Cons of cheap laminate flooring

We have had plenty of readers ask for advice on restoring and repairing laminate flooring. As with everything, cheap may end up costing you more!

Here in South Africa we have access to plenty of laminate flooring suppliers, some offer excellent products whilst others offer flooring that could end up costing you more than you think. Unfortunately, many homeowners tend to look only at the finish of the flooring and don’t pay attention to the core or layering method.

Laminate floors can add so much to a home when properly fitted, and when a quality product is installed. But how do you differentiate between a quality laminate flooring product and an inferior product?

When buying laminate flooring it is important to look closely at the product itself. The most common fail for this product is the thickness of the plastic or laminate overlay, and the density of the board.

The top layer of a laminate floor protects the material from scratches and stains. Typically the only regular requirement is sweeping or gentle vacuuming of the floor to remove grit and dirt, but which can slowly erode the wear layer over time.

A thin overlay over a decorative paper will soon wear away, while a thick laminate overlay and melamine film decorative layer will last longer. 

Thin Overlay and Decorative Paper

The process of using a thin plastic overlay on top of decorative paper has been used for furniture manufacture for many years, and has now carried through to laminate floors. The problem with this is that the thin overlay easily scratches and it isn't long before the decorative paper underneath is damaged, leading to the necessity to replace boards - or an entire floor.

Due to their design, laminate floors can not be refinished. They have a single wear layer, and over time the wear layer on the entire floor will degrade and scratches will appear in the surface of laminate materials. This is where an inferior product falls short, because when this occurs the entire floor will need to be replaced.

While a certain amount of touch up can be done when scratches initially occur, these repairs are generally of a temporary nature and have to be done repeatedly to keep the laminate floor looking good. You can buy Liberon touch up crayons that fill and cover up scratches, and it is important to ensure that the floor is cleaned regularly to prevent dust and debris from scratching the floor.

Thick Overlay and Melamine Decoration

You are obviously going to pay more for a better quality product, but this product should offer a thicker overlay and a melamine pattern layer, as well as a high density backing. The first two layers - the core - protect the floor from scratches and daily wear, while the board and backing provide strength and support. Cores can range from 6mm to 12mm and thicker is better in this case, although more expensive. The thicker the core, the more stable the floor. Some products also offer a wear layer that resists fading from UV light exposure, making it popular in sunrooms.

Before buying laminate flooring as for specifics on the product and whether or not it comes with a guarantee. The life of a laminate floor is based on the quality of the material and the thickness of the wear layer. Most laminate floors will come with a warranty, however it is important to check the terms and conditions of that warranty.

It is also essential to select laminate flooring according to the amount of foot traffic in the area in which you install it. Entrances and hallways will obviously require a durable laminate because they are high traffic areas and will wear quickly. And no matter what type of laminate flooring you choose, use mats at entrances to cut down on the amount of dirt carried in on the bottoms of shoes. This dirt can scratch the finish of the floor. Additionally, put felt pads on furniture feet or legs to guard against scratches.