Laminate plastic floor board construction detail - Dream Home Laminate Floors catalog Laminate Flooring Damage, Diagnosis, Repair

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This article explains types of damage that occurs on various types of plastic laminate or thin-wood-surface laminate flooring in buildings.

We discuss several repair approaches that can assist in repairing stained areas on both wood and laminated wood or plastic lamianted floors.

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Diagnose & Repair Water or Solvent Stains on Wood or Laminate Flooring

Water or solvent-damaged laminate flooring (C)  SMSeveral of the types of flooring damage discussed beginning at FLOOR DAMAGE DIAGNOSIS. Stains as well as buckled, cracked, or heaved floor boards of all types may be due to leaks or high moisture, or they may be due to spills of other liquids, solvents, or to bad pets who pee where you'd rather they didn't.

On most floors, stains, gaps, buckling, warping and mold are water-related or moisture-related problems in flooring systems. Here we add another flooring damage example provided by a reader. We think the floor shown in the photos here was damaged by a solvent spill that was left unattended.

If you are concerned about mold-contaminated flooring, see MOLD CLEANUP - WOOD FLOORING.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Question: what is the reason for this floor damage and what can I do about it?

I noticed a damage on my floor, it seems like a water damage. I'm not a 100% sure, as this area was carpeted. I would appreciate any assistance in finding possible reasons to this damage, especially because we moved in five months ago, and the place is brand new.

Attached is the floor picture, would appreciate any advice. - Anonymous by private email 2017/05/23

Reply: water or solvent damage to a plastic laminate floor

From the photos and guessing on my part, this looks like a plastic-laminate-type flooring that had something wet placed or more likely a solvent in the area of damage.

As the floor was previously carpeted (one of your photos shows what looks like the underside of a carpet rolled back) I'd guess that there was a spill that remained in the spot for a time and was not noticed until the carpet was removed - in fact a spill and carpet damage could be the very reason carpeting would be removed.

Water or solvent-damaged laminate flooring (C)  SMOr someone spilled solvent after the laminate floor was installed, didn't notice or clean up in time, and then on seeing the damage, "swept it under the rug" so to speak, hoping no one would roll back the carpeting to snoop around.

It's tough, however to reconcile that history with a place being "brand new". The damage crosses the border of individual flooring to affect three boards so it certainly occurred to the floor after the flooring was installed.

The spill could have been water or a solvent. If the laminate flooring is plastic rather than real wood, I suspect the spill was a solvent. If the laminate flooring is actually a wood product there could have been dog pee, a potted plant leaking water, or a similar condition.

If there is a basement or crawl area below this floor it would be instructive to look at the underside of the subfloor below this area.

Laminated flooring that's plastic is discussed at LAMINATE PLASTIC FLOOR

Laminated wood flooring is described at FLOOR, WOOD ENGINEERED, LAMINATE, INSTALL

Repair Approaches for Water or Solvent-Damaged Wood or Plastic Laminated Flooring

On wood floors that are stained and that have enough thickness of wood to permit cleaning, sanding and other treatments, I use a combination of cleaners, possibly a dilute bleach solution, drying, staining and re-finishing described at ANIMAL STAINS & MARKS in BUILDINGS and repair efforts are also described at PET STAINED WOOD FLOORS secret pee stains your dog or cat never mentioned

Always Try the Least Aggressive Floor Repair First

On a plastic or very thin-laminate surfaced wood floor with damage such as shown in your photo I would be inclined to clean the area and try simply sealing the surface with a coating that itself does not contain solvents that further ruin the floor. That will not remove the ugly patch but it will reduce its nastiness.

Laminate-Fix floor repair kits are sold to re-surface an area of damaged laminated plastic flooring. For small areas of nicks, chips, scratches, cracks and some burns, you can use this product to repair surfaces on flooring as well as cabinets that used a plastic laminated surface. Plastic laminate repair kits can be purchased on various colors so you may be able to mix colors to get close to the original color of your flooring.

To use a plastic laminate repair kit you will need to

  1. Shake or stir the laminate repair mix thoroughly
  2. Fill cracks or gaps in the plastic laminate floor to just below the final surface of the flooring and let that dry two hours or more. Use multiple pours or coats until the cracks or gaps are filled to just at or very slightly above the surface of the remaining floor when the kit liquid has dried hard.
  3. Pour or brush on a final coating over the area of damage, taking care to stop neatly at the edges of the damaged area or to very lightly feather-brush the coating an inch or less into the surrounding floor surface.
  4. Dry: Let the final coating dry at least 24 hours until it is hard.

