Like any other flooring installation, laminate flooring requires preparation before the actual installation. Doing proper preparation will ensure a good installation in the end. One of these steps is the acclimation of the laminate flooring planks.
There are DIY groups that don’t believe in the acclimation of laminate flooring. However, most manufacturers, if not all, have the same stand on this issue. So, according to them, does laminate flooring really need to acclimate?
Laminate flooring needs to acclimate where it will be installed. The planks change in size and form with changes in humidity and temperature levels. Acclimation ensures that the laminate adjusts to its stable shape before installation. This will help prevent damage to the flooring in the future.
There are recommendations set by each manufacturer on the proper way of acclimating their laminate flooring products. You should always refer to their standards and recommendations whenever you can. There are, however, common standards that can be followed if you can’t get a copy of their recommendations.
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Why Do You Have to Acclimate Laminate Floors?
Laminate floors have a core material made out of fiberboard or compressed wood fibers. This expands or contracts depending on the humidity and temperature levels of its environment. This in effect will affect the size of the laminate floor planks, making it slightly bigger or smaller from how it was before. Acclimation allows it to adjust to its new environment, making its form stable, before its actual installation in the room.
Most manufacturers have also made acclimation a requirement when using their flooring products. Failing to acclimate the laminate floor may void the warranty of their products.
Although laminate floors are not real wood floors, they are not completely void of wood materials. As mentioned above, its core is made out of some kind of fiberboard, usually HDF or high-density fiberboard. It is a dense material, made from compressed wood fibers, that is dimensionally stable compared to real hardwood floors. This means that it can maintain its original shape better than real hardwood when subjected to humidity or temperature changes in its environment.
Although laminate floors are considered dimensionally stable because of their fiberboard core, it can still be affected by changes in the environment. They can still expand or contract, although not as much as compared to real wood, the slight change in their dimension can have an effect on the flooring installation.
The fiberboard core is like a sponge, containing pores on a microscopic level, that allows moisture in the air to move in and out. The more humid the air is, the more likelihood of the planks swelling. On the other hand, the less humid the air is, the more likely the planks will shrink.
Since the laminate floor planks were stored in a different location initially and then were transported to the installation site, they were subjected to different humidity and temperature levels along the way. These conditions can lead to an active changing in the size of the laminate floors. Although minimal, it will expand or contract during the whole delivery process.
Allowing the laminate flooring planks to acclimate in the room where it will be installed, will allow it to normalize to the normal conditions of its new environment. It allows it to be in balance with the temperature and humidity levels of the current conditions of the room. This will also allow the planks to become stable in size before the actual installation, preventing any possible damages, due to non-acclimatization, in the future.
What Happens If You Don’t Acclimate Laminate Flooring?
If you don’t allow the laminate flooring to acclimate before the installation, the individual planks may expand or contract from its installed positions. This can result in the laminate flooring to buckle or for the laminate planks to get disjointed from each other.
Not acclimating laminate flooring beforehand can also cause a spongy flooring. Although there can be several causes of a spongy laminate flooring, which you can read in this article, laminate flooring that was not acclimated before the installation can also lead to this.
Why Did My Laminate Floor Buckled?
One of the possible reasons why your laminate flooring buckled is because of the planks expanding or swelling in their installed positions. When subjected to a higher humidity or temperature levels than where it was previously exposed to, it will cause the laminate planks to expand and swell. This will lead to the planks to push each other, which can then cause it to buckle, or to lift.
The laminate flooring could have been delivered from a cool dry warehouse or was exposed to a cold and dry environment during its transit. If the room it will be installed in is more humid than its previous exposure, the laminate flooring will definitely expand.
Letting the laminate floor enough time to acclimate to the current conditions of the room by allowing it to expand to a more stable size before you install it can prevent it from buckling in the future.
Why Does My Laminate Floor Have Gaps?
One of the possible reasons why your laminate flooring developed gaps is because of the individual planks shrinking from its installed positions. When subjected to a cooler and dryer environment than where it was previously exposed to, it will lead the laminate floors to shrink in size. This can cause the individual planks to pull each other and sometimes even breaking apart from its joints.
The storage facility where the laminate floors came from could be more humid than the room it will be installed in. Also, the environment it went through during the transit towards the installation site could have also been more humid than where it will be installed. If this is the case, the laminate flooring will surely shrink in size as it tries to adjust to its new, cooler, and drier environment.
Make sure to let the laminate flooring to acclimate in the room by allowing it enough time to shrink to a more stable size before installation. This will prevent it from developing gaps due to shrinkage in the future.
How to Acclimate Laminate Flooring?
Below are 5 easy steps on how to effectively acclimate laminate flooring.
1. Allow Any Wet Work A Minimum of 7 Days to Dry.
Any wet work inside the room should be allowed enough time to dry before you start the acclimation of the laminate flooring. This includes works such as plastering or drywall works, and painting works. This will allow time for the moisture level of the room to be stable when you start the acclimation.
