Flooring Fundamentals: Laminate 101

Let’s face it—investing in new flooring is a stressful process. From agonizing over which type of flooring is the best fit for your home given any number of factors, to finding a flooring company and finally having it installed—the flooring purchase cycle can be overwhelming and confusing. But why should it be?

Here at Flooring Professionals, we get it, and we’re here to help! We have created a website to help you find a flooring professional near you, along with a blog full of flooring tips and resources. One of these resources is our Flooring Fundamentals series, where we will dive into the world of flooring and help you learn the fundamentals of each of the major flooring categories—before setting foot in a flooring store!

Get ready for a crash course in flooring—from price, construction and maintenance to color, style and key terms. Flooring Professionals is here to put your mind at ease and help you find the perfect flooring to fit your needs!

What is Laminate Flooring?

Laminate is a flooring category in and of itself with its unique features, performance benefits and styling. It is a man-made product comprised of layered fiberboard, plastic and other materials.

Over the years, laminate wood flooring in particular has become increasingly popular due to its aesthetic appeal and realistic ability to mimic the look and durability of higher-end flooring at a lower price point. Oftentimes it is difficult to distinguish real hardwood from laminate wood flooring!

Types of Laminate

Today’s laminate floors are excellent copycats of hardwood, stone, tile and a variety of other materials. Advanced embossing techniques add textures to laminate flooring’s surface to make it practically indistinguishable from its authentic counterpart.

Colors

Laminate flooring has a robust palette of colors, textures and finishes to choose from, the sky is the limit!

Gloss

Laminate flooring’s gloss level has very little effect on its durability or performance, which is great! Homeowners can choose from a fine, high-gloss or matte, low-gloss finish.

Laminate Flooring Anatomy

Though laminate floors are available in a multitude of designs, patterns and textures, they all consist of four basic layers, each with its own purpose.

  1. Backing. The bottom layer, known as Backing is a melamine plastic layer that acts as a moisture barrier and prevents warping.
  2. Inner Core.The Inner Core, also known as the Core Board is made from high-density fiberboard. This layer the rigid backbone of laminate flooring, providing the structural strength, density and stability characteristic of laminate flooring that makes it the high value product that it is.
  3. Design Layer. The Design Layer, also known as the Pattern Layer, is a decorative layer applied to the Core Board to give the flooring its realistic hardwood or alternative flooring appearance.
  4. Wear Layer. The Wear Layer is the clear topcoat that gives laminate its outstanding durability and protects it from wearing, staining and fading.

Combining these four layers results in tough flooring that resists fading, stains, scratches and moisture. For more information, check out our article on what laminate flooring is made of.

Quality & Durability

When the four aforementioned layers are bonded together the product is an extremely durable material, able to withstand numerous conditions that would destroy its genuine counterpart. In fact, laminate flooring frequently outlasts hardwood, tile and stone. This is due in part to the aluminum oxide finish in its Wear Layer, which makes laminate flooring 25 times stronger than the average kitchen countertop!

Along with laminate flooring’s aesthetic appeal, its highly durable nature makes it perfect for active families with pets.

Price

Laminate flooring is the perfect choice for budget-conscious homeowners who are looking for an affordable yet high performance flooring option. This flooring captures the beauty and excellence of the finest hardwood at a fraction of the cost. Laminate wood flooring can cost (on average) approximately 50% less than its genuine-hardwood counterpart! For pricing quotes, ask your local flooring professional.

Maintenance

Laminate flooring is one of the most versatile and easy-to-maintain types of flooring on the market today—it never needs to be waxed, polished, sanded or refinished! The only upkeep needed to maintain laminate floors is occasional sweeping or vacuuming, compared to the extensive work required to maintain hardwood floors.

Key Laminate Flooring Terms

Acclimation: adapting the laminate flooring to its installation environment

Floating Floor System: the system used to install Laminate floors, check out this article on floating floors from our blog to learn more!

Glued Laminate Flooring: laminate floors that require a special formulated glue to be applied to the tongue and groove areas of each plank at installation site. This process can be a tad messy, and once the glue dries the planks are almost impossible to separate.

Pre-Glued Laminate Flooring: a no-mess method of installation, as glue is applied to the tongue and grooves of the planks prior to arriving on site

Glueless Laminate Flooring: another no-mess installation method, because the laminate planks or squares connect easily without glue

Melamine Resin: a compound used on the Wear Layer to improve the durability and moisture resistance of the flooring’s Inner Core

Plank: a singular laminate floor panel

Quarter Round Trim: installed wherever laminate flooring meets a baseboard or wall

Reducer Strip: the transitional piece used to connect laminate with another type of flooring

Seam: where laminate planks or tiles connect with one another

All in all, laminate is the most versatile and durable yet affordable flooring option on the market except for carpet. If you are looking for breathtaking hardwood, beautiful stone or classic tile flooring with minimal upkeep and a substantially lower price tag—laminate flooring is for you. With all of its benefits, it is no surprise that laminate flooring has emerged as one of today’s hottest flooring options!

Are you ready to buy? Do you have further questions about your flooring options? Find a flooring professional in your area today!

SOURCES: WFCA, Armstrong, J&H Builder’s, Carpet One, classiccarpet.com