In this age of convenience, everyone is looking for products that simplify aspects of their busy lives. For many, convenience means more emphasis on practicality and functionality, instead of aesthetics. Home improvement projects are no different; everyone is looking for that one improvement that will change their home for the better. However, when it comes to home improvements, you do not have to sacrifice elegance for greater functionality – welcome to the world of laminated flooring.
Laminated flooring is a multilayer, synthetic flooring alternative that is designed to resemble stone or wood floors. In an age of convenience, laminated flooring has become a popular home improvement project for homeowners who wish to update their floors quickly without spending a fortune on professional services. In fact, most homeowners are making the switch to lamination because of its durability, inexpensiveness, and its ease of installation.
Lamination is friendly to those with a tight budget as well, as lower end laminating can cost about $0.25 per square foot, and up. Higher quality laminated flooring can be as expensive as $3.00 – $5.00 per sq. foot, and that is only the cost of the planks themselves. Because laminated flooring is much cheaper to maintain and install than wood or stone floors, it gives a much better bang for your buck value than other types of flooring.
Types and Styles of Laminated Flooring
There are 24 styles and types of lamination that falls under 6 distinctive categories based on installation, what the lamination is meant to imitate, its texture, its construction, the pattern of the lamination, and its AC rating.
1. Installation Types
Lamination has 4 distinct installation types to choose from and is most important for homeowners who are looking to install laminated flooring themselves. The 4 installation types are:
- Glue-less – As the name suggests, glue-less laminated planks are free of any glue or other adhesive coating and can be installed by any method the buyers choose. This is the most popular installation choice for lamination and is very easy to install.
- Glued – Glued laminated flooring is costlier than its glue-less counterpart, but results in a much stronger floor. The person installing the lamination must glue the individual planks together.
- Pre-glued – Pre-glued lamination comes with a coating of adhesive, allowing the person installing the floor to snap the planks into place. In some cases, the edges of the planks must be moistened to activate the glue.
- Underlayment – This installation type consists of glue-less planks with an underlayment included with the flooring. Some lamination brands offer an acoustic underlayment, providing excellent noise reduction and are perfect for deadening loud footsteps and echoes in an apartment building.
2. Material imitated
Lamination can be categorized based on the material it is supposed to imitate and has 4 sub-categories:
- Wood – Wood imitating lamination consists of a thin layer of solid wood underneath a hard veneer top layer and acrylic finish. Wood lamination has the thickest planks of any other laminating style and is the most popular as a substitute for a wood floor.
- Plastic – Is made of soft fiberboard with a photo design finish. Plastic lamination retains the most moisture and should not be used in bathrooms.
- Stone – Has the greatest variety of design styles.
- Tile – Tile lamination resembles ceramic tiles.
Lamination can be categorized based on 3 texture types and provide features such as a slip-resistant finish.
- Smooth – Lamination with a smooth finish has no grooves in between the individual planks, making it much easier to clean, and resembles granite or ceramic floors.
- Embossed – If a lamination is embossed, it means that it has been treated with a heat sensitive polymer and has a wide variety of pattern styles and cuts. There are 2 sub-categories of the embossed textured. The first sub-category, “textured”, has non-matching grooves and grain and resembles the grain of wood; it is not realistic. The second sub-category, “embossed in register (EIR)” matches the printed grooves and grain exactly.
- Hand-scraped – The hand-scraped texture provides an antique finish to the lamination.
4. Floor Construction
Laminated planks are fused by either a 1 step or 2 step process, and are categorized by the following styles:
- High pressure (HPL) – Uses a 2-step process and is more expensive than DPL or gloss textures. High pressure lamination has a harder finish and is more durable.
- Direct pressure – Assembles all layers of the plank and uses heat to bind them together in a 1-step process.
- Gloss level – The gloss level refers to the finish of the lamination and can either be high, which has a finer finish, or low, which is a matte finish. The gloss level has little impact on durability or performance. Low gloss level lamination s hides scratches better than higher gloss laminate.
The pattern of the lamination is purely decorative and has 4 sub-categories: traditional planks, thin strip planks, wide planks, and patterns such as herringbone or chevron.
6. AC rating
The final category that lamination can be classified under is its AC rating. The AC rating refers to the lamination’s wear resistance, which is rated on a scale of 1-5, with a 5-rating holding the highest durability.
- AC 1 moderate residential – Can only handle light traffic, such as a bedroom.
- AC 2 general residential – Can withstand higher traffic than the AC 1 level and is best for living room or dining room settings.
- AC 3 heavy residential – Can withstand the highest level of traffic seen in residential buildings. Lamination with this AC level can be used for low traffic commercial areas, such as offices, as well.
- AC 4 general commercial – This lamination can withstand all levels of traffic in a home and moderate traffic in commercial buildings. It can meet some commercial standards.
- AC 5 heavy commercial – Lamination with this rating is the most durable and can withstand heavy commercial traffic.
Materials and Tools Needed
- Protective eyewear
- Measuring tape
- Rubber mallet
- Circular saw
- Table saw
- Tapping block
- Underlay pad
- Laminate flooring
- Quarter-round shoe molding.
