Laminate flooring offers the look of hardwood flooring finish without the cost or maintenance issues of ceramic tile, natural stone viz., granite or slate and other flooring making it a good substitute for other floorings.
Due to its mimicking the beauty of other flooring materials with an additional advantage of lower cost of materials and installation, added with ease care maintenance, it has become the top choice for those desiring beauty with cost benefits.
Introduced in 1977 laminate flooring gained popularity as an alternative to wood flooring due to its attractive and durable quality and could simulate wood, natural stone and other types of flooring.
Laminate is a synthetic material with four basic layers from top to bottom viz., wear layer, pattern layer, core layer and balancing layer. Some laminate products comes with an underlay of a fifth layer.
Wear Layer is a thin layer of clear, tough melamine resin. It stands up to high foot traffic and can protect the floor from scratches, dents and gouges too.
Pattern Layer is a layer with a printed paper much like a photograph of real stone or wood and thus mimics these layers.
Core Layer is a layer made from dense fiber board saturated with resin to produce hardness and strength and is water resistant. The core layer is the thickest of the layers.
Balancing Layer is a layer that stabilzes the plank and also acts as a vapour barrier.
Wear and Durability:
The melamine wear layer is on the laminate is very tough and determines the durability and sheen. The thicker the laminate, the longer the life. Leading brands offers laminates with good look and lasts for 20 – 35 years and possibly longer if maintained properly. Best quality will be 12 mm thick though lesser thickness of 8 – 10 mm are also available at affordable price with a life of 10 – 20 years.
Present Trend& Brands:
Present trend is that laminate floors tend to follow and keep abreast with the solid hard wood flooring like vintage, distressed wood etc., that is anything that looks “old world” in wood styles. They also mimic ceramic tile, natural stone like granite and slate flooring styles which are also popular of late.
Popular brands available are Pergo which is the company which invented the laminate flooring and is the industry leader, besides other brands like Bruce, Armstrong, Dream Home, Ispiri, Kensington Manor, Alloc, Tarkett, Shaw, Mohawk, Columbia Laminate, Max Windsor, Lamette, Mannington and Quickstep.
Cleaning and Maintenance: Laminate floors are very easy to care for provided it is cleaned on regular basis. The melamine wear layer can be scratched and scuffed by grit and dirt reducing the shine of the flooring. The main factors against a good looking laminate floor are 1) gritty dirt that acts like sandpaper on wear layer as it is walked on; 2) liquid spills that seep into flooring joints causing warping; 3) Excessive moisture from cleaning that can damage like a spill.
Cleaning properly and regularly will enhance durability of the shine. The floor can be vacuum cleaned but without the rotating brush to avoid damage to wear layer. The best way is to clean with microfiber mops which are light weight, quiet, relatively inexpensive and designed for the laminate flooring. Sponge mops and string type wet mops are not recommended because of the risk of excess water. However Laminate cleaners such as Bruce Laminate and Hardwood Floor cleaner, Black Diamond Wood and Lamnate floor cleaner, Bona Stone Tile & Laminate Floor Cleaner can be used sparingly to pick up dirt without risk. Never use abrasive products such as scouring pad, steel wool or abrasive liquid cleaners as they will mar the surface sheen.
For spot cleaning tougher stains use of hot water or cleaning products recommended by the manufacturer will help. Floor mats at each door entry will help collect excess dirt and dust. However it is advisable not to use rubber backed mats as they can trap moisture.
Pricing: The price is determined with most products by the quality of the material which lies in the thickness of the total material including the important wear layer thickness. Cheap laminate flooring starts at less than $1 per square foot and can cost as much a s $5 per square foot. The average laminate flooring costs from $2.40 to $4 per square foot.
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