Laminate

What is it?

With the quality of laminate flooring, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between real timber and laminate

With the quality of laminate flooring, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between real timber and laminate

In simple terms, Laminate flooring is a floating floor system made of a decorative paper applied to a board. And there you have it!

Obviously, it’s not quite that simple, but when you visually look at the construction of the material, it’s generally made up of a few elements:

  1. A protective coating sheet to give the board its strong wearing attributes.
  2. A decorative paper which gives the board its look and feel.
  3. A core board which gives the board its dense body. This is also where the locking mechanism is located.
  4. A backing board for stability.

Each element plays an important part in the workings of the overall board and we will run through each element in more detail.

Protective Coating

The protective coating provides the product its impact resistance, stain resistance, burn resistance and resistance to swelling. The Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring (EPLF) have adopted a standard rating system, which we refer to as ‘AC rating’. All laminates are put through testing to measure each element and given an overall AC rating. If a laminate fails one particular test, then it will not be given a rating.

The AC Rating definitions are:

AC1 Moderate Residential Suitable for Bedroom or guest rooms only with minimal traffic.
AC2 General Residential Floors are suitable only for moderate residential use such as a bedroom, or applications such as living and dining rooms.
AC3 Heavy Residential –
Moderate Commercial
Suitable for all residential applications plus light commercial such as hotel rooms or small offices.
AC4 General Commercial Suitable for all residential applications plus general commercial applications such as offices, boutiques and cafes.
AC5 Heavy Commercial Suitable for all residential applications plus heavy commercial applications such as public buildings, department stores, etc.

All Surfaces By Hynes laminate has a rating of AC3 or AC4 to ensure our floors are well suited for residential applications.

AC4 rated laminates are great for people with pets or investor properties for rental.

Decorative Paper (Digital Printing)

There is no doubt that laminate flooring has come a long way over its lifetime. With the advent of digital printing we are now able to get decors with a true to life timber look and feel.   It’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between genuine timber and great quality laminate.

Today, you can virtually take a photo of anything and get it made into laminate flooring. EIR (Embossed-In-Register) gives the paper its true to life texture, however every benefit has a cost, and the more true to life, the more cost involved.

Core Board

Core boards are an important element in the quality of the laminate floor. HDF (High Density Fibre) board is generally what is used, as it increases the impact resistance and reduces the risk of denting. The density of the core also affects the swell rate of the floor or the amount of moisture it will soak up if exposed to some type of liquid or moisture.  Some manufacturers use low density chipboard or MDF (Medium Density Fibre) board to reduce costs – stay away from these as they tend not to be specially treated for moisture resistance.

The thickness of the core board also plays a part in the stability of the overall board and the effectiveness of the locking systems. Laminates tend to come in 6mm to 12mm thickness. Surfaces By Hynes products are 8mm and 12mm thick.

Backing Board

Although unseen, the backing of a laminate floor is a very important feature. It is also referred to as the balancing layer as that is exactly what it does, balances the board. It also reduces any movement. It is very important that the balancing layer (bottom layer) is laminate, as this will give the product the most stability. Some products don’t have a balancing layer – this will cause an imbalance between the top layer, core and bottom layer, causing instability in the floor board resulting in possible bowing, twisting and cupping.

What to look for in a Laminate Floor

Overall thickness

Most laminate flooring ranges between 6mm and 12mm in thickness, considerably thinner than timber flooring. However, at this thickness your floor is more likely to be level with other floor coverings such as tiles and carpet.

Benefits of a thicker laminate floor

  • Thicker laminate floors feel more solid underfoot and give the illusion of a solid timber floor.
  • Given an equal density core between a 6mm and a 12mm floor, the 12mm floor will have a higher impact resistance (less susceptible to denting) than the thinner floor.
  • The ability to withstand heavier static loads.
  • Given the same locking mechanism, the thicker the core, the stronger the lock.

Rating

All laminate flooring should fall within the European Standards as set out by European Producers of Laminate. This rating measures all attributes of the floor, including impact resistance, stain resistance, wear resistance, resistance to cigarette burns and swell rate. The most commonly rated laminate flooring is AC3 (23/31) and you should ensure the floor you choose is rated at this level as a minimum.

Summary

Thickness: Given the same quality product with the same features, a thicker floorboard will feel better underfoot, achieve higher impact resistance, withstand larger static loads and provide a stronger locking system.

Rating: Minimum rating of AC3 (23/31) for heavy domestic and moderate commercial.

Locking System: A higher quality lock will ensure better long-term performance.

Construction: The core should be a minimum of HDF (high density fibre board) to ensure maximum impact resistance and minimal swelling when exposed to moisture. The backing or balancing layer should be laminate to ensure maximum stability.