Why You Should Choose Laminate

Get the look of hardwood without the cost with this rugged bathroom floor option.

Mojave Mesquite-Pattern Laminate

If you're dreaming of hardwood floors in the bathroom but having nightmares about the cost, take heart. You can get the look of wood with laminate, which closely mimics the texture, color and graining of real woods. Laminate can withstand drippy towels and stand up to heavy traffic and dropped curling irons. It also resists even the toughest stains, from makeup to nail polish.

Some manufacturers do not recommend putting laminate in the bathroom due to the worry of water damage. Review manufacturer installation instructions and warranty information before choosing a laminate floor. If you choose it for the bath, carefully follow any special directions for installation and sealing, and take the utmost care to prevent water from seeping beneath the surface.

If you're handy, you can save money by installing laminate floors yourself. Many laminate types lock together without the use of glue or nails, while others require adhesives. While you'll pay more, professional installers can be worth the investment. This is especially true if you want a design that involves intricate inlays or mixing and matching colors and styles.

Considerations When Choosing Laminate Flooring

Here are elements to consider when choosing laminate:

Texture. Laminate can look like real wood or even tile. For a more realistic wood appearance, the surface can be hand-scraped, distressed, and covered with authentic-looking knots and wormholes. And you can get laminate that looks like anything from polished marble to timeworn slate.

Finish. Laminate is prefinished and available in glossy or matte coatings.

Shape. Laminate comes in strips or planks that mimic wood, or squares that look like tile. They can be laid in nearly any pattern, such as herringbone or subway.

Tough Enough? Laminate can withstand water, but don't leave puddles standing for hours after the kids' bath or it might seep into the seams.

How to Clean. Laminate is low maintenance. Sweep or vacuum regularly keep to free of dirt and sand which can scratch the surface over time. Watch for any spaces or separation where water could penetrate.

Underlayment. Laminate needs a base layer beneath it to serve as a moisture barrier and muffle sound.

The Lowdown. Laminate is constructed of four layers of material fused together: a melamine wear layer; a high-resolution photo of the surface it is emulating; a dense core board; and a melamine backing layer. It's affordable, durable, and resistant to stains, fading and moisture; it also won't harbor mold, mildew or allergens.

Keep in mind, though, that it can emit a "hollow" sound, and it must be replaced rather than sanded or refinished. Its patterns can sometimes look repetitive, and it won't develop character with age.

Laminate flooring typically costs between $1 and $4 per square foot, uninstalled. It's ideal for do-it-yourselfers because the planks are designed to lock together for easy installation.

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