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Laminate Floor Buying Guide

Laminate flooring looks great and stands up to scratches and dents. Available in a number of different styles including oak, hickory, bamboo and mahogany, it looks like real hardwood without the cost, and it's available in a number of different styles including oak, hickory, bamboo and mahogany.

Laminate Foyer Flooring

Laminate Construction

Laminate Construction Illustration

Laminate is designed to be affordable and durable. Laminate starts with a wear layer filled with aluminum oxide to help resist scratches from daily wear. The wear layer also makes laminate flooring easy to clean, fade-resistant and stain-resistant.  The décor layer is a printed image that recreates the natural looks of any wood, tile or stone. The core layer gives laminate its structure and dent-resistant properties. Laminate flooring is much more resistant to dents than real hardwood flooring. The final backer layer provides additional support and stability.

Laminate Flooring Options

Laminate Flooring in Foyer

Consider these key features to help you choose the right laminate for your home.

Thickness
Laminate flooring is typically available in 7-millimeter, 8-millimeter, 10-millimeter and 12-millimeter thicknesses. Some retailers will market the thickness of the product including the core and attached pad. When you compare laminate, take this into account. All laminates provide a similar level of dent resistance; however, thicker laminate is better suited to prevent bend caused by unlevel spots in your subfloor. Thicker laminate can also help reduce sound.

Warranty
Warranties range from 10 years to lifetime. Though these warranties are typically residential, some laminate flooring offers a commercial warranty.

AC Rating
This rating is a 1 to 5 representation of laminate’s resistance to wear. The higher the AC rating, the higher the durability:

  • AC 1: Designed for home use with little foot traffic, like bedrooms
  • AC 2: Designed for home use with medium foot traffic
  • AC 3: Designed for home use in all foot traffic areas, including high foot traffic areas, like the foyer or kitchen
  • AC 4: Designed for home use in all traffic areas and can meet some commercial standards if warranted
  • AC 5: This is the most durable laminate available and can withstand heavy commercial traffic, like in a department store. Though AC 5 laminate offers maximum durability, the amount of aluminum oxide necessary to achieve the performance standards leaves the laminate décor looking cloudy.

Attached Pad
Some products already have an acoustical pad attached to make installation easier. See Underlayment below for more information.

Texture
Laminate flooring is available in many types of textures to simulate the look of real hardwood flooring.

  • Embossed: A general, all-over texture not specific to the décor of the laminate
  • Embossed in register (EIR): EIR better simulates the natural look of real hardwood flooring by adding depth and texture in alignment with the design of the décor
  • Handscraped: Though not actually handscraped, the laminate is pressed to look just like a real handscraped hardwood floor
  • High Gloss: If you like a mirror finish, high-gloss laminate is a great option because it resists scratches and dents

Use this chart to help you compare by brand.

Major Brand Thickness Warranty

AC Rating

Attached Pad Locking System
Pergo

8 mm and

10 mm

Lifetime Residential
5-Year Commercial
AC4 2 mm SecureLock®
Armstrong 12 mm Lifetime Residential
10-Year Commercial
AC4 2 mm Lock&Fold®
allen+roth 10 mm Lifetime Residential
5-Year Commercial
AC4 2 mm Swiftlock Technology™
Style Selections 8 mm 30-Year AC3 None Swiftlock Technology™
Project Source 7 mm 15-20 Year AC3 None Locking

 

Installing Laminate Flooring

Underlayment
Underlayment is typically available in 100-square-feetrolls and can provide moisture protection, improve sound suppression and eliminate minor subfloor imperfections. Underlayment with a moisture barrier is required when installing laminate over concrete subfloors at or below ground level, as moisture passing through the subfloor can cause your floor to expand, creating issues like cupping, gapping and squeaking. Follow the flooring manufacturer’s instructions for moisture protection. 

Underlayment can provide sound suppression through acoustical padding measure by IIC (Impact Insulation Class) and STC (Sound Transmission Class) ratings: The higher the rating, the better the sound absorption. These ratings are measured with or without a sound-absorbing acoustical ceiling (skewing the scores higher), so compare apples to apples. Underlayment can also eliminate minor subfloor imperfections. Imperfections outside the laminate flooring manufacturer’s tolerances for levelness need to be addressed appropriately.

Some laminate floors have acoustical pads already attached to the product. Although the attached pad can make installation easier, these pads aren't moisture barriers.

Moulding
Be sure to get the matching and coordinating moulding you need to complete your job, including quarter rounds, T-mouldings, thresholds, reducers and wallbase.

Laminate Flooring Installation Tips

All laminate floors lock together for easy installation making it a great DIY project.  However, if you don’t want to install yourself, please see an associate about our professional installation services.  Here are a few videos to help you install laminate and prep your subfloor:

 Here are some quick tips for installation:

  • You may install laminate floors on any level of your home; however, do not install them in wet areas like full baths and saunas.
  • The subfloor should be clean, level, dry and structurally sound.  Please refer to installation instructions for specific requirements.
  • Prior to installation, store the packaged flooring flat in the room in which the installation is to take place at least 20 in / 50 cm away from adjacent walls for a minimum of 48 hours under manufacturer recommended indoor conditions for temperature and humidity listed in the instructions.  This will help prevent issues related to moisture, such as cupping, gapping and squeaking. Laminate expansion gaps are available specifically for this purpose.

Make sure you leave the manufacturer recommend expansion gap around the entire perimeter of the floor and all vertical surfaces.  This is extremely important to prevent issues related to expansion, such as cupping, gapping and squeaking. Make sure you completely read and follow the installation instructions and recommendations by the manufacturer

Care and Maintenance

Help protect your laminate flooring investment by following the below care and maintenance tips:

  • Never clean or wet mop floors with water. Water may permanently damage the floor.
  • Use a cleaner specifically designed for prefinished hardwood flooring and or laminate flooring, like Bona or Bruce Floor Cleaner, to clean your floor.
  • Sweep or dust mop your floor once a week, or more if needed.  This will help prevent scratches.
  • Clean up spills and tracked-in dirt quickly to prevent damage to the floor.
  • Use area rugs or doormats in high traffic areas to collect dirt and moisture.
  • To prevent scratches and dents, use furniture protector pads under all chairs, stools and heavy furniture and be careful when sliding heavy objects across the floor.
  • Keep animal nails trimmed to minimize finish scratches.