Laminate countertop is a great alternative to solid stone or wood counters, there is one inherent downside, though. Water can leak under the laminate, and be absorbed by the wood underneath.
Signs That Your Laminate Countertop is Water Damaged.
It’s important to spot the signs early and take any precautions necessary as soon as possible to reduce damage.
Wood expands as it absorbs water, some of the water may sit on top of the wood, in between the wood and plastic laminate. This will cause bubbles in the laminate.
Bubbles may appear as small circular initially but may grow randomly depending on the level of water ingress and absorption rate of the wood.
Water causes most materials to expand when absorbed, once dried it often leads to the surface shrinking to smaller than before. This can cause the surface of the laminate to look shrunken,
This will most often happen near the edges and ends of the countertop, where the laminate is not restrained by the other material around it.
Repair can not usually be seamless with this kind of defect, the laminate material will not be able to recover its original shape, and it may be difficult to ‘make good’ without using more materials.
2. Rippling Laminate
As with shrinking laminate, the water can cause the material to expand, this will usually follow with shrinkage, but sometimes the surface may retain its extra length. This can often happen when the surrounding material has torn or become detached from joining strips.
If the laminate can be trimmed and dried, the local area may well be able to be repaired. It will not have the exact same look as before, however. This will always come with the risk of extra shrinkage if the laminate does become excessively dry after the fact.
Where the water is sat on top of the wooded core, it may absorb along the top surface only, this may happen more often in older countertops where the adhesive has dried out.
This will be noticeable if the counters are particularly old or poor quality. It is a very difficult thing to fix and may necessitate the replacement of the countertop if it needs to look perfect.
4. Dark Spots
Darker patches of the laminate can indicate fairly conclusively that there is underlying water damage. This will be most prominent of lighter coloured laminates.
The damp areas may go or become more light as the area dries out, but it is likely there will be a ring of discoloration around the extent of where the damage occurred.
Depending on the type of laminate, this can be fixed. If the laminate is real wood there can often be sanding and refinishing processes that will help remove some of the visible damage.
Most Common Causes of Laminate Countertop Water Damage
It is important to find the reason behind water damage, as the root cause needs to be addressed before and remedial work is attempted. If not, any further work to fix the problem could be a waste of time and resources.
1. Leaking Faucets
Within Faucets there are compression washers that retain the water tight seal within the pipes and joints. These are often above the level of the countertop.
This means a slight leak from a tap that cannot easily be noticed, will run down onto the counter over time. This is made worse by the fact a hole will be drilled through the water tight seal of the top layer of laminate. This exposes the porous wooded core.
The water will be absorbed by the inner core and slowly move across the entire surface.
2. Broken Seal Between Sink and Counter
Under the outer flange of a properly installed sink, a line of sealant should be applied. If this seal becomes damaged or is not fitted, any water that splashes out of the sink during normal use, will seep under the sink.
This can be hidden by water sitting on top of the sink surface, as it will gradually be absorbed into the wood below.
3. Damage or Deep Scratches to the Surface of the Laminate
Laminate worktop is designed so that cheaper softwood can be used as the base. Soft wood however is extremely porous, and expands when wet. It is therefore not suitable for countertops.
Laminating this softwood allows for a water-proof clean surface to be applied to this wood, achieving a usable countertop with cheaper materials.
If the laminate is damaged, and water is allowed under the surface, the wood will rapidly absorb water and start to bubble or show other damage. This can happen from any small cut or dent to the upper surface.
Can Water Damaged Laminate Countertops be Repaired?
Countertops are expensive and costly to replace, it is therefore very helpful to be able to repair damaged sections instead of outright removal and refitting new material. In the sections below we will discuss how and when it is possible to repair damaged countertops.
When Countertops can be Repaired
If minor damage is sustained, such as dark spots, light bubbling or delamination, these can often be repaired.
It not only depends on the type of damage, but the length the damage was sustained for, and the type of counter used. Wooden laminate can sometimes be re-sanded, but plastic or vinyl coatings cannot usually be fixed without new laminate material.
