Buyer’s Guide to Laminate Flooring

Buyer's Guide to Laminate Flooring

Buyer’s Guide to Laminate Flooring

If you’re in the market for new flooring, you likely have come across laminate flooring in your research. There are seemingly endless benefits to laminate flooring material — it’s durable, timeless and easy to install and maintain, and those are just a handful of the flooring’s best features. This guide will help you learn more about laminate flooring and answer some frequently asked questions homeowners have about laminate flooring.

What Is Laminate Flooring? 

What Is Laminate Flooring?

In short, laminate is a synthetic hybrid flooring made of fused fiberboard and resin with a photographic layer on top. The embossing capabilities of laminate are more detailed, meaning it can look like distressed wood, hand-scraped planks and aged wood. It has four different layers:

  1. Base layer: The base layer has a melamine reinforcement designed to keep it sturdy and stable. This part aids in moisture resistance by preventing water from penetrating the subfloor.
  2. Fiberboard core: The fiberboard core has a solid center that provides additional stability, keeps it durable and increases its resistance to impacts. This layer is resistant to water and is where the locking system is. 
  3. Decorative layer: This layer gives laminate flooring its realistic appearance. This is a detailed photographic layer that transforms the floor, so it looks like ceramic, tile or hardwood.
  4. Wear layer: This clear layer uses melamine and aluminum oxide to make the flooring resistant to water, scratches, dents, chips and stains, increasing its durability. Additionally, it provides laminate with a realistic hardwood feel.

What Are the Different Options for Laminate Flooring?

A significant advantage of laminate flooring is that it comes in a wide range of styles, sizes and textures that resemble other kinds of flooring. This way, you can choose the version of laminate that matches your home’s architecture and your personal style best. Here are your options broken down by style, size and texture:


This kind of flooring can resemble various other styles of flooring. If you’re interested in hardwood but want a more affordable option that requires less maintenance, wood laminate flooring is your best bet — it can resemble oak, maple, hickory, birch, walnut and many other wood species. Plus, laminate can even resemble tile or ceramic.

Whether you want your flooring to be dark or light or look like another kind of flooring, several laminate styles are available.


All laminate flooring is available in 3-, 7- or 12-inch widths. While thinner widths give the floor a more natural appearance, wider planks help narrow rooms appear more expansive and show more of the laminate’s character, such as grains and knots.

Additionally, laminate flooring comes in varying levels of thickness. The thicker laminate flooring planks feel more like hardwood and block more sound. These also reduce bends in the floor if the subfloor isn’t level.


The textures of laminate flooring available are wire-brushed, hand-scraped, distressed or smooth.

  • Wire-brushed laminate: This style looks like it’s been lightly brushed by wires, giving it a rustic, aging look.
  • Hand-scraped laminate: This kind of laminate provides the flooring with a more authentic wood-like look and feel.
  • Distressed laminate: A distressed laminate resembles an old wood floor.
  • Smooth laminate: Unlike the other textures, smooth laminate has a satin-like finish and is very subtle.

Why and How to Choose Laminate Flooring

There are many advantages to laminate flooring, such as:

  • Appearance: It’ll improve the aesthetic of your home, resembling a different kind of flooring perfectly. The different textures of laminate flooring help it look as realistic as possible, and it can even feel like hardwood, depending on its thickness.
  • Durability: It’s a highly durable flooring option that’s easy to maintain — laminate flooring is scratch-resistant, and if any minor scratches or chips occur, you can use a floor repair kit or laminate putties to fill them in.
  • Stain resistance and maintenance: This kind of flooring is extremely stain resistant. The surface of laminate doesn’t usually dull, but if it does dull over time, you can use laminate-specific products to restore its shine.
  • Ease of cleaning: It’s easy to clean, usually only requiring dry cleaning methods like sweeping and dry mopping. If you need to clean the floor more thoroughly, you can use a small amount of laminate-safe cleaning products with a mop.
  • Installation: This flooring material uses a click-and-lock installation method, making it easy and quick for a professional to install.
  • Cost: In terms of price, laminate is more affordable in installation and upkeep than hardwood. While hardwood requires careful maintenance and waxing to keep up its beautiful appearance, laminate will retain its beauty and shine with simple maintenance and cleaning.
  • Longevity: So long as the laminate is safe from moisture, properly cared for and professionally installed, it can last between 15 to 25 years.
  • Resale value: Beautiful laminate flooring kept in good condition and installed professionally can add to your home’s resale value. Prospective buyers consider the state of the floors when deciding whether or not to purchase a home, and seeing quality, well-maintained laminate flooring that looks like real wood can be a big plus for them.
  • Radiant heat compatibility: Unlike hardwood flooring, laminate flooring can be installed above a radiant heating system. A radiant heating system supplies heat directly to a house’s floor, ceiling or wall panels and provides extra warmth in the colder months.

Like any kind of flooring, laminate comes with some features you may want to consider before you install it. Some cons of laminate flooring are:

  • Water resistance: Though laminate is water-resistant, water exposure can damage its core. The flooring uses a wood product as its core, which can swell and soften if exposed to extreme humidity, water or other liquid spills. Once dried, the fiberboard may not resume its original dimensions and can remain permanently warped. Prevent water damage by cleaning up water and other liquid spills within 30 minutes, though immediately is always best.
  • Pet-friendliness: This flooring may not be the best choice for pet owners. While laminate is durable, a pet’s claws can scratch it, and missed spills may lead to water damage. Still, as long as you care for your flooring properly, laminate could still be a good option for you — just be sure to note the possible damage that may occur.
  • Sound and comfort: Although walking on laminate can feel less warm and more rigid than hardwood, an underlayment can make walking more comfortable. The underlayment will also help it retain warmth and reduce sound.

