Laminate flooring is extremely durable and a popular alternative to hardwood floors due to its low cost and easy installation. It’s made of several layers, some which provide style and a weighted balance, and others that provide protection.
Laminate flooring is not easy to scratch because of its hard, scratch-resistant coating of aluminum oxide. This mineral is so difficult to scratch that it’s even used in place of diamonds, and also used in sandpaper.
In this article, we’ll discuss the way that laminate flooring is made, including why it is so scratch resistant and what you can do to prevent scratches moving forward.
Why Laminate Flooring Is Scratch Resistant?
Wood laminate flooring is hard and scratch resistant due to the way that it’s made. It is one of the most versatile and durable choices you can make in picking your flooring.
What makes laminate flooring so durable and unlikely to scratch is a combination of factors due to the way that its layers are put together.
How Laminate Flooring Is Made?
Laminate flooring is made of four layers, each designed to add to the function and look of the floorboards.
At the bottom is a melamine backing, which creates a balance in weight so that the planks stay flat against the floor instead of developing peaks and valleys; this makes the laminate flooring considerably stronger than it otherwise would be. However, you can find laminate flooring that has an alternative paper backing, which is less supportive.
Next, laminate flooring has a layer of high density fiberboard, also known as hardboard. This is made of compressed wood mixed with resins and plastics, as well as polymers. This gives this core layer of laminate flooring even more ability not to develop peaks and valleys and adds a higher level of impact resistance.
Next is the visual layer, which is mainly decorative. This is then topped with a topcoat of aluminum oxide, a sealant that provides the bulk of the protection against scratches, as well as other everyday wear and stains.
What is Aluminum Oxide Floor Finish?
Aluminum oxide provides a finished look to the wood while providing a strong layer of protection for the fiberboard and visual layers. The aluminum oxide floor finish is made from a powdered form of the mineral, which is then mixed with resin and cellulose to create a sealant.
Aluminum oxide is heat resistant and very hard and can even be used as a substitute for diamonds or as an abrasive in sandpaper. Its hardness is what makes it so great as a floor finish because it can handle strong, sharp impacts without showing any wear. It is used to protect all kinds of softer flooring, including bamboo, hardwood, and, of course, laminate.
This protective coating provides long-lasting protection and does not need to be refinished as often as other topcoats. Where most floors need to be refinished every ten years, flooring with an aluminum oxide finish can go 20 to 25 years without refinishing.
Aluminum oxide also prevents flooring from fading in sunlight by providing UV protection, and prevents oxidation damage from contact with air and water.
Using Other Finishes on Laminate
Besides needing less frequent refinishing, aluminum oxide has a number of benefits over other kinds of floor finish. However, other sealants can make a laminate floor even smoother, and prevent moisture from seeping in between floorboards.
Oil or water based sealants are safe to use on laminate, but keep in mind that oil-based sealants release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are toxic to the respiratory system. However, waxing is not recommended, as it will not seal properly to a floor treated with aluminum oxide.
Comparing Laminate Flooring to Sealed Hardwood
Laminate flooring has a number of benefits compared with hardwood flooring, in addition to being more naturally scratch resistant. However, there are also a number of benefits to hardwood floors that laminate does not offer.
Benefits of Laminate Flooring
- Cheaper, easier installation than hardwood
- Can be installed on top of other floors without damaging them
- Easy to clean with a mop and water
- Very scratch-resistant due to the aluminum oxide coating
- Environmentally friendly due to the use of small amounts of recycled wood
- Can be painted any color
Benefits of Sealed Hardwood Flooring
- Visual warmth
- Absorbs sound
- Increases the value of a home
- Can be sanded and stained
- Very unlikely to warp and develop peaks and valleys
- Scratch resistant
Differences between Laminate and Sealed Hardwood
If you do not have a sealant covering your laminate flooring in addition to the built-in aluminum oxide, it can be prone to damage from liquids, which seep in in the cracks between floorboards. Sealed hardwood is protected from this kind of damage due to the fact that the sealant covers these gaps.
However, the aluminum oxide finish on laminate surfaces is harder than most sealants, and so provides extra protection against impact and scratches.
If you want the most scratch-resistant floor possible and want to avoid water damage, your best bet is to choose a laminate floor and apply a water or oil-based sealant to it to protect the gaps between boards.
How to Prevent Scratches and Other Floor Damage on laminate flooring?
Although laminate flooring is naturally very scratch resistant, there are also a number of things that you can do to make damage even less likely. These include:
- Use floor casters like the Soft Tread Casters for Hard Surface Floors when moving furniture.
- Clean debris from the outside of your home, especially near doors and windows.
- Use rugs or mats in high traffic areas. Ideally, these should not be rubber-backed, because rubber-backed mats can trap moisture.
- Take off your shoes in the house, especially if they have high heels.
- Use fabric pads like the X-Protector Premium Felt Pads between the feet of furniture and the floor.
- Trim pet nails, or use pet booties or nail caps.
- Rearrange your furniture periodically to avoid stressing the same areas too heavily.
- Sweep your floor daily to prevent scratches from debris.
- Mop your floor once a week.
- Polish your floor once a year.
How to Apply a Sealant to Prevent Scratches
Applying a sealant or finish to older laminate flooring can prevent scratches if the aluminum oxide has worn down over time and is no longer hard enough to provide adequate protection. You may also want to add a sealant for additional protection to a newer floor, but this is not necessary.
Either way, be sure to follow these steps if applying a finish to be sure that it seals properly.
- Clean the floor and allow it to dry completely.
- Read the instructions for your particular brand of sealant, as there maybe some differences.
- Use a bristle brush to apply the sealant around the edges of the room.
- Apply the sealant around plumbing fixtures, as well as the joints between cabinets.
- Apply the sealant to the cracks between floorboards without covering the majority of the board.
- Remove any vent covers and seal between the laminate and the subfloor.
This should be a quick process, and an inexpensive one. Reapplication may or may not be necessary depending on the kind of sealant you purchased, so remember to check the label to see how often a sealing is necessary.
Laminate flooring is very scratch-resistant due to the aluminum oxide coating applied to every floorboard. It can also be made even more scratch resistant with the application of a sealant, and by being careful about how you move furniture, using floor casters when possible.