There are those which come in the form of rectangular tabs which you simply slip in between the laminate boards and the wall when installing your flooring. There are also those which are shaped like triangular tabs and tend to have greater stability.

You are also likely to come across floor spacers that lie flat on the floor and can be adjusted and tightened. They are reputed to be especially useful in terms of being able to assist you to lay your laminate flooring in a straight row. Their stability is also another plus.

Alternatively, it is also possible to make floor spacers yourself from yardsticks, for example.

Regardless of which option you choose, you should ensure the expansion gap is the right size recommended by the manufacturer to prevent problems with your flooring. If you are not certain, you may verify it with them since this value is often determined by the size of your floor.

2. Acclimatise Your Flooring

Like solid and engineered hardwood floors, laminate floors need to be acclimatised. This process will ensure your laminate floor planks become accustomed to humidity and temperature levels in the room in which it is meant to be installed.

Failure to take this step will lead to the boards expanding or contracting once they have been installed and may even result in your warranty being voided by your manufacturer.

3. Make Use of Humidifiers in Cold Weather

Laminate planks are especially prone to shrinking in winter and autumn due to falling temperatures and humidity levels. Making use of a humidifier during those colder months could add some much-needed moisture to your surroundings, and possibly prevent shrinking in your laminate floorboards.


Laminate floor planks mostly consist of high-density fiberboard, and as a result, are rather porous. This quality means that they will either shrink or expand depending on the weather or season.

This may affect your expansion gap and make it appear visible. However, by shifting the boards together, using molding or beading, or simply relying on caulk, you will be able to conceal them.

This condition can also be prevented by ensuring you obtain the recommended expansion gap size for your floor from the manufacturer, acclimatize your laminate boards, and use a humidifier during colder weather.