Comparison of Flooring Materials #1 – Laminate Flooring

Photo credit: Armstrong Flooring


Nowadays one can choose from a full range of hardwood tiles, stones, laminate flooring, fitted carpets and other flooring materials. In fact, the number of options is so wide that it is difficult to find the best one.

That’s why in this series of short articles we compare different flooring materials – one in each part – and, at the end, give you tips to help you come up with the right decision.

Let’s start with…

Laminate flooring

Laminate flooring panels are made of MDF (medium density fiberboard) or HDF (high density fiberboard) boards covered with a photo layer (that can imitate e.g. wood) and a polymer finish, that protects the rest from scratches and moisture.

Undoubtedly, laminate floring is one of the most popular flooring materials for low priced homes. One can purchase 1 sq. ft. for under $1 and prices rarely go over $3.

Laminate panels can imitate different materials such as wood or stone, and they can have different textures and patterns. They are also easy in maintenance and are UV-resistant.

Abrasion classes

Panels are divided with regard to abrasion class. There are two ways in which it can be marked – from AC1 to AC5 or by using 2 digits.

The following are suitable for a house or apartment:

  • 31 / AC3 – suitable only for soft-soled footwear
  • 32 / AC4 – suitable for all types of rooms in the house
  • 33 / AC5 – the highest abrasion class – hard-bottomed shoes can be used to walk on such panels

Water resistance

Contrary to what manufacturers say, there are no laminate panels that would be entirely water-resistant so none will be suitable for the bathroom.

The underside of cheaper laminated panels is made of MDF, which swells and deforms after prolonged contact with moisture (which can get to the board on edges of the panel, where it joins with other panels). HDF based panels however don’t swell so much and often have extra protection on edges which makes them better at resisting water and so they can be used in kitchens.

Thickness & sound dampening

When it comes to thickness of laminated panels, the thicker it is, the harder it is and so the less it deforms and is better at hiding floor unevenness. For this reason, some people choose thick panels for installation in rooms with not very even floors.

Laminated panels are very poor at suppressing sounds, e.g. walking in hard-bottomed shoes or sounds of children’s toys. Therefore, it is very important to place a good soundproof underlay underneath them.

Underfloor radiant heating systems

Most laminated panels are not suitable for radiant heating systems.

Damage resistance and maintenance

Damage to the dark laminate panel is usually clearly visible due to the light underlay underneath the laminate.

Scratched panels can be repaired by applying a specially selected wax colour on the scratch. However, the effect may not be satisfactory.

In case there is a need to replace a laminated panel that was installed on a ‘click-lock’ basis, the floor needs to be dismantled from the wall all the way to the damaged panel.

Other things you need to know

Laminated panels attract dust, which can be of great importance for people who decide to use dark-coloured laminated panels.