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Reviewing and Evaluating Laminate Floors
Since the introduction of laminate flooring into the US in 1982, the sector has experienced growth of up to 20% per annum at the expense of other floor types, making laminate the fastest growing floor type in the country. The appeal lies not only in its aesthetic value of its representation of real hardwood, but also due to its incredible durability and ease of maintenance.
Pergo were the first company to introduce laminate flooring into the U.S, and held the majority share of the consumer market for many years. As the popularity of laminate flooring grew, new players began entering the market and quickly gaining market share. Today there are hundreds of brands available to the consumer, some good quality and some inferior. With all the latest advancements in laminate technology, it seems that a new style is being introduced almost every week, making it a daunting task for the consumer to determine which floor best suits their needs.
The following factors will help you evaluate different brands and styles of laminate flooring in order to determine which laminate floor best suites your application.
Laminate floors are constructed using two different methods of manufacture: Direct Pressure Laminate (DPL) and High Pressure Laminate (HPL). Direct pressure laminate is made up of three layers, while a High Pressure Laminate is made up of a minimum of five layers. Is one better than the other? Yes. HPL is a far superior product. The addition of Phenolic Treated Kraft Sheets make the HPL a far stronger, more dent resistant and stable product. The catch is that they come with a higher price tag. Do you need HPL in your home? No. Most laminate floors sold in the US are (DPL) and are built for today's active households. However if you are looking for a floor that will withstand the vigour of small children and large pets and still look good in 15 years time, then High Pressure Laminate is a good alternative.
Laminate cores range in thickness from 6mm to 12mm, with a thicker core usually denoting a more stable product. The only exception to this rule is High Pressure Laminate (HPL), which although has a much thinner core compared to (DPL), is stronger and more durable. Composition of core material is also an important factor. A good laminate floor is constructed using High density Fiberboard (HDF) as the core material, which has been treated with water repellent chemicals, offering stability and a high level of water resistance.
Joint integrity can be an important factor, especially when placing heavy items on your laminate floors. Laminate floors are engineered to withstand normal day to day wear and tear and are designed to withstand the weight of normal household furniture. If you wish to place an extra heavy item of furniture on you floors, such as a very large fish tank, you might want to consider purchasing a floor that has an aluminum locking system. Laminate floor joints should also be treated with water repellent chemicals, such as paraffin wax, which is impregnated into the tongue and groove of the floor boards.
A good laminate warranty should cover the following aspects: Fading, Denting, Wear and Tear, Staining and should have some kind of water warranty, although keep in mind that no laminate warranty covers flooding. Always be sure to scrutinize the duration of the different aspects of a laminate warranty, as a 25 year warranty might refer to manufacturers defects only, while the wear and tear aspect of the warranty only covers a 15 year period.
North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA): NALFA is the organization that sets the standards for laminate flooring in the USA. NALFA is a non profit organization, and its members are unpaid volunteers. Laminates submitted o NALFA undergo a range of stringent tests. If the laminate floor meets or exceeds NALFA standards, it will earn the right to display the NALFA seal of approval. Note that submission of laminate flooring to NALFA is voluntary. The following laminates carry the NALFA seal of approval: Pergo, Mannington, Wilsonart. A more complete list can be found at the NALFA website.
Laminate floors are available in a plethora of wood grains, stains and designs. Recent advances have included textured surfaces and beveled edges, giving the product the look, feel and appeal of real hardwood. Laminate floors are now available in widths ranging from 2 ¼" wide to as much as 12" wide, offering a wide range of interior design options. Laminate floors will complement almost any décor and can be placed in every room of the home.
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