A Comprehensive Guide to Purchasing Laminate Flooring – Part I

Laminate is a very popular flooring choice among homeowners looking for a wide range of styles and durability at affordable prices. It’s easy to install and maintain, stands up to dents and scratches, and can be used for any space in your home. If you’re thinking of buying laminate flooring but can’t decide on the right laminate for your space, this guide will help you understand laminate flooring better and make an informed decision.

What is Laminate Flooring?

Laminate flooring is a synthetic product made of several layers of different materials sealed together using adhesive, heat, and pressure. It consists of mainly four components–

  • Wear Layer: This is the topmost layer. It consists of aluminium It protects the surface from scratches and daily wear, fading and staining.
  • Decor Layer: Also known as the photograph layer, this layer has the printed image of hardwood, cork, stone, bamboo or tile recreating their natural look. The patterns are printed on a special type of paper and then embedded in resin. This layer is responsible for providing the laminates with their actual appearance.
  • Core Layer: This fibreboard layer makes up the structure and depth of the laminate and provides it dent-resistant properties. It’s typically composed of finely powdered sawdust or wood chips coated in resin which is then pressed into flat sheets.
  • Back Layer: This layer provides stability and an additional support to the laminate. Most back layers function as the moisture barrier creating a water-resistant seal around the core layer.

What are the Different Types of Laminates?

There are two types of laminate flooring available – High-Pressure Laminate (HPL) and Direct Pressure Laminate (DPL). The HPL type is an extremely strong floor that makes for a suitable choice for spaces dealing with heavy traffic, especially commercial spaces. In this process, the top layer and the back layer of the laminate board are treated separately and then directly fused on to the core layer. It consists of an extra layer of a special high-strength paper in addition to the four layers of DPLs. It’s also more expensive than the direct pressure laminates.

Do You Need an Underlayment?

All laminate flooring requires a foam underlayment. It’s a thin foam padding that helps to correct minor imperfections of the subfloor and acoustic problems. If your subfloor is wet or vulnerable to moisture damage, you’ll need an additional moisture barrier to place below the underlayment. You can also choose an underlayment that comes with a moisture barrier.

Some laminates come with a pre-attached underlayment making the installation process easier. However, if you buy laminate flooring that doesn’t include a pre-attached underlayment, buy an underlayment by the roll separately and place it above the subfloor before installing the laminates.

What are the Key Features to Consider

  • Abrasion Class Rating: There are five categories of laminates depending on use and durability. The price varies on the abrasion class (AC) rating and you should make your choice based on your needs.
  • AC 1: It’s suitable for light to moderate residential use in bedrooms or closets.
  • AC 2: This category is built for moderate foot traffic and suitable for spaces that don’t have to deal with a lot of wear and tear.
  • AC 3: It’s perfect for residential spaces that see heavy foot traffic and for commercial spaces with little traffic.
  • AC 4: Built for general commercial use with heavy traffic in spaces such as offices, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. It’s also suitable for all kinds of residential use.
  • AC 5: This category is meant for heavy commercial use. 
  • Thickness: Although most laminates provide a similar level of protection from dents, thicker laminates are better equipped to resist noise and deformation. Laminate boards are available in thicknesses ranging from 7mm – 12 mm.
  • Textures and Finishes: To simulate the look of real wood, stone, ceramic and other materials, laminates are available in several textures and finishes. Generally, you have handscraped, embossed, embossed in the register (EIR), and high gloss varieties to choose from.

In our next blog post, we’ll continue discussing the other aspects of laminate flooring such as installation concerns, performance over time, cleaning and maintenance.

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