Laminate flooring (C) Daniel FriedmanBest Practices Guide to Installing Plastic Laminate Flooring

  • LAMINATE PLASTIC FLOOR - CONTENTS: Guidelines for Selecting & Installing Plastic Laminate Flooring. Durability of Plastic Laminate Floors. Installation Procedure for Plastic Laminate Floors. Warranty Information for Plastic Laminate Flooring. Where to buy laminate flooring materials
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Platic laminate flooring:

This article describes the installation procedure for plastic lamiante flooring, the durabilty of laminate flooring, and includes laminate flooring warranty information.

This article series discusses and provides a best construction practices guide to the selection and installation of building interior surface materials, carpeting, doors, drywall, trim, flooring, lighting, plaster, materials, finishes, and sound control materials.

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Guidelines for Selecting & Installing Plastic Laminate Flooring

Laminate plastic floor board construction detail - Dream Home Laminate Floors catalog As described in the book, Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction Chapter 5, Interior Finish:

Plastic laminate flooring was introduced to the U.S. market in the mid-1990s and now competes with vinyl as a low maintenance floor covering.

Photo (left) of the components of a plastic laminate floor board is from a Dream Home Laminate Floors® catalog. Variations that are available on this basic design include features that can improve floor durability or performance, including:

Similar to the high-density plastic laminate used on countertops, the flooring is protected by a clear melamine layer, in some cases reinforced with aluminum oxide.

Dream Home Laminate Floors inform us (by catalog) that the product can be comprised of as many as five construction layers:

  1. An overlay paper or aluminum oxide finish to protect the pattern layer
  2. A pattern layer or layers, decorat5ive or wood species appearance or an actual photograph of wood
  3. A moisture-resistant hardboard core
  4. A bvalancer or stabilizing layer
  5. An acoustic foam underlay

A high-density fiberboard core provides stability and resilience, and a melamine layer on the bottom provides some protection against moisture.

The plastic laminate flooring product comes as either tiles that resemble stone or ceramic tiles or planks that simulate wood flooring.

Both are floating products, edge-glued with PVA adhesive, but not attached to the subfloor. As with floating wood floors, a layer of1/4-inch-thick high-density foam goes under the floor to provide a cushion and even out small irregularities in the subfloor. Most manufacturers offer a higher density premium foam, which is recommended for a more solid feel underfoot.

If the product is installed properly, with sufficient glue to squeeze out along all joints, laminate flooring is moderately waterproof. The main problems occur at edges. To prevent water infiltration, seal with silicone any edges that might be exposed to water in kitchens, bathrooms, or other wet areas. Even with these safeguards, many manufacturers will not warranty laminate flooring in bathrooms. Radiant heat applications are generally acceptable.

Durability of Plastic Laminate Floors

In general, laminate flooring has a very hard surface that resists dents, scratches, and other damage. However, over time, high-traffic areas will lose their sheen and show signs of wear. Other than to replace the planks in those areas, there is little that can be done to restore the original finish.\

If your plastic laminated floor has been badly damaged, see LAMINATE FLOOR DAMAGE REPAIR.

Installation Procedure for Plastic Laminate Floors

Plastic laminate floor installation (C) D Friedman P GalowLaminate flooring installs over a vapor barrier and thin layer of foam like floating wood floors (see “Floating Floors,” page 173). As with floating wood floors, the substrate must be very level. Fix any low spots with latex- or acrylic-based cementitious compound or building paper layered in progressively larger pieces.

Photo (left) of a plastic laminate floor installation is provided courtesy of Paul Galow.

Concrete must be dry enough that it will not fog a one foot square of polyurethane taped overnight. Thoroughly clean the slab or subfloor, and lay down the vapor barrier and foam provided by the laminate flooring manufacturer.

Lap the vapor barrier 8 inches or tape the foam seams, if that is also serving as the vapor barrier, as allowed in some systems.

The tiles or planks are then glued together with a PVA glue provided by the manufacturer. Pieces are tapped into place and clamped with special strap clamps. Even squeeze out of glue along the entire glue line indicates sufficient glue, which is necessary for a solid, waterproof floor.

