10 May Ultimate Guide to Laminate Flooring
What is laminate flooring?
If you’re looking to choose your next floor, laminate flooring is an affordable option that has become increasingly popular over the past few years.
As its name suggests, laminate floorboards are composed of several layers that have been bonded together:
- Top Protective Layer – this tough top coating gives laminate flooring its durability and its matte or glossy finish. Usually made of a substance such as aluminium oxide, the hard protective layer is also UV-resistant, reducing any risk that the flooring can fade over time.
- Print Layer – this layer gives the laminate flooring its stylish colouring and texture. Usually infused with resin, the print layer uses advanced high-definition printing and texturing technology to portray a multitude of smart and modern designs.
- Core or Substrate Layer – the core is made of a particleboard such as HDF, which consists of wood waste that is pressed with a resin or wax. This gives laminate flooring its sturdiness, whilst still being economical. Particleboard also resists humidity, which helps prevent any peeling or warping that can occur on other floor surfaces such as timber.
- Bottom Layer – the bottom layer of laminate flooring is usually composed of a polymer such as melamine, giving added strength and moisture resistance. This helps prevent any swelling or warping that occurs from any water that accumulates below the floor.
- Underlayment – although not strictly part of laminate floorboards, underlayment is used as a barrier between laminate flooring and the subfloor below. This helps mask any bumps or other imperfections in the subfloor, provides thermal insulation, and suppresses noise.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at laminate flooring by comparing it to other flooring alternatives, and give some tips that you should look out for when choosing your next laminate floor.
What are the pros and cons of laminate flooring compared to other options?
One of the primary benefits of laminate flooring is affordability, making it a great way to install a beautiful floor at an affordable price point. Laminate flooring is cheaper than alternatives such as cork and timber because it can be installed on top of your existing floor, which means that you don’t have to spend as much on preparation. In addition, newer laminate floorboards use a click mechanism which locks together during installation, making it cheaper and easier to install.
In addition, most quality laminate floors add value to a home’s value and for most people, are difficult to distinguish from real timber floors. This puts it amongst other valuable flooring types like tiles, timber flooring and oak flooring (and way ahead of grime-trapping carpet), which is particularly important if you’re looking to sell your house.
Style & Design
Because the print layer of laminate floors can be easily customised, the range of styles and designs for laminate flooring is much broader than alternatives than timber or bamboo flooring, and is probably only matched by hybrid and vinyl flooring. In fact, FloorVenue has over 80 styles of laminate flooring available for your home, making it easier for you to choose one that fits your tastes.
Recent technological developments in laminate flooring such as micro bevels and deeper textures have allowed laminate flooring to very realistically imitating surfaces such as timber, brick, and even metal. In addition, the hard UV-resistant topcoat found on laminate flooring means that it doesn’t fade like timber or bamboo, and can maintain its style and colour for decades.
However, since laminate flooring is created from printed designs, it may be subject to pattern repetition, where different floorboards are printed with the exact same pattern too frequently. To help prevent this from being noticeable and give your floorboards a more natural look, you can stagger the boards and patterns during installation.
Because laminate floors are thinner and usually installed as a floating floor, they can feel slightly less solid underfoot than other types of flooring. However, this is usually mitigated by the use of a foam underlayment, which also has the benefit of feeling softer and springier underfoot than tile or timber, but not as much as cork or carpet.
Laminate flooring with a glossy finish can also be slippery (almost as much as tiles), although most modern laminate floors do have coatings and surface textures to prevent slippage. If you need grippier flooring for your children or the elderly, we would recommend selecting a matte or embossed finish with your laminate flooring.
Health & Wellness
Laminate flooring is also generally a good option for allergy sufferers, as the interlocking floorboards leave no gap for mould or other allergens to live. This means that any grime can be simply wiped away with a damp mop or a broom, unlike surfaces such as carpet which can trap nasties within its fibres.
However, you should note that low-quality laminate flooring can emit chemicals that can cause irritation, so it might not be a good option for people with asthma or other respiratory issues.
Whilst uncommon, be sure to check for test certificates on emissions-levels from suppliers. At FloorVenue, we only stock laminate flooring that has the lowest amount of emissions and meets the most stringent emission ratings (E1).
Laminate flooring is highly durable, as the protective topcoat is very scratch resistant. This makes it suitable for high-traffic areas where surfaces such as timber and bamboo can get easily scratched and look unsightly.
However, laminate flooring generally doesn’t like having water on it for long periods of time, as this can cause it to expand and bubble up. A better option for wet areas like the bathroom, laundry or kitchen is tiles.
When it comes to cleaning, laminate flooring only requires occasional vacuuming or sweeping to stay fresh. Unlike timber, it doesn’t need any waxing or polishing, although laminate flooring also can’t be resurfaced to revitalise the look of your floors.
What should I look out for when choosing laminate flooring?
Whilst laminate flooring is generally an affordable alternative, make sure to take into account the costs of preparation (for example, whether you need to remove any carpet), as well as tools and supplies.
When you’re choosing which brand and style of laminate flooring to use in your home, make sure to do your research! The quality and durability of laminate flooring vary tremendously from the lower to the upper end, so pay particular attention to the quality of the photographic layer and whether the laminate is suitable for the traffic and usage of the room you are placing it in. Cheaper laminate floors also generally use more chemicals and waste material that can harm your health.
