Laminate flooring is a popular option due to its resilience and durability, particularly when it comes to resisting wear-and-tear damage. But that doesn’t mean that water under your laminate floor isn’t a problem. If you don’t dry laminate floor with moisture under it quickly, you could end up with subfloor damage, mold, and other issues.
Drying laminate flooring with water under it is a multi-step process. You’ll need to remove the flooring, disinfect and dry each piece, clean and dry the subfloor, and reinstall the flooring. However, if it’s damaged, replacing it might be your only option.
By understanding how to dry laminate flooring with water underneath it, you can address the issue before bigger problems emerge. If you aren’t sure how to begin, here’s what you need to know.
Are Laminate Floors Water Resistant?
Generally speaking, laminate floors are somewhat water-resistant. While laminate doesn’t traditionally come with any waterproof coatings, the liquids won’t penetrate it immediately. The top layer of the flooring is designed to resist water and spills. In most cases, you have a little time to address spills or water leaks, but you want to act quickly to avoid damage.
How long you have depends on the product line. Some are more resilient, preventing spills from soaking in for longer than other versions. Additionally, certain newer laminate flooring product lines come with more water-resistant features and may even be waterproof.
However, any laminate that isn’t waterproof can be damaged by spills and leaks that aren’t addressed reasonably fast. Usually, the main issue isn’t water on the center surface of the laminate floorboards. Instead, it’s when the liquid can seep into the locking system along the edges. When that happens, warping, cupping, and buckling can occur.
Can Laminate Flooring Get Wet?
The top layer of laminate flooring can get wet, but you do want to address the water or spill quickly. If fluids reach the seams and penetrate into the locking system, damage can occur with surprising speed. Additionally, even if the water remains in the center of the boards, it can potentially soak in if given enough time.
Several issues can arise once water gets under the laminate flooring or manages to soak into the board. The material can start to bend, warp, or buckle. Additionally, it may allow any glue or underlying material to start breaking down, and the space under your flooring can also become a breeding ground for mold.
What Happens If Water Gets Under Laminate Flooring?
When water gets under laminate flooring, it begins to soak into the boards. While the top layer of laminate floors is water-resistant, the materials underneath often aren’t. As a result, water or other fluids can penetrate the board, causing it to swell and warp. Boards may begin to buckle, causing some to pop up and out of place. Bulging, cupping, twisting, and undulations may all be visible on the surface, too.
Additionally, the water can lead to delamination. As the underlying material is saturated, the various layers of the laminate begin to pull apart. Once that starts to occur, the floorboards can become irreparably damaged in fairly short order.
Also, since there isn’t much airflow under laminate flooring, moisture can remain trapped. Along with further damage to the floorboards, it creates a breeding ground for mold and mildew.
The water can also harm the materials under the laminate. This can include any padding and the subfloor, leaving you with far more damage to address.
While laminate flooring isn’t necessarily ruined if it gets wet, damage to the laminate can occur within two to four hours of water getting under the boards and can progress quickly. You need to act immediately if you want to salvage the floorboards and preserve the underlying materials, removing the moisture as fast as possible to ensure it doesn’t harm the flooring.
Will Water Under Laminate Drying Out on Its Own?
While water under laminate may eventually dry out on its own, it’ll typically cause damage before that occurs. If you try to wait, the odds are relatively high that irreparable damage will occur to at least some of your floorboards.
Additionally, the delay increases your odds of ending up with mold. Mold can be catastrophic in your home. Along with potentially spreading quickly, mold is bad for your health. Cleaning up mold can also require specialists depending on the type, making it an expensive problem to fix.
Plus, the trapped moisture can damage any padding and your subfloor. If your subfloor is harmed, replacing the water-damaged areas is a cumbersome task. Since you may need a professional to handle the issue, it can be quite expensive to repair, too.
How to Dry Laminate Flooring with Water Under It
If you need to figure out how to dry laminate flooring with water under it, the process is lengthy but straightforward. Here’s a look at a step-by-step approach for drying laminate with moisture underneath it.
1. Clean Up Surface Moisture
If there is any water on the outside surface of your laminate flooring, clean it up immediately. That will help ensure that no more moisture ends up under your floorboards.
In most cases, dry cloth or towel is enough to address spills or puddles on the surface. If there is a significant amount of liquid, don’t push the cloth into it as you clean. If you do, you may direct the water toward a seam, allowing more to seep under your flooring.
