Laminate flooring is arguably one of the most most beautiful flooring types you can install without blowing your budget. Many people consider various types of laminate flooring to be the next big trend, and it can easily imitate tile, wood, or stone flooring. The flooring features layers of adhered fiberboard that has an image imprinted on it of tile, wood, and stone.
It mimics the looks of these flooring types without making you work to keep them looking nice. You won’t have to worry about pesky grout lines with different types of laminate flooring, and it resists scratches, burns, and heat. This makes it very easy to maintain and clean.
Many people confuse this floor with engineered hardwood flooring. Engineered wood flooring usually 100% real wood piles that get laminated together. On the other end of the spectrum, types of laminate flooring have fiber core boards with a photographic print layer and a clear top coat to seal it that is made out of melamine resins.
You can use laminate flooring anywhere because it doesn’t get affected by moisture or humidity in the same way that true hardwood will. This makes it a very popular choice for below, at, or above grade flooring. Different types of laminate flooring comes in a range of colors, styles, and textures, and we’ll outline more for you below.
Not only is laminate flooring a budget-friendly option when it comes to materials, but it’s also fantastic with installation costs because many people can DIY. Laminate Installation by Lee Haywood / CC BY-SA 2.0
Two Main Types of Laminate Flooring
When you consider laminate flooring, you have the choice of engineered wood or plastic laminate. Once you decide on one, you can then narrow down your choices further to get the perfect flooring for your kitchen or room in your home.
Engineered wood consists of several layers of material that get pressed together to form a plank. The core and bottom layers have between 3 and 12 layers of plywood, fiberboard, or unfinished hardwood. The top layer is a veneer, and it has a very thin piece of natural wood.
This wood will mimic the look and feel of real hardwood very closely because the very top layer is actually hardwood. Depending on how thick your top layer is, you can sand and refinish engineered wood up to three times to refurbish the flooring.
Unlike engineered wood flooring, plastic laminate is a 100% man-made material that has several layers to it. The backer is the bottom layer, and it works as a moisture barrier. The core layer on this type of laminate flooring has a high-density fiberboard that serves as the backbone of the flooring and resists dents.
On top of the inner core of this flooring is the design layer, and this has a high-definition photographic image. Most images tend to mimic the look of wood, but you can also get stone-like laminates. The upper layer is a clear coat that helps protect the surface from any damage, including scratches and fading.
Although this flooring lacks the feel of hardwood flooring and the natural look of it, it’s much tougher. This makes it a good option for homeowners who have younger children or pets. It’s also more budget-friendly, and a mid-tier grade type of laminate flooring will cost between $2.50 and $4.00 a square foot. For hardwood flooring, this price goes up to $5.00 to $10.00 a square foot, so there is a marked difference.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Laminate Flooring
There are a few things you should take into account when you shop for quality types of laminate flooring, including thickness, location, ease of installation, and plank size. We’ll highlight them below.
The AC rating stands for Abrasion Criteria, and this is invaluable when it comes time to determine the durability of your type of laminate flooring. This rating is based on a scale of one to five, and five is the highest. Most residential laminate flooring types come with an AC3 or AC4 rating attached.
- AC1 – These floors are only strong enough to handle light use, and it’s common to install them in the guest room or bedroom.
- AC2 – These floors are good for spaces that get moderate foot traffic like areas in the dining rooms and living rooms.
- AC3 – These floors are suited for busier areas in your home, including foyers and kitchens.
- AC4 – These floors are durable enough to use in kitchens and bathrooms, and they work well for commercial use.
It’s important that you carefully consider how durable you need your floor to be. Think about where you intend to install it as high-traffic areas will need a higher AC rating. Flooring by Andy Rogers / CC BY-SA 2.0
DPL Versus HPL Laminate Floors
As long as you’re aware of the correct underlayment insulation requirements, you can use types of laminate flooring in your bathrooms or kitchens due to the water-resistant properties. You can even install it on the walls for an eclectic look. When you start shopping, you’ll notice the terms direct pressure and high pressure used, and they mean:
- Direct Pressure Laminate (DPL) – This type of laminate flooring has four layers to it. You get a stabilizing layer, core layer, decorative layer, and a wear layer. The layers get fused together with 300 to 500 PSI of pressure. Most laminate flooring for residential use falls into this category.
- High Pressure Laminate (HPL) – This type of laminate flooring has a fifth layer built in that is a kraft paper treated with resin to lend strength and stiffness to the floor. It makes it suitable to use in commercial spaces. The layers get fused at 1,300 PSI or more, and this results in a much harder product that can resist heat, moisture, wear, scratches, and dents. This laminate usually gets put in high-traffic commercial spaces over residential ones.
