Introduction

The hottest growth area in hard surface is laminate. It’s for the consumer that wants the look of natural wood at a fraction of the cost. Laminates are like engineered wood from the standpoint of being constructed in layers. There are 4 basic layers to laminates. The first layer is the surface layer that’s made up of aluminum oxide and designed to protect the look of the product. The second layer is the design layer or the actual digital picture of the wood. The third layer is the core-board, which gives structural stability. The final layer is the balancing layer, designed to give additional stability after the floating installation.

Our laminate products range from 3″ and 5″ random lengths. They also come in 7 ½” and 54″ planks. All offer glueless installation for quick, clean, and easy installation.

We have products at all price points. The hottest look in laminate today is the distressed visual. Normally, the plank visuals in a natural long strip would cost between $6 to $8. We offer you this product at a fraction of the cost. There is also an additional backing made of dense rubber to reduce noise. This backing is called “Silent Choice” and gives the floor a natural wood sound. Rounding out this exceptional offering is a complete line of coordinating moldings, cleaners and underlayments this is designed to finish off the beauty of any room.

So why is laminate flooring so hot? Because it looks great, it’s incredibly versatile, and it’s affordable.

A laminate is a high-density, countertop-type product made for the floor. It’s 20 times more durable than most countertops, and it’s built with a tongue-and-groove system for easy installation.

Look and Style

Most laminate styles come with four or five different patterns on the planks, after which the pattern repeats itself. If it’s installed properly, this is enough variation to create a floor where you can’t tell that the patterns are being repeated.

One of the best things about laminate flooring is the broad range of wood and stone designs to choose from. Another great attribute of these floors is the fact that technology has enabled manufacturers to reproduce the classic look of natural wood to a degree where most people can’t tell the difference between a laminate floor and true wood flooring.

There are several different wood looks used in laminate flooring, such as maple, redwood, birch, beech, walnut, mahogany, cherry wood, alder, as well as several different shades and types of oak. Some manufacturers also offer realistic-looking, modular laminates with natural stone finishes, such as granite, marble, and slate. There are designs that mimic ceramic/porcelain tile as well.

Stone patterns are great for borders and give the floor a very high-end look. They’re also the same thickness as the wood laminates, which makes for easy installation. This is very hard to do with true wood and stone or ceramic tiles. They hardly ever match and have to be built up or cut down. With laminate, they fit perfectly.

Layers

Laminate flooring consists of high-pressure melamine laminate on the surface (the color/design layer), a fiberboard-based core, and a balanced backing. This combination of materials outperforms any single component on its own. Fabrication is similar to that of engineered wood floors.

The composition of the surface layer varies. The laminate wear layer consists of a melamine resin/aluminum oxide impregnated wear surface. The protective finish resists fading, burns, scratches, stains, and wear, and it is easy to clean.

The second layer is a decor paper layer, consisting of a digitally composed image, impregnated with melamine resin. The colors and designs are imprinted into this second layer under high pressure. This layer can also be embossed or textured to provide the true-to-life feel of wood, natural stone or ceramic.

The third layer is the core, made of particle board or fiberboard. Its composition gives the floor dimension and structural stability. That stability allows laminate to be installed as a floating floor (without gluing it to the underlayment). When manufacturers first produced laminate flooring, the cores were constructed of chipboard. Later, manufacturers used a medium density fiber (MDF) board based on furniture construction. In late 1995 and early 1996, the industry switched to a high-density fiber (HDF) board.

The fourth layer (the backing) is made of paper or laminated materials. Referred to as a balancing layer, it provides additional support and stability after installation. Further, it helps the floor adapt to changes in temperature and humidity. Many laminate products now have a “contra-laminate” back (fourth layer). A laminate layer (same as the top layer but without a pattern or image) is why it’s called a contra-laminate backing.

Manufacturing Process

The manufacturing process begins by laying down large sheets on a gluing table. Most sheets are 7 feet by 17 feet. The backer sheet is placed down first. Then, the core with glue on the back and top goes down. The next sheet varies by quality and manufacturer. Some lay a thin impact or cushion sheet on top of the core. The printed pattern and the surface sheet top them off. Thickness varies according to manufacturer. Once these are laid on, the laminate enters a press that subjects it to high heat and pressure, to fuse the layers together. After pressing, the sheets are stacked and must acclimate for a time that varies by manufacturer and processing methods. This time allows the sheet to cool and adjust to the humidity. Later, the sheet is sawn into four sections or quartered. Again, these sections are set aside to acclimate. The process from this point on is the same milling procedure used for engineered hardwood flooring. It is cut into “planks”, and the tongues and grooves are milled into each plank’s edges.

Laminate flooring can be produced two different ways: The one-step process called Direct Pressure laminate (PPL) or the two-step process called High Pressure Laminate (HPL). In the two-step process, a laminate of various core papers, decorative sheet and overlay are joined to form a 0.8 mm thick strong laminate. In the second step, the laminate is bonded onto the chipboard or HDF substrate. In the one-step process, chipboard or HDF substrates and decorative sheet plus overlay, are bonded in a single operation.