Do NOT put laminate in a kitchen or bath

laminate-wood-flooring-in-kitchenLaminate flooring and stainless steel appliances are the fashion for homes and apartments (at least in the Pacific Northwest).  And for good reason.  They look sharp (particularly under halogen track lighting!), are easy to keep clean, and easy to maintain.

BUT, there is a down side to putting laminate flooring in a kitchen or bath.  Laminate flooring has a foam backing typically that makes the floor softer to walk on and easier on the knees and legs.  Cool feature, right?  Except when you have a water leak!  Laminate flooring — particularly at the lower end of the cost/quality scale — is porous and liquids can penetrate between the boards.  When that happens the liquid can be absorbed into the foam backing and trapped.

If you live in a mold-rich environment like the Pacific Northwest you are asking for a HUGE mold problem.  We recently had a situation where a refrigerator leaked water onto a laminate floor in a downstairs, daylight basement unit.  First off, there isn’t a ton of ventilation in the unit owing to the fact that one entire wall is underground.  It didn’t help that the tenants were using a humidifier for their children’s illnesses or that they were steam cleaning the floor.  But we believe an unreported leak in the refrigerator was the main culprit.

The leak seeped into the hardwood and a fresh, large crop of mold ensued!  The tenants were forced to move out and the owner had to pull up the flooring, clean the mold off, and re-install.  Not a fun (or cheap) affair.  Had the kitchen had vinyl or tile flooring there would not have been this issue.

This is just a word to the wise: if you are considering installing laminate, go forit.  Just don’t use it in the kitchen, bath, laundry room, or anywhere else that has a plumbing fixture.

3 thoughts on “Do NOT put laminate in a kitchen or bath

  1. Outstanding post but I was wondering if you could write a litte
    more on this topic? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further.

    Kudos!

    1. Most laminate — or modern hardwood — flooring has a foam backing. This helps to make the hardwood floor a little less hard, and softer on the legs. The problem is when water or other water-based liquids are spilled on the floor. Many laminate floors — particularly of cheap quality or poor installation — result in cracks between the floor boards. These cracks allow water to infiltrate between the top of the floor and the sub-floor. This water cannot be mopped up and now becomes the starting point for mold growth — either directly where the water is or somewhere nearby from the increased moisture locally.

      The best way to avoid this problem is not to install laminate flooring in a kitchen. However, laminate flooring is very popular these days because it is more fashionable than sheet vinyl flooring and also more durable. So if you really must go with laminate flooring, then your best bet is to go with a high quality laminate flooring and have it installed correctly by a contractor who knows what he is doing.

  2. Thanks for your request, and I would be happy to elaborate.

    Basically, there is a LOT of moisture in a kitchen — spills from liquids, leaks from appliances (dishwasher, refrigerator, garbage disposal, etc.), steam from cooking, and a host of other sources. The moisture from cooking can be a mold source, but usually not in the context of this blog where we are talking about laminate flooring. But the other moisture sources are a huge concern.

    Mold needs three things: moisture, warmth, and

    With laminate flooring you have the hardwood surface backed with a thin piece of foam. The foam serves to ‘soften’ the flooring as well as provide some sound insulation. When installed correctly, a sheet of plastic is laid over the sub-floor and the laminate installed on top.

    If water/moisture is allowed to penetrate through the laminate surface then it can get trapped in the foam layer between the sheet of plastic and the laminate. That moisture, combined with the warmth of a kitchen, provides an idea environment for the germination of mold.

    Common water spills that are mopped up quickly are not an issue. But we had a situation where condensate from a refrigerator leaked out onto the floor in a vacant unit. Since no one was there to mop it up, it found its way between the cracks in the laminate flooring. It was a basement unit and air circulation was also minimal. We had a huge outbreak of mold and the tenant vacated the premises.

    The same can happen with a leak in a water supply line to a refrigerator or a leak under a dishwasher. Either could go undetected for a long period of time.

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