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Frequently Asked Questions about Laminate Floors

What are laminate floors and how are they made?

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Laminate flooring is a versatile, durable, attractive flooring product that can take on several different appearances like stone or tile but it’s known mostly for looking like hardwood. Although they look the same, there is actually no solid wood used in the construction of a laminate floor. Laminates are made up of several layers of material fused together under high pressure. Most laminate flooring consists of a moisture resistant layer under a layer of HDF (high density fiberboard) or MDF (medium density fiberboard). This is topped with a high-resolution photographic image of a natural wood floor. It is then finished with an extremely hard, clear coating made from special resin-coated cellulose to protect it from wear and tear. Laminate flooring is perfect for anyone wanting a durable floor for a fraction of the price and installation time of a hardwood floor, but with the attractiveness of real hardwood. Laminate is also environment-friendly as it uses less wood in its construction and makes more efficient use of the wood fiber that is used.

What is the difference between laminate flooring and hardwood flooring?

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Both laminate and hardwood flooring can be used to finish homes or provide flooring for offices and businesses. While some people still prefer hardwood, there are several advantages to choosing laminate. Solid hardwood (usually 3/4″ thick) must be installed only above grade to avoid warping and cupping. Laminates, however are more versatile giving you the look of wood above or below grade. Unlike hardwood, they can be installed over other flooring surfaces, meaning that you can install laminate over old kitchen linoleum or tile, provided the floor is clean, level and doesn’t have moisture problems.

How do laminate floor panels lock together?

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There are many types of edge joining systems used to connect laminate flooring panels together. Some laminate floor connections snap together by hand while others require a light tap with a mallet and a tapping block. Still others use a combination of a “snap” click edge and a “bang” or “tap” click at the end of the panels. While most of the various systems work well to secure your laminate floor, it is important to read your laminate flooring installation instructions carefully. Familiarize yourself with how your flooring locks together before starting your installation and practice on a few pieces.

Where can I install laminate flooring?

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Laminate flooring is an extremely versatile flooring product. It can be installed in virtually any room of your home, above or below ground, over wood or concrete. Keep in mind there are several locations that are not recommended. Because laminate flooring is a wood flooring product it is not recommended that laminates be installed in wet locations such as bathrooms, washrooms, saunas, enclosed porches or verandas, or anywhere that may require wet-mopping. Extended exposure to moisture of this type may cause the core of your laminate flooring to warp or swell. In some instances, with special installation procedures, it is possible to install laminate floors in bathrooms where water will not stand on the floor for any length of time. Other than that, laminate is very versatile: install it in living and dining rooms, kitchens, hallways, foyers, bedrooms, basements, stairs, offices, retail spaces and many other locations.

What are the advantages of laminate flooring over those of solid hardwood flooring?

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Price. Laminate flooring is typically half the cost of traditional hardwood flooring. Sometimes the savings are even greater, depending on the type of flooring in question. And with recent innovations in technology, laminates look more and more like real wood. Laminate is easier to install than solid hardwood and many people can install it themselves without any previous carpentry experience whereas solid hardwood requires a specific level of expertise. With a laminate you won’t need nails and/or glue, as is the case with newer laminate locking systems. Therefore installation happens fast, in way less time than solid hardwoods can be installed and your finished floor will be scratch- and fade-resistant, two areas where solid hardwood is known to be more vulnerable.

What do I need to know before I start installing my laminate floor?

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Think about this before you begin your installation:

  • Ensure that your subfloor is flat, dry, and smooth.
  • Always use underlayment under your laminate floor for soundproofing. Some laminates have underlayment built into the bottom layer, if not, find a good one.
  • Laminate flooring and underlayment/vapor barrier can be installed over concrete, wood flooring, vinyl tile, linoleum, tile, or virtually any other hard, flat surface.
  • Take extra care when installing laminate flooring over radiant heating. Ensure that you read both the laminate flooring and radiant heat system instructions carefully before beginning.
  • Read your laminate flooring manufacturer’s installation instructions carefully.
  • Allow your laminate flooring to acclimatize to the room where it will be installed for as long as possible (at least 48 hours) by opening the boxes and letting the laminate stay, uninstalled, in the room.
  • Inspect each laminate flooring panel carefully for defects or damage before installing it.

What do I have to do before installation?

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You must acclimate your laminate boards for 48 hours in the room where they will be installed, before you install them. That means open the boxes and let the laminate boards adjust to their surroundings. Installation should take place at room temperature of at least 65°F (15°C). A floor surface temperature of 59°F and an overall room temperature of 64°F must be ensured before, during and three days after the installation.

Do I have to keep staggering the planks in my laminate flooring installation?

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The first row should be started with a full plank, the second row with a 2/3 plank and the third row with a 1/3 plank. The distance between joints from one row to the next for the remainder of the installation must be 8″ or greater.

