Wood Laminate Flooring—Everything to Know Before Buying

If you’re looking to replace your flooring, you need something that can handle it all, from kids and pets to the daily wear and tear in a busy household. That’s where laminate flooring comes in. 

Despite other rising trends over the past few decades, laminate flooring continues to be a staple wood flooring alternative. Wood laminate offers the stylish look of real hardwood without the accompanying price tag. It’s inexpensive, durable, and comes with a high-end appearance. And best of all, just about anyone can install it by themselves with only a few tools. 

The hardest part of putting together a wood laminate floor can be selecting the right flooring for your needs. From AC ratings to moisture resistance, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to the best wood laminate flooring. 

We’re here to make that decision a lot easier. Let’s explore everything you need to know before you buy wood laminate flooring. 

What is Wood Laminate Flooring?

Looking for a gorgeous wood appearance without paying the high price for solid hardwood? Laminate flooring offers a low-cost alternative. Popular in rental apartments, family homes, and businesses, the realistic wood look also comes with unmatched durability and a low-maintenance cleaning routine.

So what exactly is laminate flooring made of? Each plank is made up of four layers that are sealed together during the lamination process: 

  • Wear layer: This layer sits on top, providing fade-proof sun resistance, a smooth and easy-to-clean surface, and resistance against scratches from daily wear and tear.
  • Design layer: This layer has a printed image that offers the look and color you want for your home, recreating the natural look of wood, tile, or stone. Engineered laminate offers a higher-quality print and a more realistic appearance. 
  • Core layer: This layer is what provides core structure, strength, and dent-resistant properties. It stands up to wear and tear and holds up against dents much better than real hardwood flooring does.
  • Stabilizing layer: This final backing layer provides additional support and stability. It’s also the material that keeps your flooring solid and flat.
4 layers of wood laminate flooring
4 layers of wood laminate flooring

Pros and Cons of Wood Laminate Flooring

While some other synthetic wood flooring options have emerged over the past few decades, laminate still holds its position as the go-to wood floor alternative. That being said, there are some drawbacks when you compare it to other flooring options on the market. 

Pros of Laminate Flooring

What makes this flooring option so popular? Here are some reasons why so many homeowners and business owners turn to laminate flooring: 

  • Highly durable, making it a great option for high-traffic areas or homes with children or pets.
  • Strong scratch-resistant top surface, which protects the floor from scratches, dents, wear, and staining.
  • Easy to clean, requiring very little maintenance over the years.
  • Significantly less expensive compared to real hardwood. 
  • Responds well to sun damage, staying the same color and texture even after years of sun exposure.
  • Offers a realistic appearance that mimics the natural look and feel of hardwood.
  • Has a tight seal that forms a barrier against dirt, which also makes it an allergy-friendly choice for those looking to avoid a buildup of hair, dust, and pollen.
  • Easy to install with or without professional assistance.
  • More environmentally-friendly choice compared to hardwood or other alternatives.

Cons of Laminate Flooring

While there’s a lot to love about laminate flooring, there are also some downsides. Here are some of the cons of laminate flooring: 

  • Less valuable than hardwood, making it less ideal for increasing your home’s value. 
  • Outer layer is made of lower quality material and has a lower AC rating than hardwood.
  • Doesn’t work as well with humidity, which makes it less than ideal for areas like the bathroom or the basement.

Important Considerations Before Buying

Whether it’s for residential or commercial use, laminate flooring is one of the best and most durable options on the market. That being said, you still need to consider a few factors to find the right type of flooring for your needs.

To get the best laminate flooring for your home, here are a few things you need to keep in mind before you start.

Different color pieces of wood laminate flooring laying on top of one another

The Current State of Your Subfloor

Laminate flooring will install easily, but only if you have the right subflooring to match. If your floor is uneven, planks might be harder to fit together. Each joint won’t fit as cleanly — you might end up with gaps or bumps. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t install laminate flooring over an uneven surface. You simply might need a thicker type of laminate flooring, as well as narrower planks. You can also apply a floor-leveling compound to make your base as even as possible.

