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All about Wood Look Laminate Flooring

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Over the years, laminate flooring has gained immense popularity due to its affordability, ease of installation, and durability. Despite the many advantages, wood look laminate flooring also has a couple of demerits that you should know before purchasing.

Besides adding a touch of beauty to properties, laminate flooring is known for its affordability, easy maintenance, versatility, comfort, durability, and ease of installation. On the other hand, laminate floors can’t be refinished, aren’t eco-friendly, and won’t increase your property’s value.

If you’re looking learn more about wood look laminate flooring and whether to install in your property, then read on as we discuss the pros, cons, and everything you need to know about laminate flooring.

Wood Look Laminate Flooring

More about Wood Look Laminate Floors

Laminate flooring usually has four main components or layers, each of which performs a specific role in the floor’s appearance, durability, and performance. Below is a description of the various parts, starting from the bottom layer to the top layer.

Backing Layer

The backing layer is often made from paper, plastic, or melamine and plays an important role in stabilizing the floor. In addition to acting as a balancing layer, the backing layer is crucial in making the laminate plank moisture-resistant.

By repelling dampness and absorbing the stress from high-traffic floor areas, the backing layer reduces the risk of bowing, swelling, and warping in wood-look laminate flooring.

Substrate Layer/ Core

Depending on manufacturer preferences, the substrate layer is often made from high-density fiberboard (HDF) or medium-density fiberboard (MDF). HDF and MDF contain adhesive and resin compressed wood fibers that help make the layer water and moisture resistant to a certain extent.

High-density fiberboards absorb pressure better and are mostly made from pulp or wood chips. On the other hand, although denser than plywood, medium-density fiberboards are mostly made from a combination of wax, resin, and wood waste fibers.  

Pattern/Design Layer

The pattern layer is responsible for giving laminate its wood-like appearance. The realism of the pattern layer has significantly increased over the years as manufacturers look to integrate game-changing designs that resemble hardwood.

Realistic colors are often used to give the picture a more believable, solid hardwood appearance. Using a single image or photograph for all the planks allows manufacturers to produce planks with similar patterns and appearances.

Wear Layer

Usually clear, the top layer contains aluminum oxide coating that protects the laminate planks from staining easily, fading, and developing scratches. The depth of the coating can vary depending on client preferences. The top layer acts as the first line of attack and prevents the occasional stains and spills from damaging your laminate boards.

You can read more about in my Laminate flooring buying guide.

The Advantages of Wood Look Laminate Flooring

Affordable

Laminate flooring is highly affordable compared to other flooring systems. You can easily buy a square foot of laminate for as little as $1. The price, however, tends to vary depending on the quality and thickness of the laminate layers.

Despite the tempting low prices, it is best advised to buy mid-priced laminate as they are usually thicker and more durable. When installing laminate floors, try as much as possible to buy solid laminate that doesn’t bend easily. Strong laminate planks are known to last long due to their ability to absorb pressure and resist moisture.

Easy to Install

Installing laminate floors is usually straightforward. However, you’ll still need to be extra careful to ensure the pieces interlock perfectly.

Manufacturers use different locking systems for their laminate products. Thus, it is highly advisable to check on the product manual or guidelines to know how to best install the laminate flooring.  

As an additional disclaimer, as you look to install your laminate floors, remember to allow the flooring to acclimate for no less than two days. Failure to acclimate laminate floors before installation is a sure recipe for disaster and can lead to warping, buckling, and swelling due to changes in humidity levels.  

It Comes in Several Designs

Technological advancements are hugely responsible for the ever-increasing popularity of wood look laminate flooring. As a result, it’s easy to spot laminate that perfectly mimics hardwood, tiles, and several other designs.

Through modern printing techniques, the pattern/design layer can be modified to suit the targeted design. The ability to modify images means you can have your laminate flooring in different shades depending on the wood texture or design.

The high level of versatility makes wood look laminate flooring perfect for various settings. Whether for home or commercial offices, it’s hard to go wrong with laminate floors when it comes to aesthetics.

Easy to Maintain

Some floors require high-level maintenance and regular waxing to remain appealing, but not laminate floors. Laminate flooring is easy to maintain, provided you observe the right cleaning procedures.

The best way to keep your laminate floors in pristine condition is to sweep and vacuum as frequently as possible. If you must use cleaning products, do your due diligence to ensure you’re buying products that are suitable for laminate floors.  

