I want to use laminated flooring in my flat. Can you tell me its advantages and disadvantages, and which would be the best brand? My home is two years old, so would it be advisable to go in for laminated flooring instead of vitrified tiles?
Warm wood: Laminate flooring is good for enclosed, dry spaces.
— Susan Ann Cherian
I would use vitrified tiles in wet (kitchen, bathroom, veranda, etc.) or high-traffic areas, and wooden flooring in enclosed rooms that need an extra touch of warmth.
Laminated wooden floor planks are actually particle boards with a printed surface finish (often laminates). Ensure that the base material is made of medium density and not low density fibre-board, and its thickness is equal to, or greater than, 6mm. Though international standards recommend grade AC-3 in laminated flooring for residential use, I prefer AC-4, especially for high-traffic areas such as entrance lobbies, staircase landings, etc. Also choose interlocking joints, bevelled edges, and matching skirting and edge strips.
Quick installation: A trained team of two can easily lay a 200 sq. ft floor in an 8-12-hour shift, from site preparation to skirting and edging, to finishing.
Affordability: The starting cost is Rs45-55 per sq. ft, though some of the big brands market similar specifications for as much as Rs250 per sq. ft.
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Flexibility: Laminated floor tiles have tongue-and-groove edges that lock together, letting them sit flat on the existing floor without adhesives. This makes it easy to dismantle and re-lay these at another location.
Low maintenance: Compared to natural wood flooring, which requires periodic surface finishing (polish, wax, melamine, etc.), laminates withstand scratches, stains, hot or cold vessels, even swabbing (just not too wet). They are child-friendly: You can easily wipe off colour pencil or crayon marks, but it is difficult to completely remove an entire bottle of poster paint or nail polish.
Variety: There are options imitating natural wood accurately, including grain pattern, colour, surface texture, even scratch marks for realism. Others could imitate a tile pattern or metal finish, or even a stone surface.
Water absorption: If accidentally flooded, the planks expand and deform quickly, their edges rising. Rooms that open on to a terrace, veranda or garden need a threshold. A stone or tile band is ideal. If flooding happens, try to sponge up as much water as possible, keep the room ventilated and wait to see if the planks settle.
Toxicity: A formaldehyde-containing adhesive makes them fire-resistant, but the fumes are probably harmful. Some brands now offer formaldehyde-free options.
Insect activity: Though these planks are marketed as termite-resistant, I wouldn’t risk placing them in termite-infested, dark or damp spaces.
Noise amplification: These floors amplify sound. To reduce noise, place a thin (1.5-2mm) layer of foam under them.
Colour variation: Planks of the same brand and design but different lots (depending on the date of manufacture) could have slight variations in colour. Replacement of damaged planks can be difficult. Finding skirting, edge protection strips, etc., to match is also tedious as most brands only produce these in a few popular shades, not matching the entire range.
Shaping issues: Laminated flooring can be cut to any shape but finding or creating a curved edge protection strip becomes tedious. As these strips also act as expansion barriers, they tend to disfigure the joint-free look in a large hall by appearing at regular intervals. This kind of flooring is also not recommended for steps.
Service: Finding a vendor willing to take on a small, inexpensive job of, say, repairing a broken edge strip or replacing a few planks can be difficult.
Pergo invented and promoted laminated flooring all over the world, and maintains a leading position. But the market is flooded with similar, yet cheaper, options. European brands are sturdier than East Asian ones.
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