    Watch out: do not try final sanding or buffing before the final coat is very dry and hard. Otherwise you'll get an opaque, gouged, ugly surface and you'll have to scrape and sand it down and start over.
  5. Fine-Sand or Buff: Very light final sanding with 220 grit sandpaper or emory paper may be needed if you see brush marks or an edge mark where the laminate repair liquid edge stops on the good flooring. AVOID sanding into the original-finish area of the flooring or you'll damage it.

    Watch out
    : Like pruning a tree, stop sanding before you think you've done enough since over-doing it may make matters worse. Know when to stop. More about how to know when to quit making your repair job better is at THE DINK FACTOR - when to stop dinking around with it.

Examples of repairs and re-finishing of solid wood flooring with dramatic results are illustrated at LOOSE NOISY FLOOR REPAIR where we had both loose and damaged floor boards to fix.

Cut and Replace Sections of Badly Damaged Flooring

Solid maple flooring © Daniel FriedmanIf you don't want to live with the floor damage then flooring replacement will be needed.

Our photograph shows a thin wood top layer on a laminated wood floor product. But your flooring looks like a vinyl or platstic laminate flooring product.

If I'm right that this is a plastic or thin-wood laminate flooring product, the bad news is that a damaged thin-surfaced wood or plastic surfaced laminate floor is difficult or almost impossible to repair while left in place.

As we show here and discuss further at LAMINATE PLASTIC FLOOR, the surface pattern on a plastic laminate floor is very thin, protected by a clear top coating.

Very thin wood surfaces on some laminate floor products can't be sanded at all - the wood veneer may be just a few millimeters thick.

And plastic laminted floor surfaces (probably your floor) use what amounts to a very thin photo-like image of wood (or other patterns) that cannot be removed, sanded, scraped without leaving the floor's inner core exposed to view.

A perfect repair of such floors will require removing enough flooring to insert matching replacement flooring "boards".

That is very difficult to do without either removing flooring starting at the floor edges (and hoping this is a clip-together floor not one that's nailed or glued down), or by very carefully cutting out the damaged floor section stopping the "cut" at the edges of intact boards.

I have repaired wood flooring by using a flooring hand-saw or a thin-bladed electric saw (protecting surrounding wood with masking tape) to cut out the damaged section. I saw about 2 millimeters away from the edge of the floor boards to remain so that I can be sure of leaving them un-damaged and I pre-score the flooring at cut lines with a utility knife and straight-edge. The cross-cut at floor board ends is done with a knife and a super sharp chisel.

Remove Damaged Flooring

Black stains on wood floor from water leaks at nearby door (C) Daniel FriedmanIf the damaged boards are close to a wall some handymen suggest that you remove the wall-floor trim board and pull up the outer floorboard to work maybe 2 or 3 boards in to the area of damage.

For the length of the floor boards to cut out, I plan to remove the damaged floor boards to about an inch beyond the ends of the damage along the length of the boards.

Really? Well sort-of. If a damaged board is close to a wall you might need to remove the kickboard trim just to get your saw cut through the end of a board section to remove it.

A candiate for removing and replacing wood floor boards close to a wall is shown in our photograph. Leaks at side panels of an entry door not only caused this black stain in the wood flooring but rot in the subfloor and sills below.

An owner had the floor sanded and re-finished before our inspection, but had left the stained, partly-rotted floor board in place. It would have been better to remove and replace the damaged flooring before the floor re-finishing project.

But considering that most tongue and groove or snap-together floor systems have their ends staggered across the floor, I sure as heck don't want to start removing long sections of flooring just to get at an area of damage that's just a foot in diameter.

Damaged Floor Board Cutting & Removal Tips

Pre-scoring a saw cut line with a utility knife, especially along end cuts across the grain, help avoid raising or chipping out the ends of the boards that remain in place.

Scoring the wood flooring cut line before using a saw avoids splinters (C) Daniel Friedman

I place masking tape along the edge of my cut line both to protect the flooring that is to remain in place and to add protection against accidentally tearing out wood of the flooring I don't want to remove.

I want to get a very clean edge on the floor boards that will remain in place. My photo shows that I'm going to run the saw blade just about a mm away from the blue tape where I've both taped and scored my flooring before starting the cut.

Cutting to remove damaged wood floorboards (C) Daniel Friedman

If there is wood left in place on the lower edges of the in-place boards, I will have to use a utility knife to clean up those edges in the cut-out repair area before trying to snap new boards in place.