And since laminate and water aren’t the best of friends, using a dry, microfiber mop is highly recommended when looking to clean the floors. Set up structures that will reduce exposure to spills and stains, which means investing in feeding mats if you have pets.

For high traffic areas, you should try to dry mop at least once a day to prevent debris buildup, which can easily scratch your laminate floors.  

Comfortable

Although not as soft as carpet, laminate scores well when it comes to comfort ranking. This is because of the padded underlayment that is used underneath the laminate flooring. The underlayment comes with several benefits-top of the list is increased comfort and heat retention.

The underlayment helps the laminate floor to absorb pressure and distribute the weight evenly across the entire system; this translates to reduced incidences of sore feet or aching backs, which isn’t the case with concrete or tile flooring.  

Durable

Laminate flooring is among the most durable flooring options. As mentioned earlier, laminates usually have four layers that provide enough reinforcement for pressure absorption. The top layer is the first line of protection and prevents the laminate boards from fading. The layer also increases the laminate flooring’s resistance to scratches, making it ideal for households with pets and children.

The fade-resistant nature of laminate allows homeowners to place them in rooms with large windows. And since laminate floors have a water-resistant topcoat, you won’t have to worry much about water ruining the planks. However, please note that stagnant water or exposure to too much water might lead to swelling and eventual destruction of your laminate.

Classy and Stylish

With the current advancements in technology, laminate flooring designs are getting bolder and more realistic. By playing around with different image concepts and designs, manufacturers can replicate natural stone and hardwood in their laminate products.

Through advanced embossing techniques and high-definition printing, designers have become increasingly capable of mimicking ridges and patterns normally found in wooden designs.

Cons of Wood Look Laminate Flooring

Cannot Be Refinished properly

You won’t have a lot of options when it comes to repairing laminate floors. This is because, unlike hardwood, laminate floors cannot be refinished after long-term usage.

While you can fix slight damages on the flooring, you’ll find that replacement is often the best option if you want a long-term, sustainable solution. The good thing with laminate is its affordability, which often allows for hassle-free replacements.

Depending on the type of damage, however, there may still be a solution for how to fix certain types of scratches or swelling. You can also paint laminate to hide imperfections but in my opinion, it won’t look perfect.

Won’t Increase your Home’s Value

If you intend to sell your property in the near or distant future, it’s best to avoid installing laminate flooring. The inability to refinish laminate means homeowners might replace the slabs frequently, depending on the problematic areas.

But if you’ve moved into your permanent home, then you can comfortably opt for laminate as it will last long, provided you observe the necessary maintenance procedures.

May Contain Toxins

Some laminates contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) known to release potentially harmful fumes into the air. These fumes can aggravate pre-existing conditions or lead to the development of new medical complications.

Therefore, when looking to purchase laminate, be sure to select options with low or zero VOCs. You should also examine if the product is CARB2 compliant and FloorScore certified.

Always ask for compliance documents before making any laminate purchase to ensure you keep yourself and your family safe. And since you’ll be walking on your laminate floor for years to come, it’s best to do your due diligence and buy a product with little to no toxins.

More in my post: Is laminate flooring Toxic?

Planks Can Appear Unnatural

Although laminate can be designed to mimic hardwood, stone, or even tile, a keen eye can differentiate the real deal from the imitation. Granted, pricier brands usually integrate tech-advancements in their designs, consequently making the products more realistic.

With cheap laminate flooring, you’ll have to settle for the ‘look-alike’ appearance.

Therefore, be prepared to spend more if you want laminate flooring that resembles the real deal. You can even play around with patterns to help achieve a more natural look similar to hardwood or any other design you prefer.

Produces a Potentially Annoying Hollow Sound

While the underlayment reduces noise in laminate flooring, you can still hear a hollow sound when walking, especially in quiet places like libraries and home offices.

However, the hollow noise is rarely heard in homes with little children, especially in high traffic areas full of life and activity like the living room and kitchen.

Isn’t Compatible with Moisture

Moisture and laminate don’t get along. High humidity will most probably lead to warping, especially if the installation gap wasn’t large enough. Laminate boards installed in damp places tend to swell over time, a situation that is mostly fixed through replacement.

A dehumidifier can come in handy in regulating the moisture levels in your home, more so during the summer when humidity is usually high.

