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What is Laminate Flooring?

Home lounge with laminate flooring.

What is Laminate Flooring?

Laminate flooring is the best of both worlds. It has the look, feel, and durability of wood flooring, combined with the waterproof and low maintenance aspects of vinyl flooring. It’s also easy to install yourself. It snaps together with tongue and groove, unlike traditional wood flooring that requires professional installation.

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Basic Construction

Knowing how laminate flooring is made is the easiest way to understand what it is.

Wear Layer

This is usually a Melanie coating. It seals the wood and gives the design it’s durability. This is the main factor in determining the ac rating. The ac rating goes from 1-5.

  • AC 1: home use with very little foot traffic.
  • AC 2: Home use with medium foot traffic
  • AC 3: Home use in all foot traffic areas
  • AC 4: Home use in all foot traffic areas that meets some commercial standards
  • AC 5 can withstand heavy commercial foot traffic.

Decorative Layer

Installing laminate panels on the floor.

This is what gives the laminate its look. It can be a high-quality digital photo that is pressed and sealed into the core layer, or it may be directly printed on the core layer. Designs range from different types of wood to tile, to concrete.


This is the bulk of the piece. It is the part that bears the weight. It is often made of MDF (medium-density fiberboard) or HDF (high-density fiberboard). Fiberboard is made with wood chips and a substance to bind them together. They are then put under pressure to compress and bond them. Fiberboard is relatively inexpensive and very durable. The core may be infused with Melanie as well to improve water resistance.

Balancing Layer

This layer helps stabilize the flooring. It is combined with Melanie to create water resistance. This keeps the floor from buckling if exposed to moisture.

Underlayment Built-In (optional)

Underlayment is a type of foam padding. Some types come with a moisture barrier or other features like soundproofing. Underlayment provides a softer walking surface, helps balance subfloor imperfections, and provides insulation.

There are two underlayment methods. With the built-in method, the underlayment is attached to the laminate piece. This saves a step during installation and allows the manufacturer to choose the underlayment they feel is best. The other method is laying underlayment and then putting the laminate down on top of it. When choosing an underlayment, you should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Other Terms of Interest

Laminate flooring

Here are some other terms you will likely come across when choosing laminate flooring.


This is allowing your flooring to adjust to your environment before you install it. It will expand and contract based on temperature and moisture content. Giving it a few days inside the home before you install it allows it to settle, or acclimate.

Click Lock Installation

Instead of being held down by nails or glue, like traditional flooring options, the click-lock installation allows you to snap the pieces of flooring together. Each piece is created with grooves that allow it to interlock with the other pieces.

Edge Treatment

This adds to the look of the finished floor. Some are designed to fit together seamlessly (square edge), while others are designed to leave a small gap for a more pronounced effect between pieces (rolled bevel). Which is best is purely a matter of personal preference.

Floating Floor

This simply means that the floor isn’t permanently fixed to the subfloor. It is the type of flooring click-lock installation provides.

Consider Laminate Flooring

The hard flooring hierarchy used to be vinyl flooring, laminate, then hardwood as the pinnacle of quality. However, these days many people choose laminate over hardwood, even for high-end homes. The versatility, variety, and durability simply make it an unbeatable flooring option.

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