Why Choose Laminate?
Where cost is a concern, professionally-installed laminate floors cost
approximately the same as a Swedish-finished hardwood floor. So why
choose it in the first place?
Depending on the subflooring, solid wood may not be a
Also, laminates are extremely durable and are
great for homes with a high degree of foot traffic (children and pets
add significantly to traffic in a home). They are incredibly easy to
maintain and will not fade, even in direct sunlight.
Most laminate flooring comes with a triple warrant
against wear, staining and fading. Some manufacturers also offer
moisture warranties, but look closely at the warranty itself. Many are
really just an extension of your homeowner insurance. But if your
insurance company doesn’t cover the damage (but they
usually will), the flooring manufacturer may cover a portion of it. Either way,
make sure you know what you’re getting before you buy.
Essentially all laminates are composed of three layers.
- The Surface Wear Layer. The surface layer is
typically made of an extremely tough-wearing aluminum oxide. The
pattern that you see as you look at the floor is actually that of a
printed photograph adhered to the clear surface. Many people consider
the pattern an additional layer, but for simplification, we consider
them as one. Many laminates look like wood floors, but it’s
merely a photograph of a wood floor applied to a melamine laminate.
Because you can photograph nearly anything for a floor, there are few
limitations. Most, though, are wood-, stone-, brick- and tile-based.
- The Core. The core board or “carrier
board” is made up of a variety of materials, depending on the
manufacturer. Most are MDF, or medium density fiberboard, which is a
durable engineered wood product that resists moisture. Others can have
a high-density wood particle core. While the MDF may be slightly more
structurally sound, the particle core absorbs glue slightly better at
the joints. Both materials, if manufactured by dependable companies,
provide a durable, trustworthy core.
- Backing. The backing board varies depending on
who makes the floor, but it ranges from a paper layer to a full plastic
laminate layer. Those with a laminate or melamine backing may be better
against potential water damage than those with paper backings, and the
laminate is more stable.
All of these layers are fused by heat and pressure.
Laminate flooring comes in individual boards with
tongue-and-groove edges, roughly eight inches by four feet long.
Matching trim and molding is available.
Laminate is installed as a “floating
floor.” A layer of foam is placed under the flooring and the
individual “boards” are glued at the tongue and
groove joint. The individual pieces of laminate flooring are not glued
or nailed down to the subfloor.
With regard to subflooring, there’s lots of
flexibility. Laminate can be installed over concrete, plywood, or OSB
subflooring. And while other forms of flooring may not be suited for
some types of existing floor, laminate can be applied directly over
ceramic tile, vinyl, and parquet floors. Laminate’s 1/3-inch
thickness is also an asset when dealing with transitions (vs. a typical
3/4-inch, Swedish-finish wood floor). Remember, any time you install a
floor, it should be at the same height as adjoining floors.
Installing laminate is easy for some and difficult
for others. If you’re a skilled handy person, someone who can
hang a door and do simple carpentry, you can probably do the job.
However, professionals can install 90% of all laminate floor
jobs in a day or less, while it can probably take you 2-3 days
of hard work.
If you decide to have the floor installed
professionally, make sure you hire a reputable company that employs
licensed, bonded and skilled installers.
At South Cypress Floors, we don’t recommend installing laminates in wet
areas such as bathrooms and laundry rooms. Water on the top layer will
not damage it as it would hardwoods, but problems can develop when
moisture works its way along the edges or underneath. With some
installation modifications, laminate can work for a wet area. But do
check with the installer. In general, though, we recommend tile or
vinyl for wet areas.
Another issue, which some people consider a
limitation, is strictly a matter of personal choice. Because laminate
is a floating floor, they produce a slight tapping sound as
you walk on it. Some manufacturers have introduced acoustical padding to
muffle the sound with varying results. It’s a good idea to
test it by walking on a dealer display floor and imagining how it will sound
in your home. We recommend cork underlayment for any floating floor as
the BEST method of reducing the echo effect or tapping sound.
Always follow the manufacturer’s
recommendations when installing or making other decisions related to your project.