Laminate floors are more popular today than ever before. This is due in
large part to the
improvements in not only more natural-looking design characteristics but the
overall strength and wearability of the flooring as well. Laminate floors made
years ago experienced problems such as poor design features, surfaces that could
be easily scratched and they were adversely affected by moisture. As research
and technology improved, so did the reputation of this somewhat new edition to
the flooring family.
Laminate floors are manufactured with the
following common characteristics, and although all laminate flooring is made
basically the same, there are vast differences in the quality of the final
product from manufacturer to manufacturer. You'll need to shop carefully to find
the right choice for your family. Below is a list of the different
characteristics that make up this flooring as well as a description of what to
look for when deciding which to purchase.
Backing - Most manufacturers will use a
thin layer of melamine to seal the back of their products. Manufacturers such as
Balta however, use a much heavier and thicker layer of melamine which
contributes to the overall stability of their product. Be sure and compare
backings as this is one area that is typically overlooked when comparisons are
Core Material - Again, most manufacturers
use a fiberboard for their core material. The more higher density coreboard, the
stronger the product. Compare densities and choose a product made of HDF (high
density fiberboard). One test that is worth performing is where you take a
variety of different samples and soak them in water overnight. This will
determine how the core responds to moisture. Balta for instance, offers a water
warranty because their core material is of the highest quality.
Wear Layer -
All manufacturers finish their products with a wear layer to protect against
scratches and overall wear. This is where the similarity ends, however. Wear
ratings are provided by the industry to guide the consumer in selecting a
product suitable for the particular needs of his or her family. Generally,
most products will come with a AC-3 rating. This means that this specific
flooring is suitable for either heavy residential or light commercial use.
However, what most consumers aren't aware of is that the more superior products
will have a rating of AC-4. This means that this particular flooring is
recommended for heavy commercial use. If it is suitable for this type of wear
environment, think how well it will perform in your home.
Surface Texture - This characteristic
truly separates the 'men' from the 'boys'. One of the greatest challenges has
always been trying to make something look like real wood that wasn't real wood
to begin with. Take samples home and view them in the environment that they will
be installed. Are they textured like 'real' wood or do they look 'plastic' and
artificial. Balta excels in this department, as all of their products look and
feel like actual hardwood. And always remember, the heavier the texture and
grain, the more slip resistant the flooring will be.
Locking Mechanism -
If you want your flooring to stay together for the life of the
product, you must be particular about the type of locking mechanism the
manufacturer is using. For instance, how easily do the pieces fit together? Does
it take a high degree of force to lock them together, or do they engage easily?
Keep this important point in mind. The thicker the locking mechanism, the
stronger the locking mechanism. Make sure they are 'isometrically' joined
together (2 locking rows in each mechanism that when engaged, produce counter
pressure on each other to produce a strong and water-tight connection) and that
the seam is tight and the boards surfaces are flat with no lippage from piece to
The above guidelines are provided to assist you
in selecting the right product for your needs. For more information as well as
an exhaustive directory of manufacturers and suppliers, please visit our
flooring directory and guide.
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