All About Laminate

Laminate flooring has become an increasingly popular flooring option for homes and businesses over the last few decades. Offering an attractive, durable, and affordable alternative to options like hardwood, tile, and carpet, laminate floors have a lot to offer. This article will explore all the ins and outs of laminate flooring to help you determine if it is the right choice for your space.

What Is Laminate Flooring?

Laminate flooring, sometimes called floating wood tile, is a synthetic flooring product made up of multiple layers fused together. The top layer is a clear melamine resin which protects the pattern layer underneath. The pattern layer is made to replicate materials like wood, stone, or tile. Below this is a core layer made of high-density fiberboard (HDF) which forms the base and stability of the plank. The bottom layer is a melamine backing which helps secure the plank.

Unlike solid wood or engineered wood floors, laminate contains no actual wood. It is designed to provide the look of real hardwood, stone, or tile at a more affordable price point. Laminate floors are sometimes referred to as “floating” floors because the planks connect together but do not get nailed or glued to the subfloor. This makes laminate a good option for do-it-yourself installation.

Advantages of Laminate Floors

There are many reasons laminate flooring has become such a popular choice for homeowners and businesses:


One of the biggest appeals of laminate flooring is its affordability compared to alternatives like hardwood. Good quality laminate can often be purchased for $1 – $5 per square foot installed. More premium options with thicker wear layers and more realistic visuals can cost $6 – $8 per square foot. Still, this puts even high-end laminate at about half the cost of most solid hardwood.

Easy Maintenance

Laminate floors are very low maintenance compared to hardwoods which need frequent refinishing. With laminate, you can simply use a dust mop, soft broom, or vacuum to remove dirt and debris as needed. Occasional damp mopping is ok but avoid excessive moisture. Unlike wood, laminate floors do not require sanding and refinishing over time. The protective top layer resists scratches and scuffs.


Quality laminate is exceptionally durable, especially newer options made with melamine resin on the top layer. Laminate holds up well to everyday wear and tear from foot traffic, pets, and kids. Most laminate carries warranties of 15-25 years. Some options with thick wear layers can even handle rolling office chairs. Just be sure to purchase laminate rated for commercial use for high-traffic areas.

Easy Installation

One major advantage of laminate flooring is that it is one of the easiest flooring types for DIY installation. The boards use tongue-and-groove systems to click together. No nails, glue, or special tools are required. You can often install laminate over existing floors like vinyl or concrete. The floating boards adapt well to uneven subfloors. Installation can sometimes be done in a single weekend.

Wide Variety of Looks

Today’s laminate floors come in styles replicating almost any flooring material you can imagine. Wood looks dominate the market with options ranging from light oak to darker exotic woods. Stone and tile visuals have extremely realistic faux textures and finishes. You can also find laminate mimicking materials like metal, leather, slate, marble, and more. Whatever flooring aesthetic you want, laminate likely offers a budget-friendly imitation.

Water Resistant Options

One downside of traditional laminate is that its fiberboard core can swell if exposed to excessive moisture. Newer laminate options feature cores treated to be water-resistant or even completely waterproof. This makes them great options for kitchens, baths, laundry rooms, and basements. Water-resistant laminate holds up well against spills, pet accidents, and daily damp mopping. Just don’t use excessive water.

Comfort Underfoot

Compared to hard surfaces like tile, laminate floors offer more comfort underfoot. The materials have some “give” which makes them softer to stand and walk on for long periods. Underlayment can enhance the cushy feel. Laminate is warmer than stone and lacks the echo effect you can get with hard flooring materials.

Environmentally Friendly

Most laminate today is made from sustainable, eco-friendly materials. The HDF cores use wood fibers recycled from the lumber industry. Options with formaldehyde-free cores are available for improved indoor air quality. Compared to wood floors, laminate doesn’t require harvesting slow-growth trees. The durable material and easy repair result in less waste over time. Laminate is often touted as one of the more “green” synthetic flooring options.

Easy to Repair

Minor damage to a laminate floor is relatively easy to repair. Planks with chips, cracks, or those separating at seams can be replaced individually without having to do a whole floor. Simply unclick the damaged plank and insert a replacement. With wood, more extensive sanding and refinishing is required. With the right tools, most laminate repairs can be completed in under an hour.

Disadvantages of Laminate Flooring

While laminate flooring has numerous benefits, there are a few potential disadvantages to consider before choosing it:

Not as Durable as Wood

Although durable for a synthetic material, laminate cannot compete with real hardwood’s longevity. While quality laminate may last 15-25 years with proper care, solid hardwood can last for generations. Laminate also cannot be refinished like wood. When the top layer gets extremely worn, scuffed or scratched, the whole plank needs replacement.

Not Moisture Proof

Unless you purchase water-resistant or waterproof options, traditional laminate flooring is susceptible to damage from excessive moisture. Core swelling can occur with flooding, leaks, pet accidents, or improper cleaning. Water-resistant options are more forgiving but still not indestructible when exposed to standing water.

