For many years, natural materials such as wood, bamboo, stone, and hand-made tiles offered the only viable flooring choices. As technology and innovation progressed, synthetic varieties such as laminate flooring entered the mainstream.
Although laminate flooring became a popular flooring alternative shortly after its debut, the flooring was rather limited in its designs. Over the last several decades, laminate flooring has expanded in numerous ways, making it one of the most affordable and versatile flooring choices on the market.
Today, laminate gives homeowners a way to replicate the looks of virtually any natural flooring material. This provides a high level of customization, since laminate flooring can be made in any color, pattern, and replicate finish.
If you are considering laminate flooring for your home, you’ve come to the right place. The information found below will go a long way in helping you to make an informed buying decision.
What is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring is a mostly synthetic flooring variety that is made up of several layers fused together using a laminate process.
There are two main types of laminate flooring; High Pressure Laminate (HPL) and Direct Pressure Laminate (DPL)
HPL laminate is a five layer laminate created when the top and bottom layers are treated separately, and then fused together to make a strong core. This core provides extra durability and stability. DPL is comprised of four layers and is not quite as strong, but still perfectly suitable for most residential applications.
Regardless of the type, the bottom layer acts as the backing, allowing it to resist moisture and prevent warping. The next layers make up the inner core that is composed of high or medium density fiberboard. The layer on top of that is known as the image layer, which created to look like natural materials using high-definition technology and printing.
The final layer on top is the wear layer, a transparent aluminum oxide material that protects the image layer from scratches, burns, impact, and other wear over time.
Why Laminate Flooring?
The main appeal of laminate flooring is a result of its ability to mimic nearly any other flooring type in appearance. While early laminate flooring was available in a few basic colors and designs, modern laminate flooring can take the appearance of nearly any surface one desires.
This allows for homeowners to install look of wood flooring, stone flooring, metal flooring, or really just about any other kind available, often for an inexpensive price and easy installation.
The infinite versatility of laminate makes it suitable for any home. Those who are looking for a neat, clean, and modern look will appreciate white, black, and grey laminate varieties, while those that prefer a more vintage and distressed look can choose rustic laminate flooring for a more complex appearance.
Laminate flooring can also provide convenience during installation with its ability to be installed on top of existing flooring. As long as the surface is flat, laminate flooring can be installed over it.
In the event that you wish to remove your laminate flooring, you can do so without spending hours tearing it all up. Since laminate flooring is rarely adhered to the floor below, removal is as simple as taking off your wall’s molding and trim, lifting up on the paneling, and discarding.
The next important classification is AC rating. AC stands for Abrasion Class, a third party entity that has set specific ratings for Laminate flooring durability. The ratings span from AC1 to AC5.
- AC1 – This rating is suitable for residential areas that get the least amount of traffic and wear. Bedrooms, closets, and dens are good choices for AC1.
- AC2 – Slightly more durable than AC1, this flooring can be used all throughout the home, and is especially useful for living rooms, hallways, and dining rooms.
- AC3 – Strong enough for light hotel and office use, but light enough for residential use, AC3 is a good middle ground laminate choice if you are unsure about the exact amount of wear anticipated, but know you need more than just the minimal amount of durability.
- AC4 – Often found in cafes, larger offices, and smaller stores, AC4 offer s high level of durability while maintaining a comfortable feel.
- AC5 – Reserved for the heaviest traffic areas, AC5 is utilized I some of the most high-traffic areas in the world, such as shopping malls, office high-rises, and arenas.
Who Benefits From Laminate Flooring?
The durability and versatility of laminate flooring offers numerous benefits to those who have it installed.
Laminate flooring provides an allergy-free alternative to those who be bothered by dust and dander trapped in carpets. Laminate is non-porous, and easily cleans up with just some soap and water, making it easy to keep your home free of allergens lurking on and inside the flooring.
The easy cleanup has a broad appeal as well. Many types of wood flooring can require refinishing and re-waxing over time. The same goes for tile flooring such as travertine and marble. Laminate flooring can offer the appearance of both, but with much easier maintenance.
Laminate can be swept and vacuumed like other floors, and cleans up with either mild detergents or apple cider vinegar mixed with water.
Laminate flooring with higher AC ratings is perfect for homes with children and pets. Spills and messes clean up easily, and the floor is difficult to damage by dropping something on it, or any other damage young children and pets can cause.
Again, this is very beneficial to those who want the appearance of natural materials, but don’t want to risk having to replace them due to damage.
Where to Install Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is perfect for most any part of the home, excluding high moisture and humidity areas such as a basement, bathroom, or kitchen. The surface of the flooring can stand up to these elements, but the backing and underlayment stand a good chance of warping if left exposed on a regular basis.
Living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, offices, and foyers are just a few of the perfect locations to install laminate flooring. This gives you versatility with your decor, while also providing durable and lasting material. Because of this, laminate flooring makes it easy to give each room its own identity.