Frequently Asked Questions About Laminate Flooring

Do you have specific questions about laminate flooring? Here are 13 frequently asked questions about laminate flooring:

1. Where Can You Install Laminate Flooring?

The various design and style options make laminate flooring suitable for most areas of your home — hallways, dining areas, living areas and kitchens are wonderful options for laminate flooring. This flooring’s durability makes it perfect for high-traffic areas. Though waterproof laminate flooring works in bathrooms, most laminate flooring is only water-resistant, which is suitable for kitchens.

2. How Much Does Laminate Flooring Cost to Install?

Numerous factors are taken into consideration when determining how much it costs to install laminate flooring. Generally, laminate flooring installation costs will vary depending on the style and type of laminate flooring you choose, the size of the room you want it installed in and the cost of labor and materials. Note that textured laminate flooring, like distressed hardwood, hand-scraped or wire-brushed, will cost more than smooth laminate.

3. How Much Is Laminate Flooring Per Square Foot?

The cost of laminate flooring per square foot varies based on its thickness and design. It can range from $3 to $7 per square foot for the flooring, not including labor or other materials.

4. How Much Is the Labor Required to Install Laminate Flooring?

Ultimately, labor costs vary by company. The best approach is to schedule a free appointment to speak with a professional installer about your project ideas and receive an in-home estimate. The professional installer will bring samples to the appointment, which can help you decide which style, texture and design you like best.

5. How Soon Can You Walk on Laminate Flooring After Installation?

It’s important to wait at least 24 hours before walking on your new flooring, or you risk damaging the installation, which results in warped or uneven flooring because the flooring won’t have set yet. Some brands have faster drying times, so you may be able to walk on the flooring sooner. If the laminate isn’t glued to the subfloor, you can walk on it immediately.

Ask your installer for the specific timeframe.

6. How Long Does It Take to Lay Laminate Flooring?

The amount of time it takes to lay laminate flooring varies based on the size and number of rooms where your professional installer will install the flooring. The process takes a few days, as laminate flooring needs to acclimate to the environment before installation. Acclimating the laminate flooring prevents gaps after installation because the flooring will expand or contract based on the humidity and temperature of the room.

7. How Long Does Laminate Flooring Last?

This kind of flooring is built to last. The wear layer protects against dents, chips and stains. It’s also water-resistant and doesn’t fade. As stated, laminate will last between 15 and 25 years, thanks to its resistance and durability.

8. What Goes Under Laminate Flooring?

The underlayment for laminate flooring is a soft pad that’s installed underneath. It makes the floor feel softer than hardwood on your feet, helps the planks lay smoother, enhances warmth retention and reduces the empty, hollow sound from walking across the floor. While some types of laminate flooring have the underlayment attached, others require a separate underlayment.

How Do You Choose Laminate Flooring?

9. How Do You Choose Laminate Flooring?

If you know you want laminate flooring, the best way to choose the design, texture and style you want is to look at samples and consider your preferences. Metro Flooring Contractors has mobile sales representatives available to come to your home and show you samples.

When considering your preferences, questions to ask yourself include:

  • Which room or rooms do you want the laminate installed in?
  • Do you have pets or young, active children and want the flooring to block as much sound as possible?
  • Do you prefer a more realistic hardwood feel and appearance?
  • Do you have a favorite type of wood you want the laminate to replicate?
  • Which direction do you want the planks to be laid in?
  • Do you want your flooring to have a pattern?
  • What does your budget look like?

These questions can help you narrow down your laminate flooring options and decide which one is best for your needs.

10. How Do You Decide Which Direction You Want the Planks to Be Laid?

The best direction is usually parallel to the longest wall in the room. This will make the room appear more spacious. Still, you have other options, such as horizontal or vertical or in a diagonal pattern. The installer will have ideas about which direction will work best, so consulting with them can help you decide.

11. What Is the Difference Between Laminate and Hardwood?

The main difference between laminate, hardwood and vinyl is the materials used to make them. Put simply, laminate is a synthetic floor material and doesn’t include any natural wood. While it can be very water-resistant, laminate isn’t completely waterproof, like vinyl.

11. Can Laminate Flooring Be Installed on Steps?

Yes, laminate flooring can be installed on steps. The installation requirements are slightly different than those for floor installation, and your professional installer will know how to install the flooring on your steps.

12. Can You Install Laminate Flooring Yourself? 

It’s not recommended for you to install laminate flooring yourself. Installing laminate flooring requires extensive knowledge, patience and time. Additionally, environmental elements such as humidity and temperature can make the boards swell or change shape during installation, resulting in gaps and uneven floors. A professional installer can navigate various conditions and deliver a level floor that doesn’t warp or swell over time.

Further, professional installers can work through the time-consuming and potentially headache-inducing complications in unique flooring installation projects. Obstacles such as the appropriate layout of heating and cooling vents, subfloor electrical wiring, pipework and radiant heating systems are all challenges a well-prepared flooring specialist can navigate.

13. Are Finance Options Available?

Metro Flooring Contractors offers convenient financing options for your flooring renovation projects so you can get the flooring you want at a reasonable price. We offer competitive interest rates, extended payment plans and online bill pay. Both 12- and 24-month financing options are available pending credit approval.

Schedule an Appointment With Us Today

Schedule an Appointment With Us Today

Metro Flooring Contractors has many laminate wood flooring options to suit your needs and can help you find a design that resembles your favorite flooring. Once you decide on your flooring, we come out the next day to begin the installation, meaning you can have your dream flooring installed in a matter of days.

We look forward to partnering with you on your laminate flooring installation project in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Delaware, or Pennsylvania. When you’re ready to begin your project, schedule your free in-home appointment to discuss your ideas with our professional team and receive an estimate.