Everything you need to know about Expansion Gaps

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Here is our simple guide to expansion gaps, what they are, how they work, and why they’re a vitally important part of all wooden floor installations.

What is an expansion gap?

It is a gap left when fitting wooden flooring to allow the wooden floor to move. When fitting wooden floors a gap needs to be left around the periphery of the room so the floor can expand and contract with the seasons of the year.

This is true of Solid Wood Flooring and also Engineered Wood Flooring even though engineered wood floors are much more stable in this respect, it still needs an expansion/contraction gap. Always refer to the fitting instructions of individual manufacturers for guidance.

In fact anywhere the wooden flooring goes up to a solid object like a doorway, a fireplace, or even radiator pipes a gap is needed.  The reason for this is moisture, humidity and normal winter-summer expansion and contraction of the wood floor throughout the seasons and it needs room to enable this to happen.  A wood floor continually takes up and gives off moisture to keep in balance with its surroundings.  This allows the wooden floor to move naturally allowing the floor to lie flat throughout the year.
Everything you need to know about Expansion GapsTo make sure the expansion gap is correct the skirting boards can be removed and to use spacers as you are laying the floor on the outside is recommended.  These must be removed before refitting the skirting board.

Please note floors bigger than 6 metres by 10 metres or dictated by the size of the room will require additional gaps left which is necessary with larger rooms so that they can expand across the whole area. (Please refer to the manufacturer’s fitting instructions for engineered floors)

With solid wood floors, expansion gaps can be built in by leaving small gaps every metre between the planks. We are talking as thin as a credit card; washers can be used to achieve this. This is only possible with fully bonded and nailed floors we do not recommend floating wooden floors. If gaps are not left it could lead to cupping and bowing as the floor will not have enough room to move naturally.

The gaps on the outside will then be covered by the skirting or if skirting is not required quadrant trim can be used. At doorways, a level threshold or a T Bar can be used to allow for this.  Around pipes a radiator rose can be used, these can be purchased in lots of colours or a solid wood can be stained to compliment your wooden floor installation.

This is why it is so important to condition wooden floors before they are laid. This is achieved by the wooden floor being stored in the area it is to be laid.

  • An engineered wood floor needs 2 days to a week.
  • Solid wood floors need a week to 2 weeks before the job commences.
  • This allows the wooden flooring to acclimatise to the conditions
  • Another vitally important aspect is to make sure the subfloor is sufficiently dry.