Laminate flooring consists of three components bonded together. Its decorative surface is a high-pressure melamine laminate, which bonds to a moisture-resistant’ wood-based core (usually high-density or medium-density fiberboard). A balancing backer of laminate (generally of the same composition as the top layer) bonds to the underside of the core for stability. Companies claim the high-finish surfaces are about 20 times stronger than a laminate kitchen countertop.
Laminate flooring installs using a “floating floor” system with tongue-and-groove construction that allows planks to be glued and fitted together (rather than be nailed or glued to a subfloor). A small gap left at the walls allows expansion and contraction to take place without damaging the floor. A strip of underlayment foam provides cushioning and sound absorption.
Laminate flooring sizes vary, but planks generally measure 46 to 50 inches long by 8 inches wide. Most come with matching wallbases and moulding products for finishing touches.
“It installs easily over plywood or oriented-strand board,” says builder Bob Bowers, of TAB Homes Corp.. “Unlike when installing vinyl, I don’t have to worry about making a wrong cut or matching patterns.”
Once installed, it’s as easy to maintain as a laminate countertop. “We tell our customers to simply wipe it down with a damp rag or mop to take care of dirt and grime,” says Lynne Wilde of Wilsonart International, which introduced a laminate flooring line early this year. “We knew laminate was a good choice for flooring because of its durability, easy maintenance, style and comfort of laminate flooring,” says Wilde. “Flooring was the next logical step for Wilsonart,” traditionally a countertop manufacturer.