Questions About Laminates
Q) What are laminates? How are they made?
(Reprinted from Floorcovering News 8/18/2008)
How can laminate flooring resemble hardwood, ceramic, and stone so closely? The answer lies in the process by which laminate is made. Laminate floors consist of four components that are bonded together:
- The top layer is a durable wear layer, providing protection and stain resistance. Many wear layers contain aluminum oxide, as well as melamine resin, and that creates exceptional durability.
- A decorative layer or print film is adhered on top of the core board giving the floor its hardwood or tile look. This is a printed high=resolution photo-reproduction of a wood grain, natural stone or ceramic tile pattern.
- The next layer is a core board, generally made from high-density fiberboard or particle board, which may also contain melamine plastic resins that help improve the moisture resistance of the core.
- The bottom layer, or backing, is a melamine plastic layer that lends dimensional stability to the planks and also helps guard against moisture from the subfloor. All layers are then combined through some type of pressure treatment process.
Generally, it begins with the assembly of the four layers of raw materials in large sheets. This typically takes place on a production line, where each layer is stacked on top of each other.
Once the four layers have been stacked, they are ready for pressing. The stacks are pressed at high temperatures reaching 400 degrees, with up to 600 pounds per square inch of pressure for 20 to 30 seconds.
If the laminate is designed to have a textured surface, the press has specialized plates that imprint the textured pattern onto the sheets, creating more natural looking planks or tiles.
After a cooling process, the boards are cut into planks and then moved on to be profiled. Multiple profiling saws create the tongue and groove edges on the sides of the planks that enable the floor to lock together. The finished planks then go through a quality inspection and are checked for color, texture, finish, size and correct interlocking capabilities.
Q) How does a laminate compare to real wood?
Laminate flooring offers some advantages over hardwood flooring, but that doesn’t mean it is the right choice for all consumers. Visually, when you look at a laminate floor you will see the pattern repeat itself, whereas on a real wood floor these marks would be totally random. The frequency of the pattern that is printed onto laminate flooring can be repeated every third or fourth board, but in some cases all boards are identical in appearance. Additionally, it is relatively obvious that a laminate is a copy of some other product. One advantage a laminate has is that it doesn’t dent as easily as a hardwood.
Scratching is a different issue. Although laminate flooring is a highly durable product, if it does get scratched or worn, it cannot be refinished like solid hardwood flooring, which can simply be sanded down and refinished like new. You can use the SandFree System with ColorMagiQ to repair the laminate floors.