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Laminate floors are quickly becoming the flooring of choice
for active families and homeowners.
If you love the gorgeous look of a wood or stone floor but are
worried about high traffic that can ruin expensive floors, laminate flooring is
probably the best option on the market.
Laminate flooring is a lot like Formica countertops - a
combination of layers of wood and melamine plastic that imitate real wood, stone
or other textures.
The benefits of laminate flooring can be summed up in two
words - cost and durability.
Laminate flooring offers the appearance of real hardwood
floors or stone tile, but for about two-thirds the cost.
However, people often forget that laminate flooring has a number of
other benefits, such as:
- High UV resistance, blocking the sun's harmful rays and
protecting the floor pattern from fading over time.
- Easy installation, especially when choosing pre-glued or
- Excellent warranty protection.
- Easy repairs, since damaged planks can be replaced without
contrasting with the pattern of surrounding boards.
- Easy cleaning, since laminate flooring doesn't trap dirt.
Most spills can be cleaned up with a mop or sponge.
- Very low emissions.
- Endless design options.
- But what you're seeing when you look at laminate flooring
is actually a picture - a high-quality photograph of real wood or stone that
has been placed on top of the floor and covered with ultra-strong, clear
Laminate flooring is available in planks, strips and tiles.
Traditionally, it is glued into place, but in the past few years manufacturers
have introduced some incredible glueless and pre-glued formats that cut
installation time in half!
Laminate flooring is installed on top of your existing
floor. And, if you choose a glueless floor, you can even remove the floor and
take it with you when you move!
One of the few disadvantages to a laminate flooring is that
it cannot be refinished, sanded or stripped. However, with some of the
strongest warranties in the flooring industry, there's not much chance you'll
ever need to replace your laminate floor!
How It Is Made
Laminate flooring is made of various layers that are fused
together. The layers in most laminate flooring include:
Wear Layer - This is the top
layer, the one you walk on. It's usually made from cellulose paper that's been
saturated with melamine plastic resins that make laminate flooring so
Design Layer - This is the
image you see, typically a photograph or patterned print that has been copied
onto cellulose paper. Because it is below the upper melamine layer, it can't
be marked, scuffed or even fade.
- Core Layer - This is the
backbone of all laminate flooring. The core layer is usually some form of
processed particle board and comes in different strengths and thicknesses.
Stabilizing Layer - This is the
bottom layer that holds everything in place. It's usually made from
resin-saturated paper, just like the top layer.
In addition, some brands of laminate flooring have an
underlayment attached to the bottom. The underlayment is designed to absorb
sound and cushion the floor. It is usually made of cork, felt, foam or some
Laminate flooring is put together in two different
- Direct-pressure laminate
flooring is the most common variety. All the layers are assembled at once,
then heated and pressed to form a bond.
- High-pressure laminate
flooring is a more recent innovation and is often found in more expensive
premium brands. Both the top and bottom layers of high-pressure laminate
flooring are treated separately, then fused to core layer under extreme
How can you tell the difference between laminate flooring
and 'real' hardwood floors? And which one is better?
The easiest way to tell the difference is to look for
variations in the wood pattern. If it's a laminate floor, you'll see the same
knots, grain and other features repeated throughout your floor.
The other major difference is that hardwood floors dent more
easily and don't stand up to heavy traffic as well as laminate flooring.
That's why people end up re-sanding and re-finishing their floors