Laminate Flooring Pros and Cons

Laminate flooring is a relatively new but very popular flooring option. It has only been around for about 20 years but is by far the fastest growing segment of the flooring industry. There are very strong reasons for this incredible popularity but there are also negatives that you should be aware of if you are looking to purchase a laminate floor.

Although most laminate floor styles look like hardwood floors they are not and they are not a type of engineered wood floor either. Because the pattern in most advertisements for laminate flooring is wood grain many people get the mistaken impression that it is a real hardwood veneer laminated to a fiberboard core but that is simply not the case. They are actually paper imprinted with a high quality photographic image, usually of wood, although it can also be printed to simulate ceramic, terrazzo, marble or terra cotta. This paper is then laminated to a high density fiber board (HDF) base. The laminate surface is then sealed with a protective long lasting coating, usually a highly scratch resistant aluminum oxide finish. The idea is to get a tough and durable flooring material that is also very inexpensive and easy to care for. Like any attempt to simulate the look of wood sometimes it is very effective and at other times it is not particularly convincing. The thicker laminate floors (12 mm.) Actually sound like a hardwood floor when you walk on them. Typically, laminate floors capture the look of a hardwood floor but do not always have the warmth, character and beauty. The best way to decide if the look is acceptable for you is to request a sample from the manufacturer. Most companies offer free samples of their laminate floor patterns.

The advantages of laminate floors make it a very convincing option. Quality laminate floors are generally much more water, stain and scratch resistant and will not fade or dent when compared to hardwood floors. Hardwood floors also require more maintenance and are not as durable. Hardwood floors are porous and as such are subject to stains, water absorption and dents. The better laminate floors have water resistant cores and the edges are wax impregnated so they are suitable for use in bathrooms, kitchens and other rooms that have occasional water spills. Most of the high-end laminate floors come with a lifetime warranty and can handle heavy traffic areas. However, the buyer has to be aware of some of the cheaper laminate floors. Many can not be used in bathrooms or kitchens because the core is not protected from moisture absorption. Many warranties specifically state that the product is not intended for bathrooms or other areas subject to water spills. Also, the seal on the top of some of the cheaper laminates will start to show wear after only a few years in heavy traffic locations. Many of the less expensive laminates have only a 10 year warranty. So make sure you match the quality of the floor with the traffic requirements and water exposure of the area.

It is difficult to compete with the time tested beauty, elegance and warmth of hardwood floors. Some people are not comfortable with simulations or artificial anything and will only settle for the real thing. However, if the sticker shock of hardwood floors has you reeling laminate floors may give you what you are looking for at an acceptable price and with better durability and reduced maintenance.