Laminate flooring has become the favoured option for anyone wanting a durable, easy-to-clean floor surface without the expense of installing solid wood or tiles. Laminate floors are quick to install, come in an ever increasing array of colours, styles and finishes and are a straightforward weekend job for the DIY enthusiast. Some laminate floors feature a real timber veneer.
What Is A Laminate Floor?
The term laminate comes from the lamination process used to create laminate flooring. It usually refers to wood or wood-effect flooring that has been created by binding together multiple layers of material before finishing with a photographic image or a thin layer of wood, protected by a clear stain- and wear-resistant layer. Unlike solid wood, some laminate floors can be used in damp areas such as bathrooms and kitchens, as the synthetic materials used are less prone to warping and cracking.
As well as wood-effect laminate flooring, companies such as Karndean and Amtico also offer realistic stone-effect flooring. Easier to install, lighter and more comfortable underfoot than natural stone, these finishes are a boon to anyone looking for hard flooring without the hard surface.
Laminate Flooring Improvements
Earlier versions of laminate floors struggled in comparison to a floating timber floor. Manufacturing and printing techniques meant there was a limited choice of colours that looked artificial and chipped easily. Unlike solid timber floors, most laminate can’t simply be sanded and refinished once it is damaged.
In the last five to 10 years, laminate flooring has improved dramatically. Digital printing techniques mean there is a now vast choice of different styles, with realistically textured finishes, deep tones and great definition. Improved manufacturing techniques mean the layers of plywood or MDF are more robust, well adhered and stable than ever. Some engineered wood planks and wood veneer laminate floors can even be sanded and refinished, providing a great mid-point between solid wood and laminate floors.
Most laminate floors now come as a series of planks that click and lock in place. As few laminate floors now require adhesives or nails, it is a simple process and surprisingly quick.
A layer of underlay provides cushioning, extra insulation and a moisture barrier. Choose a laminate floor with a built-in underlay, or install it below. Laminate planks should be fitted to run parallel to the longest wall in the room, and as you cut the last plank in each row to size, you use the remainder of that plank to begin the next row.
As the photographic image on laminate repeats, check that the neighbouring boards don’t match before locking them into place. Leave a little room at the edges for expansion, and always cut from the top layer to the bottom.