For a long time, laminate flooring remained largely unpopular. Many property owners did not seem to like it, and its reputation suffered a blow. But that seems to have changed. Today, many people are installing this type of floor, and their number keeps growing each day. But then, the laminate of today is different from that of the past years. It has changed significantly to become more visually appealing, low-cost, and long-lasting. It’s no wonder, then, that its popularity keeps increasing.
If you are looking to install laminate, whether in your home or commercial space, you may want to learn more about its advantages and disadvantages. Read on, because here, we will look at everything about this type of floor; from its benefits, installation, pricing, to buying guide and more. First, I’ll start with the pros of this floor and why it’s making a massive comeback.
Laminate provides for a floor that’s quite affordable. With a square foot costing from as low as $1, it’s one of the cheapest options available today. Despite the low prices, it would be advisable that you look for the moderately priced laminate. A price that’s too low is an indicator of equally low quality. Mid prices are fair, plus you still end up getting quality flooring without paying a fortune.
Installing laminate is pretty straightforward. It also takes a shorter time, with most floors involving interlocking pieces. Unlike with other floor types such as hardwood that require exceptional skills to install, almost anyone can put up a laminate floor. Most types of this flooring are even DIY. Laminate can also be installed on top of an existing floor. It makes the labor involved less than what would be required when working with other floor types. Hiring someone to install it doesn’t cost a lot either. Not much work is involved, and no high level of expertise is required.
Advance in technology has enabled new and real looking designs to be created. Today’s laminate can mimic hardwood, tile and even stone. The use of modern printing techniques produces stunning designs that look almost natural. You can have laminate flooring that replicates any kind of hardwood, complete with the graining. Or, one that looks like polished stone. The style options are many and is what makes laminate a popular choice with many people. Having it in your home or office allows you a style of your choice.
The durability of high-end laminate is exceptional. It comes with a surface made of tough material that’s strong enough to resist normal wear. As a result, it withstands foot traffic better, doesn’t get ruined by liquid spills easily, and doesn’t give in to heat damage. The floor is also significantly resistant to scratches, and having pets around won’t present a danger.
However, laminate will only last if you employ the right practices to maintain it. You will have to wipe spills immediately they happen. Avoid using harsh cleaning liquids on it, too. If cared for well, this floor can last for years.
Does Not Cause Allergies
Dust won’t settle on laminate as it would on carpet fibers. Even if it did, washing it off would be a breeze. It means an allergy-free environment when you have this kind of floor. If you’re allergic to dust mite, laminate flooring would be useful to keep the allergen away. However, if you have a severe form of an allergic condition or asthma, this floor may not be safe for you. The chemicals it contains and the adhesives used to install it may cause complications.
Taking care of your laminate flooring doesn’t take much. You only need a vacuum, a broom, and a mop. By sweeping, vacuuming, and damp-mopping the floor often, you can keep it in excellent condition – and for long. Also, laminate doesn’t require special treatment, such as the waxing hardwood floors need.
Fits a Variety of Places
Laminate looks great on any space in your home, from the bedroom, living room, bathroom, to the kitchen. The many styles and designs available make this possible. You get to choose one that suits the color theme or design of your home. Should you decide to use laminate in your bathroom or kitchen, ensure you look for the water-resistant type. It will cost you more but it happens to be the best option. You will have avoided situations where your floor gets ruined by dampness.
Offers More Comfort
Compared to hard, cold floors such as tile, laminate is way more comfortable. It won’t pressure your bare feet as to cause aches. Also, walking on it won’t cause the discomfort of a cold floor since laminate is relatively warm. It makes the floor excellent choice, especially if you have children who are likely to play on it. They will not end up with cold and aching little feet.
The Cons of Laminate Flooring
Having looked at the advantages of laminate, it’s now time for the downsides of this type of flooring.
Cannot Be Refinished
It’s not possible to refinish a laminate floor to restore it. Once it’s surface is damaged, you have no other option but to replace it. Granted, minor damages on this floor can be repaired, but that only serves to extend its life a little bit more. Eventually, you will have to remove it for a new one. If you’re looking for a floor that will be a long-term investment, laminate may not suit it. You may need to look for one that allows refinishing, such as hardwood. But then, laminate is quite affordable to install, and replacing an old one will not cost you too much as to harm your finances.
Doesn’t Increase Home Value
Having a laminate floor in your home won’t increase its resale value. If you have plans to sell the home in the future, choosing this type of floor may not be the best choice. If your home is for permanent residence, this shouldn’t be an issue. You can still go on and install your preferred flooring. It all depends on your future plans.
