What to look for in a laminate floor

Rugged good looks that will last

Laminate flooring is still a highly popular way to update a home, and the high quality of the latest ranges means laminates will continue to be an attractive option.

Hard-wearing and economical compared with other hard-floor options, today’s laminates now offer even better styling and performance.

What makes a laminate?

All the laminate floorings supplied by TC Matthews have been produced to the highest standards in an advanced manufacturing process. This creates a laminate with four layers in a watertight package.

The four layers:

  • At the bottom is the balancing layer. This keeps the board straight and stable, and resists moisture.
  • Next up is the core of the laminate – a high-density fibre (HDF) board made from wood fibres and resin. HDF is stronger and more stable than MDF (medium-density fibre) material. It can also be precisely milled to ensure that boards fit snugly together.
  • Above the core, the decorative layer is essentially a high-quality photo that gives the laminate floor its look. The high resolution of the image ensures a realistic reproduction of the desired finish, whether it’s wood, stone or tile. This layer also has a protective layer of resin.
  • A clear overlay sheet tops the laminate. This is wear-resistant as well as transparent. It seals and protects the surface of the floor from scratches and stains. It also prevents the decorative layer from fading by shielding it from ultraviolet rays. The finish of the overlay may be gloss or matt, depending on the desired look, and embossed to match the pattern underneath, giving the floor an even more realistic feel.

The pros and cons of laminates

As with every floor covering, there are factors to be weighed in your decision.

Laminates have a lot in their favour:

  • Durability is a big plus point. Laminates resist scratches, dents and staining, even cigarette burns. You shouldn’t have to worry about fading in sunlight either.
  • Easy to clean, they require little maintenance. Laminates are great for households with children and pets
  • Laminates are cheaper and easier to install than a hardwood or tiled floor. They can also be laid over an existing floor. Unlike vinyl, a laminate floor does not require a hardboard subfloor. And laminates are DIY-friendly.
  • The wide selection of laminates means there are options for most areas – from stairs and kitchens to living rooms and bedrooms. And it’s easier to match up to carpet, tiles and other floors thanks to the trims and mouldings available.
  • Laminates are also an environmentally responsible option. Reputable producers use wood fibre from sustainably managed sources. The laminate itself is chemically stable and won’t release VOC emissions or contain allergens.

However, you should also bear in mind the potential drawbacks of laminates, depending on your requirements.

  • Laminate floors can have a hollow sound or seem noisy when walked on. Choosing the right thickness and underlay should prevent this.
  • While modern laminates stand up well to wear, if there is damage from a heavy impact or scratch, they cannot be refinished like a hardwood floor. But an advantage shared with tiled floors is that the affected planks can be replaced, and they won’t stand out like a sore thumb.
  • High-moisture situations can lead to warping of laminates, especially if there is likely to be pooling on the floor. The latest products have improved moisture resistance, but ask for advice if you’re in doubt.
  • Laminates can be slippy underfoot but again, modern finishes and textured effects mean this is less of a problem.