Why does my laminate floor feel spongy?

Why does my laminate floor feel spongy?

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Laminate flooring is known for its tough and durable properties – however, sometimes problems such as dipping, bulging or soft spots can occur, making your laminate flooring feel spongy. 

This guide will look at what causes laminate flooring to feel spongy, and what you can do to prevent your laminate floor from feeling spongy in the first place.

What causes spongy laminate flooring?

If you're walking on your laminate floor and suddenly notice an area dipping, feeling squishy, having a soft spot, bulging, or feeling unnaturally spongy, it’s right to be concerned. We would never expect sponginess from Tapi laminate flooring, but if it does happen it could indicate a serious issue, so it certainly deserves attention. 
So why might you have spongy laminate flooring? Four different conditions could be at the root of the trouble: 
  1. An uneven sub-floor
  2. An issue with your underlay
  3. An expansion gap issue
  4. Water damage
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Uneven subfloor issue

When your laminate flooring was installed, your subfloor should have been checked to ensure it was even, dry, and clean. Laminate flooring is very thin, so any unevenness on the subfloor will eventually begin to show as the floor settles into position – you can find out more about this in our ‘What is laminate flooring’ guide. The spongy effect can be caused by a dip in the subfloor causing an air gap underneath the laminate flooring.

An uneven subfloor is most likely to be the culprit for that spongy feeling if the issue is not evenly distributed but confined to specific areas – particularly if you can rule out causes such as water damage if, for instance, the flooring is newly installed. Be particularly suspicious if the trouble spot looks normal to the eye, without lumps or bumps, only flexing underfoot when you tread on it directly. 

A professional contractor can smooth out an uneven subfloor. We wouldn’t recommend trying it yourself – there are too many different types of subfloor, all of which require different approaches depending on the issue at hand!

Underlay issue

Underlay is laid over the subfloor before placing the laminate flooring, to help with sound absorption and impact on the boards. However, when you start to feel that dreaded spongy feeling, it could mean that there is a problem with your underlay. 

The most common way that underlay can cause a spongy-feeling floor is when the wrong type has been used e.g., carpet underlay, which is much thicker and softer than laminate underlay. Creases or overlaps in the underlay can also cause unevenness underneath the laminate boards. 

Unfortunately, this type of issue will mean that you have to take up all your laminate flooring and correct either the alignment of the underlay or replace the underlay itself, before reinstalling your laminate boards on top again. Again, we would recommend you have a professional do this to minimise the possibility of damage to your laminate flooring.

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Expansion gap issue

Laminate flooring needs room to expand and contract, to “breathe” with temperature and humidity changes. When your laminate flooring was fitted, there should have been an expansion gap left around the edges of the entire room, up to half an inch in most cases. Without this gap, there’s nowhere for any expansion in the laminate boards to go, so it’s forced upwards, causing bubbles, shifting and instability underfoot. 

To tell if this is the issue you’re facing, step on the bulging/spongy board and see if the problem travels across the boards in a wave as if rippling as you walk. This means that the problem is causing the pressure to shift between boards because there isn’t sufficient release at the edges. 

If this is the problem, the answer is to create the missing expansion gap by trimming off a little of the laminate around the perimeter of the room. As this doesn’t require the laminate itself to be taken up, theoretically it’s possible to do this yourself if you have the right tools (i.e., safety equipment and a multi-tool with a circular blade). However, we’d strongly advise calling in a professional instead. Any skirting boards or scotia will have to be removed and re-installed after you’re done, which can damage both the woodwork itself and your plaster.

Water damage

Squishy or spongy flooring can sometimes be a sign of water damage, either to the boards themselves or the subfloor. This is often caused by using too much water on the laminate to clean it, such as using a sopping wet mop or steam mop, which damages the wooden core of the laminate boards. It’s best practice to ensure that you look after your laminate flooring by only using slightly damp mops or cloths to clean it. You can find more information on how to keep your laminate flooring in great condition for longer using our laminate flooring care guide.

Alternatively, water damage can be caused by circumstances beyond your control, such as burst pipes or flooding.  

Unfortunately, damaged laminate boards need to be replaced – they cannot be used again as they won’t be strong enough to act as safe and solid flooring. The priority is to address the cause of your water damage – whether by fixing a burst pipe or installing a new moisture barrier under your laminate boards. Ensure that your subfloor and joists are not damaged as this is integral to building a new floor. This work is best left to a professional team to ensure that the structural integrity of your home and floor are not compromised. If you think your spongy laminate could be down to water damage, then have a read on our guide on how to find out if your flooring needs replacing.

How to prevent your laminate floor from feeling spongy

Laminate flooring should feel sturdy and durable (at least if you buy good quality laminate flooring like those available at Tapi!) and never spongy, so the best way to avoid spongy laminate flooring is to begin by buying good quality laminate! 

Once you have your laminate flooring, the best way to prevent it from going spongy is to ensure that your subfloor is checked for suitability first and that the laminate is then installed correctly.  Our flooring installation experts here at Tapi can come round to your place for a free home visit to check out the suitability of your subfloor and how they can go about installing laminate flooring for you. 

You can keep your flooring in great condition and avoid a spongy laminate floor by maintaining it correctly. Remember – don’t oversaturate your laminate floors during cleaning! 

After reading this, you may be wondering if your laminate floor feels spongy, or if there may be a different problem – you can read our guides on ‘Why does my laminate floor feel bouncy?’ or ‘Why are my laminate boards lifting?’ if these are more applicable. Alternatively, you can check out our amazing range of laminate flooring if you’re considering shaking up your look and giving yourself the peace of mind that your flooring will be of great quality and installed professionally!

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Published: 01-06-2022