The Quality of the Locking System

Laminate flooring is known for its DIY-friendly installation; each plank fits into the next with special grooves and notches. Even though it’s easy to install, the quality of the locking system is still important.

If your plank’s locking system is weak, it’ll make installation a chore. Further, over time, your flooring might begin to come apart. 

The Thickness of the Flooring

Most laminate flooring is 6mm-12mm thick, including the core and the attached pad. While all laminates have dent resistance, thicker laminate can provide a more stable surface. This is especially important if you have uneven floors, as it will help the planks resist bending. 

A thicker flooring can also reduce noise, creating a more natural wood sound. In contrast, thinner flooring will have a hollow, fake-sounding echo. It’s recommended that you don’t go any thinner than 8mm, unless you have budget restrictions. 

The Laminate Flooring AC Rating

The best way to determine the quality of your wood laminate flooring is by checking the AC rating. The higher the AC rating, the higher the product’s durability. 

This often aligns with the price. If it’s a cheaper laminate, it’s likely to have a lower AC rating. That being said, the cost of your flooring goes far beyond the price of the initial installation. It also depends on how long your flooring lasts, how well it holds up, or what kind of damage it takes. Premium options can be more cost-effective in the long run. 

It’s best to look for the highest AC rating your budget allows. But what exactly does each AC rating mean? Here’s the breakdown. 

Wood Laminate flooring AC rating

The High-Density Fiber Board Core (HDF)

One of the biggest challenges for any flooring type is moisture. Spills, leaks, or even humidity can wreak havoc on wood floors. While laminate flooring stands up a bit better, it’s still susceptible to water damage. 

That’s why it’s important to look for floors with a high-density fiber board core (HDF). This harder, denser core material protects against moisture, keeping your floors from being affected by water or humidity. This can be especially important in moisture-prone rooms, like the kitchen.

How to Prepare for Installation

When it’s time to install your wood laminate, a flooring company near you may offer installation. But you can skip the installation cost by doing it yourself, as long as you’re prepared. 

Wood laminate flooring is what’s known as a “floating installation.” This means it isn’t fastened to the subfloor with any kind of glue — all you need to do is lock each plank into the next. 

Before you start, be sure to clear the room, measure all the dimensions, and make the subfloor is as flat and dry as possible. All laminate flooring needs a foam underlayment that sits underneath. This prevents the floor from moving or making noise when you walk across it, and it can even out any inconsistencies in your subfloor. 

Wood Laminate Flooring Maintenance

While wood laminate is designed to stand the test of time, there are a few maintenance tips you’ll need to know to keep it in top shape. 

If you’re installing in a room with heavy furniture, consider putting felt or rubber pads under the feet of chairs, couches, and tables to protect the floor from any scratches. For any pets living in the house, trim their nails regularly to cut down on potential scratches. 

Cleaning doesn’t need to be complicated with wood laminate — the protective layer makes dirt and debris easy to wipe away. Only sweep, vacuum, or dry mop to clean your floor. For more intensive cleaning, you can use mild soap and water to spot clean certain areas, but don’t let the water sit on the floor for a long period of time.

Finding Wood Laminate at the Best Rated Flooring Company Near You

A woman looking through wood laminate flooring samples

With its scratch-resistant qualities, laminate is the ideal choice for any high-traffic homes with pets and kids. There’s no better way to achieve your dream wood floor look on a budget. 

Once you’ve checked out the water resistance, AC rating, and style preferences you want, it’s time to choose between the best flooring companies near you. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to flooring options, but turning to the flooring experts can help guide you in the right direction. At Floor It 41, we’ll work with your budget and style preferences to find your ideal wood laminate match. 

Ready to invest in a long-lasting floor that will look great for years to come? Learn more about our selection of laminate flooring or schedule a consultation today.

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