How do I determine the direction in which to install my laminate flooring?

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To decide where to begin the layout of your floor, consider incoming light. It is usually best to install laminate flooring with the planks running parallel to light coming in windows or glass doors. For any installation, the starting wall should be as long and straight as possible.

Will there be any cutting waste?

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In an average installation, approximately 7% to 10% of the total area to be covered will be wasted for several reasons, typically cuts, planks damaged during installation, or errors.

What is the reason for the necessary 10mm gap left around the perimeter of the interior and around other obstacles within it?

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Since the laminate core is derived from wood, it is subject to expansion caused by room temperatures and humidity levels. An expansion gap is a necessary part of any successful installation because it allows space for the expansion of the floor as it responds to these external influences of temperature and humidity. When it is exposed to warmer temperatures, or to increased humidity, laminate flooring planks expand outward. Leaving out the essential element of an outside gap can cause the buckling of the individual laminate flooring planks as the planks push outward against walls or other obstacles.

I didn’t get my first row straight. Can I continue?

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Do not continue. Getting the first row absolutely straight is the foundation – perhaps the most critical part- to a successful installation. If your first rows are not properly aligned, or the joints are not tightly sealed, the entire installation will be compromised. (The error will magnify as you continue installing.) Along both sides and ends, all planks must be parallel to each other or there will be wedge-shaped gaps between planks. If residue is caught in the grooves, poor alignment can also result. Remember to make sure all grooves are clean before installation.

How do I choose the right moldings?

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Here is a brief guide to moldings and their best uses for a laminate flooring project:

Molding Usage Image
Base shoe molding Used to cover the expansion space left at walls and other verical surface. lc_base-shoe-molding
End molding Used at exterior dorway to finish the space where the laminate flooring ends. lc_endMolding
Reducer molding Used to join laminate flooring to other flooring materials of varying height. lc_ReducerMolding
T molding For use in doorways or thresholds to join two areas of floor on the same height level. lc_TMolding
Stair Nose molding For use in finishing the exposed outer edges of stain and landings. lc_StairNoseMolding
Quarter round molding Used in the same way as a base shoe molding, behind cabinets where a low profile molding is better suited to support an object flush against the wall. lc_QuarterMolding

How should I install moldings?

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You can glue or nail moldings to the wall only, never to the floor.

What is a floating floor?

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A floating floor is a floor built with all its parts attached to each other but with none of these component parts fixed to the supporting floor. Virtually all laminate floors install as floating floors.

What is HDF and what is it made of?

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High density fiberboard, HDF, is basically a high-density, moisture-resistant fiber panel. It is made of wood residues (sawdust, shavings and wood chips) from wood processing factories. This ligneous material is ground into a pulp to which a melamine-urea-formaldehyde resin is added. This pulp is then dried and pressed into panels.

How is the paper applied to the HDF core?

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The melamine impregnated paper is thermo-fused to the core, topped with an aluminum-oxide wear layer.

Why is a moisture barrier used on concrete?

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Concrete floors below ground are capable of storing a vast amount of water. It is crucial to avoid all direct contact between the laminate flooring and the concrete floor because the soil beneath the concrete can transmit humidity into the floor. Installing a moisture barrier over all concrete surfaces is mandatory for a successful installation and for the ongoing life of your laminate floor.

How can I get the shine of my floor to increase?

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The shine can not be modified as it is a manufactured characteristic. Therefore, you must never wax or polish a laminate floor.

Can laminate flooring be installed on steps?

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Yes, laminate flooring can be installed on steps but with this exceptional installation, the planks should be glued down with regular wood glue. The moldings and transitions need to be nailed down. You must also ensure this meets your local building code.

Can laminate flooring be installed in my screened in porch or patio?

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No, laminate flooring must be installed in a climate-controlled area.

Can we install laminate over carpet?

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No, all carpet and padding should be removed completely prior to installation.

How often do the wood grain patterns repeat on your flooring?

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The patterns repeat every 20 planks.

How do I clean my laminate flooring?

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Laminate flooring is a beautiful, low maintenance, long-lasting flooring. There are several simple steps that you can take to keep your laminate flooring clean and to ensure that you get many years of service from it. Simply dust mop or vacuum with a soft brush or wood floor accessory to keep your laminate floor clean from dust, dirt or grit.

  • A damp cloth or mop can be used without damage to the laminate flooring panels, but do not use excessive water. Dry the floor thoroughly with a clean, soft cloth.
  • Blot up spills or water from wet feet or footwear immediately with a clean, dry cloth, sponge, or paper towel. Do not allow excess liquid to remain on the surface of your laminate floor.
  • Do not use soap-based detergents, abrasive cleaners, or combined “clean and shine” products on your laminate floor.
  • Do not use steel wool or other scouring pads that may scratch laminate panels.
  • Do not wax or polish your laminate flooring.
  • Do not steam clean or use chemicals that may damage the laminate flooring surface.

