Laminate Buyer's Guide
If you are looking to transform your space easily and affordably, Laminate Flooring is the way to go! It shares the same beauty of the coveted hardwood look but has a greater resistance to dents and scratches and won’t fade or change colour over time. And, best of all, it’s easy to install and maintain!
WEAR LAYER: The top, clear layer that aids in the resistance of stains, fading, scratches and dents. The durability of the wear layer can be determined by its AC (Abrasion Class) rating. Please see the AC Rating Chart below.
PATTER LAYER: The decorative layer gives the laminate flooring an attractive appearance, made from a high-resolution photographic image that captures the look and feel of natural wood.
INNER CORE: Under the decorative pattern is the high-density fiberboard or HDF, which is an engineered wood product that helps keep the laminate board stable, flat, and moisture resistant.
BACKING LAYER: Found at the base on the back of the HDF core, the backing layer is a watertight layer that improves the structural stability and serves as a moisture barrier to prevent the board from warping.
MAKING SENSE OF AC RATINGS
AC (Abrasion Class) Ratings indicate the durability level of laminate products. The standard system was first developed by the EPLF (European Producers of Laminate Floors) an independent organization designed to standardize the process to assist customers to understand the differences in durability and resistance to stress among various laminate products.
The AC Rating Standard consists of a series of tests that are conducted to the laminate product in order to assess the flooring resistance to impact, fading, stains and cigarette burns.
The ratings are marked from AC1 to AC5 where each one of them represents the durability level and appropriate application of the product. The AC3 is adequate for residential use and the price of these laminates increases with the increase in ratings.
The ratings help you compare various laminate options so that you are able to make an informed buying decision.
Q: What is laminate flooring?
Laminate Flooring is a High-Density Fibreboard (HDF) based product designed to be a cheaper, easier to install alternative to traditional wood flooring. What appears to be a natural wood grain pattern is, in fact, a decorative paper overlaid with a hard wearing film. Both sheets are impregnated onto the top surface of a thin HDF making it a homogeneous product.
Laminate flooring is laid as a floating floor. This means it is not fixed directly to the subfloor. Instead, the panels are fitted together without glue, using the profiles that have been machined into the edges of the laminate flooring boards.
Q: What is it made from?
80-85% Virgin Wood, usual softwoods such as Spruce and Pine. 15-20% Organic U/F & M/U/F Resins. 3 layers of impregnated paper, a decorative top layer, an overlay (for wear resistance) and a balanced paper for the bottom surface of the laminate flooring.
Q: How should I store my laminate flooring?
Laminate flooring is hygroscopic, meaning that it is susceptible to a reaction to moisture levels in the atmosphere. It is necessary to ensure that flooring is installed in a stable environment. We recommend the boards are stored and laid in a relative humidity of between 45% - 65% and a room temperature of between 18% and 20%.
Q: Tips & Tricks for Installation
When cutting around heating pipes, place the panel in line both in front and alongside to ascertain accurate marks. Include an additional 30mm on top of the pipe diameter for expansion.
Use a hand saw for accurate cutting then cut the panel across the short edge through the center of the hole.
Fit the large piece as normal, and then insert the smaller piece gluing contact areas to hold in place. If space is at a premium, and you are unable to fold down, trim the profile flush using a wood chisel and glue in place.
To fit the floor neatly around door frames and architraves, turn over a panel, offer up to the frame to use as a thickness guide. Using a hand saw flush with the underside of the panel, cut the frame/architrave, and, remove the cut piece.
Slide the panel under the frame, not forgetting to leave room for expansion.
When measuring the width for the final row, rotate the panel 180° so the tongue faces, not forgetting space for expansion gaps.
Once the panel is cut lay as normal. The space left for expansion will also allow space to hold the panels down.
Q: How do I determine the direction in which to install my laminate floor?
To decide where to begin laying your floor, consider incoming light. It is best to install laminate flooring in the direction of the main light source.
Q: What is the best way to clean a laminate floor?
Use a soft brush or vacuum cleaner to remove any surface dust. Do not use abrasive cleaners, steel wool or scouring pads, as they will damage your floor. For regular cleaning use a cloth, ensuring it is well wrung, it is important not to apply excess moisture to the floor.
