The style and sophistication of hardwood flooring have left many feeling they're the floor covering of choice. Some older homes already have them - most modern ones do not. Is there a way to achieve that high-end look without the luxury price tag?
Enter laminate flooring. Laminate flooring may not be as famous as hardwood, but it's actually a $5.3 billion industry here in the US. There are good reasons why so many people are choosing it.
So what is laminate flooring? Is it right for your home? Let's take a look at this affordable route to a high-end finish.
What Is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring is designed to look like wood or, occasionally, stone or tile flooring. However, as the name suggests, it's actually made of separate layers.
The strong core of the laminate flooring planks is made from a high-strength hardboard. High-density wood fiberboard (HDF) is an engineered product. It's made from compressed wood fibers.
The planks are then machined to give them a distinctive edge. This allows them to be 'clicked' together, making them very easy to install.
On top, there is a decorative finish. Because this is not a natural product, the effect you see is essentially a photograph of real wood, tile, or stone. This means that there are endless possibilities available in terms of finishes.
Over the final finish, a clear layer is installed. This is hardwearing and resistant to spills. It also makes the laminate flooring more resistant to scratches.
Advantages of Laminate Flooring
One of the main advantages of these types of flooring is their cost. They are generally much cheaper on average than hardwood floors. They also come in realistic designs and may have a slight grain embossed on the surface.
Many homeowners appreciate this natural look at a fraction of the cost of the real thing. In fact, hardwoods are about 2 to 3 times more expensive than laminate flooring on average. This makes laminate one of the best budget types of floors.
Easy to Install
Laminate flooring is installed as a floating floor. This means that it is not nailed down or glued but floats on top of the underfloor and underlayment.
When you buy the flooring, unpackage it and leave it in the room you will lay it in for 24-48 hours. Laminate flooring will naturally expand and contract with the changing seasons. Allow it a couple of days to acclimate before laying it to minimize shifting later.
The click-style installation is easy even for amateurs to do. Once you have laid the underlayment, the planks are easy to lay and trim to fit the room. Just be careful when laying to avoid chipping the edges.
Although laminate is not a hardwood product, it is made of wood fibers. This gives laminate a nice feel underfoot. Many people prefer the sensation of laminate flooring underfoot to vinyl.
Laminate flooring also feels warmer underfoot than vinyl or tile flooring. The padded underlayment adds to this sensation. This is great if you want the look of stone or tile but don't like the coldness underfoot that they usually bring.
Easy to Clean
Like hardwoods, laminate is low maintenance once laid and easy to keep clean. It just needs a simple vacuum or brush and a light clean with a microfiber mop.
One thing most laminates do not like is water. Never wet mop a laminate floor, or use a steam cleaner. If you do, the water can go through the joins to the fiberboard beneath. This can then swell and warp - not the look you're looking for.
Disadvantages of Laminate
Laminate flooring has many advantages, but it's not perfect. There are two disadvantages that every homeowner should consider:
Can't Sand It
In the past, laminate flooring had a life expectancy of around 10 years. Not any longer. Now, many products come with a 10-30 year warranty! They are well built and designed to stand up to the rigors of real-life and the effects of the sun.
There is one drawback that can't be denied, though, and that is that they cannot be refinished. With hardwoods, you can sand them down if they get tired or battered. If your laminate flooring is scuffed, chipped, and beat-up, you will have to replace it.
Laminate is a great budget option, and this will be reflected in its impact on resale value. This is not to say that having a great laminate floor will devalue a home. Just to say that it will not add value in the same way a hardwood floor in good condition will.
Different Types of Laminate Flooring
The answer to the question 'What is laminate flooring?' is actually multi-part. There are two main types - HPL and DPL.
The difference is the amount of pressure used to make them in the factory. HPL stands for High-Pressure Laminate. This typically uses over 1000 pounds of pressure in the manufacturing process. This makes it perfect for areas with high levels of foot traffic.
DPL stands for Direct Pressure Laminate. The manufacturing process uses about 300-500 pounds of pressure. The result is hard-wearing laminate flooring, but it's better for lower foot traffic applications.
Waterproof laminate flooring is the holy grail of the laminate flooring world. Currently, water-resistant versions are on the market. However, because of its fiberboard construction, no laminate is completely waterproof.
That said, there are plenty of laminate flooring options that do great in bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas with high humidity. If you do drop water directly onto laminate, wipe it up quickly, and it will usually be fine.
Get the Look for a Fraction of the Cost!
Laminate flooring has so much going for it. It's relatively inexpensive, works in many applications, is easy to lay and care for!
So the next time someone asks you, 'What is laminate flooring?', tell them all about its many virtues. It could be a great choice for your home and theirs!
At National Floors Direct, we stock a wide range of laminate flooring. Contact us today for a free estimate and to see what laminate flooring could do for your home!