For stubborn spots or stains on laminate flooring use acetone or nail polish remover on stubborn substances such as tar, asphalt, paint, or oil. Then wipe clean with a damp cloth.

How do I care for and maintain my laminate floors?

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While laminate floors are highly resistant to stains and abrasions, they are not indestructible. In order to maximize the durability and beauty of your laminate flooring, we recommend the following practices as part of your floor’s normal care and maintenance.

  • Place a doormat outside the exterior entrances to collect excess moisture, sand, grit and other potentially damaging substances from being tracked onto your laminate floor.
  • Use only colorfast and non-scratch carpeting or pads on your laminate surface.
  • Avoid sharp or pointed objects with concentrated weight such as high heels on your laminate flooring.
  • Use protective felt pads under furniture legs or wide castors under appliance levelers.
  • Do not slide furniture or appliances across your laminate floor. If using a wheeled dolly to move furniture or appliances, place a clean sheet of smooth plywood or other protective layer over your laminate surface.
  • Rearrange furniture occasionally for increased indentation resistance.
  • Do not treat or seal your laminate floor panels after they are installed.
  • Never sand, lacquer, or refinish your laminate flooring surfaces.

How do I repair minor scratches?

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Minor scratches or nicks can be repaired with laminate floor repair paste. This can be purchased in most retail flooring stores.

What is the difference between a brown core and a green core in laminate flooring?

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The cores are the same. The green product is a result of a coloring agent added to the adhesive in the manufacturing of the High Density Fiberboard (HDF) core in response to general market preference.

How do I replace one plank of my flooring due to damage?

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If the plank that needs replacing is close to the edge of the room, simply disassemble the floor to the position of the plank to be replaced and then reinstall the plank(s). There is a more complicated procedure if you need to replace a single hard-to-get-to plank. It’s best to call the company you bought the flooring from and ask to speak to a product specialist for specific instructions.

What is a laminate flooring AC rating?

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AC hardness ratings are a standardized measure adopted by The Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring (ELPF). The AC measure rates abrasion resistance, impact resistance, resistance to staining and cigarette burns, and thickness swelling along edges. If a laminate floor cannot meet the requirements for each of these ratings, approval for a given AC rating will be denied. AC ratings 4 and 5 are equally suitable for residential use as AC3 but somewhat more suitable for high traffic commercial applications. AC ratings below 3 are recommended for low traffic residential use only. Here is a more detailed guide:

  • AC1 is suitable for lighter, more infrequent traffic, e.g. a bedroom.
  • AC2 is suitable for general residential use in living rooms and dining rooms.
  • AC3 can be applied to more varied locations, such as high traffic rooms, small offices and other light commercial locations.
  • AC4 can be installed in higher traffic commercial areas such as boutiques, busier offices, and restaurants.
  • AC5 is more durable still and can withstand the traffic of heavier commercial areas such as department stores and public buildings.
lc_ACRatings

(88) Comments

  1. We have an arched ceiling on our porch and need some kind of material to cover it. We currently have painted plywood with visible seams. We appreciate any ideas or suggestions. What is your opinion on laminate flooring?

  2. I am hoping to install laminate in my converted attic bedroom that presently has carpet. The space is not heated and can get chilly in the New England winters. Summers it will be warm. I have not taken temperatures to check the range of degrees. I do have laminate in an enclosed 3 season room which is closed off in the winter. There seems to be no change on that floor.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Sandy. Thanks so much for reaching out to us! If it’s installed properly, it should be okay. With that being said, we always recommend taking temperatures to see the range, as well as checking with your installer as they are familiar with the actual space and climate. You could also look into using vinyl, as it will be more stable and can hold up to varying temperatures better. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  3. Hello,

    I have a question that I can’t find an answer to anywhere. We are laying laminate flooring in the upper level of our 1 1/2 story 1950s house. The room runs the length of the house but it has been separated into two rooms where two closets were installed creating sort of hour glass shape (where the room narrows to a doorway and opens up into the back room. The entire length is less than 40′ and we were hoping to not have to use a transition piece but just lay the flooring through the doorway and into the other room seamlessly. However, we are going to be doing it in stages. We’re in the process of doing the back room now but won’t be able to do the outer room until later. Is there a good way to lay the flooring through the doorway and leave it unfinished on the other side until we can complete it in the other room? We’re laying the boards in a staggered pattern per the instructions but I’m not sure that having a staggered edge through the doorway will allow us to pick up where we left off when we go to finish the other room. Does that make sense? Any advice would be so appreciated!

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Andrea,

      Thank you for your inquiry! Unfortunately you won’t be able to leave the floor partly unfinished without using a transition piece. Laminate will expand and contract over time and if you try to finish the floor at a later date it may not all fit together again. If you add the transition piece in one of the closet doorways they usually aren’t too noticeable. That would be the only way to stop in the middle of installation and finish later. Please let us know if you need anything else!

