Laminate flooring is one of the most resilient and durable floor surfaces available. A relatively recent invention, it has gained in popularity due to its ease of installation, low maintenance requirements, and long life. This material can also be printed to simulate a wide variety of natural flooring materials include hardwood planks, and slate and ceramic tiles.
What Is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate is a type of synthetic flooring that is made by fusing several layers of different material together using heat, pressure, and adhesive, in a process known as lamination. While laminates are often manufactured to replicate the look of a variety of hardwood surfaces, they actually contain no wood materials. Rather, they are constructed from resins and fiberboard particles.
Structure Of a Laminate Floor
Top Wear Layer: The top layer of a laminate floor is known as the wear layer, an invisible surface that rests over the material, protecting it from scratches and other damage. This is generally made from an aluminum oxide chemical treatment.
Photograph Layer or Decorative Layer: This is the surface that gives the laminate its actual appearance. It is created when an image or pattern is printed on paper like materials that are embedded in resin.
The actual image can be almost anything, but typically laminate floors are manufactured to simulate the look of hardwood, cork, bamboo, natural stone, ceramic, or even brick pavers.
Fiberboard Core: This is the heart of the material and it provides the depth, structure, and stability of the actual surface covering.
It is generally comprised of wood chips or sawdust ground into a very fine powder, then coated with resin, and pressed into flat sheets.
Back Layer: Many laminates will have a moisture barrier back layer. This works with the water resistant wear layer on top to sandwich the fiberboard and picture layers of the laminate, creating a water tight seal around the core material. The back layer also provides additional stability for the installation.
Underlayment: Laminate flooring must be installed over underlayment. This is most often cork or foam rolls. An appropriate underlayment can also reduce the hollow noise that occurs when walking on some laminate floors.
The History of Laminate Floors
Laminate is a man made material that has been used in surfaces such as counters and back splashes since the early 1920's. Originally it was not strong enough to be used in flooring, but over time innovations in the manufacturing process refined the finished product and made it increasingly durable.
The first laminate flooring was invented in Sweden in 1977 by a company called Perstorp. In 1984 they began marketing this product in Europe under the name Pergo, and by the mid nineties it had spread to the United States.
Today the word “Pergo” is almost synonymous with laminate flooring, although there are other manufacturers of this material.
Glueless interlocking laminate flooring was invented by two separate companies at the same time in Europe during the years 1996 and 1997. Because of this the Swedish company Välinge and the Belgian company Unilin have had a number of legal conflicts over the years. Today almost all interlocking laminate floors are sold by one of these two corporations.
Applications of Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is durable, stain resistant, and mold resistant, which means that it can be used in high traffic areas.
- Living Rooms
- Dining Rooms
It can also be made water resistant during the manufacturing process, making certain laminates appropriate for kitchens, baths, laundry rooms, and other water heavy environments.
Check with your retailer for the specific characteristics of the laminate material you are purchasing.