How to Fix Water Damaged Laminate Floors

These simple steps can get your laminate floor back into action

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated June 16, 2022
A barefoot woman cleaning a laminate floor
Photo: fizkes / Adobe Stock
Difficulty

Simple

Flex your DIY muscles.

Time to complete

3 hours

Cost

$50–$100

Doing the labor yourself goes a long way

What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Sticky notes or gaffers tape
  • Putty knife, butcher knife, or pry bar
  • Safety glasses
  • Hammer

SUPPLIES

  • Finishing nails
  • Laminate wood planks

A favorite of those with children and pets and a common feature in busy commercial spaces, laminate wood flooring is built to stand up to heavy use. While laminate fares particularly well against spills compared to other types of flooring, it’s no less susceptible to water damage from heavy leakage or moisture if it’s left to stand long enough. When this happens, it may be time to roll up your sleeves and perform some laminate flooring repair work.

Prepping to Fix Laminate Floor Water Damage

When enough water seeps into the laminate to damage the wood, you may see signs of water damage, including buckling planks, bubbling or cracking in the surface of the laminate, and the appearance of mold. You cannot repair planks that have suffered this kind of damage, but you can individually replace them, repairing the floor at a fraction of the cost and effort of redoing it entirely. 

If you discover that the old water heater has been sending a steady stream of leakage into your floors, leaving water to pool and penetrate the laminate coating of your floor, fear not. Below, we’ll take you through all the steps you need to take to get your laminate wood floor healthy, safe, and looking chic again. 

If the damage is extensive, you may instead wish to hire a professional floor repair company or a local handyperson to remove and replace the damaged laminate wood planks. On average, homeowners pay around $865 for a professional laminate wood repair job. Following the steps below, expect to pay between $0.70 and $2 per square foot for replacement planks.

5 Steps to Fix Laminate Floor Water Damage

  1. Clean Up Any Moisture and Contain Its Source

    If your floor has damage from a spill pooling on the floor, clean up the water and allow the floorboards to dry fully. If the source is not apparent, check for leakage from nearby pipes or appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines. 

    Once you have located the source of the moisture, make all repairs necessary to stop the leak before taking the next steps. If you don’t stop the problem at its root, adding sealant will only make things worse, and any replacement boards will soon be damaged as well.

  2. Inspect the Floor and Locate All Damaged Areas

    Once you have neutralized the source of the water damage, inspect the whole floor, searching closely for all signs of damage. Once water penetrates the laminate surface of your floor, it can move through wood quickly, creating extensive damage that can continue to spread if not properly treated. Work slowly and thoroughly for all symptoms of water damage.

    Look for discoloration, bubbling, signs of mold, and cracks, as well as buckling or misshapen boards. Use sticky notes or cloth tape to mark the spots that require attention. If there are signs of more extensive mold damage affecting the whole floor, stop and contact a mold remediation specialist before proceeding.  

    After doing a visual survey, step on each potentially damaged board, feeling for any movement or changes to the shape. Any board showing these signs must be marked for replacement.

  3. Remove Damaged Planks

    A professional installing new laminate planks
    Photo: malkovkosta / Adobe Stock

    Wear safety glasses while you work to get rid of any damaged planks. If some are close to walls, remove all baseboards and molding using a putty knife or pry bar. 

    Instead of being affixed with glue or nails, laminate wood planks snap into place with a set of interlocking tongues and grooves. Warping or buckling planks are often easy to remove by hand. If the plank holds tighter in the locking system, use a putty knife or butcher knife to get underneath it and pry. 

    Tip: If you accidentally remove an undamaged plank, you can reinstall it. Just set it aside until step four. 

  4. Removing Damaged Baseboards in the Middle of the Floor

    If you have damaged baseboards in the middle of the floor, you have two options for removal. You can start from the wall and remove each plank until you reach the damaged ones. Working from right to left, find the groove edge on the outermost plank and gently lift or pry to release it from the lock before moving on to the next one. 

    Alternatively, if it’s a large floor and removing each plank one by one to reach the middle of the room would be onerous, you can loosen the damaged board with a circular saw and a fine-finish blade, or by using a drill to avoid having to remove extra planks. Unless you have a ton of experience with carpentry or flooring installation, however, this approach is best left to a local flooring installer since a misstep could do serious damage to floors and create a much more expensive problem to solve than water damage.

    Remove the baseboards left exposed by using a pry bar. Clean the subfloor beneath and inspect for any signs of mold damage. Once everything looks good, nail the baseboards and any replacement pieces back into place, and caulk any extra holes.

  5. Replace Damaged Planks

    Discard all damaged planks. Hopefully, you will have saved some extra planks from the installation for situations like this. If not, you may have to do a bit of work to find pieces that match. 

    Start with the company that sold you or manufactured the plans for your initial install, or try searching online. If you can’t find an exact match, some minor variation in appearance shouldn’t make a difference to the overall appearance of your flooring, so long as the pieces fit into the locking system of the older planks. When in doubt, bring one of the damaged planks to a local home improvement store and let them help you find the closest match. 

    As when the laminate wood was first installed, you will need to acclimate any newly purchased planks to your home before installing. Let the new planks sit in the area of the house where you will install them for two to three days before proceeding so that the porous wood can expand or contract as needed to adjust to the room’s humidity and temperature. 

    Starting with the area that’s furthest from the wall, fit the first replacement plank. Depending on the locking system of your laminate wood, either click the plank into place or fit the tongue of the replacement plank into the groove of the exposed floorboard, like a puzzle piece. 

    If there is too much friction to snap the tongue into the groove by hand easily, line them up, and place one of the damaged boards at the other end of the plank you’re fitting. Tap lightly with a hammer until the healthy plank is fitted securely into the floorboard. Working backward from the order in which you removed them, replace each damaged plank with a new one, and reinstall all undamaged planks. 

    If you had to remove any baseboards, thresholds, or molding from the edges of the floor, line them back up in the order that you removed them. Take your new finishing nails and line them up with the existing holes, gently tacking each into place with a hammer.