Laminate Flooring Buyer’s Guide

Sweat more in practice, bleed less in war.

 – Spartan Warrior Credo –

Installing laminate flooring in your home offers the look of real wood with easy installation, low cost, and better scratch and stain resistance.  However, the huge variety of brands and styles available is overwhelming, even for folks who have installed laminate before. There are several key specifications of your floor (beyond the color and pattern) that are important to consider.

How long will laminate last?

Most laminate flooring comes with a warranty between 10 and 25 years.  Take a look at the space in which you will be installing the floor. How much traffic does it get on a daily basis?  Do you like to change the décor with new flooring every few years? How long do you plan to live in the home?  All of these factors will determine how large of an investment you want to make in your flooring.  Here are some tips for choosing the correct laminate for your home.

AC Rating:

Laminate flooring comes in several grades using the “AC” or Abrasion Class Scale. Floors are rated based on a series of stress tests in staining, impact, heat, moisture, scratches, and scuffs.  If labeled as “unrated” the flooring failed some or all of these durability tests. These are not recommended for any situation.

ac-ratingAC 1: Residential, Moderate traffic: Suitable for bedrooms or guest rooms

AC 2:  Residential, General traffic: Suitable for living rooms and dining rooms

AC 3:  Residential, Heavy traffic: Suitable for all areas

AC 4:  Commercial, General traffic: Office, restaurant, boutique, café

AC 5:  Commercial, Heavy traffic: Public buildings, department stores

Our advice: Get no less than an AC3 rating. Lower grades will wear out quickly unless you only wear socks or slippers.

Thick or Thin?

Thin laminate is typically 8mm thick

Advantages:

  • Thin laminate usually fits into the space previously occupied by carpet and will tuck right under sheetrock.
  • Thin laminate is easier to cut.
  • Thin laminate requires less trimming of door jams and wall trim.
  • Thin laminate often transitions better to other flooring types (less height difference).

Thick laminate is typically 10mm (3/8″) to 12mm (7/16″) thick

Advantages:

  • Thick laminate can span gaps and low spots in the subfloor better than thin laminate, and as such are more forgiving of poor site prep.
  • Thick laminate absorbs sound, and as such can improve the acoustics of the room.
  • Thick laminate is less likely to crack under a heavy load or a dropped hammer, but has a similar dent resistance to thin laminate.

What about laminate with a foam backer?

A foam underlayment backer to laminate does not provide enough of a moisture barrier for most laminate flooring installations, and will require plastic sheeting to be spread before installation to prevent moisture absorption and swelling. Since you have to spread a moisture barrier anyway, it doesn’t save any time or money to have the foam backer on your laminate.  It can however add a comfortable cushion when walking on the floor and reduce noise.

How much should I buy?

Laminate flooring is usually sold in boxes containing a couple of dozen square feet of flooring. To decide how much to purchase, measure the area of the room or rooms you plan to install it in and add 10%. Similarly, get enough transition strip to cover all doorways and any seams between your new laminate and another type of flooring.  Here’s a handy guide to get the exact square-footage you’ll need:

Option 1: Use a free app like magicPlan available for androidicon or  iosicon

Option 2: Get out your measuring tape.  You can track measurements in Photo Measures on  androidicon or  iosicon

Then use our Material Calculator or fill in the blanks below:

  • Measure the longest wall of the room in inches. Write this number down as Length = ____
  • Measure the longest wall in the other direction in inches. Write this number down as Width = ____
  • Multiply Length x Width to give you the room’s Area in square inches. Write this down as Area = ____
  • Repeat for other rooms and add to find total area.  Room 1 Area + Room 2 Area = Total Area
  • Find total area in square feet (SqFt). Total Area ÷  144 = Total SqFt
  • Add 10% to cover those extra spaces. Total SqFt x 1.1 = Total You Should Purchase

You can take this total with you when you pick out your flooring.  If you are buying online:

  • Look at the online description of your laminate flooring to find the area each box will cover. This can vary from 10sqft to 30sqft
  • Find the number of boxes you need. SqFt in each box ÷ Total You Should Purchase (from above) = ____
  • Take that magic number and round up to the nearest whole number. (Example 5.5 → 6) You now have the number of boxes you need.

You will need underlayment and maybe plastic sheeting.  You can use the same Total You Should Purchase when buying these. In most rooms, you’ll need transition strips for doorways or areas where your laminate meets with another floor (carpet, tile, vinyl, etc.). Measure the lengths of these transition spots plus the widths of all doors (keep track of these somewhere such as Photo Measures.) Add all your measurements together and add 10% so you’ll know how much to buy.  Transition 1 + Transition 2 + Transition 3 = ____ x 1.1 = Total Transition Strip to Buy

 

You’re done! Go buy your floor!!

After You Purchase

If you’ve had your flooring delivered, make sure you received what you actually ordered.

Most manufacturers include instructions with their flooring materials. Read over these carefully to know if there are special instructions for their product. Sticking to manufacturer guidelines is also critical to not voiding the warranty.

Oh, and definitely save your receipts. You can even attach them to one of the labels from the end of a box.  Stores usually let you return unopened boxes.  So it’s better to buy too much than not have enough when you need it.

Finally, Let the Flooring Acclimate

In most cases, you’ll need to allow the flooring to acclimate to the temperature and humidity of your home. This will ensure your flooring doesn’t massively expand after you install it and create bumps in the floor.  Put all of the unopened boxes in the room where it will be installed.  Let it rest at room temperature for 48 hours.

Next make sure you have the proper tools with our Tool Guide.

Resources:

http://www.hoskinghardwood.com/Page/FAQ-Laminate.aspx

http://www.hoskinghardwood.com/Department/Laminate-Floors/Laminate-Floor-AC-Ratings.aspx?dId=9&pageId=67