Tuesday, 7 October 2014

How to determine quality with laminate flooring?

Laminate flooring has been around for almost 15 years and manufacturers continue to improve on the look and feel of this type of flooring but the question we often hear is, 'How do I know a quality laminate over a cheaper laminate?'

This is where some assumptions are made that thicker is always better, it is often thought that laminates that are 12mm will be better than 8mm laminate, which is the measure of the entire thickness of the board.  For a basic overview, laminates primarily consist of a high resolution picture called the decorative layer, with a protective layer covering the picture for protection and a backer board underneath on which the decorative layer is printed.

So what should you look for?
1) All reputable manufacturer's will put their product through a Taber test which accelerates years of wear on the product and measures until the decorative layer gets damaged.  This result will provide an AC rating, the higher the number of cycles during the test the higher the AC rating.  The scale is AC1 (Low Traffic) to AC5 (Heavy Commercial Traffic), so ask for the AC rating and determine if your room is a low-mid or high traffic area.

2) Next ask what the backer board is made of, just because a product is 12mm if the backer board is made of MDF the product won't be as good when it comes to impact resistance. In areas like kitchens where heavy pots/pans may fall be sure to get a product with a HDF (High Density Fiberboard) even if it is 8mm/10mm it will be better than a 12mm MDF product when it comes to impact resistance.

Having considered those two questions it's important to note that a thicker laminate with a HDF core and high AC rating will provide the following advantages over a thinner laminate:
  • It will be better to install on floors that have minor subfloor deviations.
  • It provides better sound acoustics because it is heavier and sits down on the floor better and because sound doesn't travel as well through the thicker material.
After that it all comes down to look and feel.  As mentioned earlier manufacturers and the high definition printers available to them are able to print very realistic looks as the decorative layers and this will be obvious as you look through the various products on the market.

For those looking for commercial solutions check out some case studies in various applications:
http://www.armstrong.com/commflooringna/article21448.html