Until recently, waterproof laminate flooring was virtually impossible to create, but several companies have now engineered ways to keep the fiberboard core dry, opening up numerous possibilities for other locations such as bathrooms, kitchens, and even basements.
The surface type options for laminate flooring can be grouped into four different categories.
Smooth – This is the most basic of varnish surfaces. The smooth surface lacks any texturing or variance, and is often available in low, medium, and high gloss finishes. This look is suitable for those wanting a plain, solid color.
Distressed – The appearance of distressed laminate is very similar to antiqued floors and vintage flooring that has achieved a measure of character over the years from wear and tear. Distressed laminate offers this look, but without the decades-long wait and structural liabilities.
Embossed – If you’re looking for a realistic textured look, this laminate is for you. Embossed laminate can trick the eyes into thinking that they are seeing grains and details that aren’t actually there.
Embossed in Registration – Perhaps the most realistic of them all, this surface contains a high level of detail that can match the grain appearance of high-quality wood flooring.
Laminate flooring is relatively easy to install regardless of the method you choose. These are the three types of installation available.
Glued Laminate – This type of laminate requires a similar installation to engineered wood flooring, with the main difference being the fact that you are installing panels as opposed to individual boards. With Glued Laminate. Each joint must be glued together before interlocking it with the next piece.
Pre-Glued – This uses the same concept as glued laminate, but the joints have an adhesive already applied to them. Simply moisten the joints and attach other panels together. This saves time during installation, while also reducing the mess and chances of applying the glue wrong.
Glueless Click – Installation of glueless click laminate is by far the easiest. This laminate type forgoes glue altogether in favor of interlocking panels that snap together.
As far as underlays go, laminate panels vary. Some types come with an attached underlay pad, while others allow the homeowner to decide whether or not they’d like to use it.
If there is a possibility of moisture coming from under the flooring, underlayment is recommended.
Laminate Flooring Designs
Listed below is just a small sample of the many different varieties laminate flooring can be manufactured to resemble.
Wood Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring designed with the look of hardwood flooring is easily one of the most popular uses. Wood flooring is one of the most alluring and detailed flooring choices available, but several factors prevent many from installing it in their home.
The installation process itself is rather complicated, and the additional upkeep and refinishing required to keep the floors in prime condition can be both costly and burdensome.
Maple laminate flooring, pine laminate flooring, cherry laminate flooring, and oak laminate flooring are just a few examples of high-end flooring options available at not only a cheaper price, but lacking all the usual upkeep and wear as well.
Hot and humid climates can be damaging to hardwood flooring, so laminate provides those who want the aesthetic appeal of hardwood flooring without risking damage to their investment.
Laminate Tile Flooring
Tile flooring provides sophistication and elegance for homes, but the tiles themselves can often be fragile in the event of impact, not to mention being both tricky and messy to install. Laminate flooring offers a much more durable option, while still retaining the customized look of any tile type you could ever want.
Textured laminate flooring an be made to resemble any tile pattern you want, with the added benefit of being much easier to install, especially when opting for glueless click laminate.
Laminate Stone Flooring
Stone flooring is one of the most detailed and natural forms of flooring available. Although stone flooring offers many characteristics not found in other types of flooring, the installation can be difficult, and the flooring itself can be expensive, with a high amount of maintenance required to keep its optimal look.
Laminate stone flooring can be used in its place, giving your property the appearance and style of stone flooring such as marble, granite, and limestone, but without the frequent refinishing and cleaning that comes from having porous material under your feet.
Bamboo Laminate Flooring
Bamboo flooring provides a very unique and organic aesthetic with subtle differences from wood, but the flooring itself tends to wear easily, along with being higher in price. Laminate flooring can be created to look exactly like the bamboo flooring you’ve always wanted, saving you money and worry from premature wear in the process.
What’s the Best Laminate Flooring?
When choosing the right laminate flooring for your home, there is no right or wrong answer. Laminate flooring that has a higher AC rating is going to cost you more, but it may not be necessary.
Determining your laminate flooring should begin with deciding on what style you’d like your floor to be. Do you want the appearance of natural material, or do you prefer the look of manufactured materials such as metal? Identifying your room’s look is the best place to start.
From there, the next factor is determining the traffic amount. If you are wanting new flooring for your bedroom, a rating higher than AC2 is not needed. If you are renovating your kid’s playroom, a rating of at least AC3 should be used.
The multiple durability ratings and endless style options present homeowners with all the factors they need to custom tailor flooring for each room of their home. It’s all up to you – and that’s the beauty of laminate.
How Much Does Laminate Flooring Cost?
As you can see, laminate offers numerous flooring styles for a cheaper price. Laminate flooring is always dependent on a combination of factors, including square footage of the home, the AC rating, and type of flooring.
According to Home Advisor, you can expect to pay as low as $700 and as much as $6,000 for a full installation, but the average lies somewhere in between $1,581 and $4,290. Installing it yourself can cut down on the cost significantly.