When plastic laminate flooring was first introduced years ago, many thought that it would be relegated to a minor position in the flooring hierarchy. After all, it was a plastic product that could do no more than mimic natural wood flooring. Surely no one who could afford real wood or real tile would want such an obvious substitute. What was not anticipated was how inventive laminate manufacturers would be when it came to offering different styles, and how appealing the simple the click-and-lock installation system would be for DIYers seeking to install their own floors. Today, laminate flooring is among the most commonly used flooring materials.
Laminate manufacturers quickly wised up to the fact that homeowners are looking for greater variety. Also, higher-end consumers have entered the market, driving the need for richer-looking textures and colors. Today's products look closer to wood or stone and have greatly improved wear resistance. This means crisper, deeper embossing and colors with greater fidelity to the original material, manifested in products like wide laminate planks that look uncannily hand-scraped 5.5-inch wood planks or tiles that look suspiciously similar to travertine, marble, or slate.
The best laminate options still tend to come from the dedicated flooring manufacturers, many of them old guard names like Shaw, Armstrong, and Pergo. Warranties from these companies are often, but not always, more favorable to the consumer. If nothing else, you can have greater confidence that the company will be around years from now if you need to call in the warranty. These companies also offer the widest range of colors, textures, styles, and thicknesses.
White-label, store-brand laminates, though, should not be left out of consideration. For one thing, they tend to be cheaper. For example, the thick, 12 mm laminate house-brand laminates offered from Lumber Liquidators or BuildDirect are vastly less expensive than 12 mm products from the established names. And in many cases, the white label brands are actually manufactured by the same factories that make the big-name brands.
For major brands, prices now tend to be remarkably consistent, with thinner 8mm-thick products often sold for as little as $2 to $3 per square foot, and thicker 10mm to 12mm products in the $3 to $4 range. Designer styles and special finishes can drive the prices upwards to $6 to $8 per square foot.
01 of 07
Shaw Industries, a subsidiary of Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway, is a massive, $4 billion per year (gross revenue) company that has its hands in all types of flooring: carpeting, luxury vinyl, hardwood, tile, natural stone, and laminate.
Its laminate division boasts almost 200 style and color combinations of laminate flooring. Shaw laminates are typically high-end products sold mostly through specialty flooring stores, but online wholesale sources offer some styles at prices that are comparable to lesser-known brands, in the $2 to $3 per square foot range.
02 of 07
Armstrong has been producing flooring for the U.S. market for well over a century, beginning with linoleum—the hot flooring product of the early 20th century—and moving on to cork and vinyl flooring, for which it is famous.
Lovers of "Made-in-USA" products will be gratified to learn that Armstrong still is headquartered in Lancaster, PA, with 14 flooring plants across America. Armstrong provides a wide selection—over 130 types of laminate flooring. Adding in the laminates from its subsidiary company, Bruce, the total number of laminate flooring options is over 200.
Armstrong's laminates are fine-looking products that are initially very attractive— until you learn the costs. Expect to pay $6.50 to $8.00 per square foot for an entry-level premium hand-scraped 12mm laminate from Armstrong, uninstalled. But Armstrong has one of the widest selections of these thicker 12mm hand-scraped flooring products available in the market. Lower-end products are also available for under $3 per square foot.
03 of 07
Pergo originated laminate flooring. In 1977, Swedish company Perstorp brainstormed this novel concept and put it into the first homes two years later. The word Pergo itself became synonymous with laminate flooring.
Pergo was acquired by Mohawk in 2013 and has not closed down any of its North American manufacturing operations. The company offers many laminate flooring options in both attached and not attached underlayment.
Disclaimer: The previous version of this article contained incorrect information about the Pergo brand and has been corrected.
04 of 07
The Bruce flooring name will ring a bell to most homeowners: It's a staple of both Lowe's and The Home Depot big-box home improvement chains. Bruce is recognized mainly as a maker of wallet-friendly hardwood flooring products, not laminates. In 1998, Armstrong acquired Bruce but has kept the two brands mainly separate. Bruce doesn't have a huge line of laminate floors (only about 40), but it does offer competitive prices for high-quality products. Bruce laminate flooring hovers around $3 per square foot at the big-box stores.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Yes, Tarkett does have a laminate flooring brand. But this small flooring division tends to get lost in the huge multinational conglomerate's portfolio of other types of floors. Currently, with only 11 types of laminate flooring, Tarkett isn't your go-to destination for a wide selection. However, it does have a number of attractive faux-antiqued laminates in hickory, teak, and ash species. Expect to pay $2.50 to $3.50 per square foot for their products.
06 of 07
Dream Home/Lumber Liquidators
You will find Dream Home only in one place—it is the laminate flooring house brand of Lumber Liquidators, a flooring shop that is mainly known for selling solid hardwood and engineered wood flooring. Dream Home also goes under sub-brands as St. James and Nirvana. Prices for laminate flooring can be as low as $1.00 per square foot, with most falling below $2.50 per square foot.
07 of 07
Quick-Step is a good, solid laminate manufacturer that concentrates only on laminates. This Belgium company originated one of the main "click-and-lock" installation systems, called Uniclic, which one that is a favorite among DIYers. The Belgium-owned company manufactures most of its flooring in the U.S., selling both through online retailers and traditional flooring stores.
This is a fairly affordable product, with 9.5 mm thick flooring widely available for less than $3 per square foot.