Instead, place the cloth directly onto the spill and let it soak into it without pushing. While you might need more towels using this approach, it may reduce your odds of getting more water under your boards.
If the water is deep, then you may need more robust equipment. Getting a wet vac or water pump can allow you to suck up standing water. Once you have most of it removed, you can switch to the cloth method above.
2. Bring in Dehumidifiers or Large Fans
Dehumidifiers and fans can help dry out the space. With a dehumidifier, the machine actively pulls moisture out of the air. Fans improve air circulation, accelerating drying. Not only can this speed up the cleanup process, but it can also help combat mold and mildew.
3. Turn Up the Heat
Another step you can take to accelerate the drying process is turning up the heat. Whether that means kicking your HVAC system up a notch or bringing a space heater into the area, adding warmth can help the moisture evaporate quicker.
4. Remove the Floorboards
Your next step is to remove the floorboards. Usually, you’ll need to start from the wall on the groove side of the board. Remove the trim and carefully pull up one board at a time. Once you have the first row removed, the rest will be easier to pick up.
If you start removing boards at a spot that wasn’t impacted by the water leak or spill, set those in a separate spot from those that were. That way, those boards can remain dry.
5. Dry the Wet Flooring
Once you’ve removed all of the flooring with water under it, you need those boards to dry. Set them near the dehumidifier or fan to accelerate the process. Additionally, make sure you keep those boards flat. Otherwise, they may warp.
Whether a bend makes a board unusable will depend on its severity. In some cases, all a warp will do is make reinstallation more difficult. However, if the bend is significant, reinstalling that floorboard could harm other boards near it. As a result, replacing it could be your better option.
6. Clean Up the Underlayment
Most laminate floors are installed over an underlayment, giving the flooring some padding. If yours has an underlayment, you’ll want to clean up the surface, removing any water.
Next, cleaning the underlayment is usually a good idea. Depending on the kind of spill, you may want to start with an ammonia-free dish soap and water mixture. That can break down grease or sticky substances, making them easier to remove. Once you’ve done that, wait for it to dry. Then, reclean it with a bleach solution to address any mold or mildew.
After that, you may need to remove the underlayment, as well. While the pads are usually water-resistant, they aren’t all waterproof. If you don’t look underneath, you may be leaving moisture behind, increasing your odds of damage and mold.
Additionally, if the underlayment is damaged, replacing it could be a must. Along with protecting your subfloor, the padding reduces noise and makes your flooring more comfortable underfoot. If you doubt its condition or the tape attaching the pieces together is compromised, get new underlayment.
7. Dry and Disinfect the Subfloor
Once the underlayment is out of the way, you’ll need to tackle the subfloor. Use a dry cloth to address any standing water. Make sure to soak up the fluid instead of pushing it around, ensuring moisture doesn’t reach parts of the subfloor that are currently dry.
After that, you’ll want to disinfect the subfloor. Depending on the type of spill, you may need to clean it first. For example, if the spill was something other than water, you may want to begin with some ammonia-free dish soap and warm water. That way, you can address the spill first.
Once the initial cleaning is done, you’ll want to switch to a bleach solution. Bleach can prevent mold and mildew, as well as tackle odors. After scrubbing the area with the bleach solution, use a dry cloth to remove as much moisture as possible. Then, leave the subfloor exposed so that it can dry.
If the moisture has been in place for some time and you see signs of damage to your subfloor, replacing it could be necessary. Warping, delamination, penetrating or extensive mold, and similar issues all indicate possible damage.
Since the subfloor is the foundation of your walkable area, it’s better to ensure it’s in good shape. As a result, you may want to call in a professional to evaluate the situation.
8. Disinfect the Floorboards
Once the floorboards are all dry, you’ll want to disinfect them. Start with an ammonia-free dish soap and water mixture and avoid soaking them as you clean. Next, dry them with a clean towel. Then, use a bleach solution to disinfect.
As you clean, inspect the laminate for signs of damage. For example, delamination, bulging, cupping, or significant warping could all indicate that the board is too damaged to reuse. Separate those boards from the ones that are in reasonable shape. That way, you can see how much new flooring you may need if all of the boards aren’t salvageable.
At this point, give the laminate flooring time to dry again. You want to make sure that all moisture is gone before you begin reinstalling it.
