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Does Laminate Flooring Need to Acclimate?

Laminate flooring is a popular flooring option for homeowners all around the world.

Not only does it have the same look and feel as high-end hardwood flooring, but it’s a fraction of the price, as well as being more durable, easier to care for, and easier to install.

A significant and often overlooked step in the installation process of laminate flooring is acclimation.

The process of acclimating laminate flooring is sometimes seen as a daunting task, mainly because most people don’t fully understand what it involves.

Although it may sound like a complicated procedure, acclimating laminate flooring is a surprisingly simple process that even novice DIYers or homeowners can carry out with a bit of instruction, and that’s what we’ll be covering in this article.

Laminate flooring will need to acclimate before installation, and the process takes between 2-3 days. Acclimation allows the laminate’s fiberboard core to adjust to the temperature and humidity of the room. By skipping acclimation, you risk the floor shrinking or splitting after being fitted.

Read on to learn more about acclimation, including what would happen to your floor if you decided to bypass this process and how to acclimate your laminate flooring step-by-step to prevent any costly issues.

What Is Acclimation?

Acclimation is the process in which an organism adjusts to a new environment or conditions, and this could apply to plants, animals, humans, and materials such as wood, metal, and glass.

A change in environment could be an adjustment in temperature, altitude, humidity or climate.

Like solid hardwood flooring, laminate flooring will adjust to its new environment and will need some time to settle into its new conditions.

For example, if you lived in the Scottish highlands where conditions are cold, damp and brisk, and you went away on holiday to explore the rainforest in South America, it would take you a little bit of time to get accustomed to the change in conditions.

Laminate flooring works similarly in the sense that the conditions within the flooring dealership or manufacturer warehouse will more than likely be cold and damp. From there, you’ll transport it back to your home warm and dry home.

This change in condition will cause the laminate to contract, which will leave your flooring with gaps where the panels pull apart from one another.

Why Does Laminate Flooring Need to Acclimate?

Like hardwood flooring, laminate flooring is porous, which means that it has minute pores which allow air or liquid to pass through.

As with all materials, the process of humid air passing through the core of the laminate causes it to expand, whereas dry, cool air passing through will cause the laminate floor to contract.

While the expansion and contraction movements will be small in most cases, it can still cause the floor to buckle or shrink to reveal unsightly gaps.

By acclimating your laminate flooring before installation, you allow the material to respond to its new environment, which in turn should prevent any movement issues after laying the floor.

It should only take 2-3 days for the laminate floor to expand or contract fully and for the acclimation process to be complete, giving you peace of mind that the finished floor should be gap and buckle free (provided it’s correctly fitted, of course!).

What Happens if I Don’t Acclimate Laminate Flooring?

Unfortunately, there will be many home renovators out there who have learnt the hard way by skipping the acclimation process.

Even the slightest amount of expansion or contraction can affect the overall finish of laminate flooring, which is why it’s essential to let it acclimate before installation to avoid this from happening.

To lay laminate flooring, you need to slot or lock the boards into place, as shown below – there is no need for grout, adhesive or mortar.

an image showing the joints on laminate flooring boards

If the laminate’s core starts to contract, the boards will shrink slightly to leave unsightly gaps between the joints. It isn’t just gaps that you need to be concerned with, though, as any shrinkage can also apply excess pressure to the joints between the laminate boards, risking breakage.

Similarly, if the core expands in a more humid environment, the laminate flooring can swell in size, putting pressure on the joints and causing the boards to buckle, warp, crack or split.

How Long Does Laminate Flooring Need to Acclimate?

Most manufacturers will specify the acclimation time, and if they do, you must adhere to it because ignoring their advice is likely to void your floor’s warranty.

The average length of time you need to acclimate your laminate flooring is usually between 48-72 hours, with this being from the point the flooring arrives in the room you’ll be installing it in, not from when you purchase it.

It’s important to note that some manufacturers might not specifically mention the need to acclimate a type of laminate floor, or they may play down the importance of this process because the floor isn’t solid wood.

We’d caution that the fiberboard core of a laminate floor reacts similarly to solid hardwood flooring, and so it’s still essential to allow sufficient time for acclimation before installing a laminate floor.

For successful acclimation to occur, the temperature and humidity within the laminate flooring need to match the temperature and humidity of the room.

By laying the laminate flooring flat on the floor in the room you will install in it for two to three days, the boards will have enough time to acclimate to the new surroundings and adjust to the room’s temperature and humidity before installation.

If you’re undergoing a large home renovation project and aren’t yet ready to install your laminate flooring, we’d recommend storing it somewhere indoors, for example, in a garage, provided the climate is relatively mild. The acclimation process will start once you’ve moved the laminate flooring to wherever you plan to install it.

How Do You Acclimate Laminate Flooring?

