If you’re thinking of changing the look of your home with new flooring, a laminate might be a good choice. There are so many reasons why people opt for this flooring in their homes.
Laminate flooring gives you the look of more expensive wooden floors without the high price tag. They’re water resistant and durable making them easy to clean and maintain.
With so many laminate flooring brands on the market, however, you might feel overwhelmed choosing the right option.
What is Laminate Flooring and How Is It Made
Laminate flooring is by far one of the most versatile, easy to maintain and durable types of floors out there. It’s artificial flooring made of a number of layers to resemble authentic hardwood, tile or stone.
The composition of the layers is dependent on the kind of laminate you prefer. More advanced designs have realistic visuals and come in a variety of colors and styles.
Unlike hardwood floors, laminate is water resistant and can be used anywhere in the house.
It’s easier to cut which means that you don’t need to call a technician to install it thus saving yourself a few hundred dollars. Laminate is made of different layers of material.
When laid well, it can last you for years. The fact that it’s resistant to stains, water and even wear means that it’s ideal for homes that have kids as well as pets.
This floor is made of four layers that are usually fused together at high heat using a process called direct-pressure laminate (DPL).
Layer A: Wear Layer
This is the first layer and it’s what protects the laminate from stains and fading. It’s the coat that sits on the top of the floor’s image design.
Layer B: Design Layer
In this stage, stunning and realistic designs are made using an HD printer. The paper is placed on top of the inner core and it’s what makes laminate floors resemble wooden ones.
Layer C: Inner Core
This is the third layer and is made of wood. It’s what makes laminate so stable and helps it remain flat when placed on the subfloor. This is the thickest layer and is compiled of wood pup adhered together.
Layer D: The Backing
Laminate may be resistant to water, but it’s not waterproof. The backing layer is what makes the floor resistant to any form of moisture. It’s found at the bottom so that it can act as a barrier from water exposure. This is also the layer that reduces the risk of floor warping.
Layer E: The Underlayment
Not all laminate floors have an underlayment, but for those that do, it’s attached to the backing layers so that you don’t have to buy one.
Pros and Cons of Using Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring has come a long way and today more and more people continue opting for it over the hardwood flooring. Today’s laminate isn’t only durable but comes in an intricate design that leaves your home looking great.
Pros of Laminate Floors
Laminate is becoming better and better due to technology. Through the use of HD printers, these floors now have the patterns and even ridges that you would find in hardwood planks or stone. There’s even a way to whitewash the planks for a weathered appearance.
If you have kids and pets and are wondering if laminate flooring will last, it could be just what you need. It’s resistant to water and moisture though not like a vinyl plank, but it holds together even in a home with heavy traffic and pets.
The only thing you need to maintain it is to ensure that you wipe spills immediately after they occur or invest in premium laminate vacuums.
The floor is very durable, but excess water and moisture can wreak havoc to it. This is because it’s resistant to water but not necessarily waterproof, although it’s much better than even the most expensive hardwood floors.
Laminate tends to provide a warm feeling to homes and it also makes bedrooms feel a little bit cozier. The good thing about it is that it can be installed anywhere in your home from the kitchen to the bathroom although it’s not the most ideal choice for all the areas.
As mentioned before, laminate is water resistant but not waterproof so it may be best if you don’t install it in the bathroom. There are waterproof versions of the floor available although you’ll need to dig deeper in your pocket.
If you do decide to use this floor on areas like the bathroom and kitchen, ensure that you use one that can withstand moisture and splashes.
There’s always a concern among homeowners about allergies when it comes to flooring. A laminate floor isn’t like carpet flooring and as such, will not hold dirt and dust that can give you an allergic reaction.
It’s also resistant to things like mold and bacteria. The chemicals that are used in it can, however, trigger an allergic reaction in some people, so you have to be very careful.
If you’d rather skip the technician and save yourself a few dollars by doing the flooring yourself, laminate is the easiest to install. With it, you don’t have to worry about getting an underlayment as it can easily go over your existing floor except for carpet so long as the subfloor is okay.
To avoid warping, you need to let the flooring acclimate for a few days before you install. You can install it with glue though there are already glued planks.
Laminate, unlike other kinds of floors, requires very little maintenance. With wood, you have to wax and buff constantly, but laminate maintains its quality and shiny look even without waxing or buffing.
Cons of Laminate Floors
Laminate isn’t all perfect and there are disadvantages that you should be aware of so that you can decide on whether you want laminate, hardwood, vinyl plank or tile.
May Contain Toxins
If you have a sensitive immune system, then this flooring may not be the best choice for you. This is because the chemicals that are used when making the laminate planks contain VOCs/volatile organic compounds.
