Laminate flooring has become a popular flooring alternative to hardwood flooring, stone and tile. These floors feature virtually unlimited styles and designs that emulate many natural floors and offer improved durability, easier maintenance compared to some of the most popular other hard surface floor coverings. Laminate flooring is extremely resistant to sunlight fading, staining and wear making these floors an ideal alternative for active areas of the home.
Due to the tough, clear melamine wear layer these floors are not affected by scuff marks and most normal household chemical spills. For example: magic markers, Kool-Aid, paint and bleach will not permanently stain laminate flooring and the flooring is unaffected by cigarettes burns like hardwood or vinyl flooring. The wear layer is also highly resistant to scratches caused by pet's claws and the surface is hygienic making it a good choice for people with allergies. Plus, laminate floors never need to be waxed like some of the old wood floors and vinyl flooring.
There a many, many different choices in laminate designs and rich colors. From realistic stone designs, to tiles and hardwoods laminate flooring manufacturers offer homeowners an overwhelming selection. Since laminates are really photographic snapshots of real flooring they can offer consumers everything from old historic looking flooring, to exotic wood species, to extravagant stone designs at a much more affordable price. With all these wonderful design choices it's best to have some idea as to the type of design you prefer with your interior decor.
Today's laminate floors come in various surfaces types from smooth to textured and/or embossed. Some floors may have different degrees of beveled plank edging for more added realism. Laminate flooring with embossed in registration means the embossing will match the grain of actual wood and appear very authentic. There are also distressed or handscraped laminates that give the flooring an old world antique visual appearance. The better the design and realism the more costly the floor will be.
Laminate floors will also come in different gloss levels (high, medium and low gloss finish). Generally the type of design and visual appearance will determine the type of gloss level the floor is offered in by the manufacturer. High gloss finishes will generally show scratches more than low gloss finishes.
Another important consideration is how much traffic and daily usage the room receives. Laminate floors are designed to withstand different levels of foot traffic, usage and abrasion. the Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring (EPLF®), based in Bielefeld, Germany created Abrasion Class Ratings (AC Ratings) using an independent 3rd party which established 5 categories for use and durability. the AC Ratings range from AC1 through AC5. AC1 - AC3 are for residential use and AC4 - AC5 rated floors are for commercial use as well as being used in residential applications.
It should be noted, not all laminate flooring manufacturers adhere to the AC Rating testing system. Thus, some floors may not reference the AC Ratings on the back of the sample boards, or the manufacturer's printed literature, or on the manufacturer's website.
AC1 - is recommended for light residential traffic usage, such as: bedrooms or closets.
AC2 - is recommended for moderate residential usage, such as: living room or dining.
AC3 - is recommended for heavy to moderate residential usage as well as light commercial applications, such as: high traffic areas of the home, home offices, or hotel rooms.
AC4 - is recommended for light to moderate commercial usage and any residential traffic areas, such as: offices, small restaurants and salons.
AC5 - are laminate floors that can withstand heavy commercial foot traffic, such as: shopping malls and government buildings.
All laminate flooring utilizes a floating floor installation system but there are several different tongue and groove locking systems. For the most part the type of locking system is more a consideration for the homeowner planning to do their own installation.
The most popular type is the Glueless, Click-Lock system that installs without the use of any messy glues. This is the most common type sold today. There is also the laminates where the planks have to be glued at all the joints with a specially formulated glue and another version of this is the where the glue pre-applied on the joints at the factory and just needs to be moistened to activate the glue at the time of installation. Both of these types take more time and add additional costs to the planks than with the glueless, click-lock floors.