When you Need to Replace the Countertop
If major shrinking, delamination or swelling has occurred in the top layer of the countertop, it is generally time to rip out and replace. Even if the issues are minor, but widespread, i.e. across the entire counter, it may be too much work to try a repair.
If these problems do persist, and a repair is attempted, it may never look satisfactory or completed
How to Repair Your Swollen Water Damaged Countertops
Follow the steps below to successfully fix water damaged countertops
Remove the Source of Water
In order to ensure an remedial work is worthwhile, the source and cause of the damage should be found, and resolved. If this is not done, any work and materials used could be wasted.
Assess the Extent of the Damage
Using the guide above, assess the area for various signs of water damage, it may be unwise to try and repair an entire laminate countertop, when a replacement piece of material would not be overly expensive.
Drying the Area
The area affected should be thoroughly dried out before attempting a repair. This may require splitting bubbling, or using fans and heaters to force the moist air to evaporate from the wood.
Once fully dried the damage may look more severe. This is why it is imperative that the drying be completed before remedial work is commenced. If not, the drying may still continue after the repairs, and render them useless.
Bubbling can sometimes be cured without much difficulty, if not too large. The bubble should be burst or carefully slit open, and the water pushed out. Ideally the area should be completely dried using some light heat. A small spot of superglue can then be applied and excess scraped off, to seal the area.
Shrinking and Rippling:
In cases where the laminate has shrunken, if possible, a joining strip could be used to cover up or add in a new piece of counter.
Joining strips are often used where two lengths of counter meet at a 90 degree angle, such as when a counter runs around a corner of a room. The strips are available in various colours to suit the style of counter.
A new piece of counter can be cut and added using one of these strips, providing it is not a large amount of the counter that is damaged.
If the countertop is showing signs of delamination across the entire surface, it is not recommended that this be fixed. Instead removal and installation of a new piece is recommended,
If the delamination is occurring only in one area, it may be worthwhile cutting and replacing this section using a joining strip.
Care should be taken to seal adequately around the strips to avoid future water damage between the joints.
Repairing Water Damaged Countertop Seams
The seams as mentioned are usually seen in a corner, where two lengths of counter are joined together.
If the seam strips are not properly sealed, water can seep under the strips. This is troublesome as it cannot easily be seen, and it may not evaporate easily if trapped by the sealing strip.
In cases where moisture has gotten under this strip and caused the wood to expand, or delamination has occurred, it may be possible to fix this.
The easiest way to attempt repair is to remove the entire countertop, and inspect what areas are damaged.
Once the areas are highlighted, the board can be cut using a hand saw or powered circular saw, to an accurate and square line. This can then be offered back to the counter, in order for the new piece to be measured.
Once the required piece is ascertained, it can be cut in the same way as the old one. This can then be secured using glue or screws (use manufacturer’s guidelines) alongside the old piece of countertop.
A sealing strip should then be glued into place using suitable silicone sealant, preventing further water ingress.
Preventing Water Damage to Particle Board Countertops
To ensure your new or repaired countertops stay in pristine condition, follow these steps to avoid future water damage.
Silicone sealant should be in place and un damaged around sink edges, and seams. This prevents water from general usage seeping into the particle board and causing issues.
The silicone may need replacing every few years as it shrinks or becomes damaged when doing this the old sealant should be scraped away thoroughly to ensure proper adhesion.
Check for Leaks
It is generally recommended anyway, but ensure all faucets and other outlets are properly installed and are not leaking.
If a leak is detected, the appliance should be fixed immediately and the counter inspected for damage. This damage should then be rectified as soon as possible using this guide, to avoid the issue escalating.
Repair Dents or Scratches
Holes, cuts or deep scratches to the laminate surface, will allow in water. Any of these issues should be immediately fixed using the advice above, so as not to allow in any moisture.
It may be necessary to use some glue or sealant on any damaged areas, and ensure they are kept in good condition.