I set my saw blade depth to the thickness of the flooring. In my opinion it's not a catastrophe if the blade cuts a 1/6" into the subfloor below - perhaps cutting the felt or rosin paper under the floor but not enough to damage the subfloor below.

To make my cuts along the floor board lengths, I take great care that my saw blade does not nick the edges of the flooring that is to remain in place. It's better to leave a bit of wood of the to-be-removed board that you later clean up with a utility knife than to ruin the edge of the flooring that's to remain in place.

To start my end-cuts or corner cuts I might drill into and through the floor outer floor boards to be removed at the corners of the cut-out area, but take care that the drilled hole does not touch or extend into the boards that are to remain in place or you'll have ugly arc-openings in your finished flooring.

The drilled holes make it easier to start my saw blade and to stop it without cutting into the surrounding floor area.

Saw cuts into a damaged laminate wood flooring (C) Daniel FriedmanWatch out: I stop my saw when the upper edge of the blade reaches the end of the cut, and I finish the cut by hand with a flooring saw or a chisel or even a utility knife. If you over-cut past the rectangluar area you want to repair you'll face an ever-expanding area of flooring to remove that may not stop until you reach a wall: don't do that.

Our photo shows really ugly overcuts at the cornes of a rectangle where flooring was cut out with a circular saw. I think someone drilled this hole to try to drain water from below a wet, buckling floor.

If the flooring is very thin plastic or vinyl flooring planks I might try making the entire cut without a saw at all, using multiple scores with a utility knife and a metal ruler. Take great care not to cut into the boards that are to remain or you'll be sorry about how the "repair" looks later.

Watch out: it's easy for the knife to skip off of the ruler and cut your fingers to smithereens. (Speaking from experience.)

You may need to pry out the first cut-out board using a utility knife. Take care not to score or nick the edges of the flooring that remains in place.

Prepare the Replacement Flooring

Tongue & Groove flooring is normally installed with the groove of each successive board snapping onto the tongue of the already-in-place board.

That means that with the old boards removed I [or now you] will have to cut the tongue off of the last new board section that must marry into the groove of the last in-place flooring.

I prepare all of the replacement boards and check the fit of their lengths, one by one, before starting to nail or glue them in place. That lets me make any final fine-tuning adjustments.

Then depending on the area and type of flooring I may use a combination of nailing and gluing or just gluing to install the new floor boards.

Vacuum out all of the dust and debris in the work area. You'll be sorry if a bit of sawdust keeps you from snapping the new floor boards down level with the existing floor.

Replacement Floor Board Cutting Tip

When cutting my new boards to fit, I cut the boards a mm+ long and I angle my saw blade just a couple of degrees to bevel the replacement boards on their ends so that I get a perfect butting fit against the edges of the boards that are already in place.

It's easier to very slightly shorten a too-long board by sanding the outer edge of its bevel with a sanding block (keep it straight) than to drive back to the supplier to buy more replacement material because I cut the boards too short and faced an ugly gap.

A conventional 3/4" wood floor board can be toe-nailed through the tongue using a power finish- or flooring nailer but for small repairs you're not likely to have that tool at hand. In that case if you're using small 4d or 6d finishing nails or ring-shanked or spiral flooring nails, pre-drill the tongue so that you don't split the board.

Gluing In the Replacement Floor Boards

Replaced section of wood flooring in Christchurch New Zealand (C) Daniel FriedmanI use construction adhesive to glue the final wood board in place rather than leaving exposed nails in its surface, or for a laminated type floor board replacement over an area of 3 feet or less, I glue my new laminate floor boards down diretly to the subfloor. If there was felt or rosin paper below the floor repair area you'll have to remove it in order to successfully glue down the replacment flooring section.

Photo: abutting sections of old and newer wood flooring in the Deans Cottage, Christchurch, New Zealand. [Click to enlarge any image]

Watch out: don't use too much glue. Too much glue under the boards may prevent you from pressing the new board fully down flush with the existing floor.

Too much glue on the edges of boards will ooze up through the floor board joints and look horrible.

I place my dabs of glue at 4-6" intervals on the board underside and in thin dabs along the lower edge of the board edges at the same intervals.

Knowing that I tend to over-do the glue I also keep some odorless paint thinner at hand to remove any excess adhesive without dissolving the finish on the replacement boards.

Lamninated Flooring Repair Products & Resources


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