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What are the Different Types of Laminate Flooring?

Since the lamination process simply is the fusing together of two or more types of materials, and sealing them, the world of laminate flooring is full of choices. Wood, stone and tile are some of the most popular uses for lamination. Any type of grain and color of wood or layout of stone or tile can be captured, laminated and split into easily-assembled planks from which you can create a floor. The sky is the limit, sometimes making it difficult for consumers to settle on one choice.

Here’s one way to think about laminates—to divide them into different types and to try and settle on which type of laminate floor will work best for your project.

Installation Types

You can divide laminate into installation categories and you might want to select your laminate this way, ensuring you pick a floor with the kind of installation you prefer:

  • Glueless-Click. Over two-thirds of today’s laminates fall under this easy-to-install, glueless click-lock category.
    • Laminate Flooring with Underpad Attached

      Laminate Flooring with Underpad Attached

      Note: some laminate floors come with a pre-attached underpad, making installation even quicker and easier. Laminate floors without a pre-attached underpad often require that an underpad be laid down prior to installation of the laminate floor to provide a level of cushion and sound absorption. Additionally, if the laminate floor is being installed on or below grade, or in an area subject to moisture, a separate thin plastic underlayment will need to be laid down prior to installation of the laminate floor to provide a moisture barrier (aka vapor barrier). This needs to be done whether the laminate floor has a pre-attached underpad or not.

  • Glued Laminate. You’ll need to glue the joints together. While this makes for a very strong floor once installed, installation cost and time is higher than with a glueless-click.
  • Pre-Glued. Here, the joints have a glue already applied to them, but may need to be moistened to activate the glue before you join them together.

Surface Types

You might want to pick your floor simply based on what the surface will look like. As we’ve said before, laminates are always evolving. Where there once was one basic surface to choose from, now there are many.

  • Smooth. A plain finish just like a layer of varnish you’d associate with hardwood. Sometimes you can choose between high, medium and low gloss finishes.
  • Embossed and/or Textured. Some laminates come with a textured finish. Regular embossing isn’t an exact match up with the grooves of the printed grain but does fool the eye into seeing a surface grain.
  • Hand Scraped Laminate Floor

    Hand Scraped Laminate Floor

    Distressed/Hand scraped. Hand scraped laminate flooring is now available—a process that up until recently was reserved only for engineered or solid hardwood floors. This process adds an antiqued look to your laminate floor.

  • Embossed in Registration. This type of embossing matches the grain of the wood exactly for the most authentic embossed look.
  • Keep an eye out for new laminate innovations, they’re happening all the time.

AC Rating

For those who look for durability as a way to decide on a laminate product, the AC rating is an ideal guide. Use it to check your expected usage, or foot traffic, against what the floor was built to withstand. AC stands for Abrasion Class and an impartial 3rd party has set the standard for 5 different categories of use and durability.

Laminate Floor AC Ratings

Laminate Floor AC Ratings

AC1 Moderate Residential. Built to withstand only light residential use. Suitable for closets or bedrooms.

AC2 General Residential. Built for moderate foot traffic. Suitable in residential spaces that don’t see a tremendous amount of wear and tear like dining rooms or living rooms.

AC3 Heavy Residential/Moderate Commercial. Built for all kinds of residential use including high–traffic rooms and even commercial spaces that have light traffic like offices without off-street traffic and hotel rooms.

AC4 General Commercial. Built to withstand every kind of residential use as well as more heavily trafficked commercial spaces that have off-street traffic like offices, cafes, and boutiques.

AC5 Heavy Commercial. Built for the busiest commercial uses and high–traffic spaces like department stores and government buildings.

As a general rule of thumb, the higher the AC Rating, the higher the price.

(53) Comments

  1. I tend to install laminate floor in the kitchen, meals and living room areas. But I still worry about the emmisions, since I have read an article about laminate floor which said “The World Health Organization suggested cap for formaldehyde emissions rests at 0.042 ppm; formaldehyde emissions released by laminate flooring can exceed 0.1 ppm.”
    So how about your E1 standard laminate floor? Can it reach the standard of WHO? Thanks!

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  8. Is there something called “Engineered Laminate” flooring. The builder is saying that he will install engineered laminate This has the similar backing as on engineered Hard wood. The only difference being that the top surface instead of being hardwood layer is made of man made plastic. Is this believable or just a nice sales pitch. Honestly I have never heard of Engineered Laminate. Your input will be highly appreciated.

    • The builder may be referring to “laminate flooring” which is a replication of wood (or stone) patterning, and is installed in a similar way by the floating floor method. “Engineered laminate” is something of a misnomer.

      I hope this helps!

  9. I need to find a soft surface such as cork or vinyl with IIC of 55. I leave in a high-rise and those are the regulations. Please help me find info. I am so ready to get rid of carpet. Thanks, Any

  10. Our home is on 3 levels. The kitchen is on the second lower level. Since it is an open floorplan the tops of the upper cabinets are visible from the higher level. In addition, they receive a significant amount of direct sun. The previous owners installed an inexpensive, finished plywood on top of the upper cabinets in an effort to make them look finished. I was thinking of installing laminate flooring on top of the plywood. Would the laminate hold up to intense sumlight? I was thinking the laminate would look much nicer and be much easier to dust and clean. Am I right or is laminate not sutable for this application?
    Thanks
    Marcy

  11. Hi, What is the best type of wood flooring to use that will not get damaged be water? This will be where you walk in and out to the pool outside its also a party house(guys only) so you know it’s not going to get cleaned up or cleaned a lot.

  12. Lorraine Henderson - Reply

    I noticed this question has been asked but could not find the answer. We plan on installing laminate in my Sister’s Condo. She is in a wheelchair (not motorized) and travels throughout her condo. I was planning to put in AC3 – Will this work.

  13. I need about 425 square feet of laminate,would like revolutions plank 26402 Louisville hickory nutmeg,or something very close to this product,and the price per square feet.

    thank-you
    guy

  14. I would like to also know:
    1. What kind of laminate resists moisture from above? Someone mentioned waxed edges. I need to know more about that, please.
    2. I have pets–cats and dogs–who have paws with claws and love to run and romp in the house. Is there a laminate that resists scratches from claws.
    3. Someone mentioned vomit and urination possibly marring the surface of their laminate floor . Would an expert respond regarding those two issues.

    Thank you. We are trying to decide on the type of flooring to get…vinyl or laminate.

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