May Contain Toxic Chemicals
Some laminate pieces contain toxic chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These chemicals are introduced during manufacture and can be a health risk. The VOCs release toxic fumes. These fumes can cause allergic reactions in people with a history of allergen-induced complications such as asthma. However, not every laminate contains these toxins. Some don’t and are entirely safe. For a floor that will not cause allergic complications, look for the types that have low levels of VOCs. Better still, look for those that don’t at all. Also, only purchase laminate that is FloorScore and CARB2 certified. Your health is important, and you should take every precautionary measure when buying your laminate. Ask to be shown compliance documents, especially the ones from the manufacturer. It will ensure what you purchase is entirely safe.
Laminate is not bio-degradable, so it will not break down when thrown away. Also, the chemicals it contains can produce dangerous fumes if it’s incinerated. It can only be recycled, and some companies have found ways to do so. Your floor will be greener if it’s made out of the recycled laminate. A NALFA seal on the laminate brand you purchase is an indicator that it was made from green materials. A NALFA seal also shows no VOCs are present in the product.
The Hollow Sound
Laminate may not be particularly noisy like hardwood, but some people find the hollow sound it produces annoying. However, the sound is not very evident unless a place is ever silent such as in a library. In rooms with a variety of noises, the hollow sounding may be subdued. If your home has the stereo on most of the time, for example, the annoying sound may not be noticeable as to bother you.
Cannot Withstand Moisture
Moisture and humidity can quickly ruin your laminate. It makes the floor to get warped and look old. If you’ve installed the boards in damp places, moisture may slowly gain entry through the seams. Eventually, the planks will get saturated and start to warp or lift. When this happens, you will have no option but to replace the affected pieces. You can always protect your floor by monitoring the levels of humidity in the rooms. Or, you can purchase a dehumidifier and keep your laminate safe from moisture damage. Better still, use the type of laminate that resists water damage when flooring damp areas.
Laminate cleans effortlessly, but it also stains easily. Liquids on this type of floor can leave a nasty mess. If you have pets in your home or children who spill foods around, you may need to be more alert. This is because you need to find spills before the dry out and stain the floor. Take measures to avoid this. I.e. when feeding your pet, place a mat underneath the bowl.
The Unnatural Look
Laminate can be made to look like hardwood, tile or even stone. But that’s only a look alike and not the real thing. A closer view will reveal the difference. While pricey brands may be closer to the real, less expensive one may have a glaring expose of the artificial design. You may, therefore, need to buy expensive brands if you want a floor that replicates hardwood in a way closer to the natural one. Or, you may make use of a clever spread of patterns and boards to enhance the natural effect.
Tips on How to Shop For Quality Laminate
After we’ve looked at what to expect from laminate flooring, it’s time to shop. We will talk about how to go about it, how to ensure you get the best products that suit your budget. Here are the things to look out for when buying laminate.
Check the Thickness
Thick boards offer more insulation and increased durability. But then, a difference in the plank heights when you’ve used thick material can be a trip hazard. Thicker laminate is also more costly. 12 mm thickness is ideal; it’s thick enough for comfort and feels more solid. It will also give you a long lasting floor. However, you will have to pay more for it. Another option you could consider is the 8 mm laminate. It’s the second most common from the 12 mm one since not many manufacturers produce the 10 mm planks. Overall, the thickness of the laminate doesn’t matter much, unless you’re looking for more insulation. Besides, you can always boost the floor’s thickness using an underlay. Unless your budget allows you to go for the 12mm laminate, it’s advisable to buy the 8 mm one. Later, during installation, you can use a 3 mm underlay for enhanced heat and sound insulation.
Check the AC Rating
The AC system is used to grade laminate for durability. The higher the rating, the longer the lifespan of the laminate. If you’re looking for pieces to use in a residential floor, an AC2 rating or higher is appropriate. You may go higher if your floor is a high traffic one, and choose AC3 or even AC4 rating. Only be prepared to pay for the extra cost because higher ratings mean higher prices.
Check Manufacturer Ratings
Another essential factor to consider before selecting your laminate is the manufacturer’s ratings. Check the NALFA website to find out more about the company whose products you want to buy. The organization is concerned with screening the processes and products of member companies for performance, quality safety, and adherence to rules. At the NALFA website, you will also find a list of laminate installers you can contract.
How Laminate Planks Are Made
Have you ever shopped for a product you understood little or nothing about? The experience should have been an awkward one. You probably believed everything the salesperson told you. That’s why we bring you the manufacturing part of laminate. Understanding how the floor is manufactured will make you a smart buyer. You will know what to look for when purchasing your flooring products. So, here we go. A laminate plank is made of several different layers, with each layer serving a distinct purpose:
The protective layer
This layer is made of a strong, stable compound, usually Aluminum Oxide. It protects the other layers. It also provides the finish of the laminate, giving it sheen or a matte look. Being the layer that receives the most beating, it’s made strong enough to resist scratching and heat.
