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Laminate floors were introduced to the United States in the 1980's. Since then, customer demand has called for manufacturers to develop more products that are stronger and closer to real wood in appearance. Today’s Laminate floors can have beveled edges and a hand scraped finished designed to look like Hardwood flooring, but with all the durability of Laminate. Today’s laminate floors are available in a large variety of wood grains and tones and even slate, marble and ceramic tile looks. Most manufacturers today use a click technology (tongue and groove) making installation easy for any homeowner. Laminate Floors are often referred to as "Floating Floors" due to the way that they are installed. A foam underlayment is rolled out prior to installation, to reduce noise and provide cushioning; Some manufacturers pre-attach the foam underlayment to the back of the panel. ALL floors are susceptible to scratching and denting. Laminate floors will have significantly more dent RESISTANCE than Hardwood floors due to the composition of the product.
When considering Laminate Floors in your home, there are some things to keep in mind.
* Color/Grain: Laminate Floor will have its own simulation of wood grain. Laminate Floors repeat patterns and there is less variation than Hardwood Floors. Make sure to look at a few samples from similiar manufacturers, one may be more desirable to you than another. Also try to view the biggest sample that you can, this will give you a better idea of how the floor will truly look.
* Knots/Imperfections: Since Laminate Floors are a manmade product, so are the knots and imperfections. Depending upon the style, these may be more or less pronounced, but are added to the simulation to enhance the character. These will not affect the integrity of the flooring planks.
* Coloration/Darkening: Most Laminate Floor warranties cover fading. This means that your Laminate Floor will not fade over time; it will look the same way 15 years from now, without any worry about discoloration due to light exposure.
* Moisture/Humidity: Since Laminate Floors are constructed of wood products, it is susceptible to changes in humidity levels in the home. Maintaining a constant humidity level in the home (with the use of a humidifier and/or dehumidifier) can help lessen the expansion/contraction of the planks. Proper installation will allow for this natural process and reduce the risk of damage to the floor.
* Floods/High Moisture: Excessive moisture, for example a damp basement or flood, will adversely affect a Laminate Floor. If moisture is allowed to sit on the surface or into the joints of the Laminate Floor, over time, the planks could delaminate.
* Subfloor: Laminate floors can be installed over almost any flat, level surface; They can not be installed over existing carpet. When installing over concrete, it is required to use a vapor barrier to block the moisture into the floor. This vapor barrier is often attached to the padding which is rolled down prior to installation.
When installing Laminate Floors, it is best to blend cartons for a uniform appearance. On installation day, it is suggested to open several cartons of flooring and stack the planks in the work area so the flooring is blended during installation. It is also suggested the a few planks be retained in a safe place after installation (perhaps under or behind the sofa) for the future, if a repair is ever needed. When making your final purchase, it is best to allow for an additional 10% to allow for cutting