A laminate floor looks like smooth hardwood planking. Laminate panels are laid perpendicular to one another to designate a transition into an adjacent room. Base trim conceals the expansion areas.


Laminate flooring was originally developed in Sweden during the early 1980s, making it one of the newest flooring materials available. Constructed of a sturdy core made of recycled materials, laminated with several layers of paper, topped by a design layer, and finished with a protective coating, it is valued for its durability, ease of installation, and ease of maintenance. Some early concerns arose regarding laminate flooring that chipped or delaminated and about the hollow sound produced when laminates were walked on. In response to those complaints, laminate flooring has improved significantly over the last 20 years. Today's laminate amazingly resists dents, burns, and stains. Pads have been developed to place beneath laminate flooring to absorb the sound of footsteps. Best of all, laminate flooring now can be used in any room, including kitchens and baths.

With these and other improvements, warranties have been extended from 10 years to 15, then to triple 15 (warranty against stains, wear, and water damage), then to 25 years, and now to lifetime. Some manufacturers have divided their lines into different grades to reflect warranty length.

Styling
Laminate styling also has improved greatly. At first, all laminated floors emulated wood flooring, simply because that was the material in demand at the time. Since it's the top design layer that features the image of your desired flooring, almost any type of material can be replicated. Now you can choose many variations of wood looks, from birch to maple to walnut, including patterns such as herringbone and checks, and blocked and plank floors. Imitation stone laminates mimic varying shades of marble, granite, limestone, and more.

Trim pieces
Laminate floor systems include all the accoutrements you'll need to finish your floor. Laminate wall bases and quarter rounds come in colors and finishes that complement the floor. There are also transition moldings for use where a laminate floor meets a different flooring material, such as carpet, tile, stone, or wood. Laminate threshold moldings are available to use in doorways, as are step moldings for staircases.

Care and cleaning
To protect a laminate floor, it's important that you place area rugs or mats at the entrances to your home and use felt protectors and rubber casters on furniture. Other than that, a laminate floor will require only sweeping or vacuuming and damp-mopping. For tough stains, such as ink, it’s safe to use nail polish remover or alcohol on laminate. There is no need for stripping or waxing a laminate floor.

Installation
Laminate flooring can be installed over almost any existing flooring, so long as it is smooth and well bonded. Unlike traditional wood floors, laminate floors are installed as "floating floors." Simply put, the floor is not physically attached to the subfloor. Adhesive attaches the laminate boards to one another only. There are also tongue-and-groove laminates that don't require adhesives. They just click into place. Expansion areas are left along the perimeter of the finished floor, allowing it to expand and contract as necessary with temperature and humidity changes. The expansion areas are concealed by the wall base trim.

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