The pattern layer
Second from the protective upper layer, it contains the design that we see when we look at laminate. To make it, quality images of the desired design are used. The patterns are photographically printed using ink of the highest quality, making the design to look real. The paper with the prints is then fused with resin and joined to the core, the third layer of laminate.
Also known as the substrate layer, the core is composed of fiberboard. The density of the fiberboard can be high or medium; it depends on the brand. Wood chips are used in high-density fiberboard while wood waste is used to make medium-density fiberboard. The materials are mixed with wax as well as resin, then, under intense heat and pressure, made into panels.
The back layer
The bottom layer is made from either plastic or melamine. It acts to strengthen the laminate for floor stability and to prevent warping. The layer also helps to prevent the entry of moisture to protect the planks from water-related damage.
Laminate Pricing Guide
The cost of your laminate flooring project is dictated by several factors. The main ones include;
Laminate Quality and Brand
You can opt to go for cheap laminate whose price ranges between $1-$2. However, it will last you less than five years before it requires replacing. A $2-$5 laminate offers better quality. You won’t pay a lot, and you will still get a durable and stylish floor. Plus, you’re assured of health safety since the laminate of this price range is not likely to contain VOCs. High-end laminate priced at more than $5 comes with real looking designs. If your budget can accommodate the cost, you will get a floor that looks great. You will also get a floor that will last for years. Some brands cost more for the same quality of laminate. It’s advisable that you scout around to compare offers. However, don’t settle for the least price. It could be bait to lure you into purchasing low-quality products.
Contractors will mostly offer discounts that are based on how easy or difficult they expect the installation to be. Large spaces are easy to floor, while narrow ones are more difficult. However, contractors will charge, on average, an hourly rate of $20-$25. When calculating the cost of your flooring project, be sure to include expenses such as the cost of preparing the subfloor, tools and the supplies.
A Warranty Isn’t Always What It Seems to Be
When purchasing your laminate floor, you will most likely receive a warranty. Almost every company issues one, but how do you evaluate its usefulness? Many people fall prey to the deception of a warranty and fail to scrutinize it for the truth about what’s to be offered. A limited warranty for your laminate should raise a red flag and make you want to understand what it covers. You will be surprised that it doesn’t include floor damages caused by staining, moisture or pets. If it does, the limit is likely to be in the time it goes for which is usually less than what you would expect.
To be assured the company you consider buying from can adhere to the promises contained in its warranty, conduct research about what their customers have to say about their products. Use the companies recommended by me, or go online and search some established discussion forums. If most of the previous customers are complaining, it should tell you something about the company. Then you can decide whether you want to do business with them or not.
Laminate Brand Reviews
We have looked at everything that entails laminate. If you’re all set now and ready to pick a laminate flooring, here are some popular brands to consider.
Tarkett Fresh Air
This line features planks that measure 12 mm in thickness. It comes in10 colors to chose from which is quite a variety. The floor also features a T-lock installation design and is passed as being allergy-friendly. The planks are of different lengths. The cost per square foot is $3, a price that’s quite affordable. The best part about the laminate is that it comes with a warranty that covers 25 years.
This laminate retails at 1$-$2 for a square foot. You would expect the low price to mean low quality and accompanying negative reviews. Surprisingly, that’s not the case. Reviews about this line are mostly favorable. The planks come in various colors and textures to choose from. This laminate is an excellent option for areas that do not experience a lot of foot traffic such as homes.
This laminate series is the main one from IVC. The planks come in 12 colors to choose from and measure between 8 mm and 12 mm in thickness. The price averages, at most, $3 per square foot. The reputation of this manufacturer and the Balterio line is good. Online reviews are mostly favorable, with most of their customers praising the brand.
Mohawk Chalet Vista
Mohawk supplies various types and designs of laminate. They include neutral, high-gloss, distressed and the classic options. Reviews of this company are mostly positive, and their products are quality. This laminate line sells at an average of between $2-$3 for each square foot. It measures 8 mm by 7″. While reviews of this product are mostly on the positive side, its interlocking design seems not to be as great, with a number of people showing dissatisfaction.
A new entrant, Shaw Floors appears to be doing well. Reviews are highly positive, and customers seem to be satisfied with the brand. The Matterhorn planks are pretty thick, measuring 13 mm by 8″, with a length of more than six feet. The laminate comes in three different shades and costs an average of $4 for each square foot.
Bruce Park Avenue
This line is a moderately priced floor among the company’s products. The cost for each square foot averages between $3-$4. The planks measure 12 mm in thickness and come in 6 shades to choose from. The product can be used for the flooring of any space in a home or commercial property. Reviews of the laminate are mixed, but of notable and negative mention is their customer care services.
