Laminate has long been known as an inexpensive, easy to install substitute for hardwood flooring. It can also be used in place of stone, ceramic tile, and more. But what is it made of? Is it environmentally friendly? Here’s a look at the materials and construction behind laminate flooring.
How Laminate Is Made
A laminate flooring tile consists of four separate layers, each with their own function. The bottom or back layer is water resistant, to protect the underside from moisture, as well as to balance the tile on the subfloor beneath. On top of that is the core layer. This thick board makes up the bulk of the tile. It’s strong and durable, to hold up to heavy foot traffic and other wear and tear, without denting.
Next comes the design layer. How is laminate made to look exactly like all different kinds of hardwood, ceramic, and more? It’s actually a high resolution photograph, overlaid onto the core layer. When it first started being manufactured, laminate looked fake, kind of like plastic. Now, though, it’s virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.
Finally, the tile is topped off with the wear layer: a clear coating that protects the tile from stains, water damage, fading over time, and even burns. The four layers are put under powerful pressure and extreme heat, to fuse them into a single tile, which can give your floor the look of expensive hardwood, at a fraction of the cost.
People tend to think that laminate is made of plastic—particularly since, as we’ve said already, it used to have a very plastic look about it. And since it’s an artificial substitute for hardwood, what else would it be made of? But there’s no plastic in it at all. In fact, though, laminate materials are very much environmentally friendly.
The main, core layer of a laminate tile is made of compressed woodchips and sawdust—i.e. the leftovers from other wood projects. The back and design layers are both made of thick paper, and the wear layer is aluminum oxide. It’s generally made almost entirely of recycled materials—unlike real wood floors, which require the cutting down of trees.
Laminate floors are made safely, without the use of harsh chemicals or solvents that can harm the environment. Furthermore, laminate is made in interlocking pieces, which can be installed without the use of glues and other harsh chemicals either.
Other Benefits of Laminate
The interlocking tiles make laminate very easy to install and is generally done as a DIY project. Since there’s no glue involved, you can install it over almost any other kind of solid floor, without having to pull up the existing material first.
Between the core layer and the wear layer, laminate is also incredibly durable, and can stand up to heavy foot traffic, furniture moving, and more, without being scratched or dented. It’s also water-resistant and stain-resistant, making it easy to keep clean, with just a simple sweep to get up dirt, and a quick mop to remove spills.
Laminate flooring is simple, inexpensive, durable, low maintenance, and one of the most eco-friendly types of flooring you can buy. Talk to a flooring expert to see if laminate will work in your home.