VOCs tend to release fumes that worsen underlying medical conditions and may be the cause of others. As such, when you’re buying laminate, ensure that you go for one that has low levels of VOCs or is CARB2 certified.
Your health is the most important thing at the end of it all, even if you want a stylish looking floor.
Walking on a laminate floor is very easy on your feet, in fact, easier than on the other floors. The only problem is that this floor produces sound especially if you don’t have an underlayment.
Laminate floors can’t be refinished. If it gets ruined, the only option you have is replacing the floor.
If you’re looking for flooring that’ll last you for more than three decades, then you need to consider something else. Laminate comes with long warranties, but even with this, at some point, you’ll have to replace the floor.
There are repair kits that you can buy for those minor damages that can end up extending the life of the floor, but at the end of it all, you’re better off with a hardwood floor.
Laminate is made of HDF and as such tends to have a harder feel than you regular hardwood flooring. It tends to be slippery, especially the cheaper versions that don’t have anti-slip agents added.
As such if you have a house with kids, laminate might not be the ideal choice if you don’t want to be spending your days in hospitals because of the broken bones.
Biofriendly products are the ones that break down and as such don’t end up polluting the environment. Wood is the most biodegradable of all floors.
Laminate just sits forever and the chemicals used in the manufacturing process end up seeping in the ground. There’s, however, laminate that’s made from recycled materials. If you’re environmentally conscious, then laminate may not be your ideal flooring.
Doesn’t Increase Home Value
At some point in your life, you may need to re-sell your home and as such you need its value to increase in years. Having a laminate doesn’t increase the value of your home if you’re planning on reselling it later.
While laminate has come a long way, buyers are still skeptical about buying a home with this floor. If you’re planning on living there for the rest of your life, however, this floor will do.
Possible Moisture Problems
You’ve probably heard that laminate is water resistant and, based on that, you have decided to use it for your flooring. However, before you install a new floor, you need to realize that it may be water resistant, but it’s not waterproof though there are waterproof versions that are very expensive.
Too much moisture and humidity will end up ruining your floor and in the end, it will look old and worn out. This is why it’s recommended that you wipe spills as soon as they occur because prolonged exposure to moisture will end up causing the planks to warp.
With laminate, you’ll need to constantly monitor the humidity levels with a simple meter that you can get for $20 or $30 or with a humidifier.
What Makes a Great Laminate Flooring
If you’ve decided to change your flooring and have settled on laminate, then it’s advisable that you do your research to ensure that you get the real deal.
While you may be tempted to go for the one that’s aesthetically pleasing, choosing laminate flooring goes beyond how the plank looks. Here are things you need to consider:
AC rating is something that was developed by laminate floor manufacturers to help homeowners decide on the kind of floor they want. This is basically the floor’s resistance to different factors like stains, abrasion, swelling and burning.
When buying laminate ensure that you go for one that has a certified rating. AC rating is classified as follows:
- AC1: This floor has moderate residential usage and is suitable for use in closets and bedrooms.
- AC2: This is ideal for areas that have heavier traffic like dining and living rooms.
- AC3: Laminate with AC3 rating can be used anywhere and on anything and is ideal for even commercial uses like in offices and hotel rooms.
- AC4: AC4 rating is ideal for use in cafes, restaurants as well as office buildings.
- AC5: Just like AC3, AC5 can also be used on anything like sales floors found in most retail outlets.
If you’re doing flooring for your own home, you don’t need a product that’s above AC3. You can use AC2 on anything in your house.
Laminate has come a long way and manufacturers have found ways of recycling some of its layers though this is far from perfect. During manufacture, this floor is made from chemicals that contain VOCs or volatile organic compounds.
VOCs release toxins which can worsen medical conditions you may already have. When buying it ensure that you go for one that has a NALFA seal since such products contain zero VOCs.
Your health should be your priority and you should rather go with a more expensive floor than risk your own health.
If you have settled on the laminate for your home, then you need to consider your needs. Answer this question: Where will you be installing the the floor?
This floor type is resistant to water but too much exposure to liquids will end up causing the floor to warp. AC rating should also come into play when deciding where you’ll be installing the floor.
All in all, to prolong the life of your laminate floor, all you need is to wipe spills as soon as they occur. If you’re planning on reselling the house, then this may not be the best choice because it doesn’t increase the value of your house.
The plank width will determine how your floor looks in the end. It’ll also determine the life cycle of the floor.
