If you have ever remodeled your home or have wanted to, you have probably looked into the different flooring options available. If so, you have likely come across laminate flooring. It looks good, it’s easier to install than solid wood, and costs less. But is it worth it?
How long should laminate flooring last? Laminate flooring can generally last from 15 to 25 years. The quality of material, proper installation, and the amount of foot traffic will affect the expected lifespan. With proper care and some simple precautions, you can prolong the life of your laminate flooring.
What Is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring is a layered material made to look like wood flooring. The bulk of the flooring is made from a compressed particle board base, a fiberboard core, topped with a wood-like visual layer, and a scratch-resistant coating over the top of it all.
With proper care, laminate flooring is built to last 15 to 25 years. This means protecting your floor, cleaning regularly, and using the correct products on it. For those who take proper care of it, have a low-traffic home without large dogs or rambunctious kids, the life of laminate flooring may go as far as 30 years.
For high traffic homes with kids and pets, the lifespan can drop to as low as 10 years. Toys, pet’s nails, and the dirt that is tracked back and forth from them contribute to scratches that shorten the life of your floor.
What Do You Need to Know?
There are a lot of laminate floor manufacturers with various options. What should you know when picking your new floors?
If your home is busy with lots of guests, pets, or kids, you might want to consider low-gloss or distressed floor design with a more varied grain pattern. This will hide scratches and dents a lot better than the alternative.
Different manufacturers will warn you about the subflooring tolerances. Some subfloors are more uneven than others, and some laminate flooring will take that into account, but you will need to check before deciding. If your floor isn’t perfectly even, know that the wider the planks, the more difficult they will be to join up properly.
Abrasion Criteria, or AC, is a rating system used to measure the wear resistance of the material. It is ranked 1 through 5, with 1 being the lowest. You can determine the amount of traffic you have and choose the correct rating for your home.
Laminate flooring is prone to water damage, which is why it’s not suggested for wet area use such as bathrooms. The moisture can seep into the material and cause it to swell or warp. 100% silicon sealant is required around the edges, and underlayment is needed to protect the underneath side from absorbing moisture. In recent years there have been new water-resistant offerings from manufacturers but it’s still strongly advised to wipe up any spills ASAP.
Most laminate flooring is resistant to fading from sunlight, but not all brands are created equally. Check for manufacturer specifications or consider using rugs and furniture to prevent fading in high exposure areas.
Ease of Installation
If you are installing the flooring yourself, you don’t want the installation to be more difficult than necessary. If you are paying someone to install the flooring, the cost will increase.
Laminate floors come in varying sizes and assembly methods, so choose whichever is best for your skill or budget.
Installing your laminate flooring yourself can be satisfying and cost-saving. However, improper installation can lead to splitting, cracking, warping, snags, and pinched feet or paws. Here are some things that you want to avoid.
- Do not ignore the instructions. Some manufacturers have slight differences, so ignoring the instructions could ruin your floor and your investment.
- Do not install in a room that requires a drain. If it needs a drain, that means there’s a lot of water. Water ruins laminate floors
- Do not install outdoors. Not even your 3-season porch. The humidity will not be kind to your flooring.
- Do not install over carpet, carpet padding, or multiple layers of underlaying. Any extra cushion will cause the flooring to give, which can cause cracking, pinching, or chipping.
- Do not nail the corner molding to the floor. You should nail it to the base of the wall to avoid damaging the flooring.
- Do not cut laminate in the room you’re installing it. Remember that dust and debris cause floor scratching.
- Do not cut from the backing side, which can cause chipping on the decorative layer
- Do not install more than 30 linear feet lengths without a transition strip.
- Do not install in openings less than 48 inches wide without transition molding.
Mohawk: Mohawk Flooring produces a large range of laminate flooring and is a good middle of the road brand. Their Revwood Plus is a highly rated model that comes in a large array of colours.
Shaw: Shaw is a huge flooring manufacturer, making much more than laminate flooring. However, it does boast over 200 style and color combinations, making it a versatile option. The price is also about average at $2-$3 per square foot.
Lumber Liquidators: If you’re on a limited budget, Lumber Liquidators has the lower end laminate flooring. The parent company carries different brand names, such as Dream Home and Nirvana, costing as low as $1-$2.50 per square foot.
How to Prolong the Life of Laminate Flooring
1. Vacuum Regularly
Debris that is stepped on can result in small scratches. By keeping your floor clean and free from dirt, you can eliminate the tiny scratches in the protective coating that will build over time.
2. Clean up Liquids Immediately
Leaving liquids on your laminate flooring will cause stains that are difficult to remove. Coffee, wine, foods with colorants or dyes, or even teas can leave stains that are difficult or impossible to get rid of.
Furthermore, prolonged moisture can work its way into the laminate flooring and cause swelling or warping that can ruin the laminate flooring construction.
3. Avoid Using Harsh Chemicals
Some cleaning chemicals are far more destructive than others, and using them on laminate flooring can cause discoloration or destroy the protective coating for your floor. Once the protective coat or color is gone, there is no way to get it back. So, be sure to use cleaners that are designed for your floor.
4. Put Down Mats or Rugs
This may seem counterintuitive when you’re choosing flooring for its looks. However, consider long rugs for your highest traffic areas to extend their life. If you have laminate flooring in your office, consider putting a plastic mat under your rolling chairs, as they tend to create a lot of scratches and marring.
If you plan to move furniture, use furniture moving pads. If you have furniture that gets bumped and shifted regularly, use felt stick-on circles under the legs. This will protect the surface and extend the life of your floor.
5. Trim Your Pet’s Nails
We all love our pets, but we also know how destructive they can be. Even if they don’t mean to, their nails will scratch nearly any surface over time. Keep their nails trimmed and smooth to protect your floor.
6. Repair the Damage
If you have small scratches, you can try a wax pencil to hide them. For deeper scratches, you can try using repair putty, but finding a color match may be difficult. For significant damage, you must replace the entire board.
Replacing the board is a lot of work. You must remove the boards from the far end of the floor, all the way to the damaged area. Then you replace the board and reinstall all the others.
How long should laminate flooring last? 15 to 25 years is the safe bet in a standard home. The more traffic, both human and pet, the fewer years you can expect. Moisture also plays a part in its life, so take all these factors into mind when deciding if you want to use laminate or some other flooring option.