What Is Laminate Flooring?

Last updated on May 6th, 2021 at 06:49 pm

When you’re building or remodeling a property, there are certain touches that can totally transform a space. New flooring is one of them.child and mom lay on laminate flooring

However, it only takes one trip to the local hardware store to realize that this decision isn’t as easy as you first thought. Today, there are many different kinds of flooring materials on the market, ranging from real hardwoods to carpet and everything in between.

One of the most popular design choices lately? Laminate flooring.

If you’re new to this space, you might be wondering, “What is laminate flooring and why should I consider it for my project?” In short, it offers a convenient, cost-effective way to achieve the look you want for less. However, not all laminate product lines are created equal.

Today, we’re sharing everything you need to know about laminate floors, including how to choose a quality laminate over a low-end competitor!

What Is Laminate Flooring?

Before we dive into how to choose the best floor for your home, let’s answer a simple question. What is laminate flooring?

Put simply, this is a type of hybrid wood floor. It features a core layer made out of particleboard, topped with an image layer and a transparent “wear” layer on top. The image layer can be designed to mimic a range of true hardwood styles.

Years ago, laminate flooring was categorized strictly as a type of economy flooring. While it’s true that this material is low-budget, it is no longer low-end.

Now, you’ll find laminate floors in all types of homes, including high-end properties that would have traditionally eschewed it in favor of the real or engineered hardwoods. Modern types feel great underfoot, perform well against stains and spills, and look more like the real deal than ever before.

Understanding the Manufacturing Process

What goes on behind the scenes when manufacturers design and produce laminate floors?

The process is as unique as it is spectacular and includes a few critical steps. Let’s take a look at how it works.

Creating the Different Layers

3D Display of laminate flooring layers

Image Credit: Francis Offermann

First, manufacturers create the bottom layer, called the backer balancing layer. This layer provides a straight base for the floor and adds stability. Beneath this backing, some manufacturers will add an extra, supporting layer called an acoustical underlayment.

Then, they’ll top the bottom layer with the core layer.

The core of laminate flooring is made of high-density fiberboard (HDF). To create HDF, manufacturers combine wood fibers with special additives, including waxes and resins. Then, they shape those fibers into individual planks.

When pressed together under very high heat, the layers combine to create the core of the laminate floor. On top of that HDF core, manufacturers add the image layer or decorative paper layer. The look of this layer is limited only by your imagination, as it can take on on almost any design, pattern, or color.

Finally, the paper layer is topped with a strong and durable wear layer. This coating is usually made of aluminum oxide, which protects the planks while also helping them shine. When this top layer adheres on top of the others, it protects the laminate floor from scratches, scuffs, and UV damage.

Creating and Installing the Planks

When all of the layers are in place, manufacturers will combine them to create one plank. When all planks are made, they will cut the edges, creating locking systems that will fit together during installation.

Where to Install Laminate Floors

If you’ve ever lived in a home with real hardwoods, you know that while they might look great, they can be a challenge to upkeep. This is especially the case when it comes to moisture. As soon as any type of moisture forms between the boards, they can begin to buckle and warp.

Not only does this affect their appearance and performance, but it can also lead to aggravating squeaks throughout your house.

As a rule, laminate flooring holds up better against moisture that typically comes from climate changes than solid hardwood floors. Engineered hardwood floors that are manufactured with 3 ply cores can give in to moisture as well. Still, it’s best to install laminate in areas where this will be less of an issue. Common and popular spots that homeowners prefer include:

  • Dining areas
  • Living rooms
  • Bedrooms
  • Hallways and foyers

It’s smart to stick to a more water-resistant type of flooring in high-moisture areas such as your kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room. Luxury vinyl plank is a great choice for these spots!

Benefits of Laminate Flooring

Thinking about installing laminate floors in your new space? If so, it pays to know the benefits that you can expect. Some of the pros of going this route include:

As you can see, this is a flooring material that’s purposefully designed to hold up against the wear and tear of daily life. Especially if you have tiny feet (or paws!) running around all the time, you need a floor that’s resistant to scratching, staining, and warping.

Laminate flooring fits the bill. Not only is it exceedingly durable, but it’s also easy to clean with a soft, damp mop. In addition to its aesthetic qualities, homeowners can also appreciate its economical price tag.

Installing laminate floors frees up space in your budget to tackle more house projects! Why over-spend on flooring materials when you don’t have to? When you take this approach, you don’t have to stress about your bottom line as much.

Key Elements to Consider

While the benefits of laminate flooring far exceed any potential drawbacks, there are a few concerns to keep in mind. Chiefly, these floors aren’t totally resistant to moisture issues.

If exposed to large, constant amounts of moisture, the floor base can begin to swell. However, this risk is easy to mitigate! Simply keep towels handy throughout your house and be sure to quickly wipe up any spills before they have the chance to settle.

In addition, certain laminate floors can chip if they aren’t properly maintained. This happens when that top “wear” layer is impacted and worn away. Anything from a barstool leg to a child’s dropped toy could be the culprit.

Ultimately, most of these concerns can be eased by simply choosing a great-quality floor. When you invest in laminate flooring that’s well-reviewed and high-performing, you can rest assured that it will last your family for years.

Choosing a High-Quality Laminate Floor

With so many flooring materials available, how can you make sure you’re selecting the right one? As your trusted flooring experts, we understand that you have plenty of options.

Here are a few features that set a high-quality laminate floor apart from a low-quality one.

Thickness

Most laminate flooring planks are available in a thickness that ranges from 7 millimeters to 12 millimeters. As you compare your options, keep in mind that some manufacturers include the thickness of the attached underlayment to their dimensions.

In general, thicker laminate is preferred. If your subfloor is uneven at all, these planks will resist bending and warping. They’re also less likely to create noise when you walk across them.

AC Rating

The Abrasion Criteria (AC) rating is a scale that measures a floor’s level of wear resistance. It goes from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest).

Usually, you’ll find that AC3 and AC4 floors are most commonly suggested for residential projects.

Consider where you plan to install the floors to see if this feature matters. For instance, you wouldn’t put an AC1 laminate floor in your living room, where foot traffic is high. However, it might be ideal for an upstairs guest bedroom that isn’t frequented as often.

Texture and Appearance

A great-quality laminate floor will make you do a double-take when you walk into the room. Ideally, it should look very similar to hardwood, though cheaper models don’t fool nearly as easily.

Take the time to weigh your options and choose one that has the look and feel you want. To simulate the appearance of real hardwoods, you can choose from a variety of textures, including:

  • Handscraped
  • High-gloss
  • Embossed in Register (EIR)

Handscraped textures aren’t actually scraped, but the laminate is pressed to resemble the rustic, time-worn planks that have dominated the modern farmhouse trend. We have some great deals on cabin-grade hardwood that have an amazing rustic look. A high-gloss laminate can offer a smoother, mirrored finish that looks great in modern homes.

If you’re looking for a general, middle-range texture, EIR is perfect. Its decor layer has the depth and richness of hardwood without any distracting finishes.

Shop Our Selection of Laminate Flooring Today

As you dive into your project, we understand that you have lots of different choices when it comes to the flooring you select. We’re here to make the process easier and ensure you end up with a finished product you love.

So when you ask yourself, “What is laminate flooring?”

The answer could be your new interior design solution! It’s cost-effective, realistic, and easy to install. If you’re interested in laminate flooring, you may be interested in waterproof luxury vinyl plank. We have a great blog on LVP to help you figure out if a wood-look vinyl plank can work for you and your home.

If you have any questions about what flooring types can be best for you, reach out to our team.