Laminate Flooring: A Buyers Guide

Choosing flooring can be tough. There are so many pros and cons of each style, the choices may seem endless. If you are here, you have presumably narrowed it down to laminate flooring, which means the hard part is over! That said, you still may find yourself wondering – exactly what is laminate flooring?

Laminate is a durable, inexpensive option that looks like real hardwood without the large price tag. Best of all, it’s a great DIY install that can be done with just a few tools! Here we cover what you need to know about the ins and outs of laminate flooring.

What is Laminate Flooring?

Laminate flooring is actually made up of multiple layers that are then sealed together to create the finished product – this increases strength and laminate’s infamous durability. Each layer plays a specific role in the overall look of laminate:

  • Wear layer: The top layer. This is easy to clean and works to resist scratches and stains.
  • Decor layer: The image of the wood or tile that gives laminate its realistic look.
  • Core layer: The center of the laminate that gives it structure and durability.
  • Backer layer: This adds additional stability while supporting the laminate.

There are two types of laminates: Direct Pressure Laminate (DPL) and High-Pressure Laminate (HPL). The only true difference is that with HPL, the backing and top layers are separately treated then fused directly onto the core. This is the ideal type of floor for very heavy traffic and a bit more expensive than DPL, though most residential floors won’t require this strength.what is laminate flooring

Key Features of Laminate Flooring

There are a handful of key variables that you will want to educate yourself on before purchasing laminate flooring:

AC Rating: AC stands for Abrasion Class, and there are 5 categories ranging in durability and use to choose from when deciding on laminate flooring. At the beginning of the spectrum is AC1 (Moderate Residential), meant to withstand light residential traffic, such as bedrooms or closets. The end of the spectrum is A5 (Heavy Commercial), meant for extremely high-traffic areas, such as department or grocery stores. It’s important to note that most homes won’t need the absolute highest AC. If you want your floors to stand the test of time, a good rule of thumb is to buy the highest AC rating you can afford so that it’s tough enough to withstand the daily wear and tear of life.

Width: There are a large variety of plank width sizes to choose from, which can vary anywhere from less than 5” to more than 7” wide. Also note that, unless your subfloor is perfectly even, wider planks will be harder to snap together and there will be more gaps. If your subfloor has inconsistencies, try to go narrower.

Thickness: Although all laminates provide very similar levels of dent resistance, keep in mind that the thicker the laminate, the less likely it will bend due to uneven subfloors. Another bonus: thicker laminate also helps reduce noise.

Finishes: The options are practically endless. Whatever your style, you can likely find it. Cherry, oak, walnut, hickory – the list goes on.

Underlayment: Don’t skip this step! Underlayment is a thin foam padding that makes your floors even and steady, making the planks easier to install, nicer to walk on, and absorbing sound and imperfections. Some laminate flooring does come with pre-attached underlay, which takes out an extra step in the process if you decide to DIY.

Lifestyle vs. Looks

There are seemingly infinite benefits to laminate flooring, but the kicker really boils down to just how low-maintenance laminate really is. If you have children, pets, or simply prefer an easy cleanup, laminate truly is the flooring for you. Woods often require polish or wax to keep them looking brilliant. They also tend to come with that innate feeling of dread: your dog has an accident, your children have a spill, you drag your couch across your beautiful wood floors and scratch them in the process. With laminate, you don’t have to worry about any day-to-day events damaging your floors. Laminate floors don’t react to sunlight or humidity the way solid wood does either, which in turn keeps them looking fresh for years to come. If you could get the same look as wood with less upkeep (and less financial burden), why wouldn’t you? Laminate really is a no-brainer!

Another product to keep in mind is luxury vinyl (LV) flooring. LV flooring is hyper-realistic and looks just like stone or ceramic. LV even has a surface texture that feels just like the real thing. LV flooring is still highly resilient and durable, just like laminate, but with a different style to it.

Laminate is a wonderful flooring option for so many reasons. Still in doubt about how to choose what’s right for you? Work with our flooring experts at Higgins Carpet One Floor & Home to select the right laminate flooring for you! Contact us online or give us a call today.