Causes of Squeaky Laminate Flooring

Several months ago, I blogged about a squeaky laminate installation. Numerous in-home and installation errors had caused the floating floor to squeak and snap when walked upon.

I recently inspected a squeaking floating laminate floor. The installers had returned after the initial installation because the homeowner complained about all the noise. They pulled up the new floor and floated (leveled) the concrete slab underneath. When they reinstalled the laminate, they made sure the expansion gaps between the walls and the laminate were to specifications. But the floor still squeaked, so I was called out to see what was wrong.

I have reproduced the body of my inspection report. It explains the particulars:

Comments

Installed in a non-climate controlled home. No baseboards installed; expansion gaps verified. Ultrathin underlayment installed.

Observations

The floor snaps and pops slightly to moderately throughout the installation. All perimeters have a 1/2″ expansion gap. The floor is flat to 1/64” length and width in a 10’ radius. Pin meter readings taken throughout the installation were all less than 8%. Non-destructive moisture encounter meter readings (scale: 10%-20%) taken throughout the installation were 13%-15%. I snapped unused planks together to check the T & G fit. The planks fit together smoothly and easily. I could not shake them apart. The tongue and groove are milled properly.

Conclusion

The XXXX installation instructions state:

The floor… ideal conditions are 60-80°F at a relative humidity of 35-60%. Ensure that humidity in the room is always at least 50%. Use a humidifier if you need to.

The NALFA Common Complaints, Problems/Solutions states:

Pops/crackling sounds are caused by…non-recommended underlayment…Relative humidity and temperature out of specified limits…unlevel subfloors causing movement…

It is my opinion that the constant humidity/temperature changes in this non-climate controlled room are causing the tongues and grooves of the laminate to shrink and swell constantly. In addition, although the flooring is essentially flat, a thicker underlayment might create a more stable base for the flooring and reduce movement even more.

Glenn Revere IICRC #113098

Whenever you install any type of wood flooring (laminate, engineered, solid, cork) in a non-climate-controlled home, you are asking for trouble. Sometimes, the weather-related humidity and temperature swings in your home have no noticeable effect on the flooring. Most people whose homes are without climate controls — air conditioning, dehumidifiers, humidifiers — won’t add these controls just because they’re installing some type of wood flooring. But every wood flooring warranty REQUIRES these controls in the home. Squeaks, gaps, cracks/splits/splintering, and buckling are all related to changes in the indoor environment. Climate controls reduce or eliminate these problems. So take this information under consideration now when you buy and install a wood flooring product for your home. It could save you a lot of grief later.

 

Who is Glenn Revere?

Glenn Revere has been a carpet expert since 1973. He’s a certified flooring inspector and the author of All About Carpets, the only book written to protect and inform you about your carpet choices, from carpet buying and carpet warranties to carpet care and maintenance. You can find him on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

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