Laminate flooring: The Basics
Laminate flooring, the much-maligned cheaper cousin of solid wooden floors. People turn up their nose at laminate, thinking it an inferior product, but these days, thats just not true! However, it is a very different beast to solid or even engineered wooden flooring. We’ve attempted to outline some pros and cons below, so read on for our essential guide to Lovely Laminates…
Laminate wooden flooring, occasionally known as floating wooden boards were created in 1977 by Pergo, and are a cheaper alternative to hard wood flooring while keeping the hardwood flooring look. Essentially, laminate floors are a printed, textured image of the chosen wood grain onto a mixed fibre board, and these boards are then treated or coated with chemicals to improve durability.
Laminate floors are quick to install, and easy to maintain, and some types can be treated with antimicrobial coatings to make them even more hygienic. Most laminates are water resistant (specialised floors are available) and can have a scratch- or fade resistant coating. The depth of laminate floors is usually between 8 and 15mm, and most require no more than 10mm of expansion at the edges of the floor. The main considerations when choosing a laminate floor is the durability, as denoted by its AC rating.
AC rating stands for abrasion class rating, and usually goes from 1 -6. When laminate floors are made they are subjected to a battery of tests, which assess how durable and hard wearing the flooring is. These tests are set out by the European laminate flooring producers (EPLF) and under EU law, all laminate sold must display either its wear class (21-34) or AC rating. The ratings represent the suitability and durability of a floor for particular rooms or circumstances. An AC rating of 1 is fine for a guest room or bedroom, but wont last as long in a kitchen. An AC rating of 6 however, is (currently) the highest rating available, and can be used for car showrooms which undergo huge wear and tear, as these floors are thick and durable, much like myself….A full infographic below shows the ratings and corresponding wear classes, and what situation and use they are suitable for.
Overall, Laminate is a fantastic option if you want the rich look and feel of solid wood without the commitment, and there options available for every budget and room. It can be installed by a relatively handy DIY-er, meaning it really is the most budget friendly option. Sorted!
Structure of Laminate floors
Laminates are often called fake wood, and this is not strictly true! Laminate floors are usually made up of four or more layers.
- The top layer is a very hardwearing coating of aluminium oxide, which covers the décor layer and prevents scratches and scrapes.
- The décor layer is the picture of wood that the laminate board is trying to replicate.
- The third layer is also the thickest- the HDF core. This provides strength and stability to the laminate board.
- The final layer is the backing layer, which is very often a water-impermeable layer.
Many brands of laminates have their own proprietary coating layers, with specific features that make some floors more hardwearing than others. For example, Pergo floors are treated with extra layers of hard-wearing aluminium oxide, which means they are more resistant to damage e.g. from the scraping of a chair.
In general, the Décor layer is a very detailed picture of the flooring the laminates are trying to emulate. The better the picture, the higher quality the board!
As a rule of thumb, HDF cores are 7mm all the way up to 14mm thick, and the thicker the board the stronger the plank and the lock system within it. For high traffic areas such as hall ways or kitchens, we recommend going for as thick a board as you can, as thicker boards show less wear and tear.
Laminate Flooring Pros and Cons
- Cheaper than solid wood
- Quick and easy to install
- Can have waterproof/scratchproof coatings or finishes
- Can have up to a 30 year warranty (in a domestic setting)
- Very easy to clean-Only needs to be swept to maintain it.
- Perfect for allergy sufferers as does not allow dust/ mites etc to settle in, like carpet.
- Can not be sanded, must be totally replaced if worn or damaged
- Cannot withstand pooling water (like any wood based product)- and do not mop wooden floors!
- Shades can go out of production/style– buy extra packs for emergencies!
- You will need underlay, so factor in an extra €2-10 per meter, depending on your situation.
So now you know! As always, we are here to help if you have any burning questions about laminates that the internet just cant answer- Contact us here or call to the showroom in Kilnagleary Business Park, Carrigaline, Cork!