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Why Is My Vinyl Plank Flooring Buckling?

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

Why Is My Vinyl Plank Flooring Buckling?

The number one reason a vinyl plank floor will buckle is not having enough of an expansion area around the perimeter of the room. Each product manufacturer requires a specific size expansion area in their installation instructions. Vinyl plank flooring will expand and contract, depending on the outside weather and humidity levels in the room. Installers need to follow the manufacturer installation guidelines.

Why Is My Vinyl Plank Flooring Buckling?

What Are Some Of The Major Reasons My Floor Would Buckle?

Not having the recommended size expansion area around the perimeter of the room, is the number one reason why a vinyl plank floor will buckle. As the weather changes, vinyl plank flooring will expand and contract. When sunlight hits the floor, and it gets warmer, the floor will expand a little bit. In the winter, when the floor gets cold, the floor will move in the opposite direction. If the flooring material is installed right up to the wall of the room, there is no place for the floor to move, and it will buckle.

Manufacturers make this very clear in their installation guidelines. For example, let's take Shaw Floors (one of the more popular vinyl plank products), and see what they say in their vinyl plank installation instructions:

"Required perimeter expansion spacing for Floating or Glue Down installation is as follows:
For areas less than 2500 sq ft,use a 1/4" gap For areas larger than 2500 sq ft. use 1/2" gap" - Shaw Floors, Installation Instructions

It is extremely important when installing vinyl plank flooring the installation is performed, following the recommended guidelines in the respective product installation instructions.

Another reason your floor might buckle is due to moisture issues. For example, if you install vinyl plank flooring over concrete, if that concrete has moisture problems, the water could cause the adhesive to release, and the planks might start to buckle.

In some cases, if you drag very heavy objects over your floor, the floor could move and start to buckle. This can easily be avoided and is not a common concern.

One issue that many people forget about is the humidity level in the home. If you allow your home to get too hot, and the humidity jumps past the recommended range, this could cause your floor to buckle. For example, if you live in a climate that gets hot during the summer months, if your power goes out for several days, this could be a huge problem for your flooring. The outside temperature, along with no power, will cause your home's humidity level to rise, and this could damage your flooring.

What Should I Do If My Floor Starts To Buckle?

If you had your floor installed by a retail floor covering store, call them right away. This is especially true if your floor is less than 1 year old. Most companies will carry a 1-year installation warranty. As soon as you recognize a problem, call your store and file a complaint.

With many products, at the time of purchase, you can register your floor on the product's website. Take advantage of this opportunity. The more detailed you are with your purchase, the better.

If you are still covered by an installation warranty, your store should send out someone to look at your floor. Keep in mind the following: stores don't like claims. In many cases, a store will send out your sales representative to look at the problem. Most salespeople are not trained in looking at flooring problems. Be prepared to push your issue to the next level. Sometimes, you have to go past the salesperson and deal directly with the store manager.

If your installation is over 1 year old, we would still recommend calling your retail store. Many stores depend on having a great reputation, and even though the product might not be covered under an existing installation warranty, they might fix it anyway. At the very least, if you have someone look at the problem, they can tell you what is going on.

If a store is going to charge you for doing a repair, unless you plan on replacing the entire floor with something new, then you will probably get stuck with that expense. You might call around and get quotes, but the sooner you can get it fixed, the better. The problem won't go away on its own.

Keep in mind, you also need to understand "why" the buckling is happening. It does no good to have someone fix the problem if the underlying cause will create the same problem again.

It might also be a good idea to call your insurance company. Sometimes, depending on the issue, you might be able to file an insurance claim to help you pay for the repair.

Is Fixing A Buckling Problem Easy?

It really depends on the cause of the problem, and where the problem is happening on the floor. If the problem is caused by a lack of expansion area (around the perimeter of the room), the problem could be a rather big deal. If your product is a click-together installation product, there is just no easy fix. Installers might have to take out an entire section of the floor and re-install the planks. If you have a glue-down product, it might be possible to heat up the damaged board, and repair/replace it.

If the problem is due to concrete moisture, then you will most likely need to take up the entire floor, and re-install (after you fix the moisture problem). Sometimes, installers might be able to add a moisture barrier pad, and then re-install the floor.

If the problem is due to humidity levels, sometimes (if you're lucky), once you get the humidity under control, your floor might relax, and go back to normal. In most cases though, once the damage has occurred, it is there to stay. The longer your problem persists, the less likely it will correct itself.

Regardless of the issue, unless you are a good installer, in most cases, it is best to get a professional installer involved with your repair. It is already an inconvenience to have a problem, the last thing you want to do is not fix the problem the correct way.

If you have boards that are damaged (beyond repair), then having enough material can become an issue. Prior to starting any repair, make sure to check to see if your product color and style is still current product. If your color/style has been discontinued, then you will be looking at replacing your entire floor with something new.

Where Do I Go To Get The Proper Installation Instructions?

If you are installing vinyl plank flooring as a DIY project, you can get the product installation instructions on the company's website. Almost every manufacturer will have a link to download their product installation instructions. Many companies will even have installation videos that you can watch. Most companies also have an 800 phone number that you can call for installation help. Companies go out of their way to help customers with installation issues and concerns.

If you are having a professional install your floor, they should already know the proper installation methods. However, it is always a good idea to ask questions and remind your installer to check the product guidelines for the proper installation procedures. It is also a good idea to review your questions and concerns with your salesperson at the time of purchase. It is always a good idea to give the store the impression that you are a picky customer, and that you will be watching the installation.

One thought about professional installers: if you are having a local store do the installation, your installation warranty will be with that store. You can always pick up the phone, and call the store to discuss any issues. However, if you can save money on installation, and hire an installer on your own, your installation warranty will be with that installer. If that installer retires or moves out of the area...your installation warranty goes with it. In other words, you will be out of luck. Either type of installation is perfectly acceptable, but as the customer, you need to understand the risks.

If you have a project that will require removing existing flooring, wall baseboards and other items, it is always a good idea to get a professional involved. Even if you plan on doing the installation yourself, getting a pro to look at your project can't hurt. You can ask questions, get their point of view, etc... Most stores will offer this service for free.

Conclusion - Why Is My Vinyl Plank Flooring Buckling?

There could be many reasons why a vinyl plank floor starts to buckle. The number one cause is to the movement of the floor. vinyl plank flooring will expand and contract during different seasons of the year. If there is not enough expansion area around the perimeter of the room, this could be the cause.

A second reason that a floor might buckle is moisture issues. Depending on what is causing the moisture, this could be an easy fix, using a moisture barrier pad, or you might need to get a contractor involved to correct a larger issue that is creating the moisture.

A third reason a floor might buckle is due to the humidity in the room. Make sure your home is regulated to the temperature range that is set forth in your product warranty information. If you let your home get too hot, this could damage your floor.

With click-together, vinyl plank flooring, correcting a buckling problem could end up being a larger project than you might think. Even if you only have 1 or 2 boards that are buckling, you might have to take up an entire section of the floor, just to get to those few boards.

Once you start having a problem, it is always a good idea to get a professional installer involved with the repair. In some instances, your installation might still be under warranty, and in other cases, you can at least get another set of eyes on the problem, and get recommendations from a professional installer.

Manufacturers go out of their way to help customers with product installation. You can get a wealth of information on a company's website. Many times you call even call and speak with a manufacturing installation expert on the telephone. Most companies are more than happy to help.

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