What is Laminate Flooring

LaminateLet's start by understanding what laminate flooring is.  Laminate flooring is a man made product which is generally cheaper to buy and install than hardwood.  It's made of multiple layers of synthetic material fused together in a process called "lamination" (thus the term laminate :).  

For the record, laminates account for about 20% of the retail flooring market for residential remodeling (see: NY Times article on laminate here).

Laminate basically has four layers:

  • Backing - Designed to resist moisture and warping
  • Inner Core - Designed to give more stability and durability
  • Image Layer - A very high resolution image of wood, tile or stone (usually wood) which determines how the laminate looks
  • Wear Layer - Protective layer which protects the image layer from fading, scratching or other damage

How is the Quality of Laminate Flooring Measured?

There are  durability issues which are critical for judging the quality of laminate flooring.  The North American Laminate Flooring Assocation grants laminate flooring products a certifcation if they pass the following 10 performance tests:


1. Static Load

Laminate must be able to withstand a standard, standing weight without forming permanent indentations in the flooring.

2. Thickness Swell

Must be able to resist swelling after being exposed to water

3. Light Resistance

Ability to retain its color and image when exposed to sunlight

4. "Cleanability"

Ability of the laminate to resist staining and come clean when soiled

5. Large Ball Resistance

Must not get indentations when a large diameter ball is dropped on it

6. Small Ball Resistance

Must not get indentations when a small diameter ball is dropped on it

7. Water Resistance

Ability to maintain smooth appearance after exposure to water

8. Dimension Tolerance

Individual tiles must be uniform in respect to thickness, length, width, straightness and squareness

9. Castor Chair Resistance

Must be able to support the concentration of weight of a person sitting in a castor chair without creating permanent blemishes on the surface

10. Surface Board

Must be able to sustain a certain minimum force without "delaminating" (i.e. flooring coming apart)

Bottom Line

If a laminate product can sustain these 10 tests, it can earn the NALFA certification, if not... well, you'd probably be best off looking for a different laminate.

Check out these related articles about laminate flooring:

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About The Author

Dane is the owner and manager at Eckard's Flooring Savannah GA.