Here’s a brief overview of the acclimation process:

  1. Lay the sealed packs of laminate flooring flat on the floor of the room where you will be installing them; there is no need to unwrap them yet.
  2. Avoid leaning the flooring against a wall, as this can cause the boards to bend and warp.
  3. Ensure the humidity and temperature in the room are stable and as close as possible to the levels that will be present after installing the floor. For example, if it’s winter, the heating should be on at the level it will be when you’re using the space.
  4. Swiss Krono, a manufacturer of laminate flooring, recommends maintaining the following for its products:

    Ambient Room Temperature

    Between 64-86℉

    Floor Temperature

    No less than 59℉

    Room Humidity

    Between 25-70%

  5. Ensure there is sufficient space around the flooring for air to circulate through it, for example, by not stacking the unopened boxes of laminate flooring too close together and by keeping them away from walls.
  6. Place the laminate flooring in the center of the room away from any exterior walls (the temperature will likely fluctuate more in areas next to exterior walls).
  7. After 2-3 days, the laminate flooring will be sufficiently acclimated and ready for you to start the installation process.

It’s important to note that you should acclimate the entirety of your laminate floor at the same time, meaning that you’ll need to order enough materials from the outset (the general rule of that is that you’ll need around 10% more than the total floor area to account for wastage).

If you can’t schedule for the entirety of your laminate floor to arrive at once, you can store your laminate flooring somewhere with a mild climate, for example, your garage, while you wait for the rest of the materials to arrive.

It’s also worth pointing out that acclimation must take place in the area of installation. That means if you are installing the laminate flooring in the dining room, then it needs to acclimate in the dining room.

You should also ensure that any decorating, painting, and plastering is complete for at least three days before starting the acclimation process, as each of these can lead to the presence of extra moisture in the room.

Wherever you choose to acclimate your laminate floor, the environment needs to be as stable as possible. To help achieve this, we’d recommend keeping the windows and doors closed to maintain as close to a constant temperature and humidity as possible.

If you’re unsure how long your laminate floor needs to acclimate and you can’t find any specific guidance from the manufacture, we’d recommend leaving it for at least 72 hours and perhaps adding a few extra hours to play it safe.

Do You Need to Unwrap Laminate Flooring While It Acclimates?

Laminate flooring usually comes in a shrink-wrapped pack.

In most cases, manufacturers recommend leaving your laminate boards in the shrink-wrapped pack during the acclimation process; you don’t need to open the shrink-wrapping or remove the contents for the flooring to acclimate fully.

We’d recommend reading the instructions or guidance that comes with your flooring, however, in case the manufacturer has recommended a different process.

Can You Stack Laminate Flooring to Acclimate?

Provided the laminate flooring remains flat, you can stack the boards while they are acclimating.

Keeping your laminate flooring in its original shrink-wrapped packaging, lay the packs on a flat surface and stack them in a grid formation across one another, as shown below.

The grid formation will keep the packs of flooring supported while letting air flow freely over and around them to let the acclimation process occur.

an example image showing how to stack laminate flooring during acclimation

You should avoid stacking your laminate boards upright, leaning them against a wall or placing other items on top of them, as this will cause them to bend out of shape.

If you have any boards left over, it’s sometimes handy to keep them in case the flooring gets damaged in the future and needs replacing.

We recommend storing leftover laminate flooring somewhere safe like an attic, garage, crawl space or storage cupboard and ensure they remain flat so they don’t warp. It’s also a good idea to protect them from dust and moisture by wrapping them in an old blanket or plastic sheet, meaning they’ll be as good as new should you need them later.

How Long Should You Acclimate Laminate Flooring Before Installing?

You should always check the manufacturer’s guidelines for acclimation times, but generally speaking, most laminate floors will need around 48-72 hours of acclimating time before installation.

For successful acclimation to occur, the temperature and humidity within the laminate flooring need to match the temperature and humidity of the room.

By laying the laminate flooring flat on the floor in the room you will install in it for two to three days, the boards will have enough time to acclimate to the new surroundings and adjust to the room’s temperature and humidity before installation.

Final Remarks

In conclusion, laminate flooring will need to acclimate before you can install it.

Acclimation takes between two to three days. The process allows the laminate’s fiberboard core to adjust to the relative temperature and humidity of the proposed installation room.

Similar to solid hardwood flooring, laminate flooring is capable of expanding or contracting depending on the environment. By skipping the acclimation process, you run the risk of the floor starting to buckle, warp, shrink, or split within hours of being fitted.

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Author: Jon Maxwell
Senior Writer, ToolCrowd
Jon Maxwell writes about various topics for ToolCrowd, including tool reviews, material advice, common home problems, and general DIY advice and how-to articles. His work has been published in national publications for audiences including consumers, homeowners, and industry experts. Jon has a bachelor's degree in Building Surveying and a master's degree in a branch of Civil Engineering focusing on concrete and steel durability. When he isn't writing for ToolCrowd, Jon enjoys completing DIY tasks in his own home, as well as woodworking in his home workshop, snowboarding, and website development. Contact Jonarrow_right_alt