An Introduction to Laminate
Laminate is one of the most popular products in hard surface floors. It is extremely durable, easy to maintain, and can withstand the traffic and wear of a busy household. It is a man-made surface, and it comes in a wide variety of styles and textures that are virtually identical to natural hardwood, stone or tile at a fraction of the cost.
Laminate was introduced to the world in the 1980s by Pergo, a Swedish manufacturer. It was instantly popular in Europe, and the enthusiasm for this extraordinary flooring quickly spread to America.
Consumers were captured with that idea that laminate was not only more affordable than natural wood, it often far exceeded hardwood in durability and wear resistance.
In addition to its other benefits, laminate is environmentally-friendly since it is mostly composed of recyclable materials, and is classified as a low VOC (volatile organic components) emissions product.
Manufacturers have refined laminate to resist many common types of wear such as indentations, scratches, stains, burns and fading. Laminate also comes with many advantages for the consumer, several of which are substantiated by a 2006 Consumer Report® which stated that, "laminates typically lasted twice as long as solid-wood flooring before their surface began showing wear."
- Highly durable
- Ideal for high traffic areas
- Resistant to moisture-related shrinkage and swelling
- Great for families with children & pets
- Simple to maintain and clean
- Easy to install and pull up if necessary
- Relatively inexpensive compared to natural hardwood and stone
- Easy to replace if irreparably damaged
- Ideal for homeowners with allergies
Care and Maintenance
Its quick and simple upkeep is a key benefit of laminate. As with any flooring product, it is important to know proper cleaning practices.
Use cleaning products recommended by the manufacturer
Keep the floor free of dirt and moisture
Use a dry mop, vacuum, broom or damp cloth to clean
Use alcohol or acetone to treat tough stains or stuck objects
Use gentle scraping for stuck objects like tar, gum or wax
Carry heavy furniture across it
Place doormats by entryways to reduce tracked-in dirt and moisture
Use felt pads under any furniture that will sit on the laminate floor.
Saturate the surface with water
Use soap, abrasive detergents or scouring pads like steel wool
Wax, polish, sand or resurface it
Use a vacuum with a beater brush
Drag heavy furniture across it
Use nylon pads on the feet of your furniture; it will react negatively with the aluminum oxide in the surface layer.
Components and Layers
While each manufacturer may add certain features to make its laminate unique, the basic laminate plank is composed of four layers of materials, which are fused together using either the direct pressure (DP) or high pressure (HP) method.
- Wearlayer - is a tough clear melamine layer with aluminum oxide particles. Using heat and pressure the wearlayer becomes an incredibly hard and durable finish. The resin-filled wearlayer is so dense it becomes extremely difficult to stain, scratch, or burn.
- Print Film - which is also called the decorative layer gives the floor the appearance of a real hardwood or tile. Some manufacturers, have been able to replicate the old wood floors found only in some old historical buildings.
- Kraft Paper – is a heavy weight paper which is used as a shock absorbent. it can reduce the chance of any chipping or denting.
- T&G Edges – are the actual interlocking method for assuring a tight fit for each plank.
- Core - generally made from high-density fiber board (HDF), particle board, or plastic, the core adds impact resistance, and forms the tongue and groove locking system. Melamine plastic resins are also impregnated in the core by some of the manufacturers to improve the moisture resistance of the core.
- Backing - is usually a melamine plastic layer used to give additional structural stability and added moisture protection to the planks.
- Melamine - is a plastic-type resin used throughout the construction process to add durability, and stability to the laminated planks
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What type of sub-floor can I put laminate over?
A: Since laminate is a "floating floor", meaning it does not need to be stapled or nailed to the subfloor, it can be installed over most surfaces, except carpet.
Q: Where can I use laminate in my home?
A: Laminate can be used on any level of a home, but it is not ideal for bathrooms or other areas that may get a lot of moisture.
Q: How many years will my laminate floor last?
A: Typically a laminate floor will last 15 to 30 years, however it is best to consult the manufacturer for your product's specific warranty information.
Q: Is laminate easy to install?
A: Since the introduction of glueless installation, putting laminate in your home has never been easier. Most laminate planks come with a tongue and groove locking system that allows planks to simply click together. However, the process does require a lot of patience and precision.
Q: How soon after installation can I walk on my new laminate floor?
A: Laminate is ready for use immediately after installation, but it is very important to acclimate it before installation. That means allowing the product to sit for 24-72 hours prior to installation in the room where it will be installed so it can adjust to the humidity and temperature of the room. If this is not done, the planks may warp or pull apart after installation.