Laminate flooring is popular for a reason – its easy to clean, easy to install, and it’s versatile. However, just like other types of flooring it will eventually show wear and tear. This typically begins with shallow dips in the finish or peeling of the top layer. What is a homeowner to do? Luckily, there are a variety of repair kits available on the market to help you repair the top layer of your laminate floor. Let me get into the details:
What is the Top Layer of Laminate Flooring Made of?
The top layer of Laminate Flooring is sometimes referred to as Overlay, Clear Coat, Protective Coat, or Sealer. It is often a Water-based Urethane Sealant. This type of sealant is easy to apply by rolling it onto the floor pieces during manufacturing. It protects the pattern on the floor from wear and tear as well as providing a nonslip coating.
Is Laminate Flooring Durable?
Laminate flooring comes in a variety of different durability’s. Somewhere on the packaging and/or marketing materials you will see the letters AC followed by a number 1-5. This rating is determined by the floor’s performance on the Taber Rotary Platform Abraser test.
AC1 is the least durable, while AC5 is the most durable. Laminate used in low traffic rooms like a guest bedroom is typically AC1, while a high traffic residential area like a living room is AC3. AC5 is usually reserved for high traffic areas in a commercial space such as a store.
While each of these durability ratings can handle a differing amount of foot traffic, most laminate performs the same in metrics like: Chemical Resistance, Moisture Resistance, and UV Resistance. What are these and how does laminate handle them?
Laminate flooring can withstand most common household chemicals, and even many industrial solutions. If the nail polish remover you spilled is not left to sit, it will not damage your floor.
Laminate flooring is coated in the waterproof coating during the manufacturing process, but this does not make it waterproof. The joints between the flooring sections are prone to seepage if exposed to standing water. This seepage then introduces water to the unprotected underside of the floor, which can damage it. Laminate should never be allowed to remain wet for more than 15 minutes to preserve longevity.
The top layer of laminate flooring is very UV resistant, so you will not need to worry about fading from occasional sunlight exposure.
What Can Cause the Top Layer of Laminate Flooring to Peel?
Despite having decent durability across the board, you might eventually notice your Laminate floor beginning to peel. All types of flooring can become damaged at one point in its life, it happens so don’t worry! Laminate peels can happen because of several causes, most of which can be prevented. Let’s take a look at the various causes why laminate floor can begin to peel:
If the flooring was improperly installed, it may not be perfectly flush. Sections of the floor may protrude tiny amounts, which will cause furniture, shoes, and anything else traveling across the floor to hook into the laminate. Over time, this may cause the top layer to peel back.
Water is the number one enemy of laminate floor. A water leak can cause rapid, catastrophic damage, but lesser amounts of water are sneakier. They can seep into cracks in the laminate (such as between interlocking pieces, or between the floor and the wall).
This will not cause visible damage at first, but over some time the laminate may begin to bubble, warp, and possibly peel up. Keep in mind that most liquids can cause this, as they are partially made up of water (pet urine, drinks, cleaners, etc.).
The sharp edges on many furniture items can dig into the floor over time. You will want to put floor protectors on items like chairs, couches, and tables. This is especially true if the furniture is frequently moved or it’s just heavy in weight.
Chipping in the Floor
Chipping in the floor is one of the most common types of wear a laminate floor sees. It comes from dropping anything hard on it – such as keys, a utensil, or even a heavy bag like a suit case. These tiny chips in the top layer can eventually peel. This type of damage is trickier to avoid than the others, since its normal to occasionally drop something on your floors. However, you want to avoid dropping or throwing around of objects if you want to avoid peeling laminate.
Burn marks are one of the faster ways to damage your laminate. A stray candle, cigarette, or ember from a fireplace can rapidly melt the laminate’s protective coating. Once this happens it will begin to lift from the rest of the floor. You can prevent burning or melting your floor by using rugs or coasters to protect it from the heat.
Chemical damage can occur a variety of ways, but the most common are using a cleaner that your floor cannot handle or leaving something on the floor for an extended period. While your Laminate can take a quick scrub with Pine Sol and a mop, it should not be cleaned with bleach.
