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All About Laminate

Choosing Laminate Flooring

» Flooring Material
» Flooring System
» Finishing Up
» Design Decisions

Stuff You'll Need

» Calculating Flooring Needs
» Tools for Laminate Flooring

Getting It Done

» Preparing the Room
» Smoothing The Subfloor
» Dealing With Moisture
» Installing Flooring
» Working Around Obstacles
» Finishing the Job
» Reinstalling Shoe Moldings
» Dealing With Steps
» Maintaining the Floor

Additional Articles

» What is Laminate Flooring?
» Facts About Glueless Laminate Flooring 
» Flooring Underlayment - Types and Uses
» Measuring for Moldings/Trim
   

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The Flooring Material

All laminate flooring is made essentially the same way. The top wear layer is cellulose paper impregnated with clear melamine resins. Just below it is the design layer— a photo or pattern printed on paper and strengthened with resins. The core is usually a durable fiberboard
The bottom stabilizing layer is made of paper or melamine.
Individual laminate pieces . can look like real wood or stone. There will be pattern repeats in the floor, though; something you won't find in a flooring made from natural wood or stone.
 

Planks
Planks are meant to look like a variety of natural materials, including stone and wood Planks that imitate wood come in a variety of "species," colors, and patterns. Plank sizes may vary between manufacturers, but not by much. They're all about 8 inches wide and about 4 feet long.

 

Tiles
Tiles usually mimic other kinds of flooring,
such as ceramic tile or stone.
They can be either individual squares or larger
squares with imitation grout joints. Like planks,
they're fitted tongue-to-groove.

Laminate flooring differs in more than just color and size. There are two distinct construction methods. With high-pressure lamination, the bottom and top layers are each heated and pressurized into laminate structures. These layers are then fused to the core with glue under heat and pressure. With direct-pressure construction, the layers are assembled all at once, then filled with hardening melamine resins using heat and pressure. High-pressure types are more impact- and dent-resistant. Direct-pressure laminates are more economical and offer very good quality overall. The packaging should tell you which kind is inside; if it doesn't call the manufacturer.


If it's not Wood, What is it?
It's a combination of layers that form a solid, long-lasting flooring material. Manufacturers have different names for these layers. Some combine the design and wear layers, but the basics are the same.

Still trying to decide if laminate flooring is for you? The chart below compares laminate with wood and vinyl flooring.

  LAMINATE WOOD VINYL
Cost (per roughly 400 square feet)   $1,800-$2,800   $1,800-$2,900   $300-$1,900
Durability   Warp-, rip-, scratch-resistant. Damaged planks replaceable.   Can be refinished. Lasts indefinitely.   May rip, bend, scratch. Easy to replace.
Impact resistance (for denting and cracking)   Varies with quality. Resists pressure of at least 4,250 Ibs. per square inch. Some resist up to 9,000 Ibs.   Varies a lot between species. Oak is most resistant. White pine dents more easily.   Resists pressure of up to 200 Ibs. per square inch.
Color   Batches always match.   Varies from tree to tree; is part of its charm.   Varies from batch to batch.
Stain resistance   High. Made of waterproof resins.   Low. Absorbs water. Finish is its only protection.   Medium.
UV resistance   High. Won't fade.   Low. May fade or darken with age.   Low. May fade.
Ease of installation   Easy. Material adapts to some irregularity in floor   Easy floor preparation.   Subfloor preparation is difficult. Irregularities and dirt may show in finish flooring.
Wear layer warranty   Up to 15 years is common.   No warranty, but can be refinished.   Up to 10 years limited warranty.

 

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