Years ago, it seemed laminate would be relegated to a minor position in the flooring hierarchy, but now, laminate flooring is being installed in record numbers.
Laminate manufacturers have 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.
Manufacturers stepped up their game with flooring that looks closer to wood or stone, and with improved wear resistance. This means... crisper, deeper embossing and colors with greater fidelity to the original material, manifested in products like wide laminate that looks uncannily hand-scraped 5.5" plank or tiles that look suspiciously similar to travertine, marble, or slate.
Your best laminate options still tend to be dedicated flooring manufacturers, many of them old guard names like Shaw, Armstrong, and Pergo. Warranties are often, but not always, favorable to the consumer. If anything, 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 laminates, though, should not be left out of the running. For one, they tend to be cheaper. A prime example: thick, 12 mm laminate from white label brand names offered by Lumber Liquidators or BuildDirect that is vastly less expensive than 12 mm products from the established names.
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.
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 onto cork and vinyl flooring, which it is famous for.
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 subsidiary Bruce's laminates... brings that number up closer to 200 types.
Armstrong's laminate floors are the kind you initially wish for because they look so good--until you find out the cost. Expect to pay $6.50 to $8.00 per square foot for an entry-level premium handscraped 12mm laminate from Armstrong, uninstalled.
Armstrong has one of the widest selections of these thicker 12mm handscraped floors that I have seen.
03 of 07
Pergo originated laminate flooring. In 1977, Swedish company Perstorp brainstormed this novel concept and put it into the first homes 2 years later. The word Pergo itself has become synonymous with laminate flooring, a case of the brand name standing in for the product itself.
But as so often happens with front-runners, Pergo has run into troubles. Pfleiderer, a German company, bought Pergo. Now, running into money problems, Pergo is closing down all of its North American manufacturing... operations. But the company as a whole is still in business and thriving. But it's good to know that Pergo is no longer the only game in town.
04 of 07The Bruce flooring name will ring a bell to most homeowners: it's a staple of both Lowe's and The Home Depot stores. Bruce has mainly been recognized as a maker of wallet-friendly hardwood flooring, not laminates. In 1998, Armstrong acquired Bruce but has kept the two brands mainly separate. Bruce doesn't have a huge (about 40) line of laminate floors, but it does offer competitive prices.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07Yes, Tarkett does have a laminate flooring brand. But this pebble of a 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 wide selection. However, it does have a number of attractive faux-antiqued laminates in hickory, teak, and ash species.
06 of 07
You will find St. James only at one place. St. James laminate flooring is a house brand of Lumber Liquidators, a discount flooring shop that is mainly known for selling solid hardwood and engineered wood flooring. St. James goes under sub-brands as Dream Home and Nirvana. Buyers' reviews of St. James flooring products are mixed--some like it, some hate it. Lumber Liquidators does have reasonably good prices, though, and their service has vastly improved over the last few years.
07 of 07
Quick-Step is a good, solid laminate manufacturer. One nice thing about Quick-Step is that they concentrate only only on laminates. Quick-Step boasts the installation system that gets high marks from DIY installers: the Uniclic system. Quick-Step distributes through Web retailers or through traditional flooring stores.