Shopping for laminate flooring

The type of flooring that you put into your house is a very important consideration. From a visual point of view it is something that is very visible, so you don’t want to choose the wrong color. You also don’t want to choose something that is difficult to clean or maintain. Sometimes budget also plays a big role in your number of options. If you have all the above to consider, laminate flooring is the perfect solution!

What is laminate flooring?

Laminate floors have multiple synthetic layers which are fused together through a lamination process. Generally the interior layers are made of fiberboard and melamine resin, while the outer layer can simulate just about anything – stone, wood or even your own designs! The top layer is then covered with a resistant, clear protective layer.

Laminate flooring is sold in packages of plank-like strips that have grooves and tongues on the side, so that they can clip into each other. This ensures that they can be put down tightly together and neatly to look like solid flooring. Some laminate flooring boards have pads pre-attached to the back for faster installation and to provide better sound reduction.

The benefits of laminate flooring

Laminate flooring is an inexpensive alternative to wooden flooring, tiles or stone floors, though they can imitate the look of these floors quite beautifully! The process of laying these floors is also a quick and easy one, so it saves on labor and therefore cost. When it comes to maintenance and cleaning, they are really easy to clean and a good broom for sweeping or a damp mop will do the trick.

What to look out for when buying laminate flooring

As with any type of flooring or product, there are different grades of laminate flooring. A really cheap laminate floor will likely give you what you paid for: inferior quality. You will also be able to tell by how convincingly it simulates the wood or stone that it is supposed to imitate. The danger with bad quality laminate flooring is that there is a high risk of the boards becoming separated, creating unsightly gaps between them which will also trap dirt in between.

Where are you laying your laminate flooring?

Caring for your laminate flooring is uncomplicated. It is however important to keep it clean because dirt and other small objects on the floor can scratch it. If you are going to put laminate flooring down in high-traffic areas such as entrances into the home you might want to put rugs or carpets down and encourage family or visitors to wipe their feet before they enter your home.

You should also refrain from allowing water to sit on it, as it could cause it to swell or warp if you haven’t bought flooring with a water-resisting coating. Laminate flooring might therefore not be a good choice for areas that are bound to have water spillage like bathrooms, kitchens and laundries, or as a basement floor where humidity is generally a problem.

Laminate flooring is often made with formaldehyde. Air quality should thus be considered because of the release of volatile organic compounds. Some laminate floors have built-in chemical features that neutralize or reduce these emissions, so if this concerns you, feel free to ask your retailer about the laminate flooring that you are planning on buying.

Remember that you don’t have to use the same type of laminate flooring throughout your house! You can get creative and use different designs! If you do decide to go that route, make sure you have a clear picture in your head with regards to how the rooms will visually flow into each other so that they complement each other.

What is the condition of the foundation that your laminate flooring will go on to?

Remember that foundations are not completely level. You might therefore have to have your subfloor be leveled first. Even if you have had this done, you might still be able to hear a bit of a hollow sound in areas where small pockets of unevenness in your subfloor are present.

Remember too that basement floors are generally regarded as below grade and second floors as above grade, while first floors are seen as on grade. Laminate flooring is not regarded as suitable for below grade floors due to factors like moisture content in basements that could cause them to swell or get warped.

Ensuring you know the total cost of your flooring

It is important that you know all the costs of your flooring purchase and installation. Here are some things you might want to discuss with your retailer:

  • Do they charge for in-house estimates and how much?
  • Will the above charge fall away if you stick with the supplier or not?
  • Will the flooring you have opted for need additional trimmings to make it look finished off, and what will these cost?
  • What are the installation procedures and what will it cost? (Your existing floor might have to be removed and a subfloor added, for example.)
  • Will the company remove existing flooring (and add a subfloor if needed), and what will they charge for these jobs?
  • Will they move furniture and do they charge for it? If they charge, what will the cost be?
  • If there are unopened boxes of laminate flooring or other unused material left over after the installation, will the supplier buy these back from you?

Ensuring you understand your product and installation warranty

Read your warranties carefully. Some warranties become void if the product is not installed by a professional company and/or may specify particular cleaning products and methods for the warranty to remain valid. If you are having your flooring installed by the retailer, also ask about their installation warranty and make sure that you understand what it covers and that they offer after-sale support – at least for a while.