You also need to clean up any chemical spills, such as nail polish remover, vinegar, or alcohol, as these can eat away the flooring with extended contact.
Steam Cleaner Damage
You would be surprised at the number of people who try to use a steam cleaner on their laminate floor. Steam cleaners work by pumping hot water into the surface – so you can imagine that you are simultaneously burning the topcoat and pushing water into the subfloor at the same time.
It is also common for someone to use a vacuum cleaner with the height set incorrectly on their Laminate flooring. If your vacuum is set too low, plastic or metal bits of the machine can drag on the floor which will cause microscopic scratches. These scratches then act as weak spots in the floor.
If the Top Layer of Your Laminate Peels, Can You Even Fix it?
So, once this damage happens, do you have to replace the floor? That depends on the size of the damage. Small peels and chips can be repaired. However, if the damage is widespread if may be better to simply replace the damage sections. Once you notice a peel you will want to act quickly, the underlying layers of the Laminate are not meant to be exposed and are much more fragile. Any damage to those will ruin the appearance of the floor.
How to Fix the Top Layer of Laminate Floor Peeling?
There are two main methods to fix Laminate peeling: Filler, and Hard Wax. However, first you will need to remove the peeling topcoat and prep the floor. If you skip this in either method the floor will just peel again, and you will have wasted time and money.
Before using either method:
1. Use Utility Knife to Cut Away Peeling Layer.
- You want to remove the peeling section while cutting shallowly enough not to damage the underlayer of the floor. The utility knife will allow you to get a clean cut. You can think of this step as cutting the split ends off the end of your hair to keep the rest from breaking.
2. Clean the Damaged Area with a Solvent-Based Cleaner.
- A Solvent-Based Cleaner is not water based, which is especially important because you are applying this cleaner to the unprotected Laminate. There are many different solvents, which have distinct characteristics. You want to choose something with a rapid drying time, like an alcohol based cleaner (glass cleaners usually fall into this category).
- Once you have an appropriate cleaner, dampen a paper towel with it and gently cleanse the surface. Let it dry completely before moving onto the next step.
Once you have completed these steps, you are ready to prepare your Repair substance. I will outline how to use both below Hard Wax and Floor Filler below. If you only have the topcoat peeling without any damage to the laminate pattern, you can skip to the Lacquer step.
Depending on the size of the damage, hard wax may be an excellent choice. This Leepesx Kit allows you to fill in any scratches or dents while color matching the existing floor. I would usually use hard wax for small damage as the melting is tricky on bigger areas.
- Select the two closest colors of wax to your floor.
- Use the melting tool to melt some of each stick into a bowl until you have gotten the color as closely matched as possible.
- Use the flat tool included in the kit to smooth the melted wax over the damaged area.
- Once it is smooth you can lightly sand and polish for a shiny finish.
Floor Filler is usually better for deeper or bigger damage. It sometimes self levels, and some products allow you to color match like this CalFlor Mix2Match FloorFix. Use the provided pigments and putty or liquid agent to create a color match for your floor, then use the included tool to fill in the area. Make it as smooth as you can.
Lastly Apply Lacquer Protection
After you have used your Floor Filler or Hard Wax to repair any imperfections, you will want to use lacquer to protect the area from further damage. Lacquer is similar to the manufacturer provided topcoat. It is extremely durable and colorless. Many filling kits like the ones I mention above include a lacquer.
Lacquer dries quickly, but it is not ready to put furniture on right away. This is because it is not hard at first and becomes harder over time. This is known as curing time. Try to leave the repaired area alone for a couple of days or even weeks to let it cure as durable as possible.
3 Best Laminate Floor Fillers
I have already mentioned two of my top choices for Laminate Floor repair, but here are evaluations of three of the best Laminate Floor Fillers so you can choose the right one for you.
This kit is a floor filler, not a wax, so it is putty based. It is often more suited to deeper gouges because it can be layered more easily and dries harder. This putty will take some time to cure unlike a wax, so factor that into your repair time. Overall, consumers are happy with the variety of pigments included, but I noticed they were prone to drying out after one use. Not the best for repeated fixes. Additionally, the instructions are not written very clearly, and are not beginner friendly.
