Why Does My Laminate Floor Feel Spongy?
Laminate flooring is a popular and affordable alternative to hardwood for homeowners who want natural wood’s premium look and feel without the high cost.
Not only can laminate flooring have the same aesthetic appeal as hardwood, but it can also be easier to clean and maintain while being available in various colors to suit almost any taste or style of décor.
However, a common issue in laminate flooring is a spongy feeling to the floor or having what feels like soft spots in the floor that feel bouncy as you walk over them.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common reasons why a laminate floor feels spongy and how you can go about fixing this issue.
There are six potential reasons why a laminate floor feels spongy. Reasons include damage to the laminate floor from water or termites, various installation issues including an uneven subfloor, insufficient expansion gap or underlay problems, and, finally, specific subfloor structural issues.
Read on to find out if the spongy feeling in your laminate floor is due to something minor that you can fix quickly and easily or whether you’re looking at a more intensive and potentially more costly fix.
- Six Common Causes of Spongy Laminate Flooring
- How Do You Fix Spongy Laminate Flooring?
- Final Remarks
Six Common Causes of Spongy Laminate Flooring
From a subfloor that’s uneven or has structural issues to water damage, here are six potential problems that could cause your laminate floor to feel spongy:
The Laminate Floor Is Water Damaged
While laminate flooring is renowned for its durability, one of the biggest culprits of laminate floor damage is water. Because of this, it’s one of the potential causes of a spongy floor that we recommend diagnosing or ruling out first.
It’s important to note that you can get both water-resistant and waterproof laminate floors, and here’s the difference:
If your laminate floor is the water-resistant variety, extended exposure to moisture that ends up getting absorbed into the boards’ core can cause them to swell and warp.
Because of this, it’s essential to keep an eye out for leaks from radiators or leaking windows, for example, and to ensure you dry these up as a priority.
Some laminate manufacturers even go as far as recommending that you don’t use a steam cleaner or mop on your floor, as regular exposure to moisture from either of these can cause issues.
Do not use steam cleaners or wet mops, which may cause irreparable damage to your floor.
It’s also worth mentioning that in most cases, manufacturers recommend additional sealing of laminate floors in commercial applications and for particularly wet household applications, such as laminate floors in entrance halls and laundry rooms.
We’ve written an article discussing the need for sealing laminate floors, but to summarise, sealing the edges of a laminate floor with a silicone sealant around the floor’s expansion gap and between the joints of the various boards is recommended for particularly wet applications.
When water damage occurs, the laminate boards will typically swell or warp, which can cause the floor to rise at specific points creating gaps or voids underneath. As you walk across these areas, the laminate will dip under your weight, ultimately springing back as you remove your weight to give the floor a springy or spongy feeling.
In most cases, you won’t be able to fix a water-damaged laminate floor, and so the only option is to replace the affected boards.
You should always address the causes of the moisture issue before replacing your laminate floor to prevent a repeat of the spongy or soft spot issue in the new floor.
We’d also recommend checking the subfloor, for example, the underlying floor joists and the subfloor covering, to ensure that the excess moisture issue has not damaged these.
Persistent moisture can lead to rot and deterioration of the subfloor structure, leading to structural problems, so it’s worth assessing the damage here and getting professional guidance if necessary.
Here are a few tell-tale signs that water damage could be the cause of your spongy laminate floor:
The Laminate Is Laid on an Uneven Subfloor
Another possibility is that your laminate floor sits on top of an uneven subfloor.
You should always install laminate flooring on as flat and level a surface as possible, as failure to do so can cause gaps or voids underneath some parts of the floor.
While the floor might look flat to the eye, this could be due to the tongue and groove joints keeping certain boards elevated above any voids caused by the uneven subfloor.
As weight is applied, the floor will sink into the void, and it will spring back given the tension in the boards and because the joints in the boards pull it back into position, giving it a spongy feeling.
In terms of diagnosing this issue, it can be difficult to do so unless you installed the laminate floor from new, and you’re aware of any high or low spots on the subfloor that you didn’t level out ahead of the laminate floor’s installation.
It’s worth mentioning that some laminate underlay manufacturers claim that their underlay can help address the issue of an uneven subfloor. While this is true, it only works up to a certain point, and the underlay is unlikely to resolve any extreme unevenness.
Here are some signs that an uneven subfloor could be the cause of your spongy laminate floor:
There Are Issues With the Laminate Floor’s Expansion Gap
A laminate floor needs to be able to expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity.
What makes this possible is the expansion gap that must be left around the edge of the laminate floor, and this ranges from 3/8″ to 1/2″ wide in most cases.
Without this gap, the floor would butt up directly against the wall leaving nowhere for any expansion in the laminate to go, likely causing damage and lifting at the boards’ joints when expansion does occur.
