What is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring is a type of floor cover that is comprised of a plywood or MDF (medium-density fiberboard) core and a decorative laminate top layer made of paper or plastic designed to imitate the look of real wood, stone, tile, etc.
Laminate flooring is a fairly modern innovation and was first introduced in 1977 as an inexpensive alternative to the high cost of hardwood floors (while still maintaining the look and quality). In addition, laminate flooring in Vancouver is far more durable than its hardwood predecessors; protecting against scuffs and scratches, dents and dings, stains, and are moisture-resistant as well.
The Durability of Laminate Flooring in Vancouver
Laminate flooring is constructed using a series of layers. The bottom layer or core is known as the stabilizing layer (it gives the flooring its rigidity), followed by a decorative layer (made to emulate the look of wood, tile or stone) and a transparent top-layer- used to protect the decorative and stabilizing layer from scratches, dents, dings, staining, and moisture penetration.
Since the late 1970s when laminate was first introduced, a number of innovations and technologies have been added to the manufacturing process, making laminate an extremely durable product for almost any flooring situation. Today’s laminate flooring is impervious to denting, scratching, burning, staining, fading, scuffing making it the ideal choice for commercial and residential use. Laminate is ideal for heavy traffic areas in homes and businesses alike, and are essential for any home with children and pets.
The Benefits of Laminate Flooring
Thanks to the transparent top-layer, laminate flooring is resilient to staining and damage caused by moisture, and very easy to clean. In addition, because all laminate flooring is sealed and moisture tight, they are also hypoallergenic.
Are There Differences Between Chinese, German, or Swiss Laminate Flooring?
Traditionally, German-engineered laminate flooring was considered to be the best. However, over the years, the technology once used exclusively in German made or European made flooring has been copied and ever surpassed in other areas of the world. In China for example, when laminate flooring was first introduced in the early 1980’s, it was revered for its engineering as well as its applications. Soon China began to import laminate in Vancouver and then laminate machines from Germany and elsewhere and began manufacturing their own laminate. With inexpensive labour at hand, and using the same technology and engineering as some of the finer manufacturers around the world, China quickly became a force to be reckoned with. That said, like any manufacturing process, regardless of the country of origin, not all Chinese laminate are the same (nor are all German or Swiss laminate the same either). There are more low-quality manufacturers looking to make a quick buck, than quality manufacturers, and often European companies will even outsource high-quality Chinese products (which cost less due to cheaper labour) only to have the Chinese companies stamp the products German-made or manufactured using German Technology). Learn more about European-Made Laminates.
Regardless of where your laminate is purchased in Vancouver, here are a few tips to ensure what you are getting is high-quality laminate flooring:
- Inspect the flooring, it should be free of any defects, chips, cracks, with perfect corners. The planks or tiles should be free from scratches, no drum lines, or design mars.
- Inspect the pattern or design. It should be clear, natural and smooth. It should be stain free and not hazy or ghost-like.
- Inspect the seams to ensure there are no gaps or separation. The heights of the planks or tiles should be uniform with no perceptible difference to the touch.
- Laminate is highly polished, and low-quality laminate doesn’t stand up to excess polishing- inspect for damage to the top-layer.
- Smell the laminate to ensure there are no offensive odours- that could be caused by excessive formaldehyde use.
Once again, depending on where the laminate is manufactured, each country will have a variety of standards (ISO for example) that they comply with, and consumers should research a company’s credentials, affiliations, and standards compliance prior to purchase to ensure they are getting the very best quality for their money.
What Does an E1 Environmental Rating Mean and Why is it Important?
An E1 environmental rating is used to indicate the amount of formaldehyde emission class. Formaldehyde is essentially is a naturally occurring chemical that is made up of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Formaldehyde is often industrially synthesized and used in the manufacture of many every-day products including household and personal care products, as well as in adhesives used to manufacture processed wood products like furniture, wood siding, and flooring. For the most part formaldehyde is harmless, however, high concentrations are dangerous and can be harmful to your health.
Formaldehyde is used as an adhesive and sealant in wood flooring, when layers are pressed together and sealed using urea formaldehyde resin. Despite the claim of many flooring manufacturers of being environmentally friendly, many of them use high-concentrations of adhesive to hold their flooring together making it anything but eco-friendly.
As a result, many manufacturers undergo emission testing to ensure their products meet environmental standards. These “E” classes denote the amount of formaldehyde released from wood-based materials (in their case, their flooring products). The E classes are broken down as E1 (the lowest amount of emission), E2, and E3 and measured based on the amount of formaldehyde released in parts per million (ppm). The value of ppm, must not exceed 0.1 ppm, and the majority of laminate flooring (which contains a very small percentage of contaminants) generally are labelled as contaminant-free, or carry an E1 designation.
BCLaminate’s Laminate Flooring Environmental Rating
We here at BCLaminate are proud to say that all the laminate flooring we sell have been given the E1 environmental rating (the lowest amount of emission). We strive to be environmentally friendly and will take the necessary steps to keep the earth safe whenever we can!
AC Ratings Definition
AC Ratings are divided into two main sections, residential laminate flooring (AC 1-3) and commercial laminate flooring (AC 4-6). The number indicates the amount of traffic the flooring can be expected to handle without being overstressed. They are categorized by locations with moderate, general/normal, or heavy traffic conditions.
AC Ratings and their respective recommended use are listed follows:
|AC Rating||Residential/Commercial||Traffic Condition||Recommended Use|
|AC 1 Laminate Flooring||Residential||Moderate||Bedrooms/Home offices|
|AC 2 Laminate Flooring||Residential||General||Living rooms/Dining rooms|
|AC 3 Laminate Flooring||Residential||Heavy||All areas|
|AC 4 Laminate Flooring||Commercial||Moderate||Hotel rooms/Small commercial offices|
|AC 5 Laminate Flooring||Commercial||General||Offices/Retail/Restaurants & cafes|
|AC 6 Laminate Flooring||Commercial||Heavy||Public buildings/Schools/Department Stores|
Note: All laminate flooring manufacturers must abide by these standards and consumers should consult the AC rating of a type of flooring prior to purchase- particularly for installation in high-stress areas.
How are AC Ratings Determined?
An AC rating is a standardized term used by the European Producers of Laminate Flooring (EPLF) to designate the durability of laminate flooring. The EPLF uses AC ratings to gauge the ability of laminate flooring to resist stress and wear. They run this test on every line of laminate that is manufactured. The AC rating system is in place so that consumers can better understand the different levels of durability in laminate flooring products so that they can make an educated decision on which line best suits their needs and budget.
The EPLF tests the following characteristics to determine the AC rating:
- resistance to burns,
- resistance to scratches,
- resistance to staining,
- and resistance to dents and dings (impact testing).
In addition, the EPLF also examines the effects of typical flooring encounters (for example the effect that furniture (sofa and tables) legs, wheels and castors have on the flooring, and if any swelling occurs at seams and edging.
In order for a line of laminate flooring to receive an AC rating from the EPLF, it must pass all of the above tests. Even a single fail would disqualify the line of laminate from an AC rating.