9. Put Down the Underlayment
Whether you’re using new underlayment or what you had previously, you’ll need to set it back into place before you reinstall your flooring. Since underlayment floats, you won’t need any glue. However, you will need to make sure that the adhesive and tape are keeping the pieces together.
If you’re trying to reuse your old underlayment, you’ll want to check where the pad sticks to the wall and the attachment points between each piece. If they are in good shape, you’ll just need to reposition your underlayment until it’s back in place.
With new underlayment, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. Usually, you’ll apply the first piece onto one wall, running it a few inches above the floor. Once that piece is in place, you’ll attach the next using the adhesive strip. Continue that process until you reach the opposing wall.
10. Reinstall Your Laminate Flooring
Once the underlayment is in place, you can reinstall your laminate flooring. Usually, the process is simple. The boards have tabs that fit into slots on adjoining boards.
You may want to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions when reinstalling as a precaution. However, most laminate floors work similarly, so that may not be necessary.
If all of your flooring is reusable, you can simply put each board in the same position it was in previously, eliminating the need for any cutting. However, if you have to introduce new floorboards, you may need to trim them down depending on the floorboards they replace.
11. Put Your Trim Back
After reinstalling the flooring, you’ll need to put any removed trim back in place. Typically, that just requires a few finish nails and a hammer. Once that’s done, your project is finished.
How Long Does Drying Laminate Flooring Take?
When you’re trying to figure out how to dry laminate flooring with water under it, it’s normal to have questions about the drying time. Once the boards are removed, and large fans or dehumidifiers are running, you may need to wait anywhere between 12 and 36 hours.
Several factors lead to a variance of that size. The exact materials in the flooring, relative humidity, current temperature, and degree of saturation all play a role. Additionally, the kinds of fans or dehumidifiers you use also alter the equation.
It’s important to note that laminate flooring with moisture underneath can take weeks to dry if the floorboards aren’t removed. Since a significant amount of damage can occur in that time, it’s never a good idea to leave the flooring down if there’s water trapped below it.
Does Water Under Laminate Cause Mold?
Water under laminate can cause mold. Exactly how fast it can occur depends on the kind of water involved. For tap water from a pipe leak, overflowing sink, or similar problem, mold can grow in 24 to 48 hours. If you’re dealing with groundwater flooding or sewage, it may begin in just 12 hours.
For other kinds of fluids, the timeline can vary. However, all moisture has the potential to spur mold growth. As a result, you need to address it quickly if you want to prevent a mold issue.
Signs of Water Damage on Laminate Flooring
There are many signs of water damage on laminate flooring. Some of the most common ones include:
- Musty Odors
- Soft Spots
Any of those issues indicate that something is wrong. Along with potentially pointing to water damage, they could be signs of other problems. For example, improper installation and foundation issues could cause some of those issues, as well. Since those signs point to potentially serious issues, you should address the situation immediately to determine the cause.
How to Repair Laminate Flooring Water Damage
Generally speaking, laminate flooring with water damage isn’t repairable. If delamination, cracking, discoloration, significant warping, soft spots, and similar issues are present; you’re better off replacing the boards.
If you have a board that might be salvageable, drying it out is the first step you need to take. That will let you gauge its condition and determine if replacing the board is necessary. If it’s reusable, simply use the process above to continue with the repair. If not, then you’ll want to get a new floorboard.
How to Prevent Water Damage on Laminate Flooring
There are a few main options to prevent water damage on laminate flooring. First, cleaning up spills and leaks quickly is a bit part of the equation. When the water doesn’t have a chance to sit on the surface of the flooring, the odds of it getting underneath the floorboards decline. But even if it gets below the flooring, addressing the situation fast makes irreparable water damage less likely.
If you’re looking for a proactive option, you could apply a sealant. However, many options aren’t compatible with laminate, so you’ll want to read the manufacturer’s labels to see if a suitable product is available.
Otherwise, installing a waterproof laminate floor is your best bet. It’s explicitly designed to keep water out in most situations. However, there’s always a chance that a catastrophic event like a flood could allow water underneath, so keep that in mind.
Ultimately, if you were trying to figure out how to dry laminate flooring with water under it, there’s a pretty straightforward process for addressing the situation. By removing the moisture quickly, you can reduce the odds of damage. Otherwise, you may need to replace the laminate and potentially repair the subfloor and might get stuck dealing with mold.
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