The Ugly Duckling Grows Up
Remember in elementary school when the teacher would take your prized drawing of your favorite animal and later return it to you in a nice clear film that thankfully protected it from spills in the lunchroom. Whether or not you knew it at the time, your teacher laminated that drawing by melding it between two layers of plastic. This is a simplified example of the definition of lamination, which is to combine layers of either identical materials, or different materials, by heat and pressure. This process is used in a number of industries with the most prominent being photography and woodworking.
With regards to laminate flooring, technology has elevated the product such that it is difficult to identify a true hardwood floor from a laminate floor. However, the true popularity of laminate stems from the fact that it requires much less maintenance than traditional hardwood floors. This benefit is coupled with its affordability making it a fast growing segment of the United States market. Nevertheless, across the pond in Europe, laminate has been widely used for the last 25 years. For those who cannot seem to get past the image of old and unfashionable laminate countertops, one visit to a flooring display room would alter your perspective indefinitely.
Present day laminate has a lot to offer both in terms of style and in functionality. Due to the manufacturing process of laminate, which includes applying a durable resin over the surface, this material choice is well suited to resist scratches and dings. This trait has made it very popular for homeowners looking for the element of grace that accompanies wood flooring, while giving them an option that will hold up under the wear and tear supplied by their children. Not to mention, laminate is less likely to fade under sunlight making it appropriate for areas of the home where natural sunlight shines brightest. This turns out to be a double bonus, as laminate adopts a nice tone under natural light. Another aspect that sets laminate apart from its flooring cohorts is its unique installation properties. For example, laminate is considered a floating floor choice, as it is not directly secured to the sub-floor. This minimizes the effort taken to replace boards, as well as allows laminate to be applied over challenging surfaces such as concrete. Given these benefits, one must wonder about its origin.
Many people may not definitively know how timber is manipulated into hardwood flooring, but given a moment of thought, most could imagine some form of a process. Laminate, on the other hand, most likely leaves people wondering what it really is in the first place. This hardy material can be broken down into four elements. Starting at the top, this layer is the illustrative component that actually gives the laminate flooring material its outward appearance. The following layer down is comprised of a durable material that is known as the core board. For this layer, the material used can range from particle board to fiber board. The bottom layer serves as a moisture barrier between the laminate and the sub-floor, and is often comprised of a melamine plastic. Now, you may be wondering what the fourth layer is, as a top, middle and bottom layer have all been described. In fact, the forth layer cannot be seen, but is paramount in preserving the quality of the product. This layer is the protective coating that acts as a barrier between your active home and the beauty of your floor.
Most fascinating though, is the manufacturing process that brings these four layers together. Imagine a large open warehouse where all four layers have been very precisely stacked upon one another. This is followed by the application of hundreds of pounds of pressure, per square inch, in combination with temperatures approaching 400 degrees Fahrenheit. After which point, the newly formed solid boards are allowed to cool to ensure that the layers have been successfully bonded. Additional time is taken for the laminate to become accustomed to the temperature and moisture level of its environment. The final element is the precise cutting of the boards to achieve the tongue and groove scoring, which is essential for the installation process.
As previously stated, maintaining laminate flooring is anything but rocket science. A broom can single handedly take care of most everyday needs. The addition of a damp cloth can then alleviate most of the cleanup tasks that were not handled solely by the broom. However, due to the forth layer, the protective layer described above, it is important to be aware of the cleaning products not to be used on laminate. Some products are too abrasive and when applied to the surface will remove the protective sealant, which will make the floor subject to scratches. This information is best gathered directly from the manufacturer.