What is Laminate?
While laminate flooring has been around for nearly 25 years, it is still considered a newcomer to the floor-covering scene.
Introduced to North America in the mid 1990s, laminate has found its niche as a less expensive alternative to hardwood and a more durable option than vinyl flooring. Prego is the originator of laminate and currently has about 40% market share in the U.S.
Despite the tough economy of the past couple years, laminate has shown double-digit increases in both dollars and square feet sold, according to the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA).
Today, laminate has an estimated market share of about 5 percent in North America and is poised for growth in the next decade.
With the growing demand, developing technology, and expanded styles and colors, laminate looks to increase its popularity in the flooring market. Improving your knowledge of this product category will benefit your sales now and in the coming years.
Laminate flooring is a durable, long-lasting flooring made from layers of particleboard and Aluminum Oxide-coated materials. Since laminate flooring often resembles wood, consumers may assume it is a form of wood flooring.
The wear layer of laminate gets its extreme durability from aluminum oxide. Second only to diamonds in hardness, aluminum oxide provides laminate with its unmatched wear and stain resistance. For your customer, this level of durability means her floor will be easy to maintain and stay looking new, longer. Unlike hardwood, laminate flooring cannot be refinished.
Benefits of laminate
Laminate is available in numerous looks from exotic wood grains to marble. With its unsurpassed durability laminate can provide your customers with a rich looking floor at a sensible price.
- Resists stains, fading, scratching, scuffing
- Laminate flooring has better wear and stain resistance than both wood and vinyl.
- Saves money, replace flooring less often
- Low maintenance and high UV resistance
- Saves time, trouble free and easy to clean.
- Can be installed on any level of the home.
- Variety of colors, patterns and styles to choose from
- Endless design options
- Non-allergenic and does not absorb odors
- Healthy choice for the home
- Look of real wood or stone at less cost
|Fade & Burn Resistance|
|Will not harbor dust/odors/allergens|
|Wide range of styles|
|No Waxing needed|
|No Sealers needed|
It is important to note the difference between water resistance and water proof. The surface of laminate is water resistant and will protect the core from spills and moisture.
If the laminate is exposed to standing or excess water that penetrates the surface to the core layer, the core will expand and warp.
Therefore, it is not recommended that customers install laminate in high moisture areas of a home, including bathrooms, unless the manufacturer specifies the flooring is suitable for high-moisture areas.
Laminate flooring is made one of two ways:
- Direct Pressure Laminate (DPL).
- High-Pressure Laminate (HPL).
DPL is the type of laminate that is most commonly used for homes. It offers the greatest variety of styling including embossed texturing and beveled edges. Direct Pressure Laminate is an excellent choice for all residential applications.
HPL is manufactured in a two-step process at up to1,400 pounds-per-square-inch of pressure. This is a more expensive manufacturing process which produces a product that performs well in extreme high traffic situations.
There are many trim and style options available for laminate floors. Transition strips, end caps, stair nosings, moldings, and baseboard are available to compliment most finishes.
Laminate planks are about 8 inches wide and tend to be about ¼ inch thick. Laminate tiles are available in a variety of popular sizes from smaller accent pieces to 24 x 24 inch tiles.
Laminate flooring is unique from other types of flooring in a variety of ways but most notably in its installation.
Most laminate floors are floating because it is not fastened to the sub-floor, but rather the planks are attached to each other. Laminate planks and squares use a tongue-in-groove assembly or a trademarked locking system that "clicks" the boards into place.
The floor is held down by shoe molding that is nailed to the baseboards around the perimeter of the room.
What is underlayment?
Underlayment is a thin, 1/8 to 1/16 inch of polyethylene foam placed between the sub-floor and the laminate. This padding may also contain insulating or moisture resistant layers for added protection in certain areas of the home.
The primary purpose of underlayment is to provide cushion and noise reduction between the laminate and the sub-floor. It also prevents the glue (when used) from sticking to the sub floor.