Can’t be Refinished

Unlike solid or engineered hardwood, laminate flooring cannot be refinished. Sanding or screening will damage the pattern layer. At most, laminate flooring can be rejuvenated by replacing worn, damaged boards. Overall, laminate offers less restorative ability than real wood over time.

Limited Resale Value

In general, laminate flooring does not have the same resale value or appeal to buyers as hardwood. Although durable, laminate is still seen by many people as a lower-end flooring. Homeowners may find it more difficult to recoup their investment in laminate compared to wood or tile when selling their home.

Can Look Fake Up Close

The photography layer on laminate planks offers realistic visuals. However, up close laminate does not compare to the richness, texture, and nuances of real wood. Those desiring an authentic wood look and feel may find laminate floors appear fake and repetitive when examined closely. The repetition of the pattern layer can be noticeable.

Not Reflective of Home Value

Although durable and replicating luxury looks, the synthetic nature of laminate prevents it from adding tangible value to a home like authentic wood or stone. Appraisers and buyers looking for quality features likely won’t equate laminate with higher home values in the same way they would hardwood floors.

Can Dent or Scratch

Despite durable wear layers, gouges, dents and scratches can still happen to laminate floors under the right circumstances. Dropped objects, furniture legs, pet claws, heels, and debris tracked in from outdoors can damage laminate over time. Careful precautions must be taken to protect the floor’s appearance.

Noise Transference

Although laminate offers some sound absorption, noise from footsteps and furniture movement can transmit more than other surfaces. Underlayments can help dampen the noise. Homeowners in upstairs units or those desiring quieter rooms may find laminate transmits too much noise without sufficient underlayment.

Can Look Staged

The ultra-perfect looks of laminate planks placed in repeating patterns can sometimes feel staged or fake compared to the natural imperfections of authentic wood floors or stone. Those desiring a more aged, timeworn appearance may feel laminate looks too glossy and predictable. Varying grain patterns and tones help offset the staged look.

Types of Laminate Floors

When shopping for laminate flooring, you will come across different types defined by the construction of the plank. The three main types of laminate floors include:

High-Pressure Laminate (HPL)

The most common and affordable type is high-pressure laminate flooring. HPL planks consist of four layers fused under high heat and pressure:

  • Clear protective top layer
  • Decorative pattern layer
  • High-density fiberboard (HDF) core
  • Melamine backing layer

HPL laminate resists scratches, stains, and moisture damage. It holds up well to heavy residential and medium commercial traffic. Easy click-lock installation along with low cost makes HPL laminate ideal for DIYers and value-driven projects.

Direct-Pressure Laminate (DPL)

Direct-pressure laminate planks offer a more premium construction. The layers get pressed directly together without glue or liners. DPL often has a fifth layer, adding extra impact resistance, hardness, and protection to the floor.

Features of direct-pressure laminate include:

  • Thicker wear layer (up to 20 mil) for enhanced durability
  • Denser core material less prone to moisture damage
  • More realistic embossed textures in the decorative layer
  • Helps hide scratches, dents, and pet claws
  • Costs $1-3 more per square foot than HPL

Continuous-Pressure Laminate (CPL)

Continuous-pressure laminate provides the most premium construction and realistic wood look. The decorative pattern layer gets infused directly into the laminate overlay for seamless appearance at beveled edges.

Benefits of continuous-pressure laminate floors:

  • Thickest wear layers (up to 30 mil) for extreme durability
  • Looks just like real hardwood, even on beveled edges
  • Deeper embossing and handscraped textures
  • Hides scratches and dents exceptionally well
  • Costs range from $6-$12 per square foot

Always check the laminate series, wear layer thickness, warranty coverage, and installation requirements when choosing planks. Paying a little more for denser core materials and thicker wear layers ensures longer-lasting, better-performing laminate floors.

Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring

Laminate gets compared a lot to vinyl plank flooring. At a glance, the two look similar and serve as affordable wood alternatives. But there are some notable differences between laminate and vinyl worth comparing:


  • Laminate uses a photographic pattern layer while vinyl has the color and pattern go all the way through the material.
  • Laminate has an HDF core making it feel harder underfoot. Vinyl uses a softer PVC core.
  • Laminate cannot get wet without damage. Many vinyls have waterproof cores.


  • Both use click-together floating systems ideal for DIY installation. No glue or nails needed.
  • Laminate adapts better to uneven subfloors. Vinyl requires very smooth, flat subfloors.


  • Laminate offers better scratch and scuff resistance. Vinyl can show marks more easily.
  • Vinyl is better at cushioning impacts from dropped objects. Laminate chips or dents more readily.
  • Vinyl is naturally waterproof. Laminate needs sealants to repel moisture.


  • Entry-level laminate runs less than vinyl per square foot. High-end vinyl costs more than premium laminate.
  • Overall installed costs are comparable between the two flooring types.


