Prevent surface water from damaging your engineered wood or laminate floor

As a professional installer of over 15 years, I’ve seen a lot of engineered and laminate floors damaged by water and clients unnecessarily needing to replace their wood floor covering. In this article I’ll be looking at one pre-emptive method to prevent water from damaging your wood floor covering..This article looks at a method to be used while the floor is being installed and does not cover wood floors that are already damaged..

Surface water damage of wood floors is great. It’s one of the things that’s kept a shirt on my back and pads on my knees over the years. If it wasn’t for repairs and replacements, I would’ve lost a good 30% of my income. Ooops, did I just write that?

Ok, so in reality it’s not the type of work I enjoy. Replacing a wood based floor when it shouldn’t need replacing is a pretty soul destroying task. What a waste!!

Water damaged laminateOver mopping, spills and leaks are the main contributor’s of surface water damage of any wood floor. Once the damage has been done, the wood floor rarely, if ever, goes back to normal. Remember, engineered and laminate floors are made, not grown. They’re put together using adhesives with different types of wood based fibres and layers that all react in their own way towards water.

Soak a piece of high density fibreboard (which is the main ingredient when making laminate floors) in water and it will swell by almost a third of it’s original size. With a laminate floor we generally see this effect as the classic joint swell (pictured above). Further down the line as the water and pressure of the swelling start to aid in de-bonding and expanding the laminate surface, you may see large chips appear at the edges. Not forgetting the damp musty smell as the retained water struggles to dry and stagnates. Now with opened swelled joins, every time you clean the floor, it’s taking on more and more water. The bacteria that grows is probably the worst part.

Although engineered floors tend to be very structurally stable and can take a good deal of atmospheric change, surface water can still effect them in much the same way as a laminate with all the same associated problems.

How does the water get into the floor to damage it?

A large majority of wood floors in our day and age are manufactured with a cleverly designed mechanism to join each wood floor plank together and keep them together. We would refer to this as the locking mechanism. Now, 90% of the time these locking mechanism’s are designed with no way to seal the surface. The sales pitch would go something like this ‘glue free wood flooring’. Who want’s to be messing around with glue or water resistant glue for that matter, right?

If you know nothing about how water behaves, let me share something with you. It gets everywhere and anywhere! If you do know how water behaves, I’m sure you’ll agree with me. If the conditions are right, it’ll stay around for as long as it can. Although it may sound like it, I’m not trying to make water out to be the villain here. I like water, it keeps me alive.

Water on locking system joinNow, with the locking mechanism being unsealed in most instances, the only factor that many can rely on is the tightness of the locking mechanism when it’s fitted together. The tighter the locking system the longer it takes for water to seep through to the core and the idea is that, the water should have evaporated before it can do any damage. If you’d been installing wood and laminate floors for over 15 years, you’d know that you’d need a pretty big budget to get a floor that holds together super tight throughout it’s life. Even in the most expensive floors, very slight gaps can be present, and certainly enough for water to make it’s way into given half the chance. Plus a super tight joint is still a joint. As I mentioned earlier, that pesky water will get anywhere.

A lot of manufacturers will offer you some comfort when purchasing your new floor. Look out for buzz words like ‘splash resistance’, ‘splash protection’, ‘treated core’. You should be aware that these are all very broad terms and open to interpretation with counter phrases like ‘well, we didn’t say 100% water proof!!’. Although the flooring you buy may have a higher tolerance to water, no wood based floor covering is completely resistant to water. I think I’ve just used one of them buzz words..

Now with the clear majority of wood and laminate floors having no way to stop water and a need by you the consumer, to have a wood floor that is both beautiful and practical, we get to the point of this article.

What pre-emptive method can I use to protect my wood floor from becoming damaged by surface water?

Seal the locking mechanism!! I’ve used joint sealer’s in bathroom’s, kitchen’s, hallway, lounges and many commercial premises etc and it works a treat.

Any sealing product does take longer to install. Applying a bead on each tongue of every board can add up. So if you’re paying a professional installer to do the job, expect to add a little to the price. I’d say slightly under half a day extra on an average size installation of around 25 square metres.

Most sealer’s don’t glue the locking system together. So if you ever need to lift the floor, that option is still available.

Applying click guard to laminate locking systemSo now you may be thinking that the price is adding up. Well, most locking mechanism sealer’s are CHEAP! At only a few pounds to cover around 10 square metre’s I’ve never understood why it isn’t simply given away by most suppliers. Why not give yourself that peace of mind when you’re spending a small fortune on a wood floor.

Although, nothing in this world is 100% guaranteed, everyone can greatly improve their odds by using the right products and a little common sense!!

Now you’ve found one of the best method’s of helping prevent your gorgeous floor from becoming a disaster. It’s time to find out more about wood floor joint guard.

© Copyright 2013 Wes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Fitmywoodfloor

I am a Pergo trained professional installer of 20 years. I've been up close and personal with lots of floors and have the knobbly knees to show for it...Should you have any questions or comments please feel free to add them below. Thanks for taking the time to call by and I hope the information you've found has given you some insight!........................................................................................................................................................................“When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in the site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network,,,,,,, affiliate window network.” This statement is to comply with current internet regulations regarding transparency to consumers.

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