Laminate Flooring – Vancouver | Surrey | Langley | White Rock
Guide to choosing the right laminate floor:
What quality is required? Determine the quality you will require for the project you have – see AC Rating System below for a guideline.
AC-1: Lower quality laminate – use in low traffic residential areas only
AC-2: Intermediate quality – use in standard residential areas, medium traffic
AC-3: Standard quality – the most common grade, good for most residential and light-moderate commercial areas
AC-4: High Quality – great for high use residential and moderate to heavy use commercial areas
AC-5: Extreme Quality – not typically used in residential areas – great for heavy use commercial areas.
Can quality be seen from looking at a laminate floor? It is extremely difficult to determine quality from merely looking at a laminate which is why it is recommended that you purchase floors made or distributed by major companies such as Tarkett, Shnier, Shaw, Kraus, Goodfellow, etc. – they work hard to ensure proper design and quality control as well as backing their products with warranties and consumer support. Hint: If they are not willing to put their name on it – you may not want to put it in your home.
Difference in textures and finish. The finish of a laminate can aide in masking slight marks as well as being a lower maintenance floor all around. High gloss laminates are gaining popularity as they look very much like their exotic hardwood counterparts, but be mindful that these higher gloss finishes will tend to show scratching, marks and day to day wear and tear. We recommend upgrading to a higher quality when purchasing high gloss finished laminates. Matte finished floors or textured finish will tend to be lower maintenance and hide minor scratches and marks better than a high gloss. Some new introductions in laminate have very authentic finishes making it very difficult to tell if it’s real hardwood or not.
Locking Systems: The locking system is extremely important in laminate floors as this is the only mechanism holding your floor together. A poorly designed locking system can have weak spots that may break and fail during the life of the floor causing major problems. They can also be very difficult for the installer to put together taking double or triple the time to install – some installers will charge for this additional time which is reasonable in some cases. Poor lock design can also lead to boards not fitting together tightly leaving spaces between the laminate boards. Lastly, poor design may result in a noisy floor which is rapidly becoming a major issue in the flooring industry. While all floating floor installations will make some noise with the odd crack or creak, poor locking systems can lead to a very noisy floor with noise at virtually every step. It is important to note that poorly designed locks are not the only reason for noisy floors, improper surface preparation / leveling is also a major contributor. If you have access to a few sample boards, you can try putting a few boards together to see how easy it goes together as well as the tightness of fit, etc. (Be sure to test the end lock as well as this can be a big issue on how easy or difficult the floor will be to install).
Bevel Types: As for the bevel (if the laminate has a bevel) – there are 2 basic types, a painted bevel and a laminate wrapped bevel. Wrapping the laminate onto the bevel has proved to be difficult for manufacturers but is becoming more available with innovations from many leading manufacturers. The painted bevel is used to colour and help seal the raw mdf core exposed within the bevel. In most cases this is a non-issue but in areas of more frequent cleaning or heavier use, a wrapped bevel has some significant advantages.
Is thicker laminate better? – Not really but there are some direct and indirect benefits that a thicker laminate may provide. The bottom line? – thickness does not make up for poor quality or poor design. Well designed laminates (like Shaw brand for example – typically an 8mm product) can be very high quality, long-lasting floors. European laminate manufacturers, known for their high level of quality and innovation, typically do not exceed 10mm while some of the worst quality laminates available from sub-standard mills in China are 12 – 15mm. Once again it is important to buy from a respected manufacturer or distributor, the “thicker is better” pitch is often used merely as a sales gimmick much like the “heavier carpet pile weight = better carpet” pitch; rather than spending time with the client providing proper information on quality, warranty coverage, etc., it is simply just easier and quicker for the salesperson to use this misleading thickness argument. One flooring review online states thicker laminates are more moisture resistant and dent resistant, this is just plain wrong as it is not the thickness that makes a laminate more resistant to moisture or harder to indent (the exact opposite can be true) but the quality ie. denseness of the core along with any edge treatment that may have been applied (such as a wax sealer) is what can make the difference and these features can be found in every thickness of laminate.
So, are there any benefits of thicker laminate? – While a properly installed 8mm laminate over a properly prepared surface (leveled) – along with a quality underlayment can feel and sound quite solid – thicker laminates will tend to feel and sound even closer to real wood flooring. Be careful not to buy a thicker laminate hoping to avoid preparing (leveling) the sub-floor or to avoid using a higher quality underlayment. Insist on proper sub-floor preparation and decent quality underlayment regardless of the laminate thickness, a few dollars spent here can avoid some very common issues associated with uneven sub-floors. The other benefit of thicker laminate is it allows for a narrower plank and is easier to make with a beveled edge – this is not to say 8mm and 10mm can’t be beveled, if fact some of the best looking beveled laminates (with the most realistic finishes and textures IMO) are those of Shaw Industries which are mainly 8-10mm and have proven to be great floors for many years.
Warranty on material (the flooring): For some projects like low use or low budget situations; or maybe a quick fix for a home for sale situation, warranty may not be a major concern, but for those flooring projects where a warranty is a concern – it is important to remember that the product itself is typically covered solely by the manufacturer’s warranty and not the store you are purchasing the flooring from. Also important to remember is that the warranty is only as good as the manufacturer standing behind it… be careful of products directly imported from China or thru smaller distributors that often have little or no warranty support for their customers. Better retailers will sell only those floors from quality distributors or manufacturers they have confidence in . If lower quality laminates are available for those situations where warranty and quality isn’t a priority – a better retailer will fully disclose this to their customers allowing them to make informed decisions.
Guaranteed Installation? – It is important to differentiate the discount “cash-n-carry” type outlet from the full service flooring dealer. In most cases the discount flooring outlets do not install the products directly – this limits or eliminates completely the responsibility for installation portion of the flooring which is a crucial part in the overall end result of your new floor. This is sometimes hidden from the customer until the sale is written up – be sure to ask direct questions to the salesperson regarding who will be responsible for the installation and details of the guarantee if any. If you are planning to install the floor yourself, it is important to remember that you are responsible for checking the material for visual defects prior to installing the floor as: installation = acceptance. Ensuring all the instructions by the manufacturer are followed is also critical for a quality installation and warranty coverage. The best quality floors installed improperly can look terrible, under-perform and fail just as quickly as a low quality floors. Full Service flooring stores that provide installation directly (not farmed out to an independent installer or installation company) are also responsible for the installation directly and therefore have much more incentive to use quality products and fully qualified, professional installers. In the event there is an installation related issue, they will typically have a system in place to deal with that issue quickly and effectively for their clients to ensure customer satisfaction, future business and positive recommendations to others. Discount stores typically focus on price and increasing sales #’s (short-term) while full service stores tend to focus more on building long-term client relationships and customer satisfaction thru quality products and service.
Don’t forget the underlay! There are many options available for laminate underlayments (pad, foam, underlay, cushion) and no they are not all the same. From basic foam underlayment (around $0.10/sf.) to quality sound and vapour barrier type underlay ($0.35/sf – $1.00/sf and up) each foam will provide different benefits and meet specific requirements. For example, many strata condominiums will have restrictions on the type of underlay that can be used, typically they will require a sound barrier rating that needs to be achieved to help protect your neighbours from additional noise.
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