  • Laminate looks more like real wood with pronounced grains and textures.
  • Vinyl offers unlimited colors and patterns beyond just wood looks.

Both laminate and vinyl make excellent alternatives to real wood at more budget-friendly price points. Choose laminate for the most realistic wood aesthetics on a budget. Opt for vinyl if you want waterproof durability or creative decorative options.

Should You Install Laminate Flooring?

Below are some key factors to weigh when deciding if laminate is the right flooring choice for your particular room or application:


If staying under budget is your top priority, laminate delivers attractive, realistic wood looks at the lowest cost point. Shop entry-level options for installation under $2 per square foot.


Laminate stands up exceptionally well to everyday wear and tear from pets, kids, and foot traffic. It’s great for active households wanting flooring that can handle abuse.

Moisture Resistance

Standard laminate and water-resistant options work great for kitchens, basements, and bathrooms. Choose waterproof vinyls or porcelain tile for wet rooms like showers.

DIY Installation

Easy “click-lock” systems make laminate one of the simplest floors to install yourself. Just clear the subfloor and start clicking planks together.

Resale Value

Laminate won’t add resale value like real wood. But it holds its own value better than carpeting and is attractive to buyers looking for budget-friendly durability.

Classic Wood Looks

Laminate replicates traditional hardwood visuals better than vinyl. Go laminate if you want floors most resembling oak, hickory, maple, and other classic wood species.

Underfoot Comfort

Underlayments enhance laminate’s slight cushioning effect. It feels softer and warmer than tile or stone. Great for standing long hours.

Kid and Pet Friendly

Laminate stands up well to rambunctious kids, pets, and all the activity of a busy household. It hides scratches better than hardwood.

Environmental Factors

Made from recycled wood fibers, laminate earns points for sustainability. It uses less trees than solid hardwood.

How to Choose Good Quality Laminate Flooring

Focus on these factors when shopping for laminate to ensure you select durable, attractive, long-lasting planks:

  • Wear Layer Thickness – Look for 12 mil or thicker wear layers, the thicker the better. This top layer protects against scratches, scuffs, and dents.
  • AC Rating – AC 1 is standard residential laminate. AC2 has light commercial durability and AC3 is heavy commercial grade.
  • Core Material – High-density fiberboard (HDF) cores resist moisture damage better than MDF. Look for density of 800 kg/m3 or more.
  • Attached Underlayment – Many laminates today have pre-attached underlayments for noise insulation and moisture barriers.
  • Edge Design – Look for micro-beveled edges that resist chipping if tapped or bumped. Avoid square edges.
  • Warranty Length – Top brands offer warranties of 15 years, 25 years, or lifetime limited. Longer warranties indicate expected product lifespan.
  • Abrasion Class – Class 1 is low durability while Class 4 offers the most scratch, scuff, and stain resistance. Look for Class 3 or 4.
  • ** locking System** – Brand-name systems like Valinge Prestige indicate high-quality construction for durability and easy DIY installation.

Always check the product specs and warranty details before purchasing. Reputable brands like Shaw, Mohawk, Pergo, and Mannington offer good laminate options across a range of budgets and styles.

How Much Does Laminate Flooring Cost?

Laminate offers one of the widest price ranges of any flooring type. Cost depends heavily on the quality tier, thickness, and features. Some typical price ranges include:

  • Basic & Entry-Level: $1.00 – $2.00 per square foot
  • Mid-Range: $2.50 – $3.50 per square foot
  • Premium: $4.00 – $6.00 per square foot
  • High-End: $6.00 – $8.00 per square foot

Additional Cost Factors:

  • Brand Name
  • Thickness
  • Attached Underlayment
  • Water Resistance
  • AC Rating
  • Texture and Grain
  • Accessories like trim, molding
  • Installation costs if not DIY

For reference, most solid hardwood costs $4 and up per square foot. By comparison, even premium laminate falls under hardwood pricing in many cases. This cost advantage makes laminate one of the most budget-friendly wood-look options.

Laminate Flooring Pros & Cons

| Pros | Cons |
| Affordable cost | Not as durable as real wood |
| Easy DIY installation | Not water “proof” without sealants |
| Wide range of styles | Can appear fake or repetitive up close |
| Resists scratches and scuffs| Limited ability to refinish |
| Feels warmer and softer than tile | Doesn’t add home value like wood |
| Low maintenance | More noise transfer than other surfaces |
| Repairs limited to replacing planks | Can scratch, dent, or get damaged over time |

Laminate vs. Hardwood: Key Differences

| Factor | Laminate | Hardwood |
| Construction | Multi-layer fused synthetic | Solid natural wood |
| Cost Per Sq. Ft. | $1 – $8 | $4 – $15 |
| Installation | Floating, glue-less | Nailed, glued, or floating |
| Durability | 15-25 years | 50+ years |
| Water resistance | Poor to good with sealants | Poor unless engineered |
| Repairs | Replace planks | Sand and refinish |
| Resale Value | Low to moderate | High |
| Overall Value | Good | Better |