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Wanda,

      Thank you for getting in touch!

      For information on CARB ratings please visit this third party website (http://www.arb.ca.gov/html/fact_sheets/composite_wood_flooring_faq.pdf).

      BuildDirect has a number of safeguards in place to ensure the safety and quality of its flooring products. For example, we conduct a comprehensive onboarding process for suppliers, regardless of country of origin (including China). All laminate flooring available on the BuildDirect site is held to CARB 2 standards, which are the strictest emissions standards in the world, regardless of where the product is sold across the country. As a leader in the industry, we strive to provide our customers with as much information about our products as possible. Please let us know if there is anything else we can help out with!

  4. Hi – Having problems with laminate flooring that was installed in 2007-8 separating at the ends, causing gaps. It’s a “floating floor” put over a thin foam padding. Most are small gaps. Two are 1/4″ or more. Was able to close one big gap using the glass/tile double suction cup device. That plank was a long one – 4 ft long – and it moved pretty easily. However, the other gap, also on a 4 ft long plank, won’t budge. My husband and I tried using 2 suction cup things at the same time – one was the double cup, the other was a single cup. We placed each one close to each end of the plank and coordinated our hits, hoping that double-teaming it would make it move. No dice. Won’t budge at all. Now we have a huge 1/4 inch gap in a very noticeable area that can’t just be hidden with a rug.

    At the end, there’s a 6 ft long laminate cap that covers the ends and bridges the span between 2 rooms. From that cap there’s a 14 inch plank, then the 4 ft plank with the gap problem. The gap is at the other end of the 4 ft plank, not the end close to the 14 inch plank. On the side, the 4 ft plank is 2 planks away from a door and it’s threshold into the basement. Those 2 planks go under the door jambs, but the 4 ft plank does not.

    Is there another way to try to move that long plank to close the gap? I’m afraid to remove the planks from under the door jambs to get to the 4 ft one, figuring they would be real problems, and then I’d be stuck with having 2-3 missing planks. Even if I take that 6 ft cap off and remove the 14 inch plank that butts up to the 4 ft plank (assuming it will slide out easily using the suction cups) I still don’t know how we would get that 4 ft long plank out since it seems to be stuck somehow.

    Would really prefer NOT to cut anything out – we;d have to hire a pro for that. And seeing that it’s on a foam base, I don’t see/think gluing it back in place would work, and if other gaps occurred around it, it would make it difficult to close those.

    Are there any suggestions? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks very much.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Adrianne,

      Sorry to hear about your laminate flooring! It sounds like you are having humidity issues in the area causing the laminate to shrink. I would suggest testing the humidity in the area to check whether it is in the 35%-50% range. I would also highly suggest getting an experienced installer out there to take a look at the area. It is very hard for me to recommend how to fix the issue because I cannot see it in person. The best option would be to get someone experienced to take a look and let you know what the best course of action would be the fix the problem. Sorry we couldn’t be of more help!

  5. My laminate floor is light color and looks very old and dull. I have tried the laminate floor cleaner but it still looks dull. Is there a finish I can apply to make it look newer and shine again. I have heard of Bona floor polish what are your thoughts on it. Thanks

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Ruth,

      Thank you for getting in touch! Unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend using another type of polish on top of laminate. Laminate is already finished with a wear layer and adding any other type of polish on top will just leave a film that will catch dust and dirt. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  6. This might be a new one for you.
    I’m a truck body builder, whipping up a mobile coffee shop. Question is, can I paint the laminate underside and joints to help keep the moisture out of the hdf. I know how thirsty all the fb is but I was thinking masking the laminate and running some two pack paint on it, i know it will drink it up just thinking that will potect it more from the high mosture inviroment where it will opperate. But worried it might react with the glue that holds the laminate to the hdf
    Any thoughts?
    Ta
    Darren
    DJS automotive

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Darren,

      Thank you for getting in touch! Unfortunately that would not be the best idea because the laminate would still get damaged in the wet environment. I highly suggest taking a look at some luxury vinyl plank options. They are becoming more and more popular and are much more durable than laminate. They are also water-resistant so vinyl would be a great option for your situation! I have included the link below to the luxury vinyl plank options we have:

      https://www.builddirect.com/Luxury-Vinyl-Tile-Results.aspx

      Please let us know if you have any questions or would like to see some samples!

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Mahi,

      Thank you for getting in touch! I highly recommend taking up the carpet rather than laying anything on top of it. Carpet is too soft to be stable enough for any type of flooring to lay on top. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Rudolph,

      Thank you for getting in touch! Would you be able to give me a bit more information as to what you are referring to? I can definitely help out with any questions once I have a better idea of what you mean. Thank you!

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