When you install laminate floors, one thing you have to worry about is exposure to moisture as they can cause warping and, in the end, force you to replace the floor. Wide planks look more natural and mimic traditional hardwood floors and they don’t warp easily like thin planks.
The thickness of the floorboards affects not only the look but the sound and feel of your flooring. Thinner boards, for instance, don’t have the realism that thicker ones have.
Thicker boards also last longer so that you can go for years before replacing your floor. When buying laminate, go for boards that have a thickness between 8mm to 12mm.
Price and Budget
If you have decided to change your floor or are installing a new floor, the cost of the flooring materials will always come into play. Before you make a final decision ensure that you’re getting value for your money.
Like anything else, if you want high-quality laminate, you’ll need to dig a little deeper. It helps to do some window shopping and compare prices at different stores although you should rather go for a more expensive floor if you want it to last for many years.
When buying a laminate, you want one that comes with a warranty. If you end up getting a non-warranted floor, the chances are that it already has a defect and it won’t be long before you start experiencing cracks and peeling.
Warranted floors, on the other hand, mean that the manufacturer is willing to stand behind their product. Though you’ll still have to replace the floor at some point even with a warranty, it’s much better knowing that the manufacturer is confident in their product.
Most laminate and engineered wood floors have the same kind of interconnections with a simple groove and slot that anyone can manage.
Installing such floors is therefore quite easy and most of the time you don’t need a handyman to handle the installation. This is why you should stay away from brands that don’t have this kind of easy installation.
Laminate Flooring Underlayment
Underlayment is a very important step when you’re installing a laminate floor. Floor underlayment is made of either polypropylene or polyethylene and you lay it on the subfloor before you can install the laminate.
Almost all laminate floors today require some form of underlayment if you want to reduce the noise and prevent the floor from warping. There are floors that already come with underlayment attached hence they’re easier to install.
There are also others where you have to buy the underlayment separately. You might be tempted to install laminate directly on the subfloor, but this is wrong.
It’s installed without glue or nails and as such, you’ll need something that’ll act as a cushion so that the laminate can easily float. The underlayment expands as the climate changes hence it doesn’t warp.
It also helps reduce the friction between the subfloor and the laminate so that the laminate lies smoothly on the floor and can float. All underlayments aren’t the same.
Manufacturers tend to add different features to enhance the feel of the floor. There are two things that determine the kind of underlayment you can get:
Type of Subfloor
If you’ll be installing laminate on a concrete subfloor, then it’s recommended that you have a vapor barrier to prevent it from getting damaged due to the moisture that concrete releases.
The vapor barrier will usually be a thin plastic material such as Visqueen Vapor Block so that moisture isn’t absorbed into the core of the laminate.
If you’re installing it on a wooden or an existing subfloor, you don’t need a vapor barrier. In this case, a traditional foam underlayment will do unless you want other features like noise reduction.
If you’re installing laminate in an apartment on the second floor of the house, consider going with an underlayment that has a noise reduction property. It’s usually quiet to walk on, but the noise can be transferred to floors below if you don’t have a proper underlayment.
Laminate with A Pre-Attached Underlayment
If the laminate you buy already has an underlayment, then you don’t need to buy another one. You may be tempted to add another underlayment but doing so will only cause stress on the locking system of the laminate and could cause it to break.
Manufacturers attach underlayment to save you time and to make it easier for you to install it on your own. The only time you can get another underlayment is if you’re installing it on a concrete subfloor.
This is because the attached underlayment doesn’t have a vapor barrier. In this case, you can buy a thin vapor barrier that will not require extra padding so as to prevent moisture from ruining the laminate.
If you want to enjoy things like reduced noise and thermal properties, then it’s best if you buy a high-quality underlayment.
Laminate Flooring Vs Other Types of Flooring
A laminate floor has been the go-to flooring as an alternative to hardwood. Technological advancements have made it possible for these floors to look just like traditional hardwood floors.
As such it’s one of the most beautiful floorings you can install and on top of that it’s very affordable. It’s also resistant to water, burns, scratches as well as heat and is very easy to maintain.
But, how does it compare to other types of floorings like hardwood, tile and vinyl plank? Read on to find out.
Laminate Flooring Vs Hardwood
When comparing laminate and hardwood, it all comes down to two things – style and price. While laminate floors look great and may look like real wood, they’re very different from solid wood flooring.
There are areas in your house where style matters like the dining room, living room and bedroom and as such, it’s best if you install high-quality hardwood in them. Laminate, on the other hand, is better in a functional setting where there’s heavy traffic.
It’s very attractive, very easy to clean and doesn’t wear easily. Hardwood floors are prone to stains and get ruined from exposure to direct sunlight.
