While many homeowners favor the warm, rich look of hardwood, its price tag can be a little steep. And while hardwood lasts a long time, it’s still susceptible to scratches, dents, fading, and stains, especially if your household is a high-traffic one.
If you love the look of hardwood but would prefer to have a more durable, less expensive product, laminate might be the perfect choice.
What exactly is it?
Sometimes confused for a kind of hardwood, laminate is not actually hardwood. There are a lot of great laminate products that look very realistic, but laminate is actually a composite product. It features a high-density fiberboard (HDF) core, which helps keep it flat and stable. Laminate floors also have a design or print layer, which gives the product its realistic look, a clear wear layer that helps prevent scratching and fading, and backing that stabilizes the floor and prevents damage from moisture.
Most of the laminate products on the market mimic the look of hardwood, but it can look like tile or stone, too. Planks can also feature popular patterned flooring seen in high-end hardwood installations, such as chevron, herringbone, or parquet. Laminate offers realistic, unique patterns at an affordable price point – herringbone or parquet hardwood floors can cost thousands of dollars to install.
A major bonus with laminate flooring is its durability. It’s known for being resistant to scratching, which makes it a great choice for active households – especially families with pets. Cleaning laminate is easy, too – just sweep, vacuum with the bare floor setting, or use a microfiber dust mop to get rid of dust or dirt.
While there are many laminate products out there that are water-resistant – some are even marketed as waterproof – it’s not a good idea to wet mop your laminate floors. Too much water can damage the product’s fiberboard core. Additionally, while water-resistant laminate is technically OK to use in moisture-prone locations, like bathrooms or laundry rooms, it’s not the ideal choice. Be sure to consult a product’s warranty before making any big purchases.
Laminate is installed as a floating floor, meaning it does not need to be nailed, stapled or glued to the subfloor. The locking system, as well as laminate’s rigidity, make it a great choice for DIYers. However, it’s always best to hire a professional installer, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience in the DIY space. Plenty of retailers offer installation services, as well as warranties on the installation.
Because laminate can be a thin product, it’s recommended that you install an underlayment with it as well. Some laminate floors come with a pre-attached underlayment, but if your laminate doesn’t, consider installing one. Using an underlayment can help improve the floor’s performance, sound and feel.
Abrasion criteria, or AC rating, determines a laminate flooring product’s durability. AC ratings help determine the application a particular laminate product is best suited for.
Ready to find your new laminate floor? Click here to find a retailer near you.
About The Author
Proud flooring aficionado and office dog mom, "Flauren" has been a professional writer and editor for more than a decade (though she still maintains her magnum opus was "The Day it Snowed Slurpees," written at the age of 6).
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