What is a laminate floor?
A laminate floor is a wood based product that has a digital picture on top. A clear wear-layer is placed over the digital picture for performance.
Laminate floors come in a variety of qualities from very poor performance to excellent performance.
We have an old laminate floor in our office that looks like rainbow slate, but without the many issues that real slate has. Real slate can have high and low spots (which can be tripping hazards). Real slate can “shear”, which means layers of stone can come off. The laminate floor does not have these issues. The laminate floor we selected for our office is of excellent quality, and has performed well.
Our office floor costs about five times what cheap laminate costs. The difference in quality is not readily apparent to mere visual inspection. So many people have purchased the laminate floor that was five times cheaper thinking “it’s the same thing. This is a much better deal”.
The problem comes in performance. The quality laminate was made with wood fiber strands compressed under very high pressure with a plastic binder. This laminate is durable, resists water, excessive expansion and contraction, and looks great years later.
The cheap laminates (mostly Chinese imports – there we go again), are not wood fiber, but saw dust. Saw dust and glue. Visual inspection does not make this difference apparent. But it is obvious a short time after the laminate is installed. The core is weak, and all the edges get scuffed and torn. You soon see the core. If someone leaves a damp towel on the floor, the floor bubbles. If someone leaves a glass of water on the floor, it leaves a permanent ring.
So much of this cheap laminate has been sold, it has effectively ruined the market. So many people have been disillusioned by the poor performance of cheap laminate floors, they never want to go back to it. But our office is living proof that laminate floors can be extremely durable. Nevertheless, once bitten, twice shy.
Laminate Floors are Obsolete Anyway
If you find the right look for you, and it is in a quality laminate, then by all means get it.
However, I need to tell you about today’s vinyl floors. These are not your mother’s vinyl floors. Vinyl floors look so real, you would be hard pressed to know the difference between vinyl and “the real thing” if you are standing up looking at the floor. You have seen many of these extremely durable floors in businesses, and been fooled thinking you are looking at real wood, real tile, or real stone.
Advantages of vinyl floors:
- No click/clack sound like laminate.
- More resistant to water and moisture.
- Easier to clean.
- Easier to install.
- Less expensive to install.
- Less mess to install (no sawdust).
- And definitely more choices in colors and styles.
Examine the following pictures. See if you can determine which ones are laminate, and which ones are vinyl, and which ones are “real”. Good luck . . .