Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring has long been the go-to product for a durable wood-look flooring without the cost of real wood.

Based on an MDF or HDF core, these once struggled to withstand excesses of moisture.

Major improvements have brought to the Australian market a great variety of highly moisture-resistant laminates.

This feature is great for living, dining and kitchen areas where spillages are a common occurrence.

Those on a budget might consider standard ranges but these are not a long term solution.

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More on Laminate Flooring

Timber laminate flooring requires quite a flat floor to perform well. They are installed as a floating floor over a thin underlay, and most come with matching scotia trims and stair nosings. Have them professionally installed or DIY.

What is Laminate flooring?

Laminate wood flooring is the general term for a rigid click-lock plank that has an MDF or HDF core and a hard laminate surface. Also known as click flooring, they are laid as a floating floor over a thin foam underlay without glue.

They vary in thickness from 5 to 15mm thick and use a variety of locking systems to hold them together. They require the foam underlay to absorb minor irregularities in the subfloor and remove the contact sound between the click plank and the subfloor. The top surface is made to replicate timber, tile or stone.

How is This Flooring laid?

They are installed over a thin foam underlay as a “floating” floor where the planks are locked together without the need for adhesive. Where there is a chance of moisture rising out of the subfloor, an impervious plastic membrane is required.

The sheets must be continuously taped and ideally run up the wall to the same height as the finished floor. The locked “raft” of flooring will expand and contract and needs a 5 -15mm expansion gap around all walls and fittings (as per supplier’s instructions).

Mid-floor expansion joints will be required at doorways and across the width of large areas. Cutting is done by handsaw or power saws

How are expansion gaps and joints covered?

Fitting skirting, quads or matching scotia trims after the flooring has been completed, will usually take care of the perimeter expansion gaps. If skirting thickness is not enough, plasterboard may be cut away to allow expansion past the skirting.

Expansion joints will require a metal “H” or “T” trim, or similar, fastened to the subfloor. This will allow movement of flooring on both sides.

How flat must the floor be before starting?

Floating floors are quite rigid and will need a fairly flat floor. Manufacturers all have different guidelines that must be followed, but a maximum of 3mm undulation over 1.5m is a good guide.

Ramping is only possible if extremely gradual or if separated with and expansion joint and trim. The flatter the floor, the more consistent footsteps will sound, and the less flex will be noticed. High points and hollows should be fixed as they create stress points that can lead to failure and dislocation of the joint.

What subfloors can Floating Floorboards be laid over?

Almost every type of domestic subfloor can have floating flooring laid over it. Installers should ensure that any subfloor is smooth, dry, flat and use a straight edge to locate undulations greater than 3mm over 2m, which must be attended to.

Edges and lipping commonly found in tiled or particle-board floors may require grinding or sanding. Timber floors must be solid and secure. Securely glued vinyl sheet, vinyl planks or cork flooring can also be installed over. Let Integra Directs’ experienced experts take the worry out of this when your home is inspected.

Integra Direct can also guide DIYers with all the information and products to give their projects a professional finish.

In what patterns and styles does this flooring come?

Australians are purchasing mostly timber-look patterns and local timbers such as Tassie Oak, Blackbutt and Spotted gums are proving to be a very popular. However, there are many classic oaks and timbers from around the world as well as some stone, tile and concrete patterns scattered through these premium floor ranges.

It is worth checking the surface texture of your click flooring. Smooth surfaces may be easier to wipe clean, but they may be slippery and show marks more than a laminate with an enhanced grain texture

What are the advantages of this kind of flooring?

Installation without adhesive allows Laminates to be installed over certain subfloors that stick-down flooring would either fail or require very expensive floor preparation.  Flat tile floors can have these click floor laid directly over with minimal preparation.

The tough surface is considered the most scratch-resistant on the market, so great for big dogs to charge about on. They are warm to walk or lie on making it great for kid’s areas.

They withstand heat and direct sunshine better than vinyls. They are relatively easy to install yourself without specialist tools and tradesman’s experience.

What are the disadvantages of this kind of flooring?

All floating floors such as Laminates and Hybrids must have joints supported underneath and can lose integrity if constantly flexing, meaning that the subfloor requirements are higher than, say, Loose Lay flooring or any floor that is being glued to the floor. Floating floors require expansion gaps and covers along the perimeters and expansion joints may be required in larger areas. Vertical movement may be noticed, and creaking sounds may emanate from joint movement due to foot traffic or just thermal contraction. The clacking sound when walked over is not for those looking for quietness under foot.

To allow normal expansion and contraction, your floor cannot be “anchored” down by heavy items like pianos, slate pool table etc. Depending on the level of water-resistance provided by the flooring, wet-mopping, pet accidents, leaks or spillages can cause swelling, buckling or peaking.

This means that wet mopping is not an option. Replacing a damaged plank is tricky and may stand out once repaired. Talk to the guys at Integra Direct to determine if Laminate flooring is suitable for your home.

In what areas of my home can I use this flooring?

As there is no truly “water-proof” laminate floor, they are not commonly installed in areas such as toilets, laundries and bathrooms. They are more suited to bedrooms, lounge and dining rooms. A highly water-resistant product is recommended if installing in a kitchen or any area likely to get damp.

You should limit exposure to laminate floors from over-watered or leaking pot plants, dripping air-conditioners, rainwater through open windows and doors, dripping water from raincoats or pool/spa users, and leaking pipes or toilets.

How long will this type of flooring last?

The better ranges carry residential wear warranties of 20 – 25 years, but they rarely wear out before they are replaced. The better the subfloor, the longer the flooring will last. Ultimately, water-damage from spillages or incorrect cleaning methods are the ultimate reasons a laminate floor is replaced.

Integra Direct recommend premium ranges with a high level of water-resistance for all rooms of the house. Areas exposed to direct or reflected sunlight during the middle of the day may eventually exhibit colour loss or change, so the use of window coverings or awnings will help with this.

What if I damage my new flooring?

All floors can be damaged, but the tough surface and indentation-resistance can easily withstand the rigours of day-to-day life. Still, dragging heavy fridges or furniture without protective pads has been known to cause surface marks and scratching.

A plank can be removed, and a new plank glued into place. This may be done by a handy-person or call Integra Direct for a service call by one of our professional installers. We recommend spare material be purchased and stored completely flat to ensure matching flooring is available throughout the life span of your floor.

How much should I pay for this type of floor?

Generally, price is a great indicator of quality when buying a floor. Hardware chains will sell entry level laminates for about $15 – $20/sqm, and 1,220mm long. These are fine if doing a quick make over to sell your house.

The click lock mechanism may not be the most user-friendly and the high pattern repeat may detract from the natural look. Between $20 and $30 you will start to see a wider choice of colours and better grade planks with quality click joints, reduced pattern repeats and higher water resistance.

If you are prepared to spend $30 – $40/sqm, there is a massive range of premium timber styles and textures with reduced pattern repeat, longer planks, patented locking mechanisms and a high level of water resistance.