Laminate is multilayer fiberboard panels, produced by press under high pressure and at high temperatures. They are designed for floor decoration. Depending on the coating thickness, treatment quality and conditions of use, durability of laminate is determined.
The word “laminate” itself is formed from the verb “to laminate”, that is, to apply a special acrylic or melamine film. The film safes laminate from moisture, dust and ultraviolet rays. The laminated layer is covered with the decorative one. It is manufactured of decorated paper, which imitates either wood or other materials. It is followed by the basic layer, making the whole construction resistant to physical impact. The last one is the melamine (stabilizing) layer, which protects laminate from moisture.
It’s not an easy task to choose flooring. A buyer should be armed with knowledge about material quality and its performance characteristics. This is also true for choosing laminate. There are several important aspects, every of which should be taken into consideration. At first glance, it may seem that it’s enough to study the visual characteristics (the layer thickness, decoration), warranty commitment of manufacturing supplier and ask a sales assistant for his opinion. However, this is a wrong approach.
Any manufacturer, as well as sales assistant regards praising the production and selling it to benefit as a mandate, despite its poor quality. Therefore, in some cases manufacturers may provide almost life-long warranty.
So, first of all, one should study the distinctive features – positive qualities and drawbacks of the flooring that is the most popular among customers; after that it will be easier to take decision.
Flooring – is an apartment interior element which is most affected by physical impact: from stilettos, pets’ claws, furniture legs and other sharp or heavy objects. Anyway, there are multiple traces left and the surface will require care. But, at the same time, flooring is the most conservative part of the interior as it needs replacing extremely rarely.
Advantages of laminated flooring
Laminate is an affordable material and is a worthy alternative to parquet flooring (due to imitation).
Laminate is quite durable flooring, which is produced of several flakeboard layers, covered with special adhesive compounds under high pressure and at high temperatures.
2. Wide range of colors.
In any large building store one will be offered a considerable color range: starting from almost white and up to drastic black.
3. Various textures.
Laminate was developed more than 50 years ago in order to provide customers with money-saving alternative to luxurious parquet flooring. As time went by, the material has been modified many times, in order to make it a convincing imitation of color and structure of the noble stones: granite, marble and ceramic tile. Today, one can buy laminate, imitating the texture of leather, onyx and other materials. For those who prefer something uncommon has been developed laminate covered with prints of photos, Eastern carpets and so on.
4. Flexibility. Laminate can be adjusted for rooms of various functions and configurations. It can be combined with “heat-insulated floor” system.
5. Solidity. The flooring is capable of withstanding strokes of hard objects, static and dynamic pressure, is resistant to some chemical substances and fat-containing compositions.
6. Moisture resistance. The material is not affected by numerous wet cleanings.
7. Simple to care of. Spots can easily be removed, using acetone or diluted soap solution.
8. Nonflammability. The flooring is resistant to burning match or cigarette.
Disadvantages of laminated flooring
In most cases, disadvantages are related to violation of operating instructions. In particular:
1. Ingestion of large amount of water. The term “moisture resistance” implies a little nuance – laminate flooring is resistant to small amounts of water. In case a substantial water leakage occurs, it will irreparably swell up. The most expensive models can maintain their shape for several hours after ingestion of large amount of water, however, deformation will inevitably occur later. The problem is that the structure of laminated panels includes paper basis, which swells up and deforms the shape of panel as a whole. Especially badly it is affected by hot water.
2. Reflection of sound. Fiberboard and flakeboard panels are excellent resonators, therefore, they perfectly reflect sounds: of falling items or of steps. Some manufacturers offer improved types of laminate, in which this problem has been eliminated: they rubber the surface, use polyethylene and bitum substrate. Such kinds of additions can be used as additional smoothing layer as well.
Types of laminated flooring
1. Depending on refinement, laminated flooring can be: specially refined or with no refinement. When selecting non-refined laminate, it’s very important to pay attention to joints protectability. The joints should be protected in order to prevent flooring deformation in case of excessive humidity.
2. Depending on types of pane joints.
– locking (dry)
Glued laminate is joined by gluing with special adhesive compounds round the perimeter. This type is a cheap one. However, you shouldn’t flatter yourself – to glue every panel you’ll have to resort to the help of experienced professionals, moreover, additionally you’ll have to special installing tools.
