Laminate flooring can be an easy way to update the appearance of your home completely. These easy-to-install planks can give you a similar look to natural wood floors, or they can even mimic the look of tile or stone. If you’re ready to take on this DIY project, you may have heard that you need to acclimate the laminate to your home before installing.
Laminate flooring needs to acclimate for at least 48 hours in the location where it will be installed. Some manufacturers recommend as long as 72 hours, so it’s important to check the specifications for your product. Laminate flooring that’s not acclimated can warp or shrink after installation.
Throughout the rest of this article, I’ll explain a few topics related to this question in great detail, including how temperature and humidity can affect laminate flooring and other steps you should take to prepare for installing your new floors. I’ll also discuss some tips to help you avoid other common issues associated with laminate flooring.
Why Should You Acclimate Laminate Flooring?
You should acclimate laminate flooring as these planks are manufactured in a variety of environments. If laminate is manufactured and stored in one type of environment and then installed in a much warmer or cooler room, the sudden temperature change could cause the materials to expand or contract.
Though laminate is not entirely made of wood, it does contain some wood-like materials that can respond to fluctuations in temperature and moisture levels. This is because fluctuations in relative humidity and temperature can cause stress on certain materials.
Acclimating the laminate allows for these changes to occur before the flooring is installed, reducing the chances of damage. Once the laminate has adjusted to the temperature and humidity levels in the room, it will be ready to install.
How To Acclimate Laminate Flooring
To acclimate laminate flooring, you should bring the boxes into the installation area and spread them out around the room. You don’t need to open the boxes or remove the materials, but you can if you want. Avoid stacking the packages along exterior walls.
Before installing your new flooring, it’s essential to bring the materials into the environment where they’ll be installed. This should be at least 48 hours before installation, but it can be longer. Some manufacturer specifications call for 72 hours for acclimation, so it’s important to check for these instructions and follow them to avoid any potential problems.
Preparing To Acclimate
If you live in an area with cold winters and have a radiant heating system, you should turn it on and set the temperature to 80°F (26°C). It’s best to do this starting 2-3 days before the acclimation process.
Here are some recommendations for getting ready to install your new flooring:
- Keep the temperature constant, between 65-85°F (17-30°C).
- Ensure the temperature of the floor is at least 59°F (15°C) at all times.
- Humidity should be between 30%-70% and held constant.
- Make sure that any fresh paint has cured for at least three days.
- If the laminate is being installed on a freshly poured concrete slab, ensure that it’s fully cured (at least 60 days) before starting the acclimation.
To check the ambient temperature and ensure that the humidity is at the appropriate level, I recommend a digital thermometer and humidity gauge, like this one by ThermoPro (available on Amazon).
Can You Stack Laminate Flooring To Acclimate?
You should not stack laminate flooring to acclimate it. The goal is to expose all the planks to the room’s typical temperature and humidity levels, so it’s better to have air circulation around each box.
After completing the room preparations, you can bring the cases of laminate planks into the room where they’re being installed. Again, you should always follow the manufacturer’s specifications for this process, but there are some basic tips and guidelines that you can follow.
You should lay out the boxes flat on their back, spaced out across the middle of the room. You do not need to open the boxes, but it will not hurt anything if you choose to do so. Do not stack or line the boxes up along exterior walls because this may create a temperature fluctuation.
You should also avoid placing boxes on top of or very close to HVAC vents or in direct sunlight from windows. Remember, the goal is for the temperature to remain as consistent as possible throughout the process.
After at least 48 hours (or more if possible), you should be able to install your flooring without problems. Ensure that all of your boxes of flooring are acclimated at the same time so that they will be evenly adjusted and ready to install.
What Happens if Laminate Does Not Acclimate?
If laminate does not acclimate, your laminate flooring before your installation, the planks could shrink or expand with variations in the room’s temperature and humidity. These changes could cause your new floors to have gaps, warp, or buckle as the planks expand and contract.
There’s a reason that manufacturers specify that laminate flooring needs to acclimate before installation. This is an important step that you shouldn’t skip.
Even if your installation goes smoothly and the planks look perfect when the job is complete, the changes may occur later. Problems may include:
- Peaking – This happens when two laminate planks expand and push together at the seam, causing a peak that you may be able to see and feel.
- Gaps – The opposite of a peak, this occurs when two planks separate at the seams due to shrinking. Gaps are unsightly and can collect dirt and debris, allow moisture to get underneath flooring, and make planks more prone to chipping and peeling.
- Warping – Shrinking or expansion that isn’t obvious to the naked eye could still leave small gaps where moisture can get under the planks, causing boards to warp or buckle.
- Creaking – Planks that expand or shrink may no longer fit together correctly, or they may push against one another, causing uneven spots. This could lead to creaky floors due to excessive movement between planks.
Does Vinyl Flooring Need To Acclimate?
You don’t typically need to acclimate vinyl flooring before installing it, but you will likely need to do additional prep work. Vinyl planks are much thinner than laminate, so you’ll need to make sure the subfloor is completely flat before installing the flooring.
Because vinyl and laminate flooring are very similar, many people consider both options when choosing a product for their project. Both laminate and vinyl come in planks or boards that snap together and lay directly over the subfloor.
Laminate flooring contains wood fibers, making them more susceptible to moisture than vinyl. Because of this distinction, you may wonder if vinyl flooring needs to acclimate before installation.
So, while you’d save some time on the acclimation process, you’d also need to spend time preparing the subfloor to lay vinyl planks. The type of flooring that you choose really comes down to your personal preference, so don’t let the acclimation period deter you from laminate if you like the look and feel.
Let the laminate flooring planks acclimate in the room where they’re going to be laid for at least 48 hours. However, check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the exact time frame.
Prep the room by ensuring that the temperature and humidity are consistent and within the acceptable range before starting the acclimation process. Don’t skip this step, or else you’ll only be creating more work for yourself later if the boards expand or contract and cause unsightly damage. Repairing it means tearing up the laminate and re-installing the flooring.