How to Determine Laminate Flooring Costs
Laminate flooring has become an extremely popular floor covering alternative for many homeowners to the more expensive hardwood floors and stone/ceramic tiles. But saving money by buying a cheaper laminate floor may cost you more in the long run. This is especially true for the do-it-yourself consumers. The reason is not all laminate floors are the same in quality, appearance, durability or performance, even from the same manufacturer.
Direct-Pressure versus High-Pressure Laminate Floors
Laminate floors are constructed in 2 different methods called High Pressure Laminates (HPL) and Direct Pressure Laminates (DPL). The High Pressure Laminates involve a 2-step process that fuses and glues the components together. The Direct Pressure Laminates involve only a 1-step process where everything is fused together at once. Without getting too much in the details the High Pressure Laminates cost more to produce and generally have higher wear ratings. Many high-pressure laminates are suitable for both residential and commercial use. Where as, direct pressure laminates are generally not recommended for commercial use. See our Laminate Flooring Construction Review for an indepth overview of laminate flooring construction and how laminate floors are rated.
High End Laminate Floors
Higher end laminate floors will have better designs, richer colorations, superior finishes, a more realistic appearance, a better interlocking system and will be overall thicker than the cheap laminate floors. Many manufacturers make different styles to cover various price points from the low-end to the high-end. It is best to research and compare products both online and offline to make sure what you are buying is really going to work for your specific situation.
Low-end laminate floors will have less moisture protection in the tongue and groove edges and considerable seam swelling may occur with spills and high moisture. The high-end laminate floors will have considerably better moisture protection which will dramatically reduce the chance of seam swelling occurring.
Laminate floor durability
Laminate floors have a tough, melamine resin coating as the top layer. This makes these floors extremely durable, scratch-resistant and helps protect the design layer underneath. The higher end laminate floors will have a better finish layer and a longer wear warranty as well.
Thicker laminate planks will cost more, will be more rigid, and will have a more positive locking system. This makes the thicker laminate floors more durable overall than the thinner less expensive laminates. (Caution: No laminate floor will have any structural benefits. Installing a laminate floor over a weak subfloor will not help improve the structure's stability.)
See our Laminate Flooring Construction Review for laminate flooring AC ratings and NALFA Certification Seal.
Laminate floors are designed to be" floated" over the top of the subfloor or flooring undernaeth. This means the planks are locked together but never secured to the subfloor or the flooring underneath. The entire laminatefloor "floats" over the top of whatever is underneath. No nailing and gluing of the planks to the subfloor. It is not recommended to float laminate flooring over carpet, any other floating floor, or install areas with high moisture, such as a bathroom.
Subfloors must be level
If you are considering buying a laminate floor make a note of what flooring is there now and determine if the existing flooring is level in the room. An uneven subfloor will mean addtional labor costs in floor prep to make the subfloor level enough before the laminate flooring can be installed. For example, in an older home there might be uneveness in the subfloor with minor dips. Although the subfloor uneveness might not be very noticeable with your existing flooring, this can cause a lot of problems when trying to install a new laminate floor.
Note: Planks can be a extremely difficult to lock together if your subfloor is uneven. Pounding on a plank during installation to force tongues and grooves together may damage the plank's tongues or grooves and make it impossible to get a tightly fitting joint.
Where to use Laminate Flooring
Laminate floors are a good choice for active areas of the home and for people wanting to install the flooring themselves. Laminates are highly stain, fade and scratch resistant and may be a better choice than hardwood flooring if you have dogs. Because laminate floors use the floating installation mathod they can go over a variety of existing flooring which reduces the labor costs for removing the old existing flooring. For example, tearing up an existing vinyl floor can be very costly. Floating a laminate floor over the top of an old vinyl floor may save you a lot of money in labor costs. Just beware that not all laminate floors are equal in value or performance.
See also: our Laminate Flooring Review.