How To: Solving bumps in laminate floors and chips in stockpot enamel


Wood fibers in the base layer of laminate flooring swell as they absorb moisture and shrink when the air is dryer. (ISTOCK PHOTO)
June 29, 2011

Q.The laminate flooring in the basement of my home is fine most of the year. But in the summer, it bumps up in several places. Is expansion of the floor in the summer heat causing this problem? What can be done to repair it?

— Frederick

A.Because your flooring is fine most of the year, it probably was installed with a moisture barrier underneath, as it should have been. So the problem probably stems from moisture in the basement air during the warm, humid days of summer. Wood fibers in the base layer of the flooring swell as they absorb this moisture and shrink when the air is drier. This expansion and contraction occurs in the length and width of the boards, not just in width as with traditional hardwood flooring.

To deal with the predictable fluctuation, laminate flooring manufacturers specify that installers leave a gap where the flooring meets walls, passes through doorways or is interrupted by fixed things, such as pipes. Installers are also supposed to create gaps in the middle of the flooring in especially large rooms. Some manufacturers call for these wherever the length or width exceeds 10 meters, about 33 feet, while others set the limit at half that. There are special T-shape moldings to cover gaps in the middle of a room. Alongside walls, most people use quarter-round molding. This molding must be attached to the walls, not the floor, so it doesn’t pin down the flooring.

If your basement is large and there is no expansion gap in the middle, creating one might solve your problem. Check perimeter molding by prying up a couple of pieces to make sure they are attached to walls. If you need to reattach them and your basement has masonry walls, use construction adhesive. Also look for any small areas where the expansion gap is missing — for example, where stairs or cabinets touch down or where one room merges with another.

To cut an expansion gap in an installed floor, use a straightedge secured with double-stick tape or by a couple of friends, plus a circular saw with the blade set to the exact depth you need. Alongside walls, where there isn’t enough room for the saw, the Fein MultiMaster flush-cutting miniature circular saw (www.fein.com) comes in handy if you’re not able to remove the boards so you can trim them with a table saw or jigsaw.

Q. Two of my lovely Le Creuset stockpots have become chipped on the exterior at the base. Now they are also getting little chips in the enamel at the corresponding spots on the interior. I hope they are not totally compromised but wonder how long until they start leaking. Is there any way to repair this chipped enamel so it will hold up under heat and prevent rusting out?

— Potomac

A. Although it’s technically possible to reglaze metal pots with porcelain enamel, it’s not a job companies are clamoring to do. The Porcelain Enamel Institute suggested a single company. But although it does small, custom projects, it won’t work on cooking pots because of fear of liability if the enamel were to chip and cut someone. For the same reason, Le Creuset of America, the U.S. branch of the French manufacturer, won’t do repairs, either.

Because of the risk of additional chips forming when the pot contains food, the company recommends discarding pots with chipped enamel. However, the company does have a generous return and replacement policy. If the chip occurs because of a manufacturer’s defect, the company will replace it, regardless of how old the pot is. If the customer did something wrong, the company offers discounts on replacements. The amount depends on the type of pot. It’s 50 percent on products labeled as stockpots (these are stainless steel underneath) and 75 percent on French ovens (cast iron underneath). Some French ovens are big enough to be used as stockpots; you can identify them because they are much heavier than typical pots of the same size.

To get the replacement or discount, phone the company’s consumer service line at 877-273-8738, which is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for a return authorization and shipping instructions. You don’t need to have receipts or prove that you are the original owner to take advantage of it. “We have many people who inherit these pots or buy them at garage sales or on eBay,” says Robin Loadholt, the direct-to-consumer supervisor for Le Creuset of America.

Le Creuset does require receipts within 90 days of purchase when a pot is fine but someone just wants a different color or a refund.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line and tell us where you live.

The Checklist: Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in June.

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