For the last decade or so, laminate flooring has become the flooring of choice for many American homeowners. It's become especially easy to install, easy to maintain, and relatively cost effective. Scandinavians, however, have been using laminate floor coverings for several decades and Sweden's Pergo brand has become the common name used for describing laminate floors in general.
Using the same techniques as for laminated countertops, flooring comprises layers of different materials that are bonded together using heat and pressure. From the bottom up, laminates have what is called a balancing backing bonded to a core layer—often medium density fiberboard (MDF) and occasionally high-density fiberboard (HDF). The pattern is a printed photograph of the material it simulates within a resin or plastic layer; the potential is limitless, but usually looks like various woods, stone, or tile. Finally, the top is wear layer of durable aluminum oxide which is impact, stain, heat, and fade resistant.
The quality of a laminate floor ranges from extremely durable, damage- and moisture resistant for higher end products from manufacturers with years of experience to relatively inexpensive, paper-backed laminates from more recent entries into this market. Of the two methods of making laminate flooring—direct pressure and high pressure—high pressure, which uses several steps, is considered the more durable material.
The image on the wood should look real. If it has flat, two-dimensional coloring, when it's laid out in a whole room, you may not be happy with the result.
The thickness of laminates also determines their quality. Low-end products may be less than the standard 5/16" thick. These are typically less expensive, but also much less durable.
If you favor the click-type flooring, the locking design is critical to its longevity. The seam between boards or tiles should be virtually seamless with no gap or variation in height. The thicker the floor, the more secure the connection between pieces and the more likely the flooring will hold up over time.
Compare product warranties for an indication of quality. As a rule, the longer the warranty, the higher the quality.
Laminate flooring is a favorite with do-it-yourselfers because it can be very easy to install. Many may be installed as floating floors with each board clicked into place over a layer of foam.
The foam serves several purposes. It forms not only a vapor barrier, but also creates an insulative, sound barrier. The vapor barrier can prevent the flooring from sticking to the subfloor, which can cause it to buckle. The vapor barrier is especially important for slab concrete floors which can conduct moisture into the flooring. The insulation value can make the floor warmer and more comfortable and deaden sound as it travels through the boards.
Laminates are low maintenance. An occasional barely damp mop can clean floors quickly with a minimum of fuss. Most of the time sweeping or dusting is all that is required.
It's a good idea to use floor protectors under the legs of tables and chairs to prevent scratching. When moving large appliances or furniture, take care to avoid dragging across the surface.
Manufacturers discourage the use of all abrasive cleaners that can mar the surface, so don't imagine that a scrub brush and cleanser will make your floor any cleaner.
Laminates are versatile, durable, and easy to care for. For families with kids, pets, and a lot of coming and going, laminates can be an ideal choice.
Flooring choices include boards and tiles. The boards are usually simulated woods of various types. The tiles may simulate stone or ceramic tile, but may also be any of a variety of colors that can be color coordinated for any decorating scheme.
Consideration needs to be taken on where laminates are installed. In living areas, bedrooms, and halls, they may be perfect. In kitchens, bathrooms, or laundry areas other flooring choices may be more appropriate. Because the core is MDF, any moisture that penetrates could destroy your floor and many manufacturers will not guarantee laminates in wet rooms.
Possibly the biggest disadvantage of laminates is their "green" value. Flooring that doesn't last the mortgage life of a home could arguably be considered less earth friendly than many of the alternates such as bamboo or linoleum. Lower-end laminates may last only 10–15 years. At that point the material can't be refinished so it ends up in the landfill. Petroleum-based resins may be used and off-gassing of formaldehyde can occur depending on the manufacturer, process, and materials used. Many of these objections can be overcome by purchasing a better product with more durable finishes and higher quality to withstand traffic over the long haul.
Ready to install that new flooring? Find a qualified, professional flooring installer at ContractorNexus now.