Due to the development of technologies in composite flooring, and the price increase of natural wood, the last 5 years have seen market shares in natural wood flooring decrease substantially. More and more people are purchasing laminate flooring and other wood effect products, resulting in growing trends towards these types of flooring. There are various materials available for wood-effect flooring:
- Luxury Vinyl Tiles (LVT flooring)
- Luxury Mineral Planks (LMP)
- Modular solutions, like the new Parador system
There are pros and cons associated with each of these products in terms of cost, durability and versatility.
The beauty of laminate floors is in the details. By combining real wood with other materials, you get a robust, durable surface. Construction involves 4 distinct layers that combine into a solid piece of flooring that stands up to foot traffic, pets, spills, drops and other wear and tear. The 4 layers are as follows:
- The wear layer: This is a clear topcoat that protects the flooring from things like stains or fading, which could ruin the look of the floor.
- The design layer: Produced with a high-definition printer, this layer is the realistic looking wood grain design that adds a beautiful aesthetic to tile or hardboard.
- The inner core: This layer is made of wood to keep the product stable and flat. It is the thickest layer, compiled of wood pulp adhered together.
- The backing layer: Laminate isn't completely waterproof, and the backing layer is there to make it moisture resistant. The backing fits onto the bottom to protect against excess moisture, lowering the chances of warping from the sub-floor.
To create a plank of laminate flooring, the 4 layers are pressed firmly together using either direct pressure or a high-pressure construction. In some cases, an underlay padding is adhered to the backing layer, but this is often purchased separately. ESB presents a diverse range of colours in our high-quality laminate flooring. Most of our laminates are resistant to damp and moisture. Our range varies in thickness from 8-14mm, but the thickness does not necessarily determine how durable and strong a floor is. The other important factors for this are the quality of the High Density Fibreboard (HDF), the joining system (click) and the surface protection (laminate AC rating).
What is AC rating?
The Abrasion Class (AC) rating is a system of standards set by the European Association for Laminate Flooring. There are 4 levels to this:
- AC3: Suitable for residential use with heavy foot traffic, but also suitable for commercial settings with moderate traffic (think hotel rooms or small offices).
- AC4: Suited to commercial use where general traffic is likely. This means places like busy offices, salons or cafes.
- AC5: These products are ideal for commercial use in areas with heavy traffic, like public buildings and department stores.
- AC6: This is heavy-duty flooring of the highest recognised abrasion standard, suitable for extreme, intensive commercial use.
ESB Flooring products are always manufactured in Europe, due to the fact that other countries such as China and Turkey are not subject to stringent environmental controls. In years gone by, laminate floors were DIY products with a reputation for having a very poor appearance. They were considered by many to be a cheap, inferior product sold only to people who couldn't afford the higher prices of more desirable flooring. However, due to significant investment in the technologies used to manufacture laminate flooring, the market now comprises some unique and highly desirable ranges of long and wide boards. Popular options include Chevron and Herringbone designs, and even panels like the popular Versailles Panel.
Making the right choice
On our website, we feature a tool called RoomPlanner where you can view how our laminate floors will look in different rooms. You can use the default rooms or upload photos from your own home to help find the ideal laminate flooring for specific rooms in your property. There are many types of LVT flooring to choose from, each producing a different overall effect for a room, so think about where your flooring will be going:
- For the whole house: You need to ensure the flooring you choose complements the colour of your doors and furniture and has the necessary laminate AC rating to stand up to the wear and tear it will be subject to.
- For bedrooms: You need this room to be comfortable and relaxing, so light flooring will probably work best. It's best to place the flooring in the same direction as the light to make the space look bigger. Foot traffic is usually light in the bedroom, so a lower AC rating should work, but consider your specific needs.
- For the living room: For smaller spaces, light and soft flooring can help make the room look brighter and larger. For larger rooms, darker and more natural tones tend to work better. Foot traffic is higher here, but an AC3 should be sufficient.
- For the kitchen/bathroom: Yes, water-resistant laminate flooring is OK for these rooms. It can help to have extra properties like non-slip and antibacterial. You will also want to be certain that the AC rating is sufficient to stand up against the specific needs of a kitchen/bathroom floor.
ESB supplies a wide range of laminate flooring, including a very special range of heavy-duty, robust AC6-rated flooring. This is the strongest of all laminates, and it's suitable for the heaviest commercial use. We also offer a range of underlay solutions that are suitable for many needs in the house. Our underlays can help with soundproofing, moisture resistance and additional thermal insulation. Every installation will be better suited to a different type of underlay, and we can advise on which of our 14 types will be the best fit for a particular project. We will ask you about the rooms in question, and what the specific needs are of its flooring so that we can advise you appropriately. ESB also offers a comprehensive range of accessories, including all the cleaning and maintenance products required to keep your laminate flooring in top condition.
Tip from ESB: Always keep one or two spare boxes to avoid having to replace the whole floor in future, in the event that some of your planks get damaged.