Here are a few signs that the floor’s expansion gap (or lack of) could be the cause of the spongy sensation:
There Are Issues With the Laminate’s Underlay
Aside from perhaps the expansion gap, the underlay is arguably the most critical part of a laminate floor.
In addition to making the laminate floor feel softer underfoot, underlay also helps minimize the effects of deviations in the subfloor, which could cause the laminate boards to fit or sit poorly.
Any of the following underlay issues could result in the floor feeling overly spongy:
Provided your laminate floor isn’t glued, and it’s possible to remove the baseboards, it shouldn’t be too difficult to remove one of the laminate boards at the edge of the floor. Doing so will help you access the underlay to get a better understanding of the issue.
Where the underlay is at fault, unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do other than lift and refit the entire laminate floor after properly installing the correct type of underlay.
Thankfully, it is possible and relatively straightforward to lift and relay a laminate floor (provided it isn’t glued), but it will likely be very time-consuming.
Here are a few things to look out for to diagnose a potential underlay issue with your laminate floor:
The Laminate Floor Is Termite Damaged
Another potential cause of a spongy laminate floor is termite damage.
Thankfully, termite damage is probably one of the least common causes on this list, but unfortunately, it can be one of the most problematic.
You see, termites have a voracious appetite, and so even minor infestations can lead to extensive damage across both the laminate floor itself and the subfloor. Without any preventive measures to stop termites in their tracks, they can cause dangerous and potentially very costly structural issues.
Here are a few tell-tale signs that termite damage could be the cause of your spongy laminate floor:
There Are Issues With the Subfloor
Finally, a laminate floor could also feel spongy as a result of structural issues in the subfloor.
Unfortunately, this is probably the most challenging issue to diagnose. It can often be difficult to diagnose or assess any problems without removing the laminate floor and perhaps even the subfloor covering.
Because of this, we recommend ruling out each of the above issues first, and we’d always recommend getting specialist advice when it comes to assessing any potential structural problems.
Here are a few causes of potential subfloor issues that could be causing the spongy sensation in your laminate floor:
How Do You Fix Spongy Laminate Flooring?
Once you’ve identified the cause of your spongy laminate floor, the next step is to rectify the problem.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Address Any Moisture Issues (If Applicable)
As mentioned, one of the biggest culprits of laminate floor damage is water.
From discoloration to odors and mold or mildew growth, it’s usually pretty easy to spot the signs of water damage before even lifting the floor.
Go ahead and skip to the next option if this isn’t applicable; otherwise, here are some tips to help you address any moisture-related issues:
2. Address Any Installation Issues (If Applicable)
From an even subfloor to expansion and underlay issues, there are plenty of installation errors that can lead to a spongy sensation in your laminate floor.
Where an uneven subfloor is to blame, potential fixes include:
For expansion gap issues, we’d recommend lifting and relaying the floor to provide the required gap to allow for expansion and contraction due to changes in temperature and humidity. Unfortunately, it will likely only be possible to relay the floor provided no glue was used during the original installation.
Finally, for underlay issues, you might be able to partially remove the floor to deal with an isolated case of folded underlay, for example. However, to rectify the entire floor, you’ll probably need to remove everything and replace the underlay correctly with the right type before reinstalling the floor.
3. Address Any Other Issues (If Applicable)
Finally, before replacing your laminate flooring, you’ll want to rectify other potentially serious issues such as termite damage or structural subfloor issues.
Depending on the extent of the issue, this could involve replacing the subfloor covering. More severe damage or subfloor inadequacies could require the replacement of joists or other structural components.
Like with water damage, these issues can lead to dangerous structural problems, and so we strongly recommend getting expert guidance for these issues.
4. Replace the Affected Boards (If Applicable)
Once you’ve addressed the above issues, the final step is to replace the affected parts of your laminate floor, which could range from a few isolated boards to the entire floor.
Always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions, but a few things to look out for are that your subfloor is both structurally sound and even, you leave a sufficient expansion gap around the perimeter of the floor, and you seal the boards as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Following these steps should help prevent any spongy floor issues in the future.
Laminate flooring is a popular choice for many homeowners because it’s affordable and easy to maintain.
There are some common causes of spongy laminate that you should be aware of, though, so you can troubleshoot the issue right away if your floor starts feeling spongy or soft in spots.
The six most likely culprits include water damage, uneven subflooring, issues with the underlayment, the lack of an expansion gap around the edges of the laminate floor, termite damage, and structural problems with the subfloor itself.
Depending on the extent of the problem, you might be able to replace individual boards, or it might require that you reinstall the entire floor after rectifying the original issue.
It’s essential to spend enough time diagnosing and dealing with the issue before relaying the floor; otherwise, you risk the problem of the spongy floor coming back with the newly laid laminate.
We’d always recommend getting specialist advice, especially when diagnosing and rectifying potential structural issues with your floor.