If you have a DIY attitude, types of laminate flooring will be right up your alley. This product is lightweight, thin, and very easy to work with. This flooring comes with a snap-and-lock installation process that removes the need to have glue and nails handy. You can also float laminate flooring over your existing floors, with the exception of carpeting. This removes the need to tear up your old flooring first. As long as the subfloor is clean and smooth, msot DIYers can easily perform this project in a single day.
You will need to install underlayment over the subfloor before you lay down your laminate flooring unless the flooring includes an underlayment layer. If you choose to install the flooring yourself, you’ll need a chop saw and a table saw on hand to perform the correct cuts to install it correctly.
Plank Length & Thickness
Laminate flooring can vary in thickness from 7mm to 12mm. The thicker types of laminate flooring will flawlessly cover uneven areas of your subfloor because it resists bending. It also feels like you’re walking on real hardwood. Thicker laminate also works better at absorbing noise. Some manufacturers will include the underlayment in the thickness of the flooring while others won’t.
Most planks for your laminate flooring are up to four feet long, and the width can be anything from a more narrow three inches to wider planks up to seven inches or more. However, wider planks are much more challenging to install over the narrow versions. They’re more difficult to snap together and the end joints resist staying flush to the next one.
You’re also much more likely to feel gaps under the planks of wider boards, especially if the concrete pad or subfloor aren’t even. You can use narrower planks to help open up a smaller room or a wider plank in bigger rooms or places with open floor plans.
The plank length and thickness will play a huge role in determining how hard the installation process is and whether or not it looks natural when you finish. Laying out the Floor by ActiveSteve / CC BY-ND 2.0
Texture and Finish
The goal of the texture and finish of your type of laminate flooring is to get it to look and feel as close to real hardwood as you can. Engineered hardwood flooring does the best job of mimicking these things because it uses a thin layer of hardwood for the top coat. So, it has the actual wood grain and texture that draws so many people to hardwood flooring.
Plastic laminate won’t use actual wood, so companies have to get very creative to give it the look of real wood. Due to modern technology, designers can use high-definition printing and embossing to replicate natural stone or wood. Laminate flooring is good for people with allergies too as it doesn’t hold dust and dirt like carpet, and it resists bacteria and mold.
Similar to traditional hardwood flooring, various types of laminate flooring come in several finishes, including cherry, walnut, pine, chestnut, oak, and maple. You can also choose from several finishes, including:
- Hand-Scraped – This isn’t actually a hand-scraped finish. Instead, it gets pressed to look like you installed an authentic hand-scraped wooden floor.
- High Gloss or Piano – You’ll get an elegant, shiny look that works well when you pair it with modern, upscale interiors.
- Matte – This is one of the most popular textures. It mimics the look of natural hardwood floors, and it has a very distinct wooden texture.
- Natural Wood – This finish looks and feels like natural wood flooring. It’s also very popular today with people who are looking for authentic texturing.
- Oiled Wood – You’ll get a more traditional style that is very popular today. It mimics untreated, natural hardwood flooring. It gives you the look that your floors got treated with natural oils.
- Oxide Surface – This is a metallic finish that gives a small amount of shine. It’s popular in chic, modern interiors.
- Satin or Smooth – You’ll get a subtly shiny surface to the flooring. It will reflect a little light, but it won’t overpower your room with a glossy feel.
- Slate or Stone – This finish replicates the feel and look of slate or stone flooring.
- Soft Scraped – This will take a design and add a very subtle timeworn finish to it, and it has a very subdued look.
Popular Types of Laminate Flooring
Now that you know how to pick out different types of laminate flooring, we’re going to outline 14 popular types you can consider. They’re all beautiful and lasting, and they can help you upgrade your kitchen remodel without breaking the bank.
A chevron or herringbone pattern will give you a lot more dimension to your flooring. It can help to transform the flooring into a unique feature in your room, and it goes well with a huge range of design styles.
Distressed or Hand Scraped
A hand scraped or distressed type of laminate flooring is a fantastic way to give your floor an antique flair. It’s a relatively new style that is available, and it gives you a very lovely finished look.
Embossed in Registration
Embossed in registration is a fun texture style that will match up with the grooves of the printed grain on your flooring. This lends a realistic wood texture that will make it very hard to distinguish between real hardwood flooring and laminate.
There are a few types of laminate flooring in this category floating around, and the texture style can really look nice. With this style, you’ll get a wave or texture pattern that doesn’t necessarily have to go with the grain of the wood. Polymer materials get heated to give it a natural pattern and rise.
This is most likely the type of laminate flooring you’ve seen or have in your own home, and it was the only way you could get laminate for a long time. With this style, you’ll glue the joints together. The good thing about this flooring option is that you get guaranteed a hold that won’t peel away. It is messier to install though.
