Laminate Flooring

The Right Kind of Laminate Flooring

Laminates were originally developed in Europe and are based on a high density fiberboard core covered with a visible, outer layer that simulates wood, stone or tile. Some laminates are available in plain colors, too. Neighboring pieces fit together with tongue and groove edges, without attaching to the underlying floor at all. Original designs required all these edge joints to be glued together, but most modern laminates click together with a self-locking, glueless tongue and groove joint. I happen to like laminates a lot — at least, the right kind of laminates. That’s why I chose to install it a couple of weeks ago in the office loft I’m completing over my workshop.

Laminate Floors are Fast and Easy to Install

  • Most people recognize that laminates are fast and easy to install with a minimum of mess inflicted on the rest of the house. What you probably don’t understand is how very simple the work really is.
  • My 10 and 17 year-old sons and I put down about 500 sq. ft. of flooring in my office in one day, including some areas that required fancy cutting.
  • It got to the point where my youngest helper could quickly and easily install the flooring all on his own, unattended, as fast as any carpenter.
  • Professional installation costs are typically 50% extra on top of flooring costs alone, so there’s good money to be saved if you put it down your self.
  • DIY success is easy, provided you understand several essential tricks.

Compatible with Radiant In-Floor Heating

  • Besides speed, laminate flooring is also one of the best wood-type options for installation above radiant in-floor heat.
  • It resists drying and shrinkage better than solid wood floors, and it also requires no nails that might puncture the plastic heating pipes that carry warm water.
  • Laminates simply float, installed over a thin layer of medium density foam underlay that compensates for the inevitable small bumps and depressions in the underlying subfloor.

Durability

  • Laminates can be exceptionally durable, but not always. And this is exactly where disappointment sets in for some homeowners who select a particular laminate without sufficient understanding.
  • Too often, people unwittingly choose a low-priced version without realizing that there’s a huge difference in physical durability across all laminate choices.
  • The best versions are tough enough to happily endure use in stores and restaurants where people walk on the floor all day long wearing gritty street shoes.
  • At the other end of the spectrum you’ll find laminates that chip and scratch with annoying ease. And since damage like this can’t be repaired flawlessly, you need to choose a product that’s tough enough by design.

There are two ways to get a sense of the real world durability of the laminates you’re considering:

  1. Look at products that are specifically rated for heavy residential or light commercial applications.
  2. Buy a single bundle of your favorite product and temporarily click it together in the highest traffic area of your home for at least several weeks. Besides giving you an accurate sense of resistance to scratching and chipping, you’ll also see how the flooring shows up dirt. Many dark colors look terrific in the showroom but show up dust and grime much more obviously than lighter designs. Try some out first and you’ll avoid nasty surprises.

Steve Maxwell is Canada’s Handiest Man. An award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert, he’s truly a treasure of home wisdom and the ultimate home GURU. Be sure to visit his site at SteveMaxwell.ca.

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