Armstrong Premium Lustre
This laminate is among Armstrong’s best and offers guaranteed quality. The planks measure 12 mm by 5″, and are a hardwood design. Their price ranges from $4-$5 for each square foot. Armstrong has been in the business of supplying laminate flooring for long. Their customer service doesn’t appear to be as great, with differing reviews from their customers. However, their products are of good quality.
This series comes with an incredible 58 different shades to choose from. Its price is around $4 for a square foot. The laminate can withstand humid conditions and resist staining better than most brands. According to Mannington, the company that produces the series, the planks will not show any marks of staining if spills are cleaned before 72 hours are over.
Pergo Outlast Plus
Pergo is synonymous with quality, and any product coming from the company is bound to be stylish and long-lasting. The Outlast Plus series has an AC4 rating which means it’s of high quality and durable. You can use this laminate on commercial floors for its strength to withstand high foot traffic. According to the manufacturer, the planks are also water-resistant, and can be installed in the bathroom or kitchen. You can even use them for basement floors. The cost per square foot is around $3.
Laminate Flooring Instalation Guide
Now that you’ve picked your brand, here’s a little more information to help you in carrying out your laminate installation.
Reasons Why an Underlay is Important
An underlayment in laminate flooring is crucial. It serves many functions, as we will see. The laminate you buy may come with an under layer attached to it, or it may not. If it doesn’t, you will need to add it before installing the floor. It will cost you between $0.25 to $ 0.75 per foot for that. The functions of the under layer are to:
- Conceal the flaws on the sub-floor such as dips and depressions
- Prevent sub-floor moisture or mold from rising to the surface of your laminate floor
- Stop bacteria and dust mite from reaching the floor’s surface
- Boost insulation by holding in heat
- Muffle noises and reduce the floor’s acoustics
When buying your underlayment, ensure it’s capable of blocking moisture. Not every layer comes with this feature, and you will need to confirm first. If your floor comes already equipped with this padding layer, do not add another one.
Installing Your Laminate Floor
Installing laminate should be easy, a task you can do yourself. However, having a professional do it is better. It will result in perfect work, and you’re assured of a floor that will not experience flaws soon after installation. Installation can be done with or without glue. If you choose to do the installation yourself, go for the glueless method; It’s the simplest and the fastest. You can even do it without prior experience.
The Glueless installation Process
A DIY approach is ideal for glueless installation since it doesn’t require knowledge or skill. To begin, prepare the subfloor, then spread the underlayment. Take your laminate planks and start fitting them together. It’s just a matter of clicking the grooves together. Do it in rows to make it easy for you. Once you’re through, check the whole floor for any gaps as a result of planks that didn’t lie flat or didn’t click into place. Use a piece of laminate and a mallet to drive them into place.
This method of installing is suitable if you expect spills to be frequent and you don’t want any liquids finding their way into the flooring. The glue seals any gaps that may exist between the planks. Using glue to install your laminate is somewhat complicated. You may need a professional installer to do the job as doing it yourself may result in shoddy work.
Maintaining Your Laminate Floor
Laminate is said to be easy to maintain, but is it? While it’s true that it doesn’t require the extra work other floor types demand, applying the wrong approach could be disastrous. Using a microfiber broom to clean it is appropriate, and vacuuming it presents no problem. The tricky part comes in the choice of cleaners to use. Some cleaners are not suitable. Using vinegar is okay, but don’t leave it on the floor for long. The acid may erode the surface of the floor and ruin it.
Always rinse the floor to rid of the vinegar completely. You can use ammonia-based cleaners, but sparingly. Ammonia tends to wear away the adhesive that joins the planks as well as the surface. Avoid using steam mops. The heat may cause the floor to have raised parts as the surface warps and buckles. For safe cleaning, use cleaners that are specifically meant for use on laminate floors. Alternatively, you can use warm water and the washing liquid you use in the kitchen. Your laminate will still stay spotlessly clean.
To avoid damage to the floor, use padding underneath furniture and the heavy items in your home or commercial place. Always use mats beneath the feeding bowls of your pets. To prevent the appearance of stains, wipe spills while they’re still fresh.
Fixing Minor Damages on Your Laminate Floor
Slight damages such as chips, scratches or cracks may not be covered by the warranty you received. You will need to fix them yourself. It’s a simple process, though, that involves DIY techniques. You only need to obtain a laminate floor repair kit which should cost you around $10. Other types of kits include a filler material and an applicator. Within minutes, your floor will be fixed. For major damages, however, you may need to replace the affected plank or planks.
Laminate is an affordable option for your flooring needs. It offers you a variety of styles to choose from which increases the possibility of you finding your taste. The installation process is also simple and allows a DIY approach. However, before committing to purchase a particular laminate brand, ensure you have adequate information concerning its quality and safety. Ask for certificates that show compliance with international guidelines that govern laminate manufacture. Ensure, too, that you see the products before buying to confirm quality. When purchasing online, you may ask for samples first.