If you have stains or you’re living at a place where weather conditions are extreme, then a laminate floor makes more sense. Generally, hardwood flooring is way better because it’s made of ¾ inches of wood cut from a tree.
Laminate flooring, on the other hand, is just particleboard that has a photo layer that looks like wood and plastic layer on top. However, one thing to remember is that just because hardwood is better, it doesn’t mean that it’s easier to install.
In so many ways, laminate performs much better, is cheaper and way easier to install than hardwood. It also doesn’t need the pampering that hardwood requires to maintain its quality and appearance.
Laminate Flooring Vs Tile
The major difference between laminate and stone or tile flooring is in the installation. Laminate installation is much easier compared to tile which requires preparation as well as skills.
However, when it comes to which one is more durable, tile flooring wins. Tile flooring doesn’t get ruined due to exposure to water which is why it’s ideal for areas like the bathroom and kitchen.
Tile flooring tends to be harder and colder which is why most homeowners prefer laminate due to the comfort. This is why most people install it on other areas of the house and limit tiles to the bathroom and the kitchen.
Both tile and laminate floors are easy to install and clean although tiles show dirt easily and therefore aren’t ideal if you have little children.
Laminate Flooring Vs Vinyl Plank
A majority of homeowners go with laminate due to its ability to mimic hardwood floors leaving home looking great. So, why would you consider installing vinyl plank then?
For one, laminate isn’t waterproof. It’s resistant to water but not waterproof. Despite the four layers, it reacts to humidity and standing water just like hardwood flooring.
As such, this floor is okay in the kitchen, but you’ll need to minimize the spills and clean them as soon as they occur. If you can, it’s best to avoid installing it in areas where there are high humidity and standing water like the bathroom and kitchen.
Vinyl plank is waterproof and is more ideal for kitchens and bathrooms. As long as you install it correctly, you don’t have to worry about water getting through and ruining the floor.
Today you even have the option of buying luxury vinyl which comes in either tiles or planks. Just like normal vinyl, luxury vinyl is flexible but is much thicker and durable.
Does More Spending Mean More Quality
When it comes to laminate, more spending does mean more quality. If you’ve decided to change your flooring or to install an entirely new floor, then you should rather go all the way and get a floor that’ll last you for years.
There are cheaper versions of these floors, but you should be looking at replacing the floor in a couple of years when the planks get destroyed by water and moisture.
There are floors that are waterproof although they’re more expensive. It makes sense to spend a little more on them than get the cheaper versions that will not last.
How to Install Laminate Flooring and Where
Whether you decide to install it on your own or hire a technician, the process is very easy. There are two ways of installing this floor – with glue or without.
The glueless installation is the easiest if you’re doing it yourself. A laminate floor can be installed anywhere in your home as long as the subfloor is adequate.
It’s great for areas like the kitchen, bathroom, dining room, living room and bedrooms. You can install it on existing wood, concrete, vinyl plank or ceramic floors.
In the DIY method, begin by inspecting the planks before you start with the installation. For the first row that’ll go along the walls, ensure that you have removed the tongues on the long and short side joints using a table saw.
If your wall happens to be uneven, trace a contour on the side of the plank with a compass and then cut with a jigsaw. The next step is to assemble the first row of planks making sure the tongues are facing sideways from the wall.
Insert each end of the tongue to the groove and rotate downwards ensuring the planks are aligned and the joints are closed. When doing this, make sure that you have left room for expansion to prevent the plank from warping when the weather changes.
Cut new rows with the table saw and insert the tongues of the second row into the groves rotating until the joints lock. After laying all the planks, ensure that you apply a silicone sealant to create a watertight seal.
Where and How to Cut Laminate
You will not find planks that’ll fit your floor perfectly and as such at some point, you’ll need to cut them. Cutting laminate planks is often the hardest part of the installation process and if you aren’t careful or don’t have the right tools you might end up ruining the planks ending up with a bad looking floor.
Laminate flooring is made of a plastic coating which will end up chipping if you aren’t careful. First, measure the floor and cut the planks to fit those measurements.
When cutting it, ensure that the blade has 18 teeth per inch. If you have a jigsaw blade, you’ll easily be able to cut from the top of the plank which means that you’ll able to see what you’re doing.
A jigsaw blade cuts on downstroke meaning that any chipping will occur on the bottom. If you have a handsaw, you need to cut along the edge to ensure that the miter box is high enough to make this possible if it’s not, cut from the top.
Professional Installation of Laminate
If you’ll be working with a professional to install the floor, the first thing you need to do is to measure the wall and room features. Make a drawing of the space on a graph paper and using the scale, reduce the figures you got when taking the measurements.
