Laminate Flooring

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Laminate flooring is becoming more and more popular today in North America and all over the world, although it started as a European innovation.   For households and offices which require a low maintenance flooring solution, laminate flooring has been known to be an effective choice for its attractiveness, durability, ease of installation, as well as for its reasonable price when compared to many other flooring options.   However, despite the fact that laminate flooring is popular, there are a great many misconceptions and mysteries surrounding it in terms of how laminate flooring is made and how it differs from solid hardwood.   This guide is meant to clear up these misconceptions and reveal some of these mysteries, as well as outline some of the major benefits of laminate flooring.   Armed with this knowledge, it is hoped that eBayers can go forward and buy their choice of laminate flooring with confidence!

What is laminate flooring?
One of the first mistakes people make is to confuse laminate flooring with solid hardwood flooring.   The two should never be thought of as similar, despite the obvious visual similarities that makes quality laminate flooring such an attractive choice.   Laminate flooring is not comprised of any real hardwood species at all.   In fact, the surface of a laminate floor is actually a highly rendered photograph, often of a hardwood species.   This top layer, or decorative layer, is sealed by a resin-based coating which gives the laminate flooring board its resistance to many forms of abrasion.   The two remaining layers of laminate flooring are the core layer and the backing layer.   The core layer is most often made of high-density or medium density fiber board, which serves as a means to absorb the stress of footfalls and other forms of impact.   The backing layer, otherwise known as the stabilizing layer, is the layer of the laminate flooring which binds all of the others together.   All in all, each layer of the laminate flooring board is designed for maximum structural strength, although not all laminate flooring lines are created equal.   For a more detailed breakdown of just how much stress each type of laminate flooring is meant for, you need to find out what the AC rating of the laminate flooring is.

What is an AC rating?
An AC rating is applied to every line of laminate flooring by an independent body known as EPLF, or European Producers of Laminate Flooring.   A series of tests are designed and carried out in order to test each line of laminate flooring for stress resistance. The tests range from resistance to burning, to scratching, to impact, and even tests for resistance against abrasion caused by castors and other furniture legs.   When the tests are concluded, those lines of laminate flooring are assigned an AC rating, which is the measurement of stress as applied to where the laminate flooring is to be installed.   Here is a general guide to the AC rating:

  • 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 is suitable for high traffic residential use and low traffic commercial use.
  • 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.

All reputable manufacturers of laminate flooring adhere to these standards which are outlined by the industry for the benefit of consumers.   It is important for consumers to note the AC rating on the laminate flooring they are considering, particularly with the idea of foot traffic, moisture, and other stresses that the laminate flooring will need to endure firmly in mind.

Tongue and Groove and Locking Systems
One of the key characteristics of laminate flooring, and one that is kept in mind when it is manufactured, is how easy it is to install when compared to other types of flooring.   Of the many designs, some of the more efficient and mess-free laminate flooring lines are the "glueless" variety.   With this variety, the laminate flooring is generally fitted together by means of what is called a "tongue and groove" design, with interlocking elements that slide into place and are made secure as each row is laid down.   Unlike hardwood, no nails are required.   Some types of laminate feature more sophisticated locking systems, designed to be put down and taken up again where necessary. With some fairly limited skills in carpentry, laminate flooring can be installed by do-it-yourselfers in most cases. Choosing to install laminate flooring commonly cuts down on expenses, as it is rarely necessary to hire an installer, although many homeowners do for the sake of convenience.   For contractors, offering the option of laminate flooring to clients is often a time-saving option, as laminate flooring is more quickly installed than hardwood flooring, allowing them to take on more contracts.

Laminate flooring dos and don'ts
Generally speaking, laminate flooring is a low maintenance option that is easily installed, but there are a few things to keep in mind before purchasing laminate flooring as well as once they've been installed.   Here are a few pointers when looking to maintain a laminate floor.


Cork Flooring

Cork floors create a comfortable, resilient surface that is gentle underfoot, is anti-microbial, will not spread flame, and is inherently resistant to molds, mildews, termites and other common pests. It is self-healing, soft and the temperature regulates itself around a pleasant 71 degrees year round.  From harvest to production to installation, cork is environmentally sustainable, non-toxic, and healthy. Cork flooring is available as large format click panel, micro bevel plank and glue down parquet tile.

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Bamboo (eco-friendly) flooring

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Flooring professionals are always looking to source flooring to their commercial and residential clients that will stand as being both visually attractive as well as long-lasting.   Homeowners are looking for these benefits too, but many people are becoming more and more aware of the issues of renewability and the protection of the environment.   This awareness has caused many people to seek alternate sources of flooring materials that will still serve the needs of look and practicality, but with the added benefit of sustainability of natural resources.   One of the most popular choices for these reasons remains to be bamboo flooring.   Bamboo is noted for hardness, beauty, variety, and its "green" friendly nature.   But, how exactly is it made, how many types are there, and just what makes it so renewable anyway?

