If you’re looking for an affordable, durable and highly versatile floor covering, there’s a lot to be said for laminate. It can work in any room in the home, and it’s very easy to maintain and clean. Not only that, it delivers all of the aesthetic charm of real wood without the hefty price-tag.
There is more choice out there than ever before. Whether you want a real wood effect in the living room or a tile effect in the kitchen, laminate can deliver. And to help you make the best decision for your home, here’s a comprehensive guide to all of the latest options.
Why choose laminate flooring?
One of the main reasons for choosing laminate is the fact that people can achieve a real wood aesthetic relatively cheaply. But that’s not all. Laminate itself is waterproof, heat proof and relatively scratch-resistant. It’s very easy to clean, and it can withstand lots of traffic. This is why it’s incredibly popular with families.
Another big advantage is the ease of installation. Most modern laminate planks are fitted with a simple tongue-in-groove system. No special floor preparations or adhesives are required. And the cutting process is relatively straightforward.
While significant spillages can result in moisture finding its way into the seam between planks, most liquids can be wiped up with nothing more than a cloth. If you’re looking for a simple, cheap and highly durable floor covering, laminate is a great choice.
How to choose the best laminate flooring for a room
There are more options on the market than ever before. Whether you’re working in a bathroom or a hallway, there’s a laminate out there that’s perfect for the look and feel of the space.
How to choose laminate for a bathroom
As long as you’re not drenching your floors with water, a lot of laminate flooring is well suited for use in bathrooms. Just make sure you check that the manufacturer recommends the product for use in wet rooms. And choose something that’s slip resistant. Look out for tile-effect laminates, which look great in household bathrooms.
How to choose laminate for a kitchen
Laminate in heat-resistant, water-resistant and very strong. These qualities make it perfect for busy family kitchens. Add a stunning wood-effect floor to a minimally decorated kitchen to liven up the space. A dark wood effect, such as walnut, is ideal for a light, bright kitchen.
How to choose laminate for bedrooms and living spaces
The sheer range of effects and finishes available today makes laminate a great flooring option for living spaces and bedrooms. There are now various shades of oak and beech on the market, as well as darker wood shades such as teak and mahogany.
What is laminate?
Laminate flooring is usually sold in planks, and was initially introduced as a more affordable alternative to real wood. The average laminate is made with various under-layers, that are bound together under heat and pressure.
The under-layers are made with various materials, which can differ depending on the manufacturer’s preferences. In many cases, the under-layers feature a combination of fibre board materials and melamine resins. A relatively thin, photographic layer is added to the top in order to deliver the required aesthetic. This is sealed and made water-resistant with the addition of a clear, protective layer.
How is laminate installed?
Laminate is very easy to install, which is why so many householders now do it themselves. A sheet of underlay is laid on the floor, and the laminate simply rests on top. Each individual plank is “clicked” into the adjacent one, and the process continues until laminate planks must be cut to fit snugly against walls or skirting boards.
Most professional fitters will leave a small gap between the edge of a laminate floor and the walls. This is done to allow for the expansion of the floor — caused by changes in temperature and humidity. The gaps are covered with beading, which also adds a neat finish against the walls. The tricky process of fitting laminate in doorways and around objects is approached in different ways. Many professional fitters, for example, use a jamb saw. However, most amatuer DIY enthusiasts use standard saws and laminate room dividers.
The different types of laminate flooring
There was a time when laminate flooring was all made to look like real wood. Now, however, you can choose from a range of different effects.
Oak and walnut are by far the most popular laminates on the market today. For a timeless, natural look, oak is perfect — and it comes in several shades. Not only does it work in traditionally decorated spaces, it adds an interesting aesthetic to contemporary rooms as well. All the grains and knots you’d expect to see in real wood are perfectly recreated, delivering a natural look at an affordable price.
Slate floors are notoriously expensive. And while they’re water-resistant and very strong, they can be prone to cracks and general wear and tear. But, perhaps most pertinently, real slate floors can be prohibitively expensive. Exactly the same effect can be achieved with laminate, but at a fraction of the price.
A real stone floor delivers a luxurious and timeless look to any space. Whether you want granite or marble, however, the cost of installation is enormous. Not only that, some stone floors require continual re-sealing and preventative maintenance. Choosing stone-effect laminate delivers all the same aesthetic charm, but cheaply and without the need for ongoing maintenance.
Hickory is a rich and earthy take on real wood. It delivers a smoked effect that changes the whole dynamic of wood. It’s available in a huge range of colours (from reds to greens), and it is perfect for adding a flash of colour to hallways and living spaces.
The different laminate floor finishes
Increasingly advanced manufacturing techniques have created some very different finishes — and they all add to the aesthetic delivered by quality laminate.
Inferior laminate is smooth and unblemished — unnaturally so. Let’s face it, every wood, stone and tile has its own look and feel, which is why manufacturers emboss the top of their laminate. This is done to recreate the real aesthetic, and give a floor added texture. The upper layer is pressed down to achieve this look.
The problem with some laminate flooring is that the embossed upper layer doesn’t represent what’s going on with the pattern and grain. Registered embossed laminate fixes this issue. Each groove and indentation coincides with the pattern, which enhances the overall realism.
To take the level of realism to the next level, some manufacturers hand-scrape the upper layer of their laminate in order to make it look exactly like the real thing. If you want a rustic look in a room, hand-scraped embossed laminate is definitely the way to go. Yes, it’s more expensive than other options, but still cheaper and easier to maintain than the real thing.
Maintaining and cleaning laminate
When it comes to choosing the perfect laminate for your home, the choice is staggering. But don’t forget about cleaning and maintenance. Yes, laminate is easy to clean, but it’s important not to drench it. If only a little moisture seeps into the seams between planks, the entire floor could be at risk.
In most cases, small spillages and messes can be wiped up with nothing more than a damp cloth. For deeper cleans, an almost dry mop is usually the way to go. You won’t need any special cleaning agents or waxes.
You can even use one of the latest steam mops, which use a minimal amount of water to cut through dirt and grease — and kill bacteria. Just make sure you have the best vacuum cleaner for laminate, as tiny stones and grit can scratch the surface when they’re trodden on.
Make sure you see each of the laminate options on a floor in a showroom before you commit. Get this important decision right, and you’re assured of a floor that will deliver many years of faithful (and stylish) service.