A Few Tips to Remember
- When it comes to how to install laminated flooring first, make sure your subfloor is healthy enough to install the lamination – the subfloor of a house is referring to the cement or wood floor that serves as the base for flooring additions. The subfloor can develop weaknesses over time and become unlevel by standard aging. Use a level to check if your subfloor is even; any area that is within 1/8th of an inch outside the black lines is ready for lamination installation. If you find any depressions or peaks that are greater than 1/8th of an inch outside of the lines, they must be fixed before you install the lamination.
- Purchase between 10 – 15% more lamination than you actually need. This accounts for any mistakes that require you to restart the installation or measuring mistakes. Remember that it is always better to have extra supplies on hand, instead of having to stop in the middle of the installation to buy more supplies.
- Monitor the temperature of your lamination. Remember that lamination contracts when exposed to cold temperatures and expands when it warms back up. If you are storing the lamination outside or, in the garage, where it is exposed to colder temperatures, you need to bring it in the night before you install it to let the boards warm up and expand to their original state. Do not install the lamination while it is still cold, as it will expand during the installation and cause bumps and unevenness.
- Place the box that contains the laminated boards on top of the row you just assembled, this will make sure the planks stay in place while you finish installing the rest of the flooring.
How to Install Laminated Flooring
- Inspect each plank before installation. For the first row that goes along all straight walls, use a table saw to remove the tongue on the long side joints of the plank, along with the short side of the first board.
- If you have uneven walls, use a compass to trace the contour of the wall on the tongue side of the plank – cut with a jigsaw.
- The first step in how to install laminated flooring is to remove all baseboards in the room and take measurements of the area you are wanting to install the lamination.
- Install the underlayer onto the floor. The underlayment ensures that the floor area is level and helps protect against mildew and mold growth.
- A good tip in how to install laminated flooring is to start at the room’s longest wall when you begin installing the first row of the laminated boards. Install the tongue side away from the wall and insert the end tongue into the end groove. Rotate downward to assemble the lamination and keep planks aligned and all joints closed.
- Make sure to leave a 1/4th– 3/4th inch gap between the boards and the walls on all sides, to allow room for the lamination to expand and contract from temperature and humidity changes. If possible, use spacers to keep the expansion room consistent.
- Lay the lamination flooring away from the walls and stagger the boards so the seams don’t match up.
- To ensure a tight fit, use a mallet and tapping block to secure the boards together.
- Once all boards are in place, reinstall the baseboards.
- Cover up the expansion gaps between the wall and floor by installing quarter-round shoe molding. Make sure to attach the molding to the baseboards with a nail gun. Do not nail the molding into the laminated flooring.
Pros and Cons of Laminated flooring
Pro: Laminated flooring is inexpensive and is quick to install.
Con: The installation of laminated flooring can be finicky; sometimes the boards do not lock in place accurately. If they do not fit together well, you should never try to force the boards to fit, as you can damage the top layer and jeopardize the floor’s water resistance.
Pro: Laminated flooring is manufactured with soft particleboard, making it very easy to cut if the planks are too big.
Pro: Laminated flooring is extremely easy to clean and requires no floor waxing.
Con: You cannot use excessive amounts of water to clean a laminated floor. If the lamination is exposed to excess water, the boards can swell and hold the water, opening the door for mold and mildew growth.
Pro: When compared to wood, laminate is much more durable when it comes to denting and scratching. Unlike carpet, laminated flooring is also resistant to staining because of its protective “wear layer”.
Con: You cannot sand down or refinish laminated flooring, so if it sustains heavy damage you are unable to fix the damage.
Pro: Most lamination installation services come with an underlayment, providing cushion to the usually hard lamination. If the installation does not contain an underlayment, you can find it at hardware stores.
Con: Lamination is known for being pretty slippery. Surprisingly enough, laminated flooring is also known for holding static electricity, which can be a problem when it comes to electronics and other electric appliances. Keeping your floors clean can remedy this problem, however.
Appearance and Resale Value
Pro: Lamination, at a glance, looks extremely similar to real hardwood, stone, and other materials and is consistent in its design and quality.
Con: When you take a closer look, it becomes very apparent that the floors are laminated instead of being true wood or stone. Lamination is also designed in a pattern, with only 5-10 different varieties produced in a set of the lamination. If you mess up the installation by damaging the board, you could end up with two boards of the same pattern being laid close together. This, effectively, ruins the lamination’s façade of being stone or wood.
Laminated flooring is notorious for its low resale value. If you are hoping to update your home to improve its resale value, then you are better off with shelling out the extra money for wood because of its better resale value.
In conclusion, laminated flooring is a great option for homeowners who are wanting some major home improvement without requiring a huge budget. Installing lamination is a relatively easy task for most do-it-yourself homeowners and can be quickly installed. Laminated flooring is extremely durable, very easy to clean, and can come with an antimicrobial resin that can help keep your loved ones healthy. Don’t forget to look into an acoustic underlay for your laminated flooring if you want to sound-proof your home or apartment. If you do decide to go with laminated flooring, make sure to remember the tips elaborated on in this article, as they can make a world of difference when it comes to ensuring a proper installation.