Laminate flooring allows you to have your cake and eat it too. When you want the look of a gorgeous tile or hardwood floor, but do not want the upkeep or expense, laminate flooring may be exactly what you need.
Laminate flooring is made up of a balancing layer, fiberboard layer, and various sealants and thin layers of fibrous material like paper. An image of a stone tile or a specific grain of hardwood is imprinted on one of the layers, to give the look of the real thing. The top layer is a protective sheet that prevents wear and tear, so your floors always look brand new. It’s as if you have a giant laminated photograph of natural flooring mounted on your floor.
Once you’ve decided to go with laminate flooring in your home, you may think the hard decisions are over. However, the array of options available can be overwhelming. Here are five things to consider when buying laminate flooring:
1. Laminate Floor Design
If you can dream it, you can get it on your floor. Fantasizing about that beautiful tile floor you saw while on vacation in Italy? You can have a similar look at home. Want to get the look of your grandmother’s wood floors? You can do that too.
Once you’ve chosen your design, you will want to find a manufacturer that offers several different “photographs” of the same floor. In a natural floor, no two planks or tiles would be alike, and you want the same effect for your laminate floor. The more variations available for your product design, the more apt you are to fool your neighbors!
Another factor in choosing authentic-looking laminate flooring is to find a product that is “embossed in register,” which basically means the surface lines of the laminate follow the image design. If your product does not have this feature, the surface lines will stand out against the design – a dead giveaway.
2. Live With Your Laminate
For as little as $5, most manufacturers will allow you to purchase a sample plank or tile to test out in your own home. You can choose a sample online and usually receive a sample, product catalog and sometimes even a certificate or mail-in-rebate toward your final purchase. Line up your samples in the rooms in which you plan to install laminate flooring and live with them for awhile. How do the samples look with your furniture and wall color? Do you like the same sample when the light changes at different times of the day?
3. High-Pressure Laminate v.s. Direct-Pressure Laminate
The difference between High-Pressure Laminate (HPL) and Direct-Pressure Laminate (DPL) is basically in the layers. The more layers you have, the better. More layers provide you with more protection from the elements – and the kids! In general, HPL has a minimum of five layers and DPL has only three layers. HPL will be more expensive, but if you are installing it in high-traffic areas, it will be worth the cost.
One of the main ways to tell if a floor is laminate or natural is in the sound it makes when you walk on it. Obviously HPL would your choice if noise is a factor for you, because more layers can help to muffle the sound. You can also get laminate flooring with sound barrier layers added in to the product.
4. Laminate Floor Installation
Laminate flooring is an excellent choice for do-it-yourself types, because it is relatively simple to install. You can even purchase a product with glue already on the edges; simply wet them down to activate the glue. With the purchase of an installation kit ($25-$500), you can install your laminate floor yourself. Expect to lay between 100 and 300 feet per day, depending on the type of product and how many friends you have!
Three Types of Laminate Floor Installation
When choosing the installation for your laminate floor, it call comes down to the glue. You can get a glue laminate, which requires the application of glue to each piece before you lay it down. As stated above, pre-glued laminate is simply moistened before you fit the pieces together. A third option is a glue-less laminate with a system that snaps the tongue and groove together, locking the floor into place. Glue laminates take longer to install, and you will have to wait longer to walk on them once installed.
5. Manufacturer’s Reputation
To ensure your product meets industry standards, make sure it carries the seal of approval from the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA).