Laminate Flooring

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Someone asked: Help! The tile installer tracked what looks like thinset material onto my new Pergo floor. It has hardened and doesn't come off with the recommended laminate floor cleaner. It could possibly by scraped off with a plastic scraper, but would be very tedious and time consuming. Any suggestions for removing the thinset without damaging the floor?

Possible solution: Some thinsets will soften if you soak them in vinegar. Obviously, you want to get the vinegar on the thinset, not soak the flooring with it. You could then try to (carefully) scrape it off, and then use dry baking powder to scrub the residue from the laminate surface (We find that dry baking powder is an effective low-abrasion cleaner).

Heat is an effective tool on some thinset compounds, but we don't know that this would be good for the flooring. You could try focusing a hair dryer on the spot and see if this has an effect.

We're installing marble in an entryway, which is adjacent to some Harmonics laminate, but we're expecting to tuck and wrap the edge of the laminate with painters plastic to minimize the chances of any exposure.

Someone asked about "installing laminate in a closed in porch/sunroom": We just bought a house that was built with a large covered porch on the back. Less than 10 yrs ago, the area was completely closed in as a sunroom, insulated and carpeted. The carpet was in pretty bad shape so we thought it would look nice with terra cotta colored tile. We found some laminate that looks like that.

When we pulled up the carpet, we found the flooring was the original porch planks. I guess they are 1x6's. There are gaps up to a quarter inch wide between the planks. The old padding actually had lines showing where the gaps were. I was wondering if we can put laminate down with the padding and if that would be enough to prevent any markings from eventually coming through the boards. Or is there something else we should put under the laminate in addition to that thin padding.

We were kinda wondering if maybe a thin board, such as paneling, should go under the laminate to create a flatter surface or would that cause more problems? What would you do?

Also, there is insulation under the porch planks but I wonder if there was still moisture coming up since there was a mildew smell in the carpet and padding. What can we do to create more of a moisture barrier?

Possible solutions: First, yes you can sub floor which probably would be beneficial in the long run. All you need is a 1/4 subfloor material. Check with you local lumbar yard for their recommendation on what type of flooring (differs around the country). To install it rent a staple gun. Staple every 2 inches on the seems and every 4 inches in the field. You don't need to glue it down. Don't forget if you raise the height of your floor in the sun room, it will effect the transitions to the other rooms. Make sure you door (if it opens into the room) has the height to clear the new floor.

Moisture. Most pads have a moisture barrier included. You could also use #15 roofing felt paper underneath your pad also for extra protection. IF you think you have a serious moisture problem, check with a local professional about fixing it.

LAMINATE FLOORING BASICS
Though laminate flooring was introduced in the United States in 1996, it has been sold successfully in Europe for about 20 years.

Most people have never heard of laminate flooring and have no idea what it is. But chances are, those same people know what Pergo flooring is. Well, Pergo is laminate flooring. Pergo, the company that first created this type of flooring, was the first brand offered in the United States. For this reason, its name has become synonymous with laminate flooring despite the presence of about 40 other brands.

Essentially all laminates are composed of three layers.

1. The Surface Wear Layer. The surface layer is typically made of an extremely tough-wearing aluminum oxide. The pattern that you see as you look at the floor is actually that of a printed photograph adhered to the clear surface. Many people consider the pattern an additional layer, but for simplification, we consider them as one. Many laminates look like wood floors, but it’s merely a photograph of a wood floor applied to a melamine laminate. Because you can photograph nearly anything for a floor, there are few limitations. Most, though, are wood, stone, brick and tile based.

2. The Core. The core board or “carrier board” is made of a variety of materials, depending on the manufacturer. Most are MDF, or medium density fiberboard, which is a durable engineered wood product that resists moisture. Others can have a high density wood particle core. While the MDF may be slightly more structurally sound, the particle cores absorb glue slightly better at the joints. Both materials, if manufactured by dependable companies, provide a durable, trustworthy core.

