There are many manufacturers that are now offering laminate flooring materials that are rated for use in commercial applications. This is often a good choice for businesses seeking a low-cost, low-maintenance flooring solution for moderate traffic locations. However, it is important to understand the properties and the rating of a laminate material before making a final decision.
The Structure Of Laminate
Quality commercial laminate flooring will consist of four layers.
The majority of the material is a high-density fiberboard filler, that is often made of a significant percentage of recycled materials. Below this is a backing, or balancing layer which will come in direct contact with the subfloor.
On top of the filler middle is a decorative print layer that is the surface appearance of the floor. This can be printed to look like nearly anything, hardwood, stone, or even just random patterns. Above this is a heat fused laminate layer which the material takes its name from. This wear layer is clear so the decorative surface can be seen, but it is also impervious to penetration by dirt or liquids, protecting the core of the laminate.
Laminate Durability Ratings
When purchasing commercial flooring it is vital that you know how a material is rated for use. Laminates are rated on a scale from AC1-AC5 based on their ability to resist abrasion, impact, burns, and stains.
AC1 Laminate: Good for bedrooms, and low traffic residential areas. Not for commercial use.
AC2 Laminate: Suited to public residential areas such as living rooms and dining rooms. Not for commercial use.
AC3: Good for all residential flooring needs. Can be used in light traffic commercial settings.
AC4: Manufactured for light to moderate traffic commercial use.
However, the abrasive wear layer does not make it comfortable for residential use.
AC5: Designed to handle moderate to high traffic commercial environments including department stores, offices, and shopping centers. Too abrasive for residential use.
Commercial Laminate Maintenance Concerns
With a quality wear layer, spills, dirt, and staining agents will all rest on the surface of the material, waiting to be wiped clean. That means that regular maintenance of laminate flooring just requires you to protect that wear layer by vacuuming or sweeping the surface of the floor free of dirt, and small abrasive debris particles on a regular basis.
UV Light Yellowing: One of the advantages of laminate flooring is that you do not have to worry about it yellowing if it is directly exposed to sunlight on a daily basis. This means that it can be used in open public areas where windows let in copious amounts of UV radiation on a daily basis without having to worry.
Refinishing Commercial Laminates: Laminate flooring can not be refinished. The invisible wear layer over the surface is the only line of defense that you have. When that becomes scratched or worn down to the point that the decorative layer can be damaged, you will have to replace the floor.
That is why it is important to purchase quality commercial laminates which have a durable enough wear layer for your purposes.
Commercial Laminate Flooring Warranties: The warranty that you get on a material is going to tell you how it can be appropriately used. Most commercial laminate warranties will have numerous clauses outlining practices, environments, and errors that can void the document. By understanding these stipulations you will be able to determine whether a laminate floor is the right choice for a particular commercial location.
Laminate Flooring Design Options
There are numerous options that are available when choosing laminate flooring. Because these materials can be printed to look like anything you will often find laminates that reproduce the look of natural materials such as exotic hardwoods, bamboo, or even cork.
This makes it easy to find a material that matches the look you are trying to evoke in your space.
The natural appearance of a laminate floor can be reinforced through the use of special underlayment, which is installed beneath the laminate material in order to reproduce the sound of hardwood floor when you walk upon it. Details like beveled edges can also add a decorative aesthetic appeal.
Eco-Friendly: There are numerous things that can make a commercial laminate floor ecologically friendly. Often they will be produced of a large percentage of recycled materials. They can also be recycled at the end of their life cycle into energy or agricultural filler. In some cases using laminate flooring can even contribute to LEED credits, while helping to brand your company as being ecologically aware.