This is important so that the contractor is able to estimate the cost of the materials to give you an accurate quotation. When you get the quotation, ensure that you understand what it involves including how long they’ll take to complete the job, what you’ll be paying for and what they’ll be doing.
Quick Tips for Maintaining Laminate Flooring
By now you know that water is the greatest enemy to laminate floors just like hardwood floors. This is because water ends up damaging the floor.
In order to prolong the life of your floor, ensure that you wipe spills immediately when they occur.
Also, don’t clean the floor with water but use a microfiber, spin or steam mop to clean instead. You can also find a great list of mops for laminate flooring online so that your floor maintains its appearance for a long time.
How to Clean Laminate Floors
While laminate looks like hardwood flooring, it doesn’t mean that it should be cleaned the same way. It’s a form of plastic flooring that requires special care. Here’s how to clean laminate floors:
Step 1 – Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions
Before you start cleaning ensure that you understand the manufacturer’s instructions since all brands of laminate aren’t the same.
Step 2 – Sweep Up Debris and Dust
Laminate floors can scratch which is why you should ensure that you first remove dust and debris with a soft bristle broom or a dust mop. You can also vacuum but ensure that you use an attachment that doesn’t have a rotating brush or beater as these scratch the floor.
Step 3 – Limit the Amount of Water
With a laminate, traditional mopping is a no because water tends to seep into the planks damaging them. Use a slightly damp mop to clean the floor instead.
Step 4 – Avoid Cleaning Products
Normal cleaning products end up leaving streaks as well as residue and can even damage the protective sealant of laminate floors. If you want to use a cleaner, ensure that you apply just a small amount to the mop and not directly to the floor. Also, avoid polishes and wax.
Step 5 – Protect the Surface
After cleaning, in order to ensure that there are no scratches in the future, add some furniture pads under the legs of tables and chairs especially if they’re moved a lot. Floor mats also help in preventing wear.
How to Get Scratches Out of Laminate Floors
Pergo laminate may be durable but is also susceptible to damage. If scratches occur, you can repair them with a color-matched kit.
If the damage is too big, you can replace the entire plank. It’s. however. best to consult a professional for major repairs you intend to do.
Do’s and Don’ts to Do on a Laminate Flooring
- Clean the floor regularly to prevent a build-up of dust and debris which will ruin the look of the floor.
- Use furniture pads: While the laminate floor is scratch resistant, you still need to protect it from scratches by ensuring that you have floor pads under the legs of chairs and tables.
- Let water ruin the laminate: Although this floor resistant to water, too much exposure to moisture can still end up ruining it.
- Wax or refinish your floor: Just because it looks like wood doesn’t mean that it requires regular waxing or refinishing. This will only end up ruining your floor.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I change a mop on a steam mop?
It depends on how dirty the room you’re cleaning is although, generally, with a steam mop, you should use a new cloth for each room you’re cleaning.
How often should I clean hardwood floors?
You don’t have to clean your hardwood floor every single day. You can just dust it with a dust mop or one of the premium laminate vacuums.
How often do the mop heads need to be washed?
A mop head can cover around 500 square feet before needing to be cleaned. If the floor is too dirty, the mop head may require frequent cleaning.
What other laminate alternatives are available?
Laminate alternatives include the vinyl plank, engineered hardwood, luxury vinyl and hardwood. The one you choose depends on your preferences and needs.
Is laminate flooring suitable for a home with pets?
Yes, it’s suitable in homes with pets as well as little children since it’s resistant to scratching.
Can I put laminate flooring on my walls and other areas like a kitchen or bathroom?
This flooring is durable and can be used on walls. It can also be used in kitchens and bathroom since it’s resistant to water though you’ll need to seal the edges to prevent water from seeping in and damaging the floor.
Can laminate flooring be reused?
Yes, it can be reused. With the right tools, you can lift the planks gently with minimal damage so that they can be reused in another area of the house.
Laminate flooring is the closest you can come to hardwood flooring. It’s, however, cheap, easy to install and requires very little maintenance.
It can be installed anywhere in the home from the bathroom, kitchen, living room to the bedroom. You, however, need to ensure that it’s not exposed to water for a long time by ensuring that spills are cleaned as soon as they occur.
Photos from: leimaneagita / depositphotos.com, [email protected] / depositphotos.com, alexraths / depositphotos.com, NikD51 / depositphotos.com, scanrail / depositphotos.com, Yunava1 / depositphotos.com, maxxyustas / depositphotos.com and phillyo77 / depositphotos.com.