Q. What are laminate floors and how are they made?
Laminate floors were introduced into the market in the 1970’s as an inexpensive alternative to hardwood floors. Laminate is actually made up of residual wood fibres that are mixed with resins and binders and then formed into high density fibreboard (HDF) panels. The panels are milled to form a click together locking system to allow for easy installation. A decorative wood grain paper is attached to the panel and then a top surface wear layer containing aluminum oxide to help resist wearing fading and staining. A backing layer is added to the bottom of the panel for stability and moisture resistance. These layers are laminated together under extreme pressure and then cut into the planks or tiles.
Q. How do laminate floor panels lock together?
There are many types of edge joining systems used to connect laminate flooring panels together. Some laminate flooring locking systems snap together by hand while others require a light tap with a mallet and a tapping block. Newer styles of locking system designs allow for a “drop lock” installation. While most of the various systems work well to secure your laminate floor, it is important to read your laminate flooring installation instructions carefully. Familiarize yourself with how your flooring locks together before starting your installation. Follow the manufacturer's installation procedures carefully and your new flooring will last for years.
Q. Where can I install laminate flooring?
Laminate flooring is an extremely versatile flooring product. It can be installed in virtually any room of your home, above or below ground, and over top of wood or concrete sub-floors. Because laminate flooring is a wood flooring product caution should be taken when installing in wet locations such as bathrooms, saunas, enclosed porches or verandas, or anywhere that may require wet-mopping.
Q. What are the advantages of laminate flooring over solid hardwood or engineered flooring?
One obvious advantage is that of price; laminate flooring is typically less than one fourth the cost of traditional hardwood flooring. Sometimes the savings are even greater, depending on the types of flooring in question. Additionally, laminate flooring is designed to be easy to install and is generally a good choice for most people wishing to install the flooring themselves, where solid hardwood requires a higher level of expertise. Laminate flooring is also much more scratch-resistant and fade resistant, two areas where solid hardwood and engineered flooring is known to be more vulnerable.
Q. Does the overall thickness of the floor matter?
The thickness of the floor is not as important as the density. Thickness is not a bad thing but a denser core will react less to environmental changes caused by seasonal changes in the weather. Some 15 mm floors are not as dense as some 8 mm floors. The denser cores have less air voids to absorb spills and airborne humidity.
Q. What do I need to know before I start installing my laminate floor?
There are several things to consider before you begin to install a laminate floor. Careful preparation before beginning the installation will make installing your laminate floor a quick and easy process. Ensure that your sub-floor is solid, level, flat, dry, and smooth. Allow your laminate flooring to acclimatize to the room where it will be installed for as long as possible (min. 48 hours). Inspect each laminate flooring panel carefully for defects or damage before installing it. Follow your laminate flooring manufacturer’s installation instructions carefully.
Q. How do I determine the direction in which to install my laminate flooring?
Which direction to install your floor is strictly a matter of choice. Some individuals prefer to run the flooring parallel to the main direction of light while others prefer to run the floor perpendicular to the light. Other features in the room such as fireplaces, furniture or stairs may also impact your decision. For any installation, the starting wall should be as long and straight as possible.
Q. Will there be any cutting waste?
In an average installation an additional 8% to 10% of the total area to be covered will be needed for waste. Smaller jobs may require slightly more waste and larger jobs may require slightly less. It is also a good idea to purchase an extra box or two for future repairs. Laminate flooring is extremely fade resistant and repairs can easily be done if extra material is available and not discontinued.
Q. Do I have to keep staggering the planks in my laminate flooring installation?
The first row should be started with a full plank, the second row with a 2/3 plank and the third row with a 1/3 plank. Once the first three rows are finished, the leftover cut piece from the last plank of the third row can be used to start the fourth row and so on. Depending on dimensions of the room it may be required to occasionally start the next row with a new piece. The distance between joints from one row to the next for the remainder of the installation should be 8" or greater and a random staggered pattern produces a more realistic hardwood look.
Q. What is the reason for the 10mm gap around the perimeter of the floor?
Because laminate flooring is derived from wood, it is subject to expansion and contraction, caused by room temperatures and humidity levels. An expansion gap is a necessary part of any successful installation because it allows space for the expansion of the floor as it responds to these external influences of temperature and humidity. When it is exposed to warmer temperatures, or to increased humidity, laminate flooring planks expand outward. Leaving out the essential element of an outside gap can cause the buckling of the individual laminate flooring planks as the planks push outward against walls or other obstacles.
Q. What is a floating floor?
A floating floor is a floor built with all its pieces attached to each other but with none of these component parts fixed to the sub- floor. Virtually all laminate floors are installed as floating floors.
Q. What is HDF and what is it made of?
High density fiberboard, HDF, is basically a high-density, moisture-resistant fiber panel. It is made of wood residues (sawdust, shavings and wood chips) from wood processing factories. This ligneous material is ground into a pulp to which resins and binders are added and then dried and pressed into panels under extreme heat and pressure.
Q. How is the paper applied to the HDF core?
The melamine impregnated paper, called the décor layer, is thermo-fused to the core and then topped with an aluminum-oxide wear layer to provide resistance to wearing, fading and staining.
Q. Why is a moisture barrier used on concrete?
Concrete floors below ground are capable of storing a vast amount of water. It is crucial to avoid all direct contact between the laminate flooring and the concrete floor because the soil beneath the concrete can transmit humidity into the floor. Installing a moisture barrier over all concrete surfaces, on or below grade, is mandatory for a successful installation and for the ongoing health of a laminate floor.
Q. Can laminate flooring be installed on stairs?
Yes, laminate flooring can be installed on stairs but the planks need to be glued down with regular construction adhesive. There are different ways to finish laminate on stairs and careful planning is essential to a smooth installation.
Q. Can laminate flooring be installed in my screened in porch or patio?
No, laminate flooring must be installed in a climate-controlled area.
Q. Can we install laminate over carpet?
No, all carpet and padding should be removed completely prior to installation.
Q. How do I repair minor scratches?
Minor scratches or nicks can be repaired with felt markers or stains.
Q. How do I replace one plank of my flooring due to damage?
Laminate planks can be replaced by taking the baseboard off and simply disassembling the floor to the position of the plank that needs to be replaced and then reinstall the plank(s) and baseboard. In some cases it is possible to cut a plank from the middle of the floor and glue in a replacement piece.
Q. What is a laminate flooring AC rating?
AC ratings are a standardized measure adopted by the Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring (ELPF).
The AC measure rates abrasion resistance, fade resistance and resistance to staining.
Here is a more detailed guide:
- AC1 is suitable for lighter, more infrequent traffic, e.g. a bedroom.
- AC2 is suitable for general residential use in living rooms and dining rooms.
- AC3 can be applied to more varied locations, such as small offices and other light commercial locations.
- AC4 can be installed in higher traffic commercial areas such as boutiques, busier offices, and restaurants.
- AC5 is the most durable and can withstand the traffic of heavier commercial applications.
Although laminate is the most scratch resistant flooring option on the market, it is important to note that all floors are susceptible to scratching and it is important to take care and attention in caring for your new floors. Be sure to use protective pads for your furniture and always lift and gently place heavy objects instead of sliding them across the floor. It is also wise to protect front entrances and heavy traffic areas with mats and runners.