Laminate flooring, just like hardwood flooring, needs to acclimate in the room where you intend to install it before the actual installation. Although laminate flooring is not completely made out of wood, the core is usually made out of some type of fiberboard, or compressed wood fibers. The core material can be affected by the humidity and temperature conditions of its environment.
What happens if you don’t acclimate laminate flooring?
If you don’t acclimate laminate flooring before installation, you risk the planks compressing or expanding from its installed position as it adjusts to the current humidity and temperature of the room. This may result in buckling or gaps at the joints if the planks expand or contract.
Each manufacturer has its own instructions on how to properly acclimate their laminate flooring product. Although it’s still best to ask them for the correct procedures on acclimating, there are some general guidelines that are usually common to all and that you can follow as well.
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Why do you need to acclimate Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring can go through different environmental conditions and be exposed to extreme temperatures and humidity during its travel from the warehouse to its final destination. At high humidity, laminate flooring tends to expand and swell and at low humidity, it does the opposite. High and low temperatures also affect the swelling and contracting of the planks.
Most laminate flooring has some type of fiberboard core, usually the High Density Fiberboard (HDF) type. HDF is a type of engineered wood made from wood fiber combined together with resin or glue under heat and pressure. It makes for a sturdy core for laminate flooring because it’s more dimensionally stable than most hardwoods, meaning it wouldn’t warp and change in shape and size as much when subjected to changes in humidity and temperature.
In spite of HDF’s being dimensionally stable, it still contains wood elements that can still be affected by changes in humidity and temperature. Laminate flooring can still swell, contract or change in size in all directions depending on the changes in its environment.
Imagine this – the warehouse where the laminate flooring was coming from was warm and humid. The planks would’ve been a bit thicker and slightly bigger in size. And then from the warehouse, you have it transported to your house. You have it installed, without acclimating the planks yet, in your room where temperatures are cooler and drier.
You should expect your laminate flooring to look great at the beginning, but then, there will be a big chance that as soon as it adjusts to its new environment, the planks will contract and become a bit smaller in size. You will eventually start seeing some unsightly gaps appearing between the joints. Though it’s fixable, you would have to remove all the planks, adding unnecessary work that could’ve been avoided if you have acclimated the planks beforehand.
Acclimating your laminate floor before installation is really necessary in most cases. This lets the planks adjust to the final environment where it shall be installed. You avoid any unnecessary adjustments and additional work later on if it suddenly changed its size after the installation.
Prepare the Room to Acclimate Laminate Flooring Better
Before actually starting acclimating the laminate flooring to the room where it will be installed, it’s important to assess first the conditions of the area. The room should have a stable humidity and temperature at all times. Check if there are any heating or cooling vents. Check if the room contains windows that allow outside air to enter or the heat of the sun to shine through.
If the room has unstable humidity and temperature, and it changes from time to time, laminate flooring might not be the best floor material to use. Any acclimating done beforehand wouldn’t really matter if the laminate floor will be subjected to extreme humidity and temperature changes. The planks will continuously swell or contract depending on the current conditions that are occurring. These continuous movements may also damage the flooring eventually.
A small difference in temperature and humidity changes are okay though and would not impact the laminate flooring that much. Laminate floorings are made to resist little changes in the environment. What would have a big impact will be extreme changes from hot to cold or from very humid to dry air.
What you would want is a more stable room in terms of humidity and temperature. Also, it’s also important to keep in mind that if there’s a big difference between the indoor and outside conditions, try not to open the window, and letting outside air in. Although changes with the flooring doesn’t happen instantly, it still is best to avoid it.
Each manufacturer will have their own set of instructions and standards that they recommend when acclimating their laminate flooring products and it would be best to follow their advice in most cases.
To give you an idea, the following are one manufacturer’s recommendations when preparing the room, before you start acclimating the laminate flooring:
- The room should have a constant temperature between 64 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit, or between 17 and 30 degrees Celcius.
- The floor should not be less than 59 degrees Fahrenheit or 15 degrees Celcius.
- The humidity level in the room should be between 25% and 70%. You can use a hygrometer to get measurements for this. Most digital thermometers already come with a hygrometer reading as well.
- If you’re installing the laminate floor on a newly constructed concrete slab, let the concrete cure for at least 60 days prior to acclimation.
- Paintworks on walls, ceiling or woodworks should be cured for at least 3 days prior to laminate floor acclimation.
- If the floor has built-in radiant heat, it should be turned on at 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 26 degrees Celcius for three days prior to acclimation.
Once you have prepared the room, and the humidity and temperature levels are stable, that’s the only time you can start to acclimate the laminate flooring.
How to Acclimate Laminate Flooring
Again, each manufacturer has their own recommendations for acclimating their laminate flooring products and would be best to follow them. Below are general guidelines that are common to most manufacturers though that you can follow.
After making sure that the room has stable levels of humidity and temperature, start placing the carton boxes in the middle of the floor. Lay them flat side by side. Opening the boxes are not necessary at this point and should be kept closed.
Keep the boxes away from the exterior walls. They should be at least 3 feet from the outside walls. Also, keep them away from any heating and cooling vents as well.
They need to sit in the room for at least 48 to 72 hours, or 2 -3 days. This will give the planks enough time to adjust to the room’s humidity levels and temperature.
Make sure to acclimate all your laminate flooring planks at the same time. This will allow the planks to become unified and adjust equally at the same time.
After the 48-72 hours have passed, the installation of the laminate flooring can then be done.
So again, just to reiterate, it’s best to read the manufacturer’s instructions on acclimating their own product. Each has their own recommendations.
Below you’ll find a short video of how to acclimate laminate flooring from one of the manufacturers.