Laminate flooring is a human-made material that has characteristics that make it appropriate for installation in a variety of environments. When deciding whether to use it in a particular location, you have to consider things such as the price, life cycle, maintenance requirements, and durability of the floor. Balancing the requirements of the space against the abilities of the material will allow you to make an appropriate decision on where laminates should be used.
Life Cycle and Laminate Flooring Warranties
How long a laminate floor will last will be determined by the quality of the manufacturing process and the thickness and durability of the wear layer. The level of foot traffic in the area of installation is also an important determining factor. This life span can range anywhere from 5 to 20 years.
One of the significant drawbacks to a laminate floor is that the surface cannot be refinished. When the material is damaged, it needs to be replaced. If a single plank or tile is damaged, it can usually be replaced relatively easily. This is especially true if the floor was installed using a click together adhesive free method. However, once the surface finish has worn down on the entire floor, it will have to be replaced altogether.
Most laminate floors come with a manufacturer warranty that can give you a good idea of how long you can expect the material to last. Generally, more extended warranties will be attached to higher quality, more expensive products. However, it is essential to check the terms of the warranty before you make a purchase, as many actions can end up voiding your protection. Often the warranty will specify that the laminate materials have to be installed in a certain way, or that you will have to use their installers.
Laminate flooring materials will range in price from around $2 per square foot up to $10 per square foot. In some cases, it may go as high as $20 per square foot for particularly special materials and finishes.
With flooring, you generally get what you pay for, so more expensive laminate floors are going to tend to be higher quality. However, you also have to make sure that you are purchasing your materials from a reputable retail company. You also want to make sure that they have a fair, quality warranty on their laminates.
Laminate Installation Concerns
One of the great things about laminate flooring is that it is so easy to install. Except for carpet, it can generally be installed directly over an existing floor. That allows you to avoid the expense and mess of having to remove old materials before installing a new floor.
However, you will need to install underlayment to prepare the subfloor for the installation of laminate materials. This generally consists of a roll of cork or foam, cut to the size of the room. This can help to prevent adhesives from leaking down joints and gluing the floor to the subfloor. It also provides the installation with stability and can cut down on the hollow sound produced when walking on these materials.
If you are installing laminates on a concrete subfloor, you will have to do a moisture test. Tape a plastic sheet to the concrete surface, and leave it for 3 days during heavy rainfall. Afterward, check to see if small beads of condensation have formed on the bottom of the plastic. If small beads of condensation are present, then you might need the help of a floor preparation specialist. Even if they have not, you will still want to install a vapor barrier shield between the concrete slab and the laminate materials.
Types of Laminate Flooring
- Direct Pressure: The surface wear layer and the core of the material are fused around the decorative picture layer using pressure measuring 300 – 500 psi.
- High Pressure: Several layers are bonded together using heat and pressure measuring 1400 psi. This material generally has more layers, including a water barrier bottom layer, making it a more robust, more durable choice.
Basic care of a laminate floor requires you to sweep or vacuum the surface of the material regularly to remove small grit and dirt particles. If not removed, these particles can wear down the surface layer and lead to the floor degenerating more quickly over time.
For spot cleaning and stain removal, you should use a pre-approved laminate flooring cleanser as recommended by your flooring retailer. Alternatively, a solution of one part vinegar to two parts water can be used. Do not allow liquids to sit on the surface of the floor, and wipe spills up immediately.