If you are installing laminate flooring over concrete though, it should be at least 30 days old. Some manufacturers even recommend waiting at least 60 to 90 days for newly poured concrete to dry before you start the acclimation of the laminate flooring. Concrete can still hold moisture during these periods that could negatively affect the acclimation process of the laminate flooring.
2. Make Sure That All Windows and Doors Will be Sealed During Laminate Flooring Acclimation.
Once you’re sure that everything in the room are dry, make sure that the room will be completely enclosed during the whole acclimation process. All outside doors and windows should remain close at all times. This will prevent outside thermal conditions from affecting the indoor thermal conditions of the room.
The humidity and temperature levels of the room should remain stable at all times during the acclimation process to allow the laminate flooring to acclimate better and settle on a stable state.
3. Turn On Any Normally Running Heating or Cooling System in the Room.
If the room will be used with a normally running heating or cooling system, turn it on before you start the acclimation. It should also be kept running during the acclimation period. This will keep the humidity and temperature levels constant and stable at all times.
Laminate flooring is sensitive to extreme humidity and temperature changes. It will not acclimate well if the room’s humidity and temperature conditions are fluctuating or unstable.
The temperature should be set at the level it will be set in normally when the room is in use. This will allow the laminate flooring to acclimate to the actual conditions of the room when it is in use.
What Is the Temperature Range When Acclimating Laminate Flooring?
When setting the temperature, it should be set between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 and 29 deg Celsius. And ideally, the relative humidity level in the room should be between 35% and 65%. If you have a heating or cooling system, the temperature and humidity levels can easily be manage by these systems.
You might be wondering why set it to these specific numbers? It is set close to the ideal average living or habitable temperature levels for humans. The average range for good indoor temperature is between 68 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 and 24 degrees Celsius.
There are some people who prefer lower or higher values from these ranges though which is why the range required for acclimating laminate flooring is greater than the average good indoor temperature for human habitation.
4. Place The Laminate Flooring, in the Original Packaging They Have Arrived In, In the Middle of the Room.
Once the room has been prepared, with everything dry and any heating and cooling system turned on, it is time to acclimate the laminate flooring.
Place the packages of laminate flooring, in their original unopened and boxed state, in the center of the room. This will allow all the laminate planks to acclimate at similar rates and prevent them from warping accidentally.
Lay the packages flat on the floor side by side. You can stack lamiante flooring during acclimation but they should remain as flat as possible. Don’t allow them to sag or droop. It is more ideal to lay them on the floor though during acclimation to keep them flat during the whole process.
Keep them away from any exterior walls, or heating or cooling vents. You want to place the laminate floors in an area where the temperatures are the same with the majority of the room’s area.
Exterior walls and vents could have different temperatures that could negatively affect the acclimation process of the laminate flooring. Ideally, the laminates should be at least 3 feet away from them.
5. Give The Laminate Flooring Enough Time to Acclimate in the Room.
The acclimation period may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and it will be ideal to refer to their recommendations when acclimating your laminate flooring. The longer you give your laminate flooring to acclimate the better.
Most manufacturers will require you to acclimate laminate flooring at a range of 48-72 hours or 2-3 days. This will give the laminate flooring just enough time to adapt to the current climate conditions of the room.
After 2-3 days, the laminate floors should have acclimated and you can already start installing them to your room.
Below is a short video from Swiss Krono USA on how to acclimate laminate flooring.
When Installed, Does Temperature Affect Laminate Flooring?
Now it’s worth mentioning too that it is very important that the room will have stable humidity and temperature levels at all times throughout the lifetime of the laminate flooring. Laminate floors are sensitive to extreme changes in humidity and temperature levels. Proper acclimation of the laminate floors will not matter if it will be subjected to extreme humidity and temperature changes throughout the year.
Small changes in humidity and temperature changes are okay and it will not have a massive impact on your laminate flooring but extreme temperature and humidity changes will have the planks swelling and contracting and may result in damaging the flooring in the process.
If there is a big difference between the indoor and outdoor humidity and temperature levels, try not to open the windows or exterior doors and let the outside air in. The changes don’t really happen instantly but it is still best to avoid it. If you can’t avoid opening the outside doors or windows, just make sure to close them quickly so as not to begin affecting the laminate flooring.
Also, try to keep the temperature inside the room constant. Avoid changing the thermostat every now and then. We want to avoid exposing the laminate flooring to extreme temperature changes.
Proper Storage of Laminate Flooring
Do you have extra laminate flooring planks? What do you do with these extra pieces? Can they be stored in the garage? Can they be left in the cold?
For long term storage, it is ideal to store them in an area with the same required temperature for acclimation. This is between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 and 29 degrees Celsius and with a relative humidity level of between 35% and 65%. This is to prevent the laminate flooring planks from adapting and permanently settling in an unfitting form.