Before you invest in anything significant like flooring in your home or commercial property, the least you should do is research. If money wasn’t a factor, some people would suggest going for hardwood flooring. Unfortunately, cost can’t be overlooked in most cases. Laminate flooring is a popular substitute today because of the cost factor, but you need more information to feel you are making a wise decision. Let’s begin with a detailed definition;
What is laminate flooring?
Laminate flooring is synthetic flooring characterized by multiple layers fused via a lamination process. The flooring features a photographic appliqué layer just beneath a clear protective topmost layer. The flooring has an inner core layer usually made of fiber board materials and melamine resin. Although different manufacturers make laminate flooring differently, there are specific laminate flooring standards that must be met in different jurisdictions.
Think of laminate flooring as multiple layers of flooring fused together and featuring a top layer that mimics all floor types imaginable. The flooring makes it possible to have the floor you’ve always wanted i.e., hardwood flooring without incurring the cost. Technological advancements in laminate flooring today make it possible to mimic everything about traditional flooring, including texture, styles/patterns, and even durability.
Most importantly, laminate floors are not plastic. At the heart of the flooring layers are wooden fibers and chips. Poor designs and feel in the past are to blame for the notion that laminate floors are made using plastic.
History of Laminate flooring
Laminate floors are four decades old. Despite becoming popular in the recent past, the flooring was invented in 1977 in Europe and marketed in 1984 for the first time before entering the US market a decade later (1994). Over the years, laminate flooring has undergone multiple improvements. The flooring, which was once known to have durability problems, has now been re-engineered to be indistinguishable from any flooring while offering added flooring benefits like durability, water resistance, easy maintenance, and versatility.
How is laminate flooring made?
There are two key factors when exploring how laminate flooring is made i.e., the layers and the manufacturing methods.
Layers of Laminate floor construction
As mentioned above, the flooring is composed of multiple layers. They include;
Back layer: This layer sits at the bottom, in contact with the subfloor. It serves to protect the flooring against moisture. The back layer usually features an underlayment or padding for balancing the floor, and offering added quality when walking.
Core layer: This layer sits above the back layer. It is usually made of a high-density board that is durable. The core layer protects the flooring from indentation.
Design layer: Above the core layer is the design layer. As the name suggests, this layer features the high-resolution design photography of the mimicked flooring. With the current technological advancements, this layer can mimic any flooring from hardwood to stone and marble flooring resulting in an indistinguishable appearance.
Topmost layer/wear layer: This layer sits at the top. It’s basically a clear layer made of materials like aluminum oxide which protect the flooring from stains, fading and surface burns. This layer comes with a variety of finishes depending on the desired flooring.
Laminate flooring can feature other layers depending on the manufacturer. For instance, an extra layer can be added above the back layer to eliminate moisture damage and chances of warping. Some manufacturers also add a textured layer at the top to give textured flooring like stone flooring a more realistic feel.
Manufacturing methods of Laminate Flooring
There are two primary methods used to manufacture laminate flooring, namely; DPL (direct pressure laminate) and HPL (High-pressure laminate) construction. When selecting various types of laminate flooring, you are bound to see these terms.
1. Direct pressure laminate flooring: This flooring made by exerting 300 – 500 pounds PSI on all flooring layers. This method is popular for residential laminate floors or commercial floors in low traffic areas.
2. High pressure laminate flooring:HPL utilizes higher PSI i.e., 1300+ resulting in tougher and more durable laminate floors. There are no layering differences in this method apart from small additions such as Kraft paper sheets with a resin to form stronger layer bonds. The method also utilizes a combination of pressure and heat to join the layers together. What's more; the process is done in stages i.e., layering two layers first and adding another layer and applying pressure and heat until all layers have been joined together. DPL is done at once.
DPL vs HPL flooring
If you’re #1 concern is cost when choosing laminate floors, DPL flooring is cheaper. However, the manufacturing method gives the floor adequate strength for typical residential applications i.e., flooring meant for low traffic areas. For most homes, DPL flooring is enough!
If you wish to enjoy added benefits of laminate flooring and you don’t mind spending a bit more than when buying DLP flooring, but not as much as buying hardwood flooring, HPL flooring is a good bet. The flooring will last longer than DLP flooring in areas that receive high foot traffic.
HPL results in laminate floors that are more; impact-resistant, moisture resistant, dent resistant, heat resistant, and wear-resistant than DPL flooring. The flooring is also quieter and the edges are more resistant to chipping, especially during installation, problems common with DPL flooring. HPL flooring is ideal for heavy-duty and commercial flooring applications or areas, (both residential and commercial) which receive a lot of foot traffic.
Installing laminate flooring
You can install laminate floors yourself through a DIY project. This makes the entire flooring process unbelievably affordable since the flooring is cheaper and you don’t need to hire anyone to install it. Laminate floors are usually sold as tongue and groove planks that just need to be clicked into each other. In some cases, a glue backing is needed to offer a perfect fit.
Laminate floors usually are installed as floating floor, so rests on underlayment to offer moisture and sound-reducing properties. The flooring comes with unique installation needs, such as a small gap between walls and the flooring to allow expansion. To get a neater finish, it’s advisable to remove baseboards or skirting boards when installing. Baseboards and skirting installed after you have completed your flooring installation give your project a beautiful, finished look. You likely will need to make some saw cuts when installing the flooring around door or cupboard entrances. Luckily, the best laminate flooring is sold with detailed instructions that eliminate the need for a professional installer even when navigating built-in structures like cupboards and chimneys.
This has been a post written by a guest writer.
For more information on installation and general flooring knowledge, visit this article.
For additional attributes of laminate flooring, and why it is ideal for many projects, read this article.
Interested in the different between waterproof vs water resistant flooring? Click here
Do you need commercial flooring and want to learn more? Click here