One factor to consider when shopping for flooring is thickness. Thicker flooring of any kind, whether it's solid hardwood, luxury vinyl, or engineered wood, means reduced sound migration, better insulating properties, softer footfalls, and better bridging of subfloor imperfections.
Thickness is particularly important in the world of laminate flooring because laminate is inherently thin. The quest for thicker laminate flooring is a battle won in tiny increments: millimeters, to be exact. This is why 12-millimeter (mm) laminate flooring is so highly sought after.
And while 12 mm laminate is not the absolute thickest laminate you can buy, it is the thickest you can reasonably find in most retail markets at a fair price. In most cases, this is the type of laminate you should consider if you're going for better-quality flooring.
What 12 mm Laminate Floor Is
The 12 mm measurement refers to the thickness of the planks. To visualize this, imagine the thickness of a U.S. penny. A stack of eight pennies is just a hair thicker than 12 mm.
Another way to look at 12 mm laminate is that it is about twice as thick as any of the extremely cheap laminates that typically cost $1 to $2 per square foot.
Keep in mind that this measurement does not include the thickness of any underlayment. Underlayment is the optional foam padding under the laminate planks. With some brands, such as Pergo Outlast+, underlayment comes pre-attached.
Measurements: mm vs. mils
The designations "mm" and "mil" are not the same thing, though both are widely used with laminate and other types of flooring.
A mil is one-thousandth (1/1,000) of an inch and it usually refers to the extremely thin top photographic and wear layers of the flooring. By way of comparison, heavy-duty plastic sheeting, of the type used as a landscape weed barrier or to protect a floor from painting or construction work, is 6 mils thick.
How 12 mm Laminate Compares to Standard Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring that is 12 mm thick represents the top end of laminate thicknesses. Thicker laminates of 15 mm and more are still not contenders in the overall market. The market share of 12 mm laminate has grown in recent years, and the flooring is now one of the most standard offerings across many brands. In terms of cost, 12 mm laminates average about $0.50 more per square foot than standard 8 mm flooring.
Pros and Cons of 12 mm Laminates
Better sound absorption
Allows for deeper embossing
Heavier to transport and work with
Can create problems with doors or trim
Thicker laminate is an easy choice if money is no object. If you do have the extra money to spend and your floor can take the slightly increased overall height, there is no reason not to buy it.
Because laminate flooring is poor at absorbing both footfalls and ambient sound within a room, every little extra bit of thickness helps. It has nothing to do with wear quality since the thickness of the wear layer on the 12 mm laminate is the same as that on many thinner laminates.
Thicker base material means improved impact resistance. Sharp items and small appliances, for instance, that accidentally drop on 12 mm will have little effect on it.
While thicker laminate typically does not have a thicker wear layer, it does allow for deeper embossing. Embossing is the secret to a more natural look. Deep embossing means that wood grains and stone textures actually have depth and can create shadows.
Can Interfere With Doors
In addition to its higher cost, another downside to 12 mm laminate is that thicker flooring can create problems when transitioning to other types of flooring or when integrating with doors, radiators, heating vents, and trim work. Just be sure to check this out before buying thicker flooring.
Thicker laminate floor is heavier. It's heavier to transport, to handle, and to lay down. If you're installing flooring in only one room, those obstacles are surmountable. But if you're installing flooring in an entire house, the extra weight can be taxing.
With any flooring material, weight can be a consideration if the joists or subfloor are not completely solid.