Laminate flooring is composed of multiple layers of synthetic materials that are fused together through a lamination process. The finished product simulates wood or stone through the use of a photographic applique layer underneath a protective layer.
Laminate flooring is often confused with vinyl flooring, but it is different because it is made of different materials. It features a fold-and-lock iteration of tongue-and-groove flooring.
Laminate flooring does not attach to the subfloor. There is a foam underlay between the subfloor and the laminates. The two surfaces are detached from each other to provide for a softer fall. Laminates floors are attached board to board but not to the subfloor, hence they are sometimes called floating floors.
Laminate flooring is low cost and easy to install. You can install 300 square feet of laminate flooring in just one weekend. New laminate boards do not require piece-to-piece gluing. Instead, they have a click/lock design that fits different planks together like pieces of a puzzle. The planks of the laminate flooring are constructed of soft particle board, which allows cutting with a handsaw or a utility knife.
Laminate flooring is easy to clean with a vacuum or a broom. You can mop it with a damp mop and a laminate floor cleaner. Waxing is not necessary.
Laminate flooring can withstand semi-moist conditions. It can be installed in most parts of the home, including kitchens and bathrooms. Laminate flooring can resist moisture as long as the boards fit tight against each other. It has a wear layer that protects the photographic layers underneath. It is also stain resistant.
The fold-and-lock design does not always work as it should. The side of the board can be particularly difficult to link with the adjoining side. At times, forcing the boards into place causes the top layer to curl.
During cleaning, excessive water may seep into the seams between boards, which can cause swelling and buckling. This can be avoided by using only a special laminate floor cleaner and a damp mop (not sopping wet) and cleaning up liquid spills immediately. Laminate flooring can withstand moisture but not standing pools of water.
The biggest drawback of laminate flooring is that it can’t be sanded and refinished like real wood. When the laminate flooring becomes heavily worn or scratched, the only option is to replace it. Another challenge is that it doesn’t increase your home value by as much as real wood.