Laminate flooring is a synthetic alternative to wood flooring. Laminate flooring was not sold in the United States until about 1996, but it has been sold in European countries for about 20 years.
Laminate flooring is made up of several layers:
The surface is a hard as nails film, normally made of aluminum oxide. Right underneath the surface film is a photographic image or decor paper (usually of wood), to give the flooring the look of a natural wood floor. The core of laminate flooring is made of various materials, most often high density fiberboard, or wood particle board. The final layer of laminate flooring is the backing, made of various materials. Backings made of laminate material are superior as far as water or moisture damage is concerned.
Laminate flooring may be installed over any kind of sub floor, as it is not directly attached to the sub floor, but is a “floating” floor. Many laminate flooring manufacturers use a “click system” on the tongue and groove joints, so you can just fit the joints together and you are ready to go. Other manufacturers require you to glue the pieces of flooring together, but in either case, you do not need to nail the floor to the sub floor.
If you are laying the laminate flooring directly over a concrete sub floor, you’ll need to lay down a damp proof membrane, a.k.a. DPM, before laying the flooring. This is to keep moisture from seeping up through the floor into the laminate flooring.
Laminate flooring has quite a few benefits: affordability, low maintenance, ease of installation, attractive looks, and more. It also has a few drawbacks, though: it’s not as durable as real wood, doesn’t absorb sound well, doesn’t feel as warm to your cold feet on winter mornings, and may warp if it is exposed to moisture.