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Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is a multi-layer synthetic flooring product fused together using a lamination process. This type of flooring can accurately simulate almost anything — wood, stone, even photographs or scans of anything imaginable — by covering a photographic applique layer with a clear protective layer. The interior layer is typically composed of melamine resin and fiberboard materials.

Laminate floors have grown in popularity since they were invented in Sweden in 1977 under the name “Pergo” and arrived in North America in 1994. Because of their durability, hygienic nature and ease of installation and maintenance, laminate floors have become a low cost alternative to hardwood, stone, and tile.

What are the trends in Laminate Flooring?

Hardwood surface treatments such as distressed and hand-scraped floors are very popular and laminate can offer many flooring choices in these areas. Before modern manufacturing methods, floors were scraped and sanded to lie flat. As a result, hand-scraping added texture to the floor surface. Distressed floor surface markings are the result of a machine run over the flooring and creating texture. Today’s laminate hand-scraped floors are actually scraped prior to applying the wood looking laminate visual, thus creating a realistic look and texture.

Another of the new flooring trends introduced this year are long plank floors which offers the longest laminate floor boards to date – over seven feet. From the installer’s viewpoint, laminate long planks are a better choice than the real wood version. Long planks in real wood can be a challenge to install because of the potential for warping.

Flooring styles range from traditional strip floors (under 3 inches) to plank floors with widths over 4 inches. Hardwood flooring has increasingly trended towards wider width floors and laminate floors are no exception. Strip flooring has been increasingly replaced by wider widths from 4 to 7 inches by homeowners in the past several years with 4 to 5 inches widths the most preferred. Wide width laminate floors expand the look and size of a room while giving it a rustic or country style. High-end styles also increasingly feature wider width floors over smaller widths that can be associated with commodity based design.

As trends in hardwood flooring continue to change, laminate floors will continue to imitate hardwood through precise visuals.

Construction

When homeowners ask “what is laminate wood flooring?” they’re surprised to discover that laminate flooring actually has a layered construction for durability and comes in stylish designs that capture the looks and textures of real wood.

Laminate wood construction is made of four layers of materials, that when fused together, create durable, beautiful floors.

  • Wear layer – A clear, top layer that provides resistance to stains and fading
  • Design layer – A high resolution, highly-detailed photographic image that realistically captures the look of genuine wood
  • Inner core – high-density fiberboard (HDF) made from wood fibers fused with resin. HDF is an engineered wood product that’s strong, hard and dense, and keeps the laminate board stable, flat, and moisture resistant.
  • Backing – A moisture barrier backing that protects the floor from warping

The European Producers of Laminate Flooring (EPLF) developed the Abrasion Ration System. They rate every laminate based on a series of tests, including Tabor Abrasion Test, impact resistance, stain resistance, burn resistance and swelling resistance. Each product is assigned an AC number. Here’s what they mean:

  • AC1: Moderate ResidentialSuitable for moderate residential use, including bedrooms and closets.
  • AC2: General ResidentialSuitable for normal residential applications like living and dining rooms.
  • AC3: Heavy Residential & Moderate CommercialSuitable for all residential applications, plus light commercial use, including hotel rooms and small offices.
  • AC4: General CommercialSuitable for all residential plus general commercial applications, including offices, boutiques and cafes.
  • AC5: Heavy CommercialSuitable for all residential applications plus heavy commercial applications, such as public buildings, department stores, etc.

Not all laminate flooring manufacturers go by these ratings, but most of the best ones do use the AC ratings. Look on the back of the sample boards for the AC ratings.

Patterns

From stone to wood to ceramic tile, today’s laminate floors can emulate almost any surface, making them a high demand, low cost option to the real things. Laminate floors are easy to install, easy to maintain and offer terrific resistance to stains and wear. Laminate flooring gets its beauty from a photographic image fused beneath a protective layer, which makes it particularly adaptable to new designs. Any design you can imagine is possible in laminate. Unique and rare species that aren’t possible in real wood, marbles, and stones that would cost thousands of dollars – all of these are possible in laminate design.

Listed below are some of the hottest trends in laminate to the modern homeowner:

Extremely Realistic Looks – Look for authentic reproductions of the original material.

Enhanced realism is definitely the hottest trend in laminate flooring design. Reclaimed looks, subtle embossing – the visuals have never been more realistic. The ever-changing laminate market has driven design to become more realistic.

While the rustic, time-worn look in wood continues to be a favorite style with homeowners, laminate flooring now can replicate distressed hardwood styles and hand-scraped finishes, nail holes, saw marks and other natural features of reclaimed wood. With wood looks comprising nearly 80 percent of laminate sales – ceramic tile, marble and stone replications constitute the balance – oak and hickory looks are faring well.

Growth in Bamboo – Manufacturers are moving beyond traditional wood looks with the introduction of near-flawless replications of strand-woven bamboo. It’s the next big thing for laminate.

Dimensions of Design – The trend is thicker, wider, longer. Laminate planks are available in longer lengths and wider widths that more closely replicate wood floors.

Shining Bright – There’s greater interest in high-gloss flooring. All finishes are available in laminate, from matte to high gloss and everything in between. And maintaining a scratch- and fade-resistant laminate floor is a breeze, so it will stay looking good for years to come.

The New Neutral – Grays in all tints, tones and shades are becoming a mainstay in the new color palette. They provide a neutral but interesting option for laminate design.

Going Green – Buying green has progressed from a trend to a way of life for many homeowners. Consumers are choosing products that have recycled content. A product’s lifecycle is also a green consideration, and laminate is known for its extreme durability

Home Grown – There’s been a surge in the significance of “Made in North America.” Consumers feel more confident trusting the quality of laminate products manufactured at home under higher standards. Consumers also feel a renewed responsibility to keep Americans working.

Value Shopping – With budget in the forefront of consumers’ minds these days, homeowners are looking for high quality. But they want to be sure they’re getting a good value. Affordable luxury is the objective. The most in-demand laminate designs have high-end looks at affordable prices.

Something Different – Cement is popular in commercial settings, and it’s a laminate look that’s drifting to homes.

Whatever floor trends suit each consumer…laminate flooring promises long-lasting satisfaction.