Laminate is the chameleon of the floor world. It can emulate hardwood, tile or stone, and it gives you those looks at a lower price. This durable, affordable floor surface resists stains, fading and moisture, and installation is a snap. It won't develop character the way wood does and it can have a hollow sound when walked on, but its sturdiness makes it a favorite for many homeowners, especially those with kids and pets.
Laminate is extremely earth-friendly flooring. It uses fewer trees than real wood, and because it is easy to pull out, old laminate can be reused or recycled rather than discarded. Manufacturers are moving toward greener practices, such as incorporating recycled wood fibers that could otherwise end up in landfills and using post-production waste as fuel.
Laminate flooring offers a wide variety of options to choose from.
Texture. With its realistic graining, authentic coloring, and tactile textures, laminate can look just like real wood or ceramic tile. High-end products allow homeowners to incorporate otherwise unavailable styles, such as exotic wood species not sold domestically. Manufacturers also are taking realism to the next level, incorporating in laminate everything from worm holes and cross-sawn marks to hand-scraping and distressing for a floor can be tough wood.
Finish. Laminate comes prefinished in a range of glossy or matte coatings, depending on the preferred look.
Shape. Laminate comes in strips or planks that mimic wood, or squares that look like tile.
How to Clean. Sweep or vacuum regularly, and occasionally wipe the surface with a damp mop and a mild cleaner. Keep floors free of dirt and sand, as they can scratch the surface over time. Watch for separation between planks or tiles.
Best for: Any roomthere are no restrictions.
Pet Friendly? Extremely. Laminate is tough enough that pets' nails shouldn't be an issue, but you should clean spilled water and accidents immediately to avoid liquid seeping in the seams.
Underlayment. Laminate requires underlayment to serve as a moisture barrier and muffle sound. Specially designed underlayment even makes laminate sound more like hardwood when it is walked on.
Laminate flooring is constructed of four layers of material fused together: a melamine wear layer; a high-resolution photo of the surface it's 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.
Be aware that walking on laminate floors can produce a "hollow" sound, and damaged areas 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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