Everything You Need to Know about Laminate Floors
Laminate flooring is highly sought after for its durability and consistent performance year after year. Unlike hardwood, laminate floors are unlikely to fade or darken from the result of direct sunlight. In addition to being more affordable, laminate flooring is also very easy to clean and requires no significant maintenance over it's lifetime.
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What is Laminate?
Laminate flooring has a layered construction:
- Wear layer: This easy-to-clean surface contains aluminum oxide which protects the floor from stains, fading and wear. Look for an abrasion classification (A/C) rating of at least 3 for adequate residential use protection.
- Image design layer: A photographic image of wood, stone, or virtually anything you can imagine.
- Inner core layer: The core provides the floor's structural strength and stability. It is made from high-density fiberboard (HDF). The core is often impregnated with a plastic resin called melamine to increase the floor's strength, stability and resistance to moisture. Products that have high levels of melamine do not require acclimation before installation.
- Backing layer: Found beneath the inner core, the backing is made with resin saturated paper. It creates a moisture barrier that protects the floor from warping.
All laminate floor layers are fused together using one of two processes. DPL, or direct pressure laminate, is the most common construction for residential use. HPL, or high-pressure laminate, is an extra-hard construction. The difference between the two relates to cost, performance and design realism. DPL is less expensive, has the same gouge resistance as HPL when objects are dropped at or below counter height, and is easier to emboss for more realistic texture. HPL is more expensive and less likely to gouge if items are dropped from above counter-top height, but is harder to emboss, so it doesn't look as realistic.
Laminate is the ultimate copycat of the flooring universe. Its uncanny ability to visually replicate the look of wood, stone, brick and ceramic is possible due to highly detailed photography of the genuine material. So, when you look at laminate, you're looking at an image identical to the real McCoy. The image is coupled with advanced embossing that adds realistic texture to the floor surface. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish laminate from the material it is mimicking. Laminate also has an easy to clean surface that protects the floor from stains, fading or wear. Laminate's powers of impersonation allow you to get the look and feel of rare, exotic wood or expensive stone at a fraction of the cost, with no natural material drawbacks.
- The beauty of laminate is that it looks nearly identical to natural stone or wood and can be used to achieve the same design effects without the vulnerability. Laminate allows you to get the look of rare wood species or costly stone such as granite at a fraction of the price.
- Since laminate replicates the look and feel of natural flooring, consider the design and texture of the original material before making your decision. A rough-hewn stone look brings a rustic element of nature to a room; polished stone adds sophistication; while wood lends warmth and comfort.
- Coordinated wall base, trim pieces and transitions can enhance the floor's visual effect. Use thick, decorative installation accessories to create a sense of age or elegance, or, use simple moldings with straight unadorned lines for a more modern feeling.
- Using the same type of flooring throughout several different rooms adds a sense of continuity to a home. Because laminate can be installed in any room , it is the perfect choice for room-to-room and level-to-level coordination.
- Unlike hardwood flooring, which is usually installed across the direction of subfloor joists, wood-look laminate flooring can be laid in any direction you choose.
- To make a narrow room look wider, lay the boards across the width of the room. To make any room look more spacious and open, try laying the boards across the diagonal.
- High-definition embossing enhances the ultra realistic look of DPL laminate, and is a hallmark of quality. It mimics the texture of the real material so well that no one may ever guess you have a laminate floor.
Pros of Laminate Floors
- Ultra Realistic Designs
Provides the realistic look of wood, tile or stone at a lower cost.
- Long Lasting
Extremely durable and far less apt to scratch than wood.
- DIY Friendly
Exceptionally easy to install because interlocking pieces "float" over, rather than attach to, a subfloor.
- Easy Area-to-Area Transitions
Easy to adjoin to other floors, due to its 7 to 10 mm (approximately 1/3") thickness.
- Child and Pet Friendly
Superior durability for households with children or large pets
Considerations of Laminate Floors
- Cannot be Refinished
Unlike hardwood floors, laminate cannot be refinished or recoated.
- Shorter Life Expectancy than Natural Products
Laminate's life expectancy of 15 to 30 years is on par with other types of manufactured flooring, but considerably less than that of genuine stone, ceramic and other natural materials.
- "Hollow" Sound if Not Installed with Correct Underlayment
Laminate's construction and installation method can create hollow sounds when people or pets walk on the floor. Using the correct underlayment eliminates or reduces this problem.
- Adds Less Value to Your Home than Natural Products
Laminate does not have the same perceived value of the natural materials it mimics.