Q: What can I do to maintain the look of my floor?
Most laminate floor is virtually maintenance free. All it needs to restore its luster after most incidents is a wipe with a damp cloth. To keep your laminated floor in good condition, be sure to use the floor exclusively under the recommended conditions. Put down a mat or rug to eliminate the risk of marks (gravel, soil, etc.) inside doorways and around sinks, etc, to protect from spillages. Move furniture carefully to avoid damaging the laminated surface. Felt pads are recommended under chairs and heavy furniture.
Q: What are the advantages of laminate flooring?
The main advantage with Laminate Flooring is it is easy to install, is very durable and hardwearing and relatively inexpensive compared to real hardwood flooring. It is also a very versatile product which can be used in various areas and low maintenance, and a more natural & healthy alternative to carpets.
Q: How much of an expansion gap should I leave?
An expansion gap is a necessary part of any successful installation because it allows space for the expansion of the floor as it responds to external influences of temperature and humidity. 10mm minimum must be left around the full perimeter and any fixed objects, and threshold strips in all doorways.
Q: How do I repair small scratches?
You cannot repair small scratches, therefore it is very important to use felt pads on all furniture.
Q: How do I work out how much flooring I will require?
Multiply the width by the length in meters then add 10% for cutting waste.
Q: Is it possible to replace a damaged plank after installation?
Yes, the boards can be lifted and refitted although we generally recommend sourcing a local certified professional to assist as it requires a professional skill set.
Q: Can laminate flooring be installed over underfloor heating?
Most laminates can be installed over radiant heat yes.
Thickness: This is the measurement of the top layer all the way to the backer layer and is usually measured in milli-meters. It is important to note that while some laminate options come with an attached pad – that is not included in the thickness measurement. Common options include anywhere from 6-12mm. Durability isn’t directly an advantage of thicker laminate flooring, but the advantages of a thicker product include:
The more realistic feel of hardwood underfoot
Acts as a better sound barrier and has less echoing
Greater thickness tends to mean more impact resistance
Advanced details can be etched into the design
Installation tends to be more forgiving because a thicker laminate product can aid in hiding subfloor imperfections however, the most important aspect to consider is how to level the floor beneath the laminate is. The more imperfections that exist, the more likely it is that installation could be compromised
Underlayment: This refers to the thin, flexible sheet of resilient material that is installed over the subfloor before laying a new laminate floor. Think of your subfloor as the foundational support of the room, and the underlayment as the foundation for the laminate flooring. Not only does it help to level the floor it also cushions the laminate planks and helps reduce noise. It is important to follow the laminate flooring manufacturer’s recommendations for underlayment materials this way you can keep your warranty intact. Some products even come with an attached pad these days, eliminating the need for you to have to decide on the underlayment. Easy-peasy if you ask us!
Here are a few of the different types of underlayment available:
Standard Blue Foam: the most commonly used type that consists of a thin strip of foam material that serves as the cushion between the subfloor and the laminate flooring
Combination Foam / Acoustical Foam: this is a type of underlayment that combines standard foam with a vapour barrier layer that helps protect the installation from rising moisture
Acclimatization: this refers to the adjustment period of the product in the final environment in which it's being installed in terms of moisture and humidity. It is often recommended that the product be allowed to acclimate in your home for a minimum of 48 hours before the installation begins.
Texture: This refers to how the laminate flooring will feel beneath your feet. Since laminate flooring is available in a variety of textures and finishes to simulate the look of real hardwood, some can be subtle and soft while others may appear more visible. This is a cosmetic feature and the choice you make is dependent on what your preference is.
Subfloor: The subfloor is typically something only builders and flooring installers deal with, as it is the piece of flooring that is closest to the floor joists. It is the structural flooring that provides a solid and stable flat surface to support interior flooring like laminate. So, you may have noticed we reference “subfloor” a lot – this is because the preparation of the subfloor is so important to the life span and performance of your laminate flooring. Being that laminate flooring is a thin, resilient flooring option it is vulnerable to any problems that originate beneath it (ie nails, separating floor joists, moisture)