Laminate flooring products have been popular in Europe for the past 20 to 30 years. Only now are they making a major impact in North America at reasonable costs, usually ½ the cost of the hardwood floor.
Laminate Flooring is simply a multi-layered; wood based floating floor system offering durability, a wide range of design options, easy maintenance and affordability.
WHAT IS LAMINATE?
Most people are very familiar with Laminate counter tops. In North America we have several manufacturers who have become household names, such as Formica. In fact, most people refer to their counters as a “Formica” counter top. These same people have no idea that this is not a “kind” of counter, but rather a manufacturer of this type of surface. This existing technology has been transformed in such a way that we can now make flooring out of the essentially the same material.
By adding ‘resins’, extremely wear resistant top layers, and a center core, Laminate Floors were born. These products have been in Europe for 20 to 30 years but are now making a major impact in North America. Laminate Flooring is simply a multi-layered; wood based floating floor system.
Typically Laminate floors consist of the following layers from top to bottom:
- Wear layer
- Pattern, “image” layer
- Processed wood core: usually M.D.F. (medium density fiber board) or H.D.F. (high density fiber board)
- Balancing layer (usually with a moisture barrier)
These layers are manufactured into flooring by one of two methods. They are either High Pressure Laminates (HPL), or Direct Pressure Laminates (DPL). With the DPL method, all the layers are bonded together under extreme heat and pressure at one time. HPL is done in more than one step. Typically the wear layer and image layer are bonded together, and than those two layers are bonded to the core in a separate step.
Most Laminates come in Planks 4″ to 8″ wide and approximately 4′ long. Due to the nature of the planks, manufacturers have focused the styling of the product to reflect the shape of the plank and therefore have concentrated on duplicating wood looks in various species of wood. Several companies have also tried to imitate natural stones or copy the look of ceramic tiles, including grout lines in some cases. Laminate floors are sold in packages usually of 15 to 36 ft2, but are typically retailed by square foot pricing.
Most manufactures carry wear warranties ranging form 10 to 25 years but new products are starting to introduce “Lifetime” warranties. Several products on the market also have “water” or “moisture” warranties. It is very important to check with the manufacturer as to EXACTLY what their warranty does and does not cover. Do not be afraid to ask questions. All major manufacturers have toll free information phone lines, websites etc. You are their customer and they are available to answer your inquiries.
APPLICATIONS OF LAMINATE FLOORING
One of the best features of Laminate flooring is its versatility. Its beauty and durability makes laminate flooring suitable for any room, kitchen or even basement. Some manufacturers do not warrant the installation of their product in bathrooms, so please consult your manufacturer before proceeding. The companies that do allow for bathroom installations all tend to have specific methods of installation. Always adhere to all manufacturer installation and application instructions.
You can install laminates in the upper, main or basement floors of your home or cottage. Due to the floating nature of the product, concerns about moisture levels in basements are eliminated. Planks can be protected from moisture by installing a vapour barrier under the underlay. The most widely accepted moisture barrier is a sheet of 6-mil poly (plastic). All manufacturers have specific requirements for their products, so you should check with your manufacturer before installing the floor.
Commercial as well as residential laminate flooring is available. Typically the commercial versions have fewer pattern and color choices to pick from. These industrial laminate floors will often come with a 15-year commercial warranty. Specific limitations will apply, so again, please consult with your local dealer or the manufacturer to see if you qualify for the full warranty.
In general laminate flooring is perhaps the most versatile type of flooring on the market today. It is very durable and well-constructed product. Many brands carry a lifetime structural warranty and up to a 15 year commercial wear warranty. It is a very attractive and easy floor to maintain. They are available as planks and tiles in a wide array of colors, patterns and styles.