Laminate floors range in price from 0.89c s/f to as much as $7.99 s/f. So why should you spend the big bucks, when at the end of the day they all look the same?
First let us analyze the warranty factors. An entry level laminate floor which sells for in the region of 0.89c s/f to $1.39s/f probably comes with a warranty ranging from between 10 to 15 years, as opposed to a better quality laminate that sells for more and carries a warranty ranging from 25 years to lifetime. A comprehensive laminate warranty covers the following aspects of the floors performance: factory defect, normal wear and tear, fading, staining, denting and water resistance. A lower end warranty might not cover all of these aspects, and although the advertised warranty states ten years, this might refer to manufacturer’s defects only, whereas the performance aspect of the warranty might only cover a five year period. Also consider that although the wear and tear aspect of a laminate warranty covers a certain period, this does not reflect the fact that the floor might start to show wear and tear or loose its original luster after a few years of use.
Today, most laminate floor surfaces are treated with Aluminum Oxide, which makes these floors highly durable in terms of scratching and denting. However not all floors are created equal in that certain laminates receive up to nine coatings of aluminum oxide, whereas a lower quality floor might only be treated with a few layers of Aluminum Oxide. This translates into a scenario where these few layers of Aluminum Oxide will wear through in a short period of time, and conversely a floor with additional coatings will perform better when subjected to heavy foot traffic, and for a longer period of time.
Laminate floor cores range in thickness from 7mm to 12mm, with a thicker core offering more stability, making it less likely to buckle if subjected to high levels of moisture in the air, as well as offering a floor that is quieter to walk on. The other aspect of laminate floor cores is the ability of the floor to resist swelling when affected by water and sub-floor moisture. A good quality laminate floor core is treated with water repellent chemicals, which protect the floor from swelling when breached by water or excessive levels of sub-floor moisture. A good core should be coupled with a tongue and groove configuration that is also treated with water repellent chemicals, such as impregnated wax, which will prevent topical liquid spills from penetrating through to the laminate core.
Joint integrity refers to the ability of the tongue and groove locking mechanism to withstand the weight of heavy objects, as well as perform over the life of the floor. The locking mechanism of a good quality laminate floor is designed to withstand the weight of heavy household furniture and fit tightly together negating gapping or separation. Since the advent of glueless laminate floors, many manufacturers have invested large sums of money in research and development in search of a locking mechanism that will not fail even when subjected to abnormally high levels of impact force or weight. The most successful configurations, in terms of binding strength and durability are patented and sold to other manufacturers.
Lastly, when purchasing a name brand laminate floor, one is not paying merely for the name, but for the quality of the materials, precise levels of engineering, and many years of research and development invested in the design and manufacturing process.