This Leepesx kit is my favorite for repeated use. The wax can be used in small quantities without compromising the shelf stability of the rest of the product. Additionally, it hardens much more quickly that putty-based repair kits. However, the fact that it hardens quickly can also be tricky while trying to color match.
The instructions are clear, and the color variety is large. It does not dry a different color to the melted version, which is often a problem with putty kits. Therefore, it is very beginner friendly. Overall, this is my favorite solution for small damage.
This is the most versatile of the kits, because it includes a putty for larger fixes while also having a quick dry delivery system for the pigments. This means that you can get the advantages of a wax-based kit while still having the option to use a putty if the situation requires it.
However, it is almost double the price to reflect that it is two kits in one. It also does not include as wide a variety of pigments as the other options. Overall, this Coconix kit is a worthwhile investment If you plan of doing several types of fixes.
When Should You Replace the Laminate Boards?
You should replace the Laminate Boards as soon as the top layer is compromised beyond repair. Any damage larger than a credit card is too big to be repaired with a floor fixing kit, and you will want to replace the board instead. Never leave Laminate exposed without its top layer, as it can warp and damage other nearby planks or the subfloor.
Can You Replace a Laminate Board in the Middle of Your Floor?
Replacing a Laminate Board in the middle of the floor is possible, but it is a real pain. You probably have either Interlocking Laminate or Glue Down Laminate, which have differing procedures for replacing.
Interlocking Laminate is the easiest. You will need to start from the nearest edge and move into the damaged board to access it. Then, replace all the boards to reassemble the floor. Because Interlocking Laminate can easily be reused, you are unlikely to damage one of the boards in the process if you are careful.
Glue Down Laminate
Glue Down Laminate is faster but more painful to replace. You will need to pry out the damaged piece, trying to avoid damaging a neighboring plank. Often, I find you will end up needing to replace the original plank as well as the one next to it from the prying. Then, place glue on the new plank(s) and put them into position just like you did when originally installing the floor.
Your Laminate Flooring is No Longer Available? (Solved)
Having to replace some boards in your laminate at some point is inevitable. For many people, they can go out and buy more of the same laminate. However, if you cannot find the same laminate flooring you have a dilemma. This risk is why I always advise having some leftover boards around just in case when you install a new laminate floor, but you can also remove a board from an unseen area such as a closet. Then, use this board to replace the damaged visible one.
Laminate Flooring Damages FAQs
How to Fix White Scratches in Laminate Flooring?
White scratches in Laminate Flooring are a sign that the protective coating is compromised but it has not yet begun peeling. One of the scratch repair kits reviewed in this article will let you hide the white color and then protect that portion of the floor. Hard Wax is ideal for this.
Yes, anything powerful enough to dissolve the topcoat (like bleach) will damage the Protective Coating. Most Laminate will stand up to common floor cleaners like Fabuloso or Pine Sol but stay away from anything undiluted or industrial.
Can You Fix Peeling Laminate Flooring with Glue?
You should not attempt to fix your Laminate with Glue. Its impossible to get a smooth fix with glue, leading to pockets of exposed laminate and an unpleasant texture. Additionally, many glues do not try clear so the glue will be visible.
How often Should You Clean Your Laminate Floors?
Keeping Laminate Flooring clear of liquids and dirt is key to its longevity. It should be cleaned at least once every two weeks, but if you have pets, wear shoes indoors, or have small children you will need to do it more often.
There are lots of ways you can damage your Laminate Floor despite its’ considerable durability. Some of them are preventable while others are unavoidable. However, much of the damage of everyday use can be fixed.
For anything smaller than a credit card, you can use a floor repair kit to save the plank. For larger damage, you will need to replace the board. However, this is usually possible if you have a new board to put in.
Jamie is the Founder of My Home Dwelling. He is a homeowner and enjoys sharing his homeowner tips with others. He has real estate experience working as a new home construction Realtor. Jamie has worked on numerous residential construction sites helping with interior and exterior renovations. He loves refinishing furniture, DIY home projects, and sharing his knowledge online.