The look you’re going for in your room will drastically affect the colour and style of laminate flooring you should choose. Smaller rooms generally like having lighter colours to bring out a sense of spaciousness, and larger rooms can use darker finishes to add a sense of snugness. You should also consider whether the colours and design of the laminate flooring will match the furniture and another decor in your room.
The thickness of laminate flooring has a large impact on how it feels underfoot and the sound created when walked upon.
14mm laminate flooring is the top of the spectrum – it’s a premium option that looks and feels realistic, and provides optimal comfort and durability. Below this is the 12mm, 10mm and 8mm thicknesses, which feel less solid but are also more affordable.
We should note that the wear topcoat and the print layer is generally unaffected by the overall thickness of the flooring, so make sure you pay attention to the particular style you will be using. You can also increase the thickness by using an underlayment (discussed below), which is particularly useful if there are height differences between different floors in your home.
Underlayment is mandatory padding under the laminate flooring that helps the laminate flooring connect in a cushioned way with the sub-floor and feel more comfortable when stepped upon. Some types of laminate flooring come with pre-attached underlay, although underlay can also be purchased separately.
In Sydney apartment blocks and units, only certified acoustic underlay that prevents noise-transmission is allowed. It is also recommended that you use an acoustic underlay when laying laminate flooring upstairs.
Some other reasons why you might want underlayment might include smoothing out any bumps and cracks in your existing subfloor (on which the laminate flooring is laid), to stop moisture seeping in from below and causing the laminate to lift, and absorb sound. However, underlayment can cause the laminate to sound ‘hollow’, and is an added cost if you want to install the flooring quickly and cheaply.
Scratch resistance in laminate flooring is generally measured by an AC rating, which is a number from 1 to 6 that describes how the particular flooring type can cope in scenarios such as exposure to heat, and moving furniture legs.
AC1 is used for light traffic areas such as closets and rarely used rooms, and we wouldn’t recommend this for general household use.
AC2 and AC3 are common laminate flooring abrasion ratings, as they give the best balance between durability and affordability. AC3, in particular, can be used in higher-traffic areas such as the living room, and even for light commercial use such as in offices.
AC4 and above are designed for commercial use in places such as shopping malls, but these ratings are still definitely suitable for homes. However, they will be more expensive, and may not be necessary for homes.
The supplier that you choose your laminate flooring from is especially important if you want to rely on warranty and post-installation support. Make sure to buy from a reputable and long-established supplier to ensure that you get what you pay for, and have knowledgeable staff to help you with any questions you may have.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good thickness for laminate flooring?
If you want laminate flooring that feels solid and is high quality, go for a thickness of 10mm or 12mm. We recommend a “good thickness” of around 12.3mm. Thinner laminate flooring is cheaper, but also feels cheaper and is less durable.
How many years does laminate flooring last?
Laminate flooring generally lasts between 10 to 30 years, depending on the manufacturer, the quality of the flooring and how your floors are maintained. It’s always good to get flooring that has a long warranty (20+ years is a rule of thumb) because it signifies quality and ensures that your laminate flooring investment is safe for years to come.
How much does laminate flooring cost in Australia?
In Australia, laminate flooring generally costs between $15 – $40 per square metre for supply and $20 – $30 per square metre for installation. Different brands and different quality floors account for the large difference in the cost of laminate floor supplies. At FloorVenue, we strike a balance between quality and affordability, with most of our laminate floors costing between $15- $35 per square metre.
Does laminate flooring increase the value of my house?
Most high quality and modern laminate floors do add value to a home as a real hardwood timber floor will. For most people, they are indistinguishable from real timber or tile floors. Be careful with cheap laminate flooring though, as there will be tradeoffs in quality and design.
Does laminate flooring look cheap?
Laminate flooring doesn’t look cheap as long as you don’t choose bottom-of-the-barrel options. Modern printing and embossing technologies mean that laminate flooring can very realistically mirror (or create a better design) than real timber flooring. From 2020, laminate flooring also comes in a number of premium finishes such as matte, hand-scraped, embossed and glossy surfaces.
How soon after installation can you walk on laminate flooring?
Immediately after installation. As a prefinished floating floor, you can walk on most laminate flooring immediately after installation. At FloorVenue, our laminate floors have already acclimated to the Sydney environment and should not need time to acclimatise to your home’s conditions. You may notice your new laminate floor creaks slightly after installation, however, these sounds should vanish over a couple days and weeks.
Which laminate floor is best?
Whichever laminate floor is the best will depend on your particular needs, such as its intended usage and your budget. Generally speaking, thicker (10mm or 12mm) laminate flooring will feel better underfoot and will last for decades. In Australia, some of the best brands for laminate flooring include Everfloor’s Luxflor range, Preference Floor’s AquaStop and Oakleaf range, Kronoswiss’s AC5 range, Proline’s Australian Select and Grand Provincial Oak range, and Terra Mater’s Nucore range.
Can you mop laminate flooring?
Yes, you can mop laminate flooring with caution. You should use a very slightly damp mop to clean the floor. Be careful not to use too much water because water may seep through the floor joints and cause laminate flooring to expand or warp. However, slightly damp mops are a great way to clean your laminate floors.
Want to Learn More About Laminate Flooring?
Need help choosing? We’ve supplied and installed laminate flooring to Sydney homes for almost 2 decades, and we’d love to help you too.
Just give us a call on 9750 5095 if you’re based in Sydney (Belfield Office) and 9831 7621 if you’re based in Sydney West (Blacktown Office).