Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The 1,2,3 of Laminate Flooring Quality

When choosing a laminate floor, quality can mean the difference between a floor that will last decades and one that will start showing problems in a couple of years.
The quality of laminate flooring can and should be measured. These are the basics.

The wear layer: the AC rating.

There are various tests laminate floors undergo when being graded. One rating that is often misunderstood and abused is the AC rating. The AC rating which is generally and loosely used for describing the product’s application and durability is not the only consideration to take into account when deciding on a new floor. The AC rating ranges from AC1 to AC5. It mostly takes into account the effects of wear on the top layer of the laminate floor which may range from 0,3 to 0,7mm thick. Low quality laminate floors might also claim the same AC rating as more expensive floors yet the substrate may be of very low quality. The quality of two floors cannot be compared by AC rating alone.

The substrate: HDF & MDF.

HDF is High Density Fibreboard, MDF is medium density. HDF laminate floors have better impact resistance. Besides this, the higher the density of the substrate, the more moisture resistant the boards will be. A good quality laminate board should also have a low percentage of swelling in the swelling test where the board is submerged under water for 24 hours, left to dry for another 12 hours and are then measured for swelling. Good quality laminates should not swell more than 12% to 18%. Higher density substrates are also less prone to expansion with heat.

Usage classification: the 1,2,3.

The best rating to use for determining which application a laminate floor will be suitable for is the Usage Classification. The classification of a laminate floor should conform to the scheme specified in the European Standard – EN 685. The usage specification takes into account all the above mentioned ratings and divides products into usage classification classes. In the table below, the classes and their applications are shown. You can see that Class number starts with a 2 for Domestic and a 3 for Commercial, then each level of use is given a number so Domestic Moderate is 21, Domestic General is 22 and Domestic heavy is 23. The same applies to Commercial and even Industrial.

EN Usage Clasification

Check that your flooring is made by a reputable manufacturer.
Check that the wear layer is of an adequate thickness and has a suitable AC rating.
Check that the substrate is HDF.
Check that the usage classification (Class #) is suitable for your application
You can find our Laminate flooring here.

Friday, 13 February 2015

How Does Thickness Matter in Laminate & Vinyl Flooring?

Many people, even professionals in the trade, mistakenly believe that the thickness of laminate or luxury vinyl planks determine the durability of the product.

In fact the thickness of the very top layer, the transparent wear layer is the most important. Certainly the overall thickness is an issue but more in terms of its insulating properties and its ability to cover irregularities in the subfloor.

In general thicker planks do have a proportionately thicker wear layer... but not necessarily.
Perhaps surprisingly the wear layer itself is actually very thin, typically between 10 and 30 mils.

Note that a mil is NOT a millimetre. The mil or thou, is a measurement commonly used in engineering and manufacturing for specifying the thickness of very thin things like paper, film, foil, wires and paint coatings. 1 mil is a thousandth of an inch. 1 millimetre is about 39 mils.

Wear layer coatings are made out of tough materials, typically a resin coated cellulose and aluminum oxide or melamine. Wear layers are given an abrasion class (AC) rating for durability. Look for an AC rating of 3 or higher for a hardwearing finish.
AC1 - Moderate ResidentialSuits light traffic areas such as bedrooms and closets
AC2 - General ResidentialSuits medium traffic areas such as living rooms and dining rooms
AC3 - Heavy Residential/ Moderate CommercialSuits all rooms in a home and light traffic commercial spaces
AC4 - General CommercialSuits all rooms in a home and medium traffic commercial spaces
AC5 - Heavy CommercialSuits high traffic commercial spaces such as department stores

Typical          Typical
Overall          Wear layer                                            Typical
thickness      thickness          Suitability                   AC rating
6mm             0,3mm (12mils)   Domestic only               2
8mm             0,55mm (22mils) Minimum commercial     3
12mm           0,7mm (28mils)   Commercial                   4

In summary, thickness is not necessarily an indicator of quality. A 12mm laminate may seem like your best choice because you see more material, but without quality of construction you’re simply paying for more fiberboard.

Contact us for any enquiries at all.