3. Backing. The backing board varies depending on who makes the floor, but it ranges from a paper layer to a full plastic laminate layer. Those with a laminate or melamine backing may be better against potential water damage than those with paper backings, and the laminate is more stable.

All of these layers are fused by heat and pressure.

Installation
Laminate flooring comes in individual boards with tongue-and-groove edges, roughly eight inches by four feet long. Matching trim and molding is available.

Laminate is installed as a “floating floor.” A layer of foam is placed under the flooring and the individual “boards” are glued at the tongue and groove joint. The individual pieces of laminate flooring are not glued or nailed down to the subfloor.

In regard to subflooring, there’s lots of flexibility. Laminate can be installed over concrete, plywood, or OSB subflooring. And while other forms of flooring require that you pull up and existing floor, laminate can be applied directly over ceramic tile, vinyl, and parquet floors. Laminate’s 1/3-inch thickness is also an asset when dealing with transitions (vs. a typical 3/4-inch, Swedish-finish wood floor). Remember, anytime you install a floor, it should be at the same height as adjoining floors.

Installing laminate is easy for some and difficult for others. If you’re a skilled handy person, someone who can hang a door and do simple carpentry, you can probably do the job. However, 90% of all laminate floor jobs can be installed by professionals in a day or less, while it will probably take you 2-3 days of hard work. If you’re not sure if the job is for you, videos are available at our vendor partner that can help you decide. They demonstrate how to install the floor and give an overview of what to expect.

If you decide to have the floor installed professionally, make sure you hire a reputable company that employs licensed, bonded and skilled installers.

Why Choose Laminate?
Where cost is concerned, professionally installed laminate floors cost approximately the same as a Swedish-finished hardwood floor. So why choose it in the first place?

Depending on the subflooring, solid wood may not be a possibility.

Also, laminates are extremely durable, great for homes with a high degree of foot traffic (children and pets add significantly to traffic in a home). They are incredibly easy to maintain and will not fade, even in direct sunlight.

Most laminate flooring comes with a triple warrant against wear, staining and fading. Some manufacturers also offer moisture warranties, but look closely at the warranty itself. Many are really just an extension of your homeowner insurance. If your insurance company doesn’t cover the damage (which they usually will), the flooring manufacturer may cover a portion of it. Either way, make sure you know what you’re getting before you buy.

Limitations
At our vendor partner, we don’t recommend installing laminates in wet areas such as bathrooms and laundry rooms. Water on the top layer will not damage it as it would hardwoods, but problems can develop when moisture works its way along the edges or underneath. With some installation modifications, laminate can go in a wet area. Check with the installer. In general, though, we recommend tile or vinyl for wet areas.

Another issue, which some people consider a limitation, is strictly a matter of personal choice. Because laminates are a floating floor, they produce a slight tapping sound as you walk on it. Some manufacturers have introduced acoustical padding to muffle the sound with varying results. It’s a good idea to test it by walking on a dealer display floor and imagining how it will sound in your home. We recommend cork underlayment for any floating floor as the BEST method of reducing the echo effect or tapping sound.

our vendor partner offers more than 20 brands and hundreds of different laminate floor styles. For additional information, click on the “Learn about” box at right. Other information, including care and maintenance or installation information is also provided by the individual brands that is specific to their products. Always follow an individual manufacturer’s recommendations when installing or making other decisions related to your project.


Designing with Laminate Floors

Mannington, Wilsonart, Pergo, Formica, Alloc, Uniclick, Pickering, Decades, Insignia, Witex, the list goes on and on.

