Ultimate Guide To Laminate Flooring

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What is laminate flooring?

Laminate flooring has become an incredibly popular choice for homes in the UK, because it is cheaper, tougher, and easier to install than traditional wood flooring, but it offers a very similar finish.

Laminate flooring is a layered material made up of a backing plastic layer, above which lies a high-density fibreboard (HDF), finished with a photographic appliqué layer often resembling wood, which in turn rests under a transparent protective layer, or laminate, hence the name.

Types of laminated flooring

Contrary to what you might think, there is a dizzying variety of laminate flooring available on the market today. When most people think of laminate flooring, they probably think of a light pinewood style laminate. However, laminate can imitate many different kinds of wood, as well as stone and tile. There are also different levels of finish, thickness, and abrasion class (AC rating) for each style:

AC1

Moderate to mild use, ideal for bedrooms.

AC2

Regular footfall, like in a dining room.

AC3

Good for hallways and areas that see a lot of traffic.

AC4

Moderate use in a commercial setting, like a small cafe.

AC5

Heavy traffic in a commercial setting, such as public buildings or a large department store.

We installed a lovely dark wood laminate in Arncott, Bicester, which you can read about here.

How to buy laminate flooring

In order to get the best laminate flooring, you’ll want to have a look online at all the various styles. We would also recommend that you go to a physical shop or visit a friend with laminate to see what it really looks and feels like. While you’re there, you could ask about warranties, including their costs and what they cover. You probably want a basic warranty covering moisture damage, staining, fading, and wear of the photographic layer. When purchasing your laminate flooring, you will want to make sure you buy a little more than the exact measurements of your room, just to give you a margin of error.

However, we would recommend that you use a laminate flooring service when laying laminate flooring. If you work with a reputable company such as Bicester Property Interiors, they will help you choose and source your laminate in addition to installing it for you, so you don’t have to work it all out and buy the laminate yourself.

Laminate flooring cost

Laminate is a much more cost-effective flooring option when compared to wood, but as with all materials there is a range from budget laminate through to more costly but higher quality laminate. Prices are usually given by the square metre.

How to prepare for laminate flooring

To ensure you get the best laminate flooring, the original floor will need to be prepared. If your floor is concrete, wood, vinyl, or tile, an underlay must be applied, and then the laminate flooring can be installed directly over the top. Carpet will need to be ripped out altogether.

Before laying laminate flooring it is also needs to acclimate to the room’s temperature and humidity before being installed. Just like wood, laminate expands and contracts in reaction to the climate. If you don’t do this, you might end up with warping and bumps in the middle of your floor. It is best to speak to the manufacturer of the product for guidelines around this if you are installing the laminate yourself, or leave it to your laminate flooring installation services if you are using those.

How to install laminate flooring

We would recommend that you use a laminate flooring installation service when laying laminate flooring to avoid problems and to achieve the best laminate flooring. There are multiple potential problems arising from laying laminate yourself:

  1. If laminate is not sealed correctly at the edges, water is liable to leak in under the flooring and cause severe damage to the laminate.
                
  2. To give your laminate room to expand (see above on acclimatisation), it is necessary to leave an expansion gap to prevent buckling. A small 10×10 room needs about a ¼ inch expansion gap, but this changes as the size of the room changes.
                
  3. If the planks are fitted too forcefully together, this can snap the tongue-and-groove joint which connects the planks.

However, if you do intend to lay you’re happy not using a laminate flooring service, then please be mindful of the issues we have raised above.

What is the best underlay for laminate flooring?

An underlay is a thin cushioning layer between your subfloor and your laminate flooring. Underlay is not optional — it is needed to make sure your laminate flooring lasts. What kind of underlay is best depends on what kind of subfloor you have.

  1. Concrete floors require an underlay with a moisture barrier.
                
  2. Cork or felt will provide the best sound absorption.
                
  3. If your floor is uneven, you’ll need a       stiff underlay like fibreboard.

Aside from the above, basic foam usually does the trick.

Aftercare

There are no secrets on how to look after your laminate flooring, but there are a couple of things you can do to keep it looking its best.

Furniture can mark laminate, so we recommend you put some soft pads on under the legs of your tables, sofas, and chairs.

The other thing you can do is make sure you clean your laminate regularly, which we talk about in a little more detail below.

How to clean laminate flooring

Here are some do’s and don’ts to keeping your laminate clean and looking good.

  1. Remember, laminate is water-resistant but it is not waterproof! Any major liquid spills will need to be cleaned up quickly.
                
  2. Avoid using abrasive materials such as brushes on your laminate as this can mark it. A mop and cloth should work well.
                
  3. Sometimes residue builds up on the surface of the laminate. If this is the case, apply a little vinegar on a cloth to restore your laminate’s shine.

How to repair laminate flooring

Remember regular cleaning and soft pads under your furniture are the two most effective methods to ensure your laminate doesn’t get damaged in the first place.

Regular scratches or cracks can be repaired using a standard colour-match repair kit. If you need to replace a plank, we recommend you hire a laminate flooring service.

Durability of laminate flooring

Laminate flooring is very resistant to dents and scratches, with a transparent layer that protects the photographic design beneath. Stains are also easy to clean off.

However, when laminate does eventually become worn over time, unlike wood, it can’t be sanded down and so will have to be replaced.