As with other floating floors, special T-shaped or L-shaped threshold, end, and transition moldings conceal the ends of flooring at transitions while allowing movement. A1/4-inch gap at the perimeter of the room is typically concealed by the baseboard or quarter-round molding nailed along the bottom of the baseboard (nailed only into the baseboard).

Warranty Information for Plastic Laminate Flooring

Using a recent Dream Home Laminate Floors® catalog as an example, laminate flooring warranty periods and terms vary among brands and models, typically from 10 to 30 years. Dream Home's "best laminates" (12mm) include a 30-year warranty (contact the manufacturer of the flooring in which you are interested for details about warranty coverage and terms).

Here is an example laminate floor warranty provided by Lumber Liquidators: theirIspiri Dream Home Laminate Flooring 30-year Warranty.

With the expected provisions that the flooring is properly installed, the product is warranted:

Resources: Manufacturers, Industry Associations, & Sources of Flooring Materials

Prefinished Wood Flooring

Alloc Inc. Snap-together, no-glue long-strip and single-strip laminated flooring

Anderson Hardwood Floors Laminated strip, nail, glue, and floating

Armstrong World Industries Bruce, Hartco, and Robbins prefinished plank and engineered strip

BHK of America Snap-together, no-glue laminated wood flooring

Columbia Wood Flooring Prefinished solid strip

Duro-Design Floating click-lock oak flooring

Gammapar Engineered wood strip with oil, UV-cured urethane, or acrylic-impregnated finish

Junkers Hardwood Floating solid strip with metal clip installation

Kahrs Laminated strip with UV-cured acrylic urethane, nail, glue, or floating

Lauzon Prefinished strip, laminated strip, and click-lock laminated plank

Mannington Mills Laminated strip and plank with polyurethane and aluminum-oxide finish

Medallion Hardwood Flooring Prefinished solid hardwood strip and plank with aluminum-oxide finish

Tarkett Wood Floors Prefinished solid hardwood, laminated, and long-strip flooring

MercierWood Flooring Prefinished solid strip and laminated strip with aluminum-oxide finish

PermaGrain Hardwood Flooring Acrylic-impregnated laminated strip and plank

Zickgraf Hardwood Flooring Prefinished solid strip with UV-cured urethane with diamond and aluminum oxide

Bamboo Flooring Producers & Sources

Bamtex (a division of Wood Flooring International) Laminated bamboo and palm flooring

Duro-Design Laminated bamboo flooring with durable water-based finish

Gammapar Acrylic-impregnated bamboo flooring

Hawa Bamboo Flooring Prefinished bamboo flooring with aluminum-oxide finish

Natural Cork Prefinished glue-down or nail-down 3-ply bamboo planks with aluminum-oxide finish

Resilient Flooring Manufacturers List

Congoleum Vinyl sheet flooring and tiles

Domco (division of Domco Tarkett Group) Vinyl sheet flooring and tiles

Forbo Linoleum sheet and tiles

Mannington Mills Vinyl sheet flooring and tiles

Nova Distinctive Floors Laminated linoleum surface over fiberboard and cork planks, floating installation

Tarkett Vinyl sheet flooring and tiles

Cork Flooring Manufacturers & Sources

American Cork Products Co. Prefinished parquet tiles and floating floor planks

Amorim Revestimentos (formerly Ipocork) Floating or glue-down laminated cork tiles with UV-acrylic or oil finish

BHK of America Snap-together, no-glue, laminated cork flooring with UV-acrylic finish

Expanko Cork Inc. Cork tiles with wax or polyurethane finish

Korq Inc. (212) 758-2593

Natural Cork Glue-down cork tiles and floating laminated planks with UV-cured acrylic finish

Nova Distinctive Floors Laminated cork planks with glue-down and floating click-lock installation

WECork Cork tiles, sheets, and floating floors

Plastic Laminate Flooring

Dream Home Laminate Flooring, (Lumber Liquidators) web search 11/12/2010. Tel: 800-350-0469


Industry & Trade Associations for Flooring

American Lighting Association

Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industries

Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI)

Drywall Finishing Council

Forest Stewardship Program


The Gypsum Association

National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association (NOFMA)

National Wood Flooring Association

Painting and Decorating Contractors of America Smartwood/Rainforest Alliance

-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.


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