With all of the different laminate flooring out on the market today, it is no wonder my clients often come into the retail showroom with a bewildered look on their faces. From various brands come various patterns and styles that can easily be combined to create a finished product that is unique to you and your project.
Where to Start
If choosing a laminate floor seems like a large and unmanageable task, start somewhere that will give you instant inspiration, your closet. In my design opinion, your closet is a great place to look for colors and textures that you enjoy. My two favorite items from my closet are a pair of khaki pants and a denim shirt. These two items go with almost everything else I have. They are easy to mix and match. I try to use this same theory in my designing of interior spaces. These spaces should reflect you as an individual, or your family and the lifestyle that your family leads. If your family's laundry is filled with blue jeans and khaki pants instead of a trip to the dry cleaners, you are more likely to chose a casual floor covering, one that is easy to maintain and one that you can change the look of easily.

Take Advantage of the Versatility
Laminate flooring gives you flexibility. Almost any wood pattern or lightly colored stone pattern laminate floor will give you the opportunity to change the look of a room with a few simple changes. For example, a guest bathroom that might normally seem boring throughout the year can be easily changed with new linens. If you have chosen a neutral flooring choice, like Mannington's Beige Travertine Limestone, in the fall and winter months you can use deep, rich tones of navy blue, forest green, and burgundy for your towels, rugs and shower curtain. In the spring and summer months, you can switch these deep colors for something softer, lighter, and brighter like salmon, lilac and sage green.

Don't Feel Limited by the Four Walls
A typical room with four walls can be transformed if you use your imagination. Consider installing your laminate flooring on the diagonal, instead of straight. This will visually open up your space and make the floor a focal point of the room. Be aware that installing your floor in this manner will add to the cost of the project and you will need to allow an extra 15%-20% more material for waste. In addition, you will need to allow more time for installation. If you are installing the flooring yourself, allow even more time! If you are having your flooring installed by a professional, be prepared to pay them extra for their time. In the end, you will have an enhanced visual look over a standard straight installation.

The Most Common Question
When my clients are on the hunt for a laminate floor for their kitchen the most common question they ask me is, "Do I want to choose a flooring that will match my cabinets?" In most cases, my answer is no. If your cabinets are wood, trying to match a real wood to a laminate pattern is like playing with fire. I think that it is smart to incorporate some contrast between the cabinets and flooring. If you try to match the cabinets and fail, the total design will often be compromised. If you purposely select a floor that coordinates with your cabinets, but is a departure from them in texture and color value, in the end, you will have created a pleasing finished product.

Using More Than One Pattern
Flooring is a great way to bring an instant designer touch to any area of the home. My two favorite ways to use more than one pattern in your floor are the following:

1. Use two contrasting tile colors to create a checker board design. For example, use Wilsonart's Bronzed Quarry with Canyon Quarry to bring a rich and warm look to your kitchen.
2. Use a wood pattern with a complimentary tile pattern to create an inset design.

An example of this type of design would include the use of Mannington's Honey Knotty Heart Pine with an inset of the Beige Travertine Limestone in an eating nook. Using a combination of patterns will also help break up large, monotonous spaces by creating cozier areas that are more inviting.

All in All
Create a style that reflects your personality when designing a space with laminate flooring. Use the flooring to your advantage either as a neutral backdrop for your furnishings, or as the colorful and richly textured element that brings life to a room with neutral furnishings.


How to Pick a Click: Are You Glueless about Click-Together Floors?

When laminate flooring, also known as Pergo, first appeared on the scene it was clearly a winner. Homeowners were captivated with the idea of a rich, beautiful floor that had all the attributes of hardwood flooring, without the limitations. As terrific as the product seemed, though, there was confusion about what laminate could and couldn't do. Lively discussions around water coolers and in the dimly lit corridors of corporate America, ensued.

My first attempt to quell consumer concerns was my 1996 article entitled "Pergo Vs. the World. " It offered ways for readers to discern the differences between laminate and traditional hardwood flooring. My follow-up article, "Brand Wars", which appeared in 1999, attempted to de-mystify the process of choosing from hundreds of floor coverings. It had an immediate and positive impact on readers, which I found very gratifying.

In the years since "Brand Wars" appeared, I've received tens of thousands of e-mails from people around the country, expressing their gratitude for the information. Some reported that they saved hundreds of dollars.

