Laminate is an affordable, multilayered flooring product made from tightly compressed wood fiber and designed to look like wood, tile or stone. Laminate flooring products typically have four layers: the backing layer, the core layer, the image layer, and the wear layer. The backing can vary depending on the product but is often made of cork, felt or another soft product to allow the laminate to sit comfortably on the floor. The core layer is typically comprised of recycled wood fibers tightly compressed into a dense wood-like core, sometimes referred to as a high-density fiber (HDF) core. The image layer is where the desired look (e.g. wood, stone) is printed onto the product and texture is added through a process called ‘embossing’ to make it feel similar to the material it is made to look like. The wear layer is a clear protective layer manufactured on top of the image layer. The wear layer is often made from aluminum oxide and designed to prevent the floor from scratching or showing excessive wear over time. Higher quality laminate products often boast an extra resilient wear layer that makes the product scratch, dent and fade resistant.
Laminate can be a good choice for many different customers because it offers an affordable way to achieve a desired look, such as hardwood or stone, without having to pay the high material and labor costs for those products. Laminate can be installed at all grades and with a variety of installation methods, including glue down and floating installations, making it a versatile hard surface option.
Because laminate is an artificial product made from recycled wood fiber and not real wood, it often does not have the same level of performance as the wood, stone or tile products it is imitating. Laminate is also a relatively lightweight product and as a result can sometimes feel hollow underfoot. Lower quality laminate can sometimes sound hollow underfoot when walking across it.