Advantages & Benefits of Underlayment
|Fire||Provides insulation||Floor is comfortable under foot|
|Water Droplet||Provides Barrier to prevent moisture||Allows installation on all grade levels|
|Radio||Reduces noise||Floor sounds natural, not hollow|
|Dip or Knot||Covers up minor sub floor irregularities||Smooth installation, fewer sub flor repairs needed|
When installing laminate directly over concrete or vinyl-covered concrete, a polyethelene vapor barrier, or a "two-in-one" underlayment that also serves as a vapor barrier, is required to prevent moisture from reaching the laminate.
Each manufacturer recommends its own underlayment and while they are all quite similar, this recommendation should be followed to prevent possible warranty problems.
Also consider any special circumstances your customer may have when suggesting underlayment, such as additional soundproofing needs or an underlayment approved for use with radiant heating systems.
There are three basic types of laminate, categorized by how they are installed.
Glue laminate requires that the glue be manually applied to the tongue and/or groove of each plank during installation.
Glue-less laminates do not require glue, but rather hook, snap or click the tongue and groove together to lock the floor into place.
Pre-glued laminate has glue pre-applied by the manufacturer on the tongue and groove that is moistened prior to the planks being clicked together.
Advantages of Glue-less Laminate
Glue-less laminates are the most popular type of laminate. Click on the icons below to learn more about the advantages of this type of laminate.
- Faster Installation: The process for both glue and glue-less installation is essentially the same; however the time saved by not having to glue every piece is significant. It is estimated that 25% of the total installation time is saved by not having to apply the glue and clean up the "squeeze out" from the grooves.
- No glue clean up: Applying the glue is a messy part of the installation. When the planks are tapped together, there can be massive squeeze-out along the seams. Spills not properly cleaned up can also be difficult to remove from the laminate.
- Immediate Use: Depending on the manufacturer, glue laminate brands require from 18-36 hours of wait time before you can walk or place furniture on the floor. Glue-less laminate can be walked on immediately after assembly.
Traditional Glue laminate
Traditional glue laminate can be less expensive but requires more time and money to install.
Glue laminate is often preferred in small room installations that require several cuts, such as small bathrooms. The floors can be dry-fit prior to gluing to ensure a proper fit.
Many of the glue-less brands are difficult to disassemble once fitted to the floor, making mistakes difficult to correct. This is another good reason why your customers should consider professional installation.
Some customers may also believe the glue used in glue laminate makes the bond stronger and more moisture resistant. Though it is the quality of the manufacturing process and installation that most influences strength and moisture resistance.
The most crucial part of a glue-laminate install is using a proper gluing technique. Each manufacturer has its recommended water-resistant glue and gluing guidelines, which if not followed can void the warranty.
Delays are often caused by a lack of clarification regarding who will be responsible for the removal and replacement of such items as furniture, appliances, and baseboards.
The best way to avoid these delays is to complete a pre-installation checklist with your customer. Pre-installation checklists are available to all Installation Excellence members. Many stores also have developed their own checklist from the Carpet One Principles of Success program to assist with gathering accurate information about the installation.
By clarifying and explaining installation procedures and store policies, you help establish realistic customer expectations.
Unopened packages of the laminate planks or squares, as well as the underlayment and glue (if applicable) should sit in the home for 48-72 hours prior to installation.
This allows the laminate to acclimate to the moisture content and heat of the house. Once the boxes are opened, the floor should be installed immediately.
Manufacturers have recommended indoor temperature and humidity ranges for each of their products. These ranges should be noted and followed to ensure optimum product performance and to avoid any potential warranty problems.
Plan the room layout
Laminate planks should be installed parallel to the longest wall in the room, and if possible, parallel to the room's light source (windows or door). As with all flooring, seams are less noticeable when placed parallel to the room's primary light source.
Laminate layouts that will use accent pieces, patterns or designs should be planned on paper to ensure proper fit and placement.
Preparing the Room
- Begin with level floor
- Remove the shoe moldings and baseboards
- Cut the door jambs and the trim so the flooring will fit underneath
- Make sure the floor is clean