Laminate and Hardwood Floors: Understanding the Differences
Construction. Laminate flooring is a
tongue and groove interlocking flooring system. It is installed over the
top of the existing substrate and simply lays there. Plywood,
concrete slab, sheet vinyl flooring, hardwood flooring, or virtually any
other basically flat hard surface is suitable for a "floating"
Laminate flooring consists of four main components
that are bonded together. A wear resistant decorative surface made of
resin based melamine/aluminum oxide, which is often 20 times more
durable than the one on your kitchen countertop. This
material is bonded to a moisture resistant medium or high density
wood composition based core. A balancing backing is
bonded to the underside of the core. On the top is a clear cap sheet of
Aluminum Oxide, which provides the protection and stain resistance.
HPL (high pressure laminate) vs. DPL (Direct
When It Comes to Laminate Flooring, Pressure Makes All the Difference
The higher the pressure used in
the manufacturing of laminate, the harder and more resistant to scuffing
and scratching the laminate surface. Just as diamonds are the hardest of
all minerals, High Pressure Laminate is the hardest and toughest of all
Manufactured at 1400 pounds-per-square-inch of pressure.
The laminate and high-pressure balancing backer are then bonded
(using high pressure) to a water-resistant HDF core using a
Direct Pressure Laminate fuses the wear layer and decorative
material using 300-500 pounds per square inch.
Witex use Direct Pressure
High Pressure Laminate Flooring Advantages
- Better wear resistance - fewer scuffs and scratches
- Better static load capacity - no dimpling
- Better impact resistance - no denting
- Better design clarity - higher sheen levels
- Higher in-carton product integrity
- No chipped corners
High-Pressure Laminate is featured in
Wilsonart's Classic product, Pergo Select
Continuous multi-layer laminate contains Kraft papers like HPL, but
is not manufactured at the same temperatures and pressures as HPL. It is
produced on a continuous press and is more impact resistant than direct
pressure laminate (DPL) because of the Kraft papers, but lacks the resin
flow which provides superior clarify of design in HPL.
Permaplex is High pressure Laminate at is finest.
Manufactured only by Wilsonart Flooring,
the surface is more than 250% thicker than other laminate flooring
surfaces. Permaplex is features in The Wilsonart
Estate Plus and
Red Label product.
Installation. Laminate floorings can be installed
quickly with a minimum of tools. Often they can be walked on the
following day. The individual pieces are milled so that they interlock
with one another. Special glues are used on the interlocking edges of
the flooring pieces. Most laminate products are installed over the
existing floor in a floating fashion. The individual laminate planks are
not glued or nailed to the floor below. Once the glued edges dry, you
basically end up with a singular, giant piece of flooring.
Laminate flooring can be installed over virtually any flooring material.
To obtain the most satisfactory results, the existing flooring should be
in good, sound condition. It should also be as level as possible. Loose
or rotten subflooring, missing tiles, etc. should be replaced or secured
prior to covering with laminate. Laminate flooring can, in some
instances, be installed over thin carpeting!
Engineered Hardwood vs. Solid Hardwood
Solid wood is just that – one piece that is milled from lumber.
It comes in a variety of widths, from 2-1/4" to 5" wide. It also comes
in different thicknesses: 3/4" is standard, but you can also find "thin
profile" solid that is 5/16" thick.
Engineered wood is real wood, but instead of one solid piece it
consists of three to 10 thin layers of wood, called plies, that are
assembled and glued in a cross-ply construction. The top layer of wood
can range from 1/16" to 1/6" thick. Overall board thickness ranges from
1/4" to 3/4". Due to its multi-ply structure,
engineered wood is much more stable than solid wood and is less
susceptible to shrinking and expanding with changes in temperatures and
Engineered hardwood floors were developed to create a hardwood floor
that can be glued directly to a concrete slab floor or nailed down to a
wood subfloor. Engineered floors have also been developed as
floating floors. The boards of these floors are glued together at the
tongue and groove and not glued to the subfloor. The resulting floor
floats like a membrane on a 1/8 inch thick foam pad, yielding a floor
that is more insulated and softer to walk and stand on.
The main difference between solid and
engineered floors is how they can be installed. Because solid wood
expands and contracts with moisture, it must usually be nailed down to a
wood subfloor, which is typically plywood. Solid wood cannot be glued
down to a concrete slab because the forces in the wood which cause it to
twist and cup would pull the glue loose from the subfloor.
Visual. Aesthetically, the most
common designs have a wood grain visual appearance. Some manufacturers
have released textures such as realistic stone and marble. Laminate
floors are usually produced in long rectangular shaped planks typically
about 47" by 8". There are some square tiles (usually about 15" by 15"
or 24" by 24") and double wide planks as well.
The photography and number of photographs per
color (termed "screens"), is an important factor of the aesthetic
quality and visual realism. Hardwood flooring is easily and very
authentically reproduced. Therefore, many hardwood floor species are
reproduced. One brand or another represents all exotic, distressed and
tropical hardwoods along with oak, maple, birch and cherry. The term
"blocked" is used to describe a laminate flooring plank's design that
consists of smaller plank widths, such as 2.25" strip hardwood. The term
"planked" is used to describe a laminate flooring plank's design that
represents one board of lumber.
Hardwood floors add a beautiful and natural touch.
They also add value to your home and are highly praised in the resale
home market. Sliced cut top faces replicate the elegant
appearance of solid wood floors and showcase a tight and uniform
graining pattern. Rotary cut top faces create a wide and bold graining
By using the counter top technology and adding
considerably more resin to the wear layer, laminates have become an
ideal floor covering. In fact, some laminate floor manufacturers boast
that their laminate floors are now 10 to 20 times harder than laminate
counter tops. Since this resin filled wear layer is so dense, it becomes
extremely difficult to stain, scratch, or burn with a cigarette. It is
possible however to scratch any floor.
Laminate flooring is fantastic but it is not perfect. It can be
damaged just like any other flooring. Any floor that is not subjected to
excessive moisture is a great location for laminate. Should the particle
board core be subjected to moisture extremes, it can swell and buckle.
For this reason, it is may not be a good idea to install laminate
flooring in a bathroom environment.
The technology of modern protective finishes has come
a long way, making hardwood flooring more practical than ever. Urethane
finishes are the most popular today because their ultraviolet
light-cured finish allows for easier maintenance and longevity. Most
finishes also contain aluminum oxide that enhances durability.