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Choosing laminate flooring

Three key things to consider when picking the perfect floor

Steve Maxwell
Toronto Star
February 12, 2011

Q:  How should I choose a laminate floor? They're much less expensive than solid wood, and laminates are looking less artificial than they used to. What should I make of the big difference in laminate prices that I see?

A:  It's true that there is a wide price range for different laminate flooring, and there are significant difference from brand to brand. It mostly boils down to durability, but there are other considerations too.

- Durability of Laminate:  Laminates can be very resistant to abrasion and scratching or very easily damaged, depending on how it's made. And while it's not commonly advertised, the laminate industry has developed a numeric scale for measuring the toughness of specific laminate flooring products. It's called the abrasion class rating (AC) and it's a scale that goes from 1 to 5. Laminates with an AC5 rating are suitable for the toughest commercial situations, where lots of people will be walking on the floor in boots and shoes. AC1 laminate is much less robust. For residential use I recommend an AC rating of 3 or 4. I wouldn't buy laminate until I got a reliable answer about its AC rating.

- Flatness of Subfloor:  Even thick laminates aren't thick enough to be self supporting, and since they click together they require a flat floor for quiet performance. Most manufacturers allow no more than 1/4-inch of unevenness in the 10-foot radius, and that's pretty flat. More unevenness than this and laminates can make noise as you walk on them.

- Choosing the Correct Colour:  And finally, you need to recognize that some darker laminates show dirt and dust more readily than lighter colours. Since laminates come in bundles, I recommend you buy one bundle of the stuff you think you want, click it together in some prominent part of your home for a week or so, then see what it's like to live with. I know several people who are forever distressed by the marks they can see on their dark laminate floors.


Q:  What kind of subfloor products do you recommend for a basement renovation? I don't know what to make of the different brands.

A:  Basement subfloor tiles appeared on the scne about 10 years ago. I've worked with all brands and I think they do a terrific job of creating a warm, dry surface for intallation of laminates, vinyl and carpet. Some can even be used under ceramic tiles.

Most subfloor tiles are 24-inch by 24-inch interlocking squares made of oriented strand board (OSB), a wood-based waferboard material.

The Barricade panel made by OvrX is unusual in that it has a layer of foam insulation bonded to the underside of the tile for extra warmth. This is a good thing, but from what I've seen Barricade seems less able to drain away small amounts of leaked water than brands like DRIcore and Subflor. These have a dimpled plastic layer on the underside instead of foam, so there's more room for water movement, though less insulation.

Tyroc is the newest subfloor product on the market and, though it costs more than the other subfloor products, it's unique in four ways. It's entirely inorganic so there's no wood for microbes to feed on in the even of water issues.

Each piece is 30 per cent larger than traditional subfloor panels, so Tyroc goes down faster, and the panels are also flexible enough to nestle down over the kind of uneven floors the require rigid subfloor tiles to be shimmed.


Posted on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 01:42PM by Registered CommenterElaine in | CommentsPost a Comment

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