The Comprehensive Guide to Laminate Flooring

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Home Improvement

An Overview of Laminate Flooring

2009 HowStuffWorks

Laminate flooring consists of four essential layers, each with a specific function that contributes to the overall appearance and durability of the floor. These layers are as follows:

  • The balancing layer, which can be made of plastic, paper, or melamine, stabilizes the floor and makes it moisture-resistant.
  • The substrate layer, or core layer, is made of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or high-density fiberboard (HDF) that has been compressed with adhesive and resin.
  • The decorative layer features a photographic image or pattern that gives the floor its realistic appearance. This layer is constructed using multiple sheets of paper and melamine resin, with realistic colors and pearl-sheen ink providing depth to the image.
  • The wear layer, which is the top protective layer, consists of an aluminum oxide clear coat that ranges from low to high gloss based on consumer preferences. This layer prevents moisture penetration.

These layers are fused together using high heat and intense pressure to create the laminate plank. The core thickness varies based on the product grade and manufacturer, with thicker cores providing greater durability and rigidity. The most common thickness measurements for laminate flooring are 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, and 12mm.

Aside from thickness, there are other factors to consider when shopping for laminate flooring. Learn more on the next page.

What is Melamine?

Melamine has been the cause of widespread food safety scares due to contamination in various products like baby formula and pet food. However, melamine in laminate flooring is bonded to the rest of the floor and does not pose a risk of contamination to food and cooking.


1. What is laminate flooring?

Laminate flooring is a type of flooring that is made up of multiple layers of materials. Typically, the top layer is a photographic image of wood, stone, or tile, which is then covered with a clear protective layer. Beneath this layer is a core made up of high-density fiberboard or particleboard, and underneath that is a layer of melamine resin that provides added stability and moisture resistance.

2. What are the benefits of laminate flooring?

Laminate flooring is a popular choice for homeowners due to its durability, affordability, and ease of installation. It is resistant to scratches, stains, and fading, making it a great choice for high-traffic areas. Additionally, laminate flooring is easy to clean and maintain, and it can be installed over existing flooring without the need for demolition.

3. How do I choose the right laminate flooring?

When choosing laminate flooring, there are several factors to consider. First, consider the thickness of the planks. Thicker planks are typically more durable and provide better sound insulation. Next, consider the design and style of the flooring. Laminate flooring comes in a wide range of colors and patterns, so choose one that matches your decor. Finally, consider the AC rating, which measures the durability and wear resistance of the flooring. For residential use, an AC rating of 3 or higher is recommended.

4. How do I install laminate flooring?

Laminate flooring can be installed using a floating floor method, which means the planks are not attached to the subfloor. The first step is to prepare the subfloor by removing any existing flooring and ensuring it is clean and level. Next, install a foam underlayment to provide a cushioning layer. Then, begin laying the planks, starting in one corner of the room and working your way out. Cut the planks to fit around corners and other obstacles, and use spacers to maintain a consistent expansion gap around the perimeter of the room. Finally, install baseboards and trim to cover the expansion gap and finish the installation.

5. How do I maintain my laminate flooring?

To keep your laminate flooring looking its best, it is important to clean it regularly. Sweep or vacuum the floor to remove dirt and debris, and use a damp mop to clean up spills or stains. Avoid using abrasive cleaners or harsh chemicals, as these can damage the protective layer of the flooring. Additionally, avoid dragging heavy furniture across the floor, as this can scratch or dent the surface.

6. Can laminate flooring be refinished?

No, laminate flooring cannot be refinished. The protective layer on top of the flooring is designed to be durable and long-lasting, but it cannot be sanded or refinished like hardwood flooring. If your laminate flooring becomes damaged or worn, it will need to be replaced.

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