Which is Better - Cheap or Quality Laminate Flooring?
It might seem a bit off to ask for a difference between cheap or quality laminate flooring but the fact is there is a massive difference between the two and we explain why.
For many South African homeowners, laminate flooring offers a way to bring the look of engineered wood flooring into a home. Since we have very little option when it comes to engineered or genuine wood flooring, laminate wood flooring at least allows us to have a wood-look floor and the only other alternative is to have wood-look ceramic floor tiles installed, which is not everyone's cup of tea.
What is Laminate Flooring
I'm sure that by now most homeowners know what laminate flooring is, but let's briefly discuss this as it will bring to light the differences between cheap or quality laminate flooring and more expensive options.
• Back/Balancing Layer
The backing layer is the bottom layer of a laminate plank and this layer protects against moisture. It is generally a semi-hard layer of rubber or foam.
• Core Layer
The core layer sits on top of the back layer and the majority of laminate flooring on the market, which the exception of solid bamboo laminate flooring, is generally MDF (medium density fibreboard) or as we call it locally - SupaWood - or HDF (high density fibreboard). MDF is a board product that can be purchased at Builders or timber merchant and is used for furniture construction. What we do know about MDF or SupaWood is that it is super-absorbent, which is why you should never use MDF for projects in a bathroom, kitchen or laundry unless it is properly coated or treated.
The decor layer on laminate flooring is what determines the finished look
• Design or Decor Layer
This is where the design that features on the laminate flooring is placed. This is a photograph or high-resolution image that gives laminate flooring is unique finish, whether you opt for a dark wood laminate flooring or a light wood laminate flooring or even a distressed or whitewashes flooring option. The design or decor layer provides no protection but acts as a decorative layer.
• Wear Layer
The wear layer is the top layer on every laminate floor plank and it is this layer that protects the flooring from scuffing, scratching and stains, etc.
Quality Comes at a Price
The problem with laminate flooring is that there is a big difference between cheap or quality laminate flooring and the good stuff. The main difference is the fact that when you have a supplier/installer fit laminate flooring they need to do a good job if they offer a guarantee. If you opt for inexpensive laminate flooring and either have a handyman fit it for you or fit it yourself, you are not going to have any guarantee whatsoever since in many instances DIY installation voids any guarantee there may be.
The saying that quality comes at a price is true in almost any situation and equally applies to laminate flooring. Browse online and you will find plenty of suppliers of laminate flooring that you can purchase for DIY installation. You will also notice that suppliers tend to compete against each other as to who offers the cheapest - best - price. It might seem like a good idea to shop around for the best price but keep in mind that it is usually a cheaper product for a reason.
As the saying goes, you get what you pay for and once again this couldn't be more true when purchasing laminate flooring!
Money Well Spent
The investment to install laminate flooring in a home should be one that will at least offer some return on the initial investment. You don't want to spend a large amount of money only to regret this decision a couple of years down the line. Read on for what you should be on the lookout for when purchasing laminate flooring or arranging for installation.
Durability and Lifespan
A laminate flooring installation should last for 15 to 20 years if it is a quality product. Any less than this and you could be wasting your money on a product that will need to be replaced a few years on. Before forking out your well-earned cash, consider the following:
The core layer should be HDF and not MDF or be a compressed wood fibreboard. The difference between the two is that a compressed wood fibreboard offers greater moisture/water resistance, even though still not recommended for installation in a kitchen, bathroom or laundry.
The top surface should preferably be protected by an anti-abrasive overlay to reduce damage by scratching and scuffing, both of which affect the overall appearance.
High-heeled shoes are a no-no for all types of laminate flooring installed
Should any damage occur and flooring planks need to be replaced, having a quality or reputable brand installed is the difference between replacing a single damaged plank or the entire floor where no supply is available for the type of laminate flooring installed. There are quite a few reputable international brands imported into South Africa and it is in your best interest to do a bit of research beforehand, such as checking client references, before spending any money.
Should damage to a laminate floor occur, the installation of a well-known brand will allow for the replacement of single planks rather than the entire floor.
With a warranty on the top surface, the manufacturer should be able to offer a product that is highly resistant to wear. Having said that, you need to keep in mind the installation application. High-traffic areas, even in the home, will be subjected to more daily wear and tear than others and that's why quality laminate flooring should be the first choice.
Damage caused by water or moisture is not covered under a laminate floor installation warranty
A warranty of at least 10 years is considered suitable for domestic use and professional installation will ensure that laminate flooring is properly installed and will not fail a couple of years down the line.44
If you have young children or pets, don't waste your money on a cheaper product that will eventually fail and need to be replaced. Spending a bit more on the outlay will ensure that your investment is secure and that the installation of laminate flooring will add value to your home.
After installation, follow the manufacturer's guidelines for care and maintenance of the new laminate flooring to prevent voiding the guarantee and ensuring the lifespan of the product.