There’s no doubt about it, laminate floors look better, feel better, and are much, much warmer than tiled floors, a factor that homeowners in Kenya would appreciate bearing in mind that we’re in July, the coldest month in Kenya.
If you are putting up your home and are undecided about which floor to go with, or if you plan to upgrade your floor, then you might want to find out as much as you can about laminate flooring.
First developed in the early 1970s, laminates offered a high-end product at a fraction of the price of hardwood with an equal, if not better, performance in terms of water resistance, scratch resistance and lifespan.
As a hybrid composite material, it is the best of many worlds with a simple, but very effective clocking mechanism, reduced maintenance requirements and easy installation.
Laminate tops behave much like vinyl flooring, in that they are waterproof if tightly seamed. Top laminate manufacturers now offer fully waterproof laminates that can be installed even in bathrooms or kitchens.
Even better, to clean laminate floors you simply mop them the same way you do tiles, once or twice a day confident that water will not seep in. Installation is key though, so ensure that you get an expert to do the installation, which involves sealing any gaps and edges with a waterproofing compound. Failure to do this will allow water to seep in the outer edges where you have the skirting, a factor that will damage the floor overtime.
In the Kenyan market, laminates have gained significant traction due to not only their affordable cost, but their reliability also.
Unlike tiles, which remain cold to the touch, laminates benefit from the wood core, staying warm regardless of the weather condition. Also, laminates are easier and cheaper to install since there is no need for glue, cement or grout. This also means there is no mess during installation. Another great advantage to this installation is that it can be done fast, and one does not have to wait for drying or curing to take place. Unlike tiles or even hardwood where the client is expected to avoid the installation area for a few days, laminates can be installed with minimal disruption to one’s routine. There are significant variations in the type of laminate one can buy. Therefore, it is advisable to take the time to study the different brands on offer.
A major consideration is the composition of the composite material, where HDF (high density fibreboard) has become the standard for top-end floors.
The MDF (medium density fibreboard) counterparts are simply not adequate for flooring applications and will generally not last. That said, you must be careful about the thickness of the floors offered. Thickness has no significant importance on the quality of the material; in fact, top-end laminates rarely go over 8mm.
Generally, the higher the quality, the more compressed the material will be. This means that a high density fibreboard of 7mm will be far superior to a low density MDF that is 12mm.
Most top-end laminate floors offer a significant warranty ranging from 20 years to a lifetime warranty (in the case of Quick-Step), as well as a ‘wet-area’ warranty for use in bathrooms or kitchens. This feature has become popular with the trending of open plan kitchens where it is advised to keep a single floor type across the space. In a majority of the cases, the main components in laminates are sourced from renewable/green plantations or from recycled materials. This is a trend which not only allows for cost-effective materials, but also remains an eco-friendly solution.
Other aspects that have ecological and health implications are volatile organic components, VOCs. These encompass the bonding agents used to create the materials as well as any chemicals that are used in any process of the making or fixing of the planks.
When shopping for flooring, be on the lookout for these VOCs and do not buy a product made with materials that rank below A+.
As the larger flooring manufacturers have always involved themselves in interior trends, their products closely follow worldwide taste patterns. This means that anyone can get their hands on that brand new look they saw in a magazine with very little effort, a factor that was almost impossible when shopping for hardwood.
Another plus is that these are products of a reputable firm that guarantees quality. By bypassing the insecurity regarding the lifespan of an experimental product, homeowners can rest assured that their floors will last.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER
Country of origin: Laminates from Belgium, Germany, the US, Turkey, China and India are recommended. Generally speaking, the European Union standards for materials used to make laminates are higher.
Abrasion criteria: The AC rating refers to the wear-layer on the surface of the material and subsequently how much resistance the floor has to foot-traffic. Do not go any lower than AC4.
The Composition of the core material: High-end laminate floors will have a very dense HDF core. Never buy MDF laminates since the floor is not likely to last a long time.
Warranty: Brands such as Quick-Step have a warranty starting from 20 years up to a lifetime warranty that covers scratches, fading, warping, chipping, locking-mechanism, UV and fire – any good laminate must have a warranty of over 10 years.