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What is laminate flooring?
Laminate flooring is made up of an HDF (high-density fiberboard) topped with a high-quality print and sealed under a hard protective clear-coat. It is a durable flooring choice that resembles hardwood flooring at nearly half the cost. Moreover, it has expanded performance benefits over wood floors like extra scratch protection and water resistance.
Laminate flooring has gained a lot of popularity among homeowners, businesses, and rental homes. As the popularity continues to rise, it’s necessary to pay attention to the details to ensure you invest in high-quality laminate.
The market is flooded with laminate flooring, but not all of them are created equal. The following guide will walk you through what to look for.
How to Choose the Best Laminate Floor
An AC (Abrasion Class) rating system determines the durability of laminate flooring. Ratings range from AC3 to AC5. The AC rating is the most important number to pay attention to when shopping for laminate. Floors go through several tests before they’re assigned a rating to determine their durability and appropriate traffic levels. A higher AC rating means better quality, more durability, and reflects the floor’s ability to handle high foot traffic.
Laminate flooring is available in 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, and 14mm thicknesses. The thickness plays a huge role in dictating the price of a particular laminate floor for several reasons.
Thicker laminates do a better job at resisting bending, reducing noise, and creating a sturdy feel under your feet, similar to natural wood flooring. Although your subfloor should be leveled before installation, a laminate floor with a higher thickness tends to be more forgiving against any uneven areas.
Laminate flooring doesn’t just imitate the look of hardwood flooring; it also mimics the varying textures of natural wood. There are many types of textures available, from smooth to more intricate.
Thanks to technological advances, some textures have precise surface details simulating the exact feeling of authentic wood, making it hard for the untrained eye to spot the difference. Investing in a high-detailed texture will give off the expensive look of solid hardwood at the affordable price of laminate flooring.
Popular surface textures for wood-look laminates include wood-engraved, EIR (Embossed-in-Register), and hand-scraped. Your design aesthetic plays a huge role in selecting a laminate texture, but you can’t go wrong by picking a surface texture that most resembles the real deal.
The width of laminate planks typically ranges between 5 inches to 9 inches or more. While wider and longer planks are becoming increasingly favorable, you should consider the size of the room when choosing plank sizes.
As a general rule, wider and longer planks look better in bigger rooms, and standard planks are more suitable for smaller spaces. If you have an open floor plan, wider planks can add a sense of luxury and appear less cramped. It would be best to create a balance between the size of the space and the size of each plank to yield a visually appealing design.
One of the many perks of laminate flooring is the ease of installation provided by the click-clock system. The edges of laminate planks easily snap together and float over your subfloor, creating a secure connection that doesn’t require the use of glue or nails.
For this reason, many homeowners save even more money by installing the floors themselves. Always refer to the manufacturer’s installation guide to ensure your subfloor is compatible with this type of installation.
Pre-Attached Pad vs. Underlayment
Some laminates come with a pre-attached pad eliminating the need for a separate underlayment. While flooring with a pre-attached pad removes an installation step and saves you some money in the short term, it’s better to invest in quality underlayment to increase the lifespan of your laminate floors.
A quality underlayment is beneficial because it covers the whole surface area, while a pre-attached pad leaves gaps between the planks. These gaps defeat the purpose of having a pre-attached pad included with your flooring. Adding a separate underlayment provides extra moisture protection, reduces the hollow sound from foot traffic, and eliminates avoidable issues down the road.