This is the most popular option now, and it makes up most sales of types of laminate flooring today. This is because it’s so easy to install without any specialized tools, and the glueless design reduces the overall mess. It’s also very easy to fix your mistakes. Most flooring in this category comes ready to use the double-click methods they lock in place without fear of them sliding apart later on.
Glueless Click-Lock laminate flooring is now one of the most popular types you can buy because it’s very quick and easy to install with minimal messes or mistakes. Kiddo-flooring by Page DeWolfe / CC BY-NC 2.0
Pre-glued types of laminate flooring aren’t hard to install on your own. With this option, you won’t have to apply the glue separately. All you have to do is peel the back off to show the glue layer and stick it down. Oftentimes, you’ll have to dampen the glue to activate it before you apply the flooring to your subfloor, but this is easy.
Smooth types of laminate flooring is arguably the easiest one to clean. However, it can also look less realistic if you want your floor to mimic the look of more natural materials.
Textured or embossed laminate can look much more accurate to whichever material you want it to resemble like stone or wood. It has crannies and nooks that make it harder to clean.
Thin planks of laminate flooring can give you a very chic and modern look. However, it can look less like real wood because narrow wooden plank flooring isn’t as common when it comes to real hardwood floors.
Traditional, original types of laminate flooring were made to mimic wood flooring, so a traditional style will follow the standard layout and width of a classid hardwood floor.
Laminate flooring that has a wider plank pattern to it can seem more sturdy. Also, it’s more reminiscent of the older and more traditional styles.
How To Choose The Right Laminate Flooring
With the sheer number of types of laminate flooring available, there are a few key factors that you want to consider before you settle on one to ensure that you get the best pick for your needs. They include:
- Installation – If you’re someone who likes to DIY, laminate flooring is a fantastic choice. If you want something more complex, it’s a good idea to bring in a professional to ensure you get lasting results.
- Price – Is installing your new type of laminate flooring part of a larger remodel or are you simply updating your flooring? Laminate flooring is usually very budget-friendly, and if you’re prioritizing other elements in your project, it can be a great option to help you keep your costs reasonable. However, if you plan to go all-out on the flooring, you may be willing to spend more for a high-end laminate option.
- Resale Value – If you’re planning on putting your home on the market soon, types of laminate flooring can help raise the value of your home if you go with engineered wood over plastic.
- Wear and Tear – Are you planning on putting your laminate floor in a busy area in your home? If so, look for an option that is very durable with a scratch-resistant finish. Check the AC rating on the type of laminate flooring you pick out. It stands for Abrasion Criteria, and it’s the rating system that companies use to test the floor’s impact resistance, abrasion resistance, and durability. You Can use a lower rating in lower traffic areas.
Types of Laminate Flooring – FAQs
Laminate Flooring Going In by Frank Reid / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Even though laminate is a cost-effective flooring choice, it’s common to have questions about it if you’ve never worked with it before. The most popular frequently asked questions include:
1. What is the best thickness level for your laminate flooring?
You can get laminate flooring in different thickness levels, but the most common options include 6mm, 7mm, 8mm, 10mm, and 12mm. The thicker the flooring is, the more the price goes up. The thickness encompasses only the base of the board up to the top. If a pad gets attached to the board, most companies don’t include this in the thickness measurement.
The thickness will affect the durability to a degree, but the most important consideration is how it impacts the aesthetics. A thicker laminate can more easily mimic the feel and look of more expensive flooring options. The thickness levels also impact how well it absorbs sound. For a floor that looks like real wood, you should get a 10mm or 12mm thickness. However, if you want to save money and you’re not worried about it looking authentic, you can go with a 7mm or 8mm thickness rating.
2. Is laminate flooring worth it to install?
Laminate flooring, no matter the type, comes with a range of benefits. It is less expensive than more traditional floor options, you can use it as a DIY project, it’s very easy to maintain and clean, and it comes in a range of different looks. However, it usually won’t boost your home’s resale value as much as hardwood flooring will. Also, with varying AC ratings and thickness levels, some options aren’t as durable.
3. Do you need to install underlayment for laminate flooring?
It’s strongly recommended that you use underlayment for your laminate flooring. It will impact how the flooring sounds, feels, and stands up to wear and tear. Underlayment also helps eliminate problems caused by subfloor imperfections that could cause your flooring to break apart. Underlayment prevents moisture from gathering, insulates the home to reduce your energy bills, and absorbs sounds from walking on it. If your flooring has a pad attached, you may not need to have underlayment.
4. What is the average lifespan for laminate flooring?
On average, your types of laminate flooring will last between 15 and 25 years. This can fluctuate to 10 to 30 years based on how much wear and tear it sees, the environment, and the hardness rating.
We’ve outlined 14 types of laminate flooring that you can consider installing in your own home. Some will work better if high traffic areas or if you have kids and pets running around, but they all make solid investments that can help pull your room together and refresh the look at the same time.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.