But to stay on the safe side, it’s best to buy laminate with enhanced resistance to moisture and water. While such laminate products might cost you more, the investment will be worth it as your flooring will last longer regardless of the exposure to stains and spills.

More in my post: Is Laminate Flooring Waterproof?

What to Check When Buying Laminate Flooring?  

Laminate Board Thickness

Thick laminate boards are more durable compared to their thinner counterparts. Besides durability, thick boards also provide enhanced insulation, making the floor warmer due to improved heat retention.

You’ll have options ranging from 12 mm thickness to 10 mm or even 8 mm, depending on the manufacturer. It’s best to go for thicker options if you want more insulation. However, thick laminate planks aren’t always necessary as the underlay helps provide more comfort and weight distribution across the floor.

Check the Product Ratings

Laminate durability is often graded by the Abrasion Class (AC) system, whereby high AC ratings mean the product will have longer lifespans. Laminate boards with AC2 ratings or above are strong enough for residential use. But for high traffic areas, you might want to buy AC3, or AC4 rated laminate boards.

The caveat with highly graded laminated boards is they tend to cost more than their lower graded counterparts. Therefore, be prepared to dig a little deeper if you’re interested in purchasing highly rated laminate flooring.

Consider the Manufacturer Ratings

Before purchasing laminate flooring from a particular manufacturer, be sure to check the seller ratings on the North American Laminate Floor Association (NALFA) website. The NALFA website provides more details about the company selling the products and how it goes about its operations. Conducting a NALFA check will help you know more about the products’ quality, the manufacturers’ performances, and whether the producers adhere to the rules put in place.

Type of Underlayment

Laminate flooring can come with an attached underlay or without an underlay. If you buy laminate flooring without an underlay, you’ll need to purchase one separately before installation. This is because laminate floors require underlays to absorb noise, increase comfort, and hold the planks in place.

This are my best three choices:

Design and Appearance of the Laminate

It is crucial to examine the laminate design to determine if it suits your preferences. Remember, wood look laminate mimics hardwood’s appearance, meaning you’ll end up with a look-alike and not the actual wooden product.

Therefore, the trick is to carefully examine the appearance and grain patterns of several laminate products before settling for one that satisfies your requirements. Please note that cheap laminate won’t be as realistic as premium options.

How to Maintain Your Wood Looking Laminate Flooring?

Sweep the Floor Regularly

Although laminate flooring is fairly resistant to scratches, excess debris and dirt can lead to unsightly scratches. Sweeping the floor regularly, especially in high traffic areas, is an ideal way to prolong the laminate boards’ usage while also leaving your floor looking neat.

A vacuum cleaner with a soft velvety brush attachment is a great alternative to a dry dust mop. Try as much as possible to avoid standard floor brush as the stiff bristle could end up damaging your floors.

Clean Spills Immediately They Occur

While most laminate boards are water-resistant to some extent, allowing spilled water or drinks to stagnate on the floor is a sure recipe for disaster. Liquid stains tend to damage the protective layer in laminate floors, thus leading to swelling.

To clean up spills, you’ll need to use a soft cloth or sponge. The trick is to act as fast as possible to prevent the moisture from seeping through the seams.

Leave Expansion Gaps During Installation

Most people prefer laminate flooring due to its ease of installation. However, if you choose to go the DIY way, be sure to check the dimensions of the gap, targeting between ¼- ½ an inch off the wall.

Creating a large enough expansion gap is fundamental in preventing buckling, which frequently occurs in poorly installed laminate flooring.

Dry Mop the Laminate Floors

As already established, laminate and water don’t go too well together. Therefore, as you look to clean up your laminate flooring, it’s advisable to use a dry microfiber mop. Wet cleaning will increase moisture levels and increase the chances of swelling, and you don’t want that.

Steer clear of waxes and detergents that aren’t meant for laminate floors. Ideally, you should always read product guidelines and instructions to determine if a product is fit for use on laminate floors. 

Wrapping Things Up

Besides being aesthetically appealing, wood look laminate is highly durable and affordable. This makes the flooring option among the most popular in the market.

Wood look laminate flooring is highly versatile and can be installed in different areas, from home offices to commercial offices, kitchens, living rooms, and even bedrooms. The trick is to get the installation right by leaving an expansion allowance.

And as you look to purchase quality laminate flooring, don’t hesitate to check the NALFA website to determine whether a particular brand is compliant with the laminate production regulations put in place.