What Is Laminate Flooring and What Makes It Special?

Laminate flooring, sometimes known also as floating wood tile, is a multilayer type of synthetic flooring.

The concept behind this type of flooring is to simulate the look of wood or stone. But don’t be alarmed by this.

Although it’s not a natural material, it looks very realistic. Plus, it is much cheaper and easier to install than other popular types of flooring such as hardwood.

For these and many other reasons, laminate flooring has been one of the most popular in the world, and now catching on fast in America.

Keep reading to find out more about what makes laminate flooring so popular.

Short History of Laminate

different samples of vinyl floors

Believe it or not, laminate is a rather recent product. Its history only goes back a few decades. The first time people used it was in the late 1920s in Sweden. They experimented with multiple layers and glued them together.

However, it wasn’t until 1977 that the Swedish company Perstorp sold the first laminate flooring under the name Pergo. Since that time, its popularity grew enormously. By 1988, the market was already filled with a variety of laminates. It was clear that this type of flooring would become one of the top choices in the years to come.

By the end of 1990s, the first click-in system was introduced, as well as sound reduction technology. These were followed by improvements in design, structure, width, and surface protection. Today, most laminate floor manufacturing processes are sustainable and eco-friendly, which makes it even more popular among customers.

What Is Laminate Made Of?

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This is a synthetic flooring of fiberboard material. It contains four layers that are compressed together with a resin or a glue. Afterwards, pressure or heat is applied to create planks that are very strong, yet flexible. Each layer has its specific purpose which we’ll briefly look into, starting from the bottom up.

  • Backing Layer

The base layer has the role of keeping the board straight. One of the main issues with traditional hardwood flooring is moisture. If you spill liquid on it, it may change its shape. To prevent this from happening, laminate has a backer paper at the bottom that ensures its dimensional stability.

  • Substrate Layer

This may be one of the most important parts of laminate, also known as the inner core layer. Its purpose is to ensure extra strength, along with the backing layer. Normally, it is made of high-density fiberboard combined with resin and a wax binder. It is also water resistant and protects the floor from wearing and tearing quickly.

  • Decorative Layer

Next in line is the pattern or decorative layer. It comes in a variety of designs, usually created to resemble natural wood or stone. You can choose among many different patterns based on your needs or taste. Some of them may even include a texture in the pattern to increase its authenticity.

  • Wear Layer

The final or uppermost layer is a transparent layer that tackles several functions. It protects the floor from all kinds of wear and tear by shoes, pets, furniture legs, kids’ toys, and more. Additionally, it protects the decorative layer from losing its color, from the UV rays in direct sunlight or from wear and tear.

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Installation

installation of vinyl floors
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One of the main benefits of laminate flooring is probably its simple installation. Most people can do it alone, just by following the instructions. Laminate flooring comes packaged with tongue and groove planks that you can click into one another.

The reason why this is also called ‘floating’ is that it is installed over the sub-floor, on top of a layer of foam underlayment that you’ll have to lay. As a result, you get reduced noise and moisture protection.

Keep in mind that you should leave between 1 and 10 mm of space between the laminate and movable objects (walls, furniture) to allow for unobstructed laminate expansion. If you have lots of immovable furniture, you may have to make small cuts around it. In that case, the best option may be to hire a professional installer.

Another perk is that you can install laminate over an existing floor. Neither one will get damaged, which makes it much easier for people renovating their homes.

Design

When it comes to design, you can get as creative as you wish. Laminate comes in different colors and patterns, including rustic, a natural oak look, or perhaps a modern, gray surface.

No matter what décor you prefer, you can find laminate flooring that meets your needs. Even experts have been known to mistake laminate for hardwood in a store, which serves as the best proof of its realistic and sophisticated appearance.

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Care

Although this type of flooring is very durable and resistant to scratches, you should take basic care of it. Make sure to keep it clean, as small particles may damage it over a long period of time.

It won’t be as bad as some other floorings, but why not avoid the damage completely? Also, it is good to keep it dry, despite its water resistance. You don’t need to worry if you spill some water though, as long as it’s not constantly wet.

If you tend to rearrange your furniture often, go ahead and put protective pads on furniture legs to save the laminate from scratching.

Most laminate floors have joining mechanisms that keep the tiles under tension and thereby blocking dirt from entering the gaps. It’s fair to say that this type of flooring requires minimum care.

If you’re are always in a rush, at least you won’t have to waste energy on cleaning the floor all the time.

Cost of Laminate Flooring

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We all know how expensive flooring can be. The great thing about laminate is that it’s fairly inexpensive.

Of course, the overall price depends on the amount of surface you need to cover, as well as the design you choose. However, the overall cost should be much lower compared to other flooring types.

For example, if you choose hardwood flooring, you don’t just pay for the material. The installation process can be long and costly.

In the case of laminate, however, you may be able to install it yourself and save some money on that. Just don’t go for laminate that is much cheaper compared to others, as its quality may be suspect.

Where to Use It

People normally use laminate flooring in living rooms, bedrooms, hallways, or kitchens. The only place where you should avoid laminate is bathrooms. Also, if you have floor heating, don’t worry about the safety. Laminate is able to withstand heat.

If you haven’t been using the heater in a long time, make sure to increase the temperature gradually. Although there is no direct danger to yourself or the laminate, you might as well give it time to adjust.

Main Benefits of Laminate Flooring

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When you decide to invest in your home, you want to make a good decision and get the best quality for the price. Here are some of the major benefits of laminate flooring.

  • Versatility

Laminate comes in all kinds of colors and designs. Its look is very realistic and classy, so you won’t have to worry about your floor looking cheap. Even people who are very picky about the design of their floor can find laminate that fits their needs.

  • Durability

The last thing you need is to constantly worry about damaging your floor. People with young kids or pets know how important it is to have a durable, water-resistant floor. Most if not all laminates are very durable thanks to their multilayer construction.

  • Maintenance

You already know that laminate requires very little care. You just have to keep it clean and dry, which is probably something you would do with any type of flooring. Even if your floor gets wet or very dirty, there is little chance of damaging the laminate.

  • Installation

Do you like to frequently redecorate your home? If so, you need a floor that is easy to install and remove. Thanks to its click-in system, laminate is very easy to use. You will save time and money on the installation process. Plus, you can place it over an existing floor without having to remove everything first.

  • Cost

Contrary to other alternatives, laminate has a price range that is not too affected by the difference in design or texture. The structure doesn’t change much, just the design of the decorative layer. Therefore, you can find a fairly inexpensive laminate that looks quite sophisticated.

Final Thoughts

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Now you don’t have to wonder anymore about ‘what is laminate flooring’ and ‘why is everybody so crazy about it’. It’s fairly simple. The combination of beautiful design, high durability, and affordable price makes it one of the most popular choices.

Yes, it is synthetic and it may not feel like other natural materials, but it looks just like them, perhaps even better. You can install it quickly and be sure that it will look the same for a long period of time. Finally, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a sophisticated and elegant look.

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