A quick review on the requirements of a laminate floor range for price conscientious projects that still require longevity and ease of installation.
I’ve been a flooring nerd for quite a few years now and I have seen products come and go, some working and some not. Laminates are not suitable for all environments or situations but when suitable and you start looking at cost effective options you need to know your stuff to avoid getting burnt.
On a sliding scale from great to not-so-great quality the discerning buyer needs to understand the following:
1. Density of core board – This impacts stability of the board in terms of ease of water absorption and dimensional stability. It also impacts the strength and tightness of the click joint systems. Density of the core board is critical for dimensional stability. A thick plank is not necessarily dense. Density of a plank is measured by the volume weight of wood vs air in a fixed volume. The greater the air component, the greater and quicker the boards response is to heat as the internal air expands and contracts as well as its response to water where it gains access to the wood fibres through the same air pockets allowing the wood fibres to swell. Also, the tighter the joint system the greater the resistance of surface water actually getting access to the core. Get a plank and feel the weight. Compare this to an alternative option and make a judgement call.
2. Strength of the surface coating – The décor paper and wear layers protect the planks appearance against scratches and discolouration. The stronger these are the greater the volume of foot traffic and UV light it can withstand. Africa and particularly Sub-Saharan Africa have very high UV index which relentlessly leaches out colour from most man-made products. As a manufacturer entertains cheaper inks and wear layers to meet lower price point demands so does the products resistance diminish to our harsh environment. Seek reputable referrals and third-party endorsements.
3. The type of click mechanism used – As some older variants are difficult to use and the incorrect method can result in the entire installation failing within a few weeks or months thereafter. Let’s face it, most laminate floors are installed by price sensitive labour. The market also assumes all joint systems are the same or require the same installation methodology…which they don’t. Older technology requires tapping blocks or full row installation at a time. These formats are time consuming, difficult to install and easily allow for opportunities where the planks can and do get damaged. Most times this damage is not seen during the actual installation and only develops symptoms of failure weeks or months after it is installed by ways or releasing or gapping joints. Newer click systems are more expensive but are much stronger, simpler to apply and in turn protect the plank edges during installation which ensures the floors longevity.
4. Supplier support on quality, volumes and consistency – Limited stock or repair/replacement stock becomes a problem, especially on larger projects requiring some security. So many times, I have been exposed to various projects waiting on stock due to the supplier having run out or delayed shipments or late production runs. Volume of stock in a country or region is paramount where projects or longevity of product supply is required. All too often smaller suppliers can outprice the larger ones, yet they have no stock security and product lifespans are limited. Think beyond price when seeking a product for your project especially if it’s a sizable one.
While opinions are a dime a dozen I recently reviewed my favourite option for this category in my flooring focused vlog (Click here to view). While being a German manufactured product which delivers in build consistency, it has a proven click system which makes it really easy for a simple and safe installation. For the price and what you get, coupled with the national footprint of the supplier warehouse and distribution network, you can’t go far wrong for product security on a large contract or project.