Laminate Floors: Get the Look of Wood (and More) for Less

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Laminate Floors: Get the Look of Wood (and More) for Less

Laminate floors aren’t wood, though they usually appear to be. Rather, laminate floors are entirely manufactured. They can be made to look like nearly anything, but most often they’re made to look like wood. Increasingly, more options are showing up, and laminate floors that look like ceramic tile or slate are becoming more available.

Laminate floors are relatively inexpensive, easy to install and hold up well to wear. Because laminate floors are moisture resistant, they can be used in areas where the material they’re imitating can’t be, such as in a basement laundry room. 

Laminate flooring was invented in 1977, and the company that developed it introduced Pergo to the European market in 1984. Pergo is just one brand of laminate flooring out of many but since its product was first out of the gate, Pergo is often (mistakenly) used as a generic term for the whole category.

The market is flooded with cheap laminate floors that cases of buyer's remorse waiting to happen. Beware suspiciously low prices and look for the seal of the North American Laminate Flooring Association, or NALFA.

By buying a NALFA-certified laminate floor you know a few, important things about your floor. First, you’ll know that your floor will be installed without glue. This is good for a couple of reasons. Click-together laminate floors are easier to install, and by not using glue, your floor won’t emit gasses that can harm the quality of the air in your home.

How a floor snaps and stays together plays a role in how much a product will cost, and better attachments methods last longer. Ask a lot of questions before you buy anything.

All laminate floors require an underlayment. Sometimes that underlayment is the bottom layer of the flooring material and sometimes that underlayment is a sheet of material that you have to purchase separately.

Laminate floors installed directly on concrete or in areas with a lot of moisture need an additional moisture barrier. Again, ask lots of questions before you buy and be sure you're buying the right product for your needs.

The printing technologies laminate flooring manufacturers use has improved tremendously since the early days of laminate floors. There are options galore; the floor shown here imitates the look of a wide, pine-plank floor.

Not all laminates look like their wood counterparts. The same technologies that have improved the appearance of laminate floors can now make laminate floors that look like ceramic tile.

 Castilian Block Laminate

A floor such as this can be a great quick fix for a tired floor and tight budget.

This laminate floor is mimicking the appearance of black slate. Though not for everybody, there are times and situations when a laminate floor can be a solution.

Furthermore, since click-together laminate floors aren't attached to anything, uninstalling them is easier than putting them in in the first place. Sometimes they can be used as a temporary fix for a troubled floor.

Laminate flooring is stain- and fade-resistant and has a tendency to repel water. It's an extremely hard and durable surface, but it is possible to scratch it. It's not possible to repair the actual scratches when they occur, so be sure to buy extra material with your initial purchase and hold onto it in case you'll need it later.

Laminate flooring doesn't need any special cleaners or special treatment to keep its looks. It never needs to be waxed or polished. At the same time, it can't be refinished.

Laminate floors are an affordable option for a short or long term flooring solution. If you’re in the market for a laminate floor, do your homework and ask a lot of questions. If you have any direct experience with laminate floors, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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  • Amy Renshall
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