Expansion space means consistent expansion space: not 1/8” on one plank and 3/8” on the next (Photo 1).
Something that would nullify correct and consistent expansion space in an installation is a shoe mold (or quarter round) installed with nails that are driven at such an angle that they either enter the floor or touch the edges. In either case, the floor will not expand correctly (Photo 2).
Another cause of a floor not expanding as needed is improper installation of transitions. Here is an easy way to avoid problems: Read and follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions and know the requirements for the laminate flooring that you are installing.
(1) Do you need a transition in every doorway or just the ones under a certain length?
(2) What is the maximum length the floor can be installed without a transition?
Gluing the transitions down sometimes is required. However, make sure the adhesive you are using does not fill the expansion space between the floor and the transition molding or its track.
Lack of proper expansion space will cause issues depending on the type of laminate floor and the manufacturer’s locking system. Some floors will buckle or “tent-up” from the sub-floor and some will have raised end seams or joints while some others might have gaps (Photos 3 and 4).
Every manufacturer requires that the installer use a sealant to fill expansions spaces in bathrooms and wet areas such as laundry rooms and around appliances in these rooms. Using 100 percent silicone sealant is a must because a caulking-type sealant will harden. This causes the proper expansion space to disappear resulting in the floor becoming locked or pinned.
Expansion is indeed a very “Big Deal.” Do you really want to take the chance that there will not be issues with a floor installation without proper expansion?