Category Archives: Wood Floors

Are Laminate Floors Obsolete?

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 . . .

photo photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5 photo 6

Latex Rug Backing Stuck to Floor

I recently had a client call me for advice.  She had purchased a seagrass carpet (not from us).  She explained that the latex backing on the rug had disintegrated and had stuck to the floor.  My thinking was this was a relatively minor issue that might require that some dust be swept or vacuumed.  Was I ever wrong!  Here’s a picture of the damaged floor:

Latex rug backing damaged the wood floor.

The latex backing on this seagrass rug has damaged the wood floor.

The wood floor is absolutely gorgeous, except where it is damaged.  What a shame.  The rug is beyond saving.  I immediately had two thoughts:

  1. How do we fix this wood floor?
  2. What can be done to prevent this from happening.

If this should happen to you, this is what I suggested

Removing the Latex Backing that is Stuck to the Wood Floor

  1. Use a plastic scraper to remove as much latex as possible without vigorously scraping.  I have a plastic scraper we use to clean dinnerware at home that has rounded edges.  Something like that sounds perfect for this.
  2. Apply a solvent to the latex rubber to soften it.  When we find a solvent that softens a material, the material may be softened for a while, but then the solvent evaporates and the material will reharden.  So leaving a solvent on for “several days” does no good.  Usually about 15 minutes or so is good.
  3. Assuming we’ve found a solvent to soften the material, use the plastic scraper again to remove the latex material.
  4. So, which solvent should you use?  Mineral spirits are usually (but not always) safe for floors.  I’d start with that.  If that does not work, then I’d try denatured alcohol next.
  5. BEFORE USING ANY SOLVENT, always test the solvent in an inconspicuous area of the floor first, to be certain it will not affect the finish.  We do not want to remove, soften, or haze the existing finish.  Do not proceed until you are certain that the solvent you are considering will not damage your floor.
  6. Once the latex material has been removed, one last swipe with a clean rag or towel and a little of the (tested for safeness) solvent can help restore the floor’s luster.

All of this may be for nought.  We’ll know fairly soon if we are successfully removing the latex backing that is damaging the floor.  If not, then the floor may need to be sanded and refinished.

How Do We Prevent This?

The Wood Floor Covering Association (WFCA) does not recommend putting anything over your wood floor with a solid rubber or latex backing.  They don’t breathe, and condensation can accumulate under the non-porous material and damage the finish.  Non-slip rug paddings are made with ventilation so this is not an issue for non-slip products.

A quality felt rug padding would have been a small investment to protect the floor.

Our client acknowledged this and added in response: “As you see, this is an incredible mess. In reading the labeling that comes with the carpet, it recommends using padding, but it doesn’t explain why the recommendation is made. I thought padding was to make it softer to walk on and prevent slippage. Do you think the average person would expect this type of disintegration would happen without a more specific warning?”

No.  The average person would not expect that type of disintegration and damage.  I’m in the rug business, and I wouldn’t expect that either.  Even given the recommendation of the WFCA.  Even given the label on the rug that “recommends” a rug pad.  (It does not say a rug pad is required).  This is a defective product.

This seagrass rug is the type of product that is commonly sold by catalog retailers that import cheaply made Chinese products.  The initial savings can potentially cost hundreds of dollars in damages, stress, and aggravation.  Our client probably did not buy this product for price, but looks. And if she knew that there is a difference in quality, and what the difference is, the small additional cost for a quality product would be negligible to her.

So how do you, a consumer, know the difference?  You can’t be an expert in everything.  So here are some guidelines:

  • If you want to buy a rug, purchase it from someone who sells rugs.  They are specialists in that.  Catalogs and store that sell “everything under the sun” can not possibly be experts or knowledgeable about everything they sell.  This is true for any product.
  • Manufacturers of quality products are proud to put their name on it.  Cheap imports often hide behind the anonymity afforded by being in a foreign land, using a different language, and not putting the manufacturer’s name prominently on the product.  This does not mean that products that are not made in the U.S.A. are not good quality.  There are many quality manufacturers around the globe.  But see if they put their name on it.  That’s often telling.

I don’t know the brand of this seagrass rug.  I didn’t ask if it had one.  There is always the possibility that it was made by a maker with a good reputation that just had something go wrong.  But again, a maker with a good reputation will stand behind the product.  If you don’t even know who made it, it can be more difficult to get service.

Close up of defective latex backing.

Closeup of latex backing stuck to a wood floor.