In addition to reader response, I regularly hear from manufacturers hoping to "adjust" the ratings they've received. I explain that my determinations are based on the real-life experiences of real people-consumers, contractors and installers. I can't take credit for highly rated floors just as I assume no blame for those that don't measure up.

Just when we thought we'd mastered all the subtle nuances of laminate flooring, along came a new category of flooring that's generating as many questions and confusion as its predecessor. This hot new product is often referred to as the "glueless installation system." You may have heard terms like snap together, click together, or interlocking-they all refer to glueless installation flooring.

I love coining new phrases, and they let me do it because I'm the boss, so for future reference, let's call glueless installation floors "click together floors."

The idea of click together flooring is brilliant-you simply cut the flooring to fit, join the pieces together and voila! No glue. No mess. You can walk on it right away, it's easy to maintain and it looks great. Installing it is as much fun as playing with Legos when you were a kid, with more interesting results.

So, you're sold on the product, but what do you know about it? While there are numerous click together floors on the market, there are really only two types you need to know about. Ultimately you'll use this information along with your choice of color, design and product durability to make the best decision.

SNAP TOGETHER - A snap together floor can be installed without glue, and is designed so the tongue and groove line up horizontally and are then tapped into place. This floor can be assembled only once. It can NEVER be taken apart-without dire consequences. Scary, huh?

Most snap together floors are poor imitations of click together floors. Problems found with inferior snap together floor systems include awkward, hard-to-handle locking mechanisms; poor design; irreversibility and irreparable core damage which renders the component useless. Some manufacturers even seek to circumvent the legal patent holder's rights-which is a big no-no. While snap together floors tend to be less expensive than click together, you'll sacrifice quality. Plus, you may go nuts trying to install the bugger.

CLICK TOGETHER - This is a locking floor that can be assembled and taken apart a number of times. Only minimal tapping is required at the end joints. The long joint clicks together by inserting the tongue at a slant into the channel of the groove. It's designed to perform. Reversibility allows you to take the floor apart during installation without damaging it, and make adjustments and minor repairs if needed. Speed of installation is another bonus. The advantages of a click together floor system are obvious-superior quality, ease of installation and product longevity.

For those readers interested in technical stuff, I'll add the following. The core itself is the single most important part of a click together floor, but alone it does not make the floor. The locking system is also vital, but it can't function without a solid core. Without a solid core the locking system can fail, break or be compromised. Additionally some of the softer cores are more prone to water damage than the denser cores. Often, when wax is applied to help prevent water damage in the joints of the boards, it becomes ineffective when applied to a softer core.

As of March, 2001 the two best click together floor systems on the market, that meet and exceed expectations, are the Locking System from Unilin (licensed in the U.S. as Uniclic) and the Berry Group products, which includes Alloc, one of my top five picks. They're the most respected and well known in the industry, with reputations for excellence. They hold product patents and license their names for use by other companies.

Loc-Tec by Witex uses the Uniclic system. Loc-Tec is superior to others by virtue of its ability to click together easily and tightly I know I'll get tons of e-mail asking me about Armstrong Swiftlock and Pergo Presto. These are home center brands that are not available through other outlets. Neither company makes the product themselves. They rely on other companies to manufacture the product for them. Those two brands are not on my top 5 list.

Steve's Top Five Click Together Floors (in random order):

Quick-Step Uniclic
Columbia Clic
Alloc
Witex Loc-Tec
Kahrs Linnea (A Hardwood Veener that clicks together)

What does the future hold for click together flooring? In the words of the immortal Hans and Franz from Saturday Night Live, "Hear me now and believe me later"-click together floors are here to stay.

In the next 12 to 24 months most floating floors, including laminate floors and even pre-finished hardwood floors, will migrate to a click together installation. Along the way there will be exciting innovations. And as usual there will be a whole heap of wannabes churning out cheap imitations that complicate the process.

source for above articles: our vendor partner: iFloor