Bamboo Is A Type of Grass
A common error some make about bamboo is that it is a type of hardwood.   Not to be confused with common associations of many species of grass, bamboo is actually a type of grass which matures into a material that can rival the hardness of maple!   Being well adapted to the environment in which bamboo commonly grows, each bamboo plant thrives in areas of fair to poor soil quality, and still remains to be one of the fastest growing plants in the world.   Controlled harvesting of the bamboo plant has very little impact on each individual stalk, which will continue to grow long after harvesting.   This is what makes bamboo such a renewable source of flooring material, and why it is often associated with environmentally minded choices for flooring.   The fact that it is such a uniquely attractive flooring option makes bamboo flooring an extremely beneficial choice for your own interior environment!

How Bamboo Flooring is Made
Once the bamboo has been harvested, the outer layer of green "skin" is removed and each stalk is cut into lengthwise strips or "fillets". These curved fillets of bamboo are milled along their outer edges in order to flatten them.   The excess elements of this process will go into another type of bamboo flooring that is called "strand-woven bamboo flooring" – more on that later. The flattened strips of bamboo are then kiln dried in order to remove the natural moisture in the bamboo, and are then boiled.   The bamboo fillets are now ready to be glued together to make a solid, dependable surface that is more than suitable for flooring.   The bamboo undergoes one final compression stage, which makes it that much more durable and ready to ship.   Tongue and groove elements are added in order to make an installation as easy as possible. It should be mentioned that the outcome of this manufacturing process is dependent on which kind of bamboo flooring is being made.   There are several types of bamboo flooring, both in terms of cut and of color, and some differences in how they are processed.

Horizontal or Vertical Bamboo Flooring
During the gluing process, the bamboo can either be bound with the narrow edges facing up, which results in a thin, channel pattern in the bamboo flooring, or so that the broader surface of the bamboo is bound facing upward, making for a surface that is more akin to traditional hardwood patterns.   These styles of bamboo flooring are known as vertical and horizontal bamboo flooring respectively.   There are visual benefits for each one, depending on your personal taste, but both remain to be decorative choices.   The horizontal style is striking for its "knuckle" or "node" patterns, that is, the pattern naturally occurring in the bamboo that are the equivalent of "growth rings" in many hardwood species.   The vertical style is a unique surface that remains unmatched by any other natural flooring material, characterized by decorative, narrow channels caused by the binding of the bamboo strips.   Both of these styles are available in natural or carbonized colors.

Natural and Carbonized Bamboo Flooring
Along with choices in style you may wish to consider in bamboo flooring, there is also the question of color.   Bamboo flooring is available in two colors – natural and carbonized.   The color is determined at the boiling process.   Natural bamboo appears in a creamy blonde color that is known to add a touch of brightness to an interior.   Carbonized bamboo is characterized by its smoky, caramel hue which is the result of a longer boiling process which causes the remaining starches in the bamboo to caramelize.   It should be noted that by the end of the respective boiling processes, the natural remains to be the slightly harder bamboo flooring. The carbonization process which defines carbonized bamboo reduces the bamboo's hardness by about 30%.   It must also be noted that even though this is true, both colors of bamboo flooring can still be classified as being as hard as some hardwood species.

Strand-Woven Bamboo Flooring
In the continuing spirit of a "green" flooring option, strand-woven bamboo flooring is the product of a process that leaves very little wasted.   The excess material left over from the filleting process which goes into making natural and carbonized bamboo flooring are intertwined, compressed, and bound.   The binding agent is a safe, UV resistant and scratch-resistant resin which also makes the bamboo even more resistant to moisture.   The process of compression results in a very hard, very durable type of bamboo flooring typified by grain patterns that are more like those of a hardwood floor.   The strand-woven bamboo is then cut into planks and is ready to be shipped – no further compression is needed in this case, unlike regularly manufactured bamboo flooring.

Bamboo: A Renewable Resource Renews Your Interior!
One of the key elements that makes bamboo flooring so attractive is that it is an environmentally responsible choice.   As you have read, the harvesting of the individual bamboo plant does no harm to it, and it remains to be one of the fast-growing plants in the world.   Also, there is very little wastage of materials during the manufacturing process, making bamboo a truly renewable and sustainable source of flooring materials. Bamboo flooring can in turn renew any interior for attractiveness as well as practicality.   Bamboo flooring is unique in appearance, and is easy to clean.   As such, you will gain both the time it would take to maintain many other types of flooring, as well as the many compliments you'll receive from visitors!