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 Means and Why It's Not Mils
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 8 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 the rock-bottom cheap laminates that you buy for less than $1.00 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.
One often confusing measurement listed in laminate flooring specifications is mils. A mil is one-thousandth of an inch and it refers to the extremely thin top photographic and wear layers of the flooring. For reference, heavy-duty plastic sheeting, such as what you might use 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
Thicker laminate is one of those no-brainer purchases 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.
To hammer home exactly why, consider these points:
Because laminate flooring is so bad 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, and deep embossing means that wood grains and stone textures actually have depth and can create shadow.
In addition to its higher cost, the only major 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.