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Poor laminate. Once the unattractive and undervalued cousin of it’s more prestigious and, let’s face it, prettier cousin hardwood, it has historically been considered a cheap imposter unable to live up to the splendor of hardwood. And rightfully so – initially laminate flooring was constructed from a thin layer of particleboard and topped off with a fairly sad excuse of a picture of hardwood. Back then, no one was taking laminate home from the ball.
Thankfully times have changed, innovations in flooring have abounded and ugly, poorly constructed laminate has gone the way of the passenger pigeon, shag carpet and mobile phone screens that are big enough to actually see. Now this flooring is made to mimic hardwood with its beveled edges and high resolution, hand-scraped aesthetic. Even better, it’s easier to maintain, easier to install and easier to fit into your flooring budget.
Before we get into all the technical details, let’s first chat a bit about what we’re dealing with.
Laminate, You’re So Fancy
THE BASICS OF LAMINATE
So, what is it? Laminate is constructed of very tightly packed particle board that is then put under extremely high pressure to form sheets. These sheets are then covered in a high resolution, photorealistic image of either hardwood or stone and then a protective wear layer is applied to the top.
The wear layer, or top layer, consists of two thin sheets of paper that are infused with melamine. This hard, top-most surface makes laminate pretty impenetrable. It also makes it an ideal flooring option for your oversized, nail scratchy dogs, scraping chairs, pointy shoes and other things that would normally dent, scrape, claw at or otherwise ruin some softer (read: hardwood) flooring.
Now here is where this flooring really sets itself apart of hardwood flooring. It is truly a DIY flooring option. This is one project you can put at the top of your ever-growing “things I have to do but probably won’t finish” weekend list and actually cross off.
Laminate is installed as a floating floor. Placed over a subfloor and, ideally, a high-grade underpad or vapour barrier planks are cut and puzzled in together by most commonly used tongue and groove construction. Cut right and placed correctly, laminate flooring ends up as one single unit that fits snugly into your space. There’s no sliding around, the boards won’t separate and they aren’t likely to suffer from any cupping or buckling.
Even better is that laminate, which now looks and feels like a swanky hardwood product, can be installed below grade. For all those times you looked longingly at your basement and thought, “My life would be unicorns if only I could install hardwood here”, you can stop pining. Your life is officially unicorns – install away. It’s the same for bathrooms and kitchens and other spaces where moisture/water could be an issue as long as you install a vapour barrier overtop your subfloor.
HECK YES, BENEFITS!
As we’ve discovered laminate is now very good-looking AND easy to install. We’ll look at a few more benefits of laminate in case you aren’t convinced.
- It’s very, very easy to maintain. Vacuum, dry mop and you don’t have to worry about surface scratches.
- It’s cost-effective. Relative to hardwood or engineered floors laminate rings at somewhere around half the price when you factor in the cost of product, installation and longevity.
- Durability. In terms of hard surfaces laminate ranks among the most durable available. Remember that wear layer we talked about earlier? Additionally, compared to stone, ceramic, etc… laminate has way more give making it a far more resistant floor.
- The variety is wide-spread and growing. Laminate is now being produced to look like exotic wood to go along with the more conventional species. The plank widths come in up to 7″ and the embossing now follows the image through its grain giving it an authentic, hand-scraped look.
- It’s easy to replace. Since laminate is not installed directly to the subfloor uninstalling it is quick and easy!
CLOSING IT OUT
If we’ve done our job right you’re sitting there thinking “Yes! Laminate, huzzah!”. The only thing to do now is choose which style is best for you. If you’re looking for some inspiration visit some of our manufacturers to see what’s available. Mohawk, Fusion Flooring and Shaw Floors are just some of the flooring giants that have revolutionized laminate flooring.
And, of course, if you have any questions, want to talk about flooring or are looking for some advice, we’d love you to contact us! As always, you can schedule your free in-home estimate here. Make sure to mention you’re looking for a unicorn.
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