Laminate flooring is a man-made flooring consisting of an image of real wood flooring sandwiched between a clear plastic top layer and a fiberboard bottom layer. It is similar to engineered hardwood flooring in that it can be floated over a concrete floor. However, it costs only a fraction of the amount of hardwood, and can be installed by the homeowner themselves. This has contributed to its becoming 10% of the entire residential flooring market after just 10 years of being imported out of Sweden, its originating country. In addition, with a high-quality laminate, most people seeing it after it is laid down will not realize it is not real hardwood flooring. Laminate is a popular choice for those on a budget who like the look of hardwood floors and also those who want to avoid the maintenance associated with real hardwood flooring.
Higher quality laminates, those manufactured with high-pressure-laminating (HPL), are more wear and impact resistant. Another type of laminate, manufactured with direct-pressure (DPL), does not stand up as well to wear and impact. Also, the quality of fiberboard core helps determine the water resistance of the laminate. Medium and low quality fiberboard is not as waterproof as high quality fiberboard laminate core. Laminates that are embossed in register, meaning the lines embossed on the flooring follow the wood grain on the images, are more realistic looking, and generally preferred. You will also want to choose an option with at least 6 planks, or different wood images, to make the image replication less obvious. You may also want to choose a type with pre-glued edges, activated with a swipe of water like an envelope flap, designed to eliminate the mess of glue on snap together products, while providing a stronger, more water resistant seal.
Laminate flooring care and maintenance is easy. You will want to sweep often and mop when necessary with a solution of water and mild soap, similar to sealed surface hardwood floors. Also similar to hardwood floors, you should take care to wipe up spills immediately and avoid any prolonged exposure to moisture. Laminate floors do not need waxing or oils of any kind. Its a good idea to lay down a rug or carpet runner with non-skid pads underneath to prevent excessive wear in high traffic areas. Never drag furniture, or other heavy object with edges, across a wood or laminate floor.