Laminate of the dry type requires no special skills for laying. A dry joint is also called a locking joint (every panel is connected with the next one with the help of special locks, which are quite easy to close). The basis for laying this type of laminate should be ideally smooth. This option is more expensive, but its advantage is unassisted installation.
In order to get a smooth, solid surface with no gaps, eliminating any chances for moisture, dirt and dust ingestions, it’s advisable to choose laminated flooring with glued joints. However, if there is a probability of damaging one of the elements, it will be quite difficult to change it, unlike in case of locking joint.
Plastic join promotes the maximum safety from moisture ingestion and got its name for having a plastic basis instead of one made of flakeboard. This type of laminate can be used in household conditions as well, but you should be ready to spend a substantial amount of money on it.
Marking – useful information for customers
Wear resistance, durability, high quality – here are the main criteria for customers to consider, when choosing flooring. For a long time, it was impossible to evaluate these factors until the unified system of material quality rating has been developed by European association. After it has been adopted, every product undergoes tests with their results being fixed in a certificate, which is attached to the product’s packing. Knowledge of the meaning of the marking will make it easier for a customer to make the right choice.
Depending on the tests results for moisture resistance, resistance to physical, UV and chemical influence the classes are assigned, which are stated in numeric equivalent from 21 to 23 and from 31 to 33.
21 – is flooring for living rooms with minimal loads (for example, for bedroom);
22 – this material is a bit more durable than the previous one and can be layered in children’s rooms;
23 – surfaces intended for kitchens and lobbies;
31 – laminate for office premises, which are not intended for frequentations;
32 – improved durability of this flooring is suitable for frequently visited offices;
33 – laminated floorings for large stores, shopping centers, cafes and restaurants.
The classes of groups 21-23 are intended for using in household conditions. However, if you are going to install laminated flooring in a bathroom, it’s preferable to use industrial class 31, for instance, which is notable for increased moisture resistance. When choosing classes 32 and 33 for using in an apartment, one can be sure that its service life will be at least five times longer.
In addition to numeric marking, manufacturers state special signs, which inform a buyer about special qualities of the material (for example, about the necessity to use rubber accessories for furniture legs or about compatibility with “heat-insulated floor” system).
Which brand of laminated flooring to choose?
You shouldn’t select dingy brands, which fail to state the technical characteristics of their products clearly. Usually, such companies don’t specify the warranty terms. Also it’s doubtful that their products undergo any quality tests.
The leading positions on the market are taken by:
Tarkett (international company), Pergo (Sweden), Alloc (Norway), Magnum (Czech Republic), Jurgi (Austria), HDM and Classen (Germany). Many manufacturers open subsidiaries in foreign countries and use imported equipment for manufacturing their products (Kronospan).
The international company unites 28 large manufacturers and retails its products in more than a hundred of European and American countries. In particular, in Eastern Europe, these products have been highly appreciated by professionals – engineers, architects and designers, to say nothing of common users. The flooring of this brand is peculiar for impressive decoration, solid and reliable basis, with water proofing treatment, special type of locking joint fixed with the angle of 30 degrees.
Swedish products are notable for excellent design and simple installation, combining the perfect technical and performance characteristics. Laminate by Pergo – is one of the most stroke, galling and abrasive elements resistant type. The panels are complemented with in-built soundproof bases and durable locking joint, which prevent the flooring from deforming (appearance of cracks and gaps), especially in conditions of unstable temperature and increased moisture.
Norwegian laminated materials will serve for a long time. The manufacturer guarantees a prolonged working life. The peculiarity of this laminate brand is a reliable joining system (locking), made of aluminum, which enhances solidity of the material as a whole. The top protecting decorative layer is also covered with aluminum, which also contributes to increasing the level of durability. Towards this company’s materials a special load-studying expert research has been held; the tests showed that Alloc flooring is capable of withstanding the load of 1200 kg/m and demonstrated an excellent performance when being tested in severe environment.
The Czech, Austrian and German companies are as good as the above-mention manufacturers.
Quite an affordable option can become production made by Chinese companies – KexinFloor, Belle, EkoFloor. These products have proven to be of good quality and are quite wide spread.
Flooring is the interior element, requiring very occasional alterations; therefore, making the right choice of the flooring guarantees prolonged working life.