When people think about laminate flooring they think of long, yellowed sheets of flimsy fake tile. We see the old flooring type in many reruns of 70s and 80s sitcoms and wonder how people could have that on their floors.
Today, though, laminate flooring is still popular (and not ugly), affordable and durable. It is a popular choice for plank flooring in certain areas of the home. If you are interested in laminate flooring, you are in the right place. We will examine the best laminate flooring brands so you can choose the right one for you.
The Best Laminate Flooring Brands
- 1 The Best Laminate Flooring Brands
- 2 Laminate Flooring Buyers Guide
- 3 Review: Best Laminate Flooring Brands
- 4 Laminate Vs. Vinyl Plank Flooring
- 5 How to Install Laminate Flooring
- 6 Pros and Cons of Laminate Floors
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions
- 7.0.1 Q. There is a crack in my laminate plank, can I repair it?
- 7.0.2 Q. Is laminate flooring waterproof?
- 7.0.3 Q. Do I have to cut the tongue side off when installing laminate flooring?
- 7.0.4 Q. How long does laminate plank flooring last?
- 7.0.5 Q. Why am I required to wait 24 hours after installing laminate before I can use it?
- 8 In Conclusion
The top rated and most reviewed laminate flooring brands are:
- Pergo. Considered the best of the best by many contractors, homeowners and reviews.
- Mohawk. A sister company of Pergo with designs and style for modern living.
- LifeProof. An exclusive brand from Home Depot with great selection and warranties.
- Shaw. Considered top of the game in most flooring categories, and the best selection.
- TrafficMASTER. An ideal and affordable solution for homeowners with high traffic areas.
- AquaGuard. Taking laminate where it normally doesn’t go, with waterproof laminate.
- Dream Home. The budget solution when you want a great looking floor without the cost.
Laminate Flooring Buyers Guide
There are quite a few factors you should consider before you buy your next laminate plank flooring. Below are some things to think about as you get ready for a new floor.
Types of Laminate
Laminate plank flooring is generally categorized by thickness and length . This also includes the laminate AC rating (covered below).
You can expect the laminate to fall into three categories. First is the budget-friendly, which has a lower cost, and an inferior build, lasting you a few years before needing replacement.
Then you have the mid-range, which costs an average rate for materials and can last about 10 years or more. Finally, the top-tier laminates are the most expensive, but offer the best materials and the longest warranty periods.
Another consideration is the availability of the laminate planks. You not only need to think about today, but a few years from now as well.
Some stores have exclusive sale rights to specific brands (LifeProof, for example) and if you aren’t close to those stores, your selection for delivery may be limited. You also need to think about replacement in the future.
Will your design match what is new and current on the market in a few years, or is it specialized and harder to match?
Laminate AC Rating
One of the first things to look at is the laminate rating number. This is called the laminate abrasion coefficient rating, or laminate AC rating. It is a number (1 through 6) given to laminate planks to identify their durability.
The rating tests include moving heavy furniture, rubbing the laminate with sandpaper and other abrasion tests. The final score is tallied and the laminate is given a rating between 1 and 6. For residential use you want to stay between AC1 and AC4, with the AC4 being a rare, special purchase only.
AC5 and AC6 are designed for commercial use such as shopping malls and places with extreme use and abuse. They aren’t suitable for home use though as they are too rough on your feet.
Laminate Layer and Construction
Laminate is made up from 5 layers of various materials . The construction and material quality will go a long way to determining how good your laminate is and how long it will last.
- Base Layer. The base provides support and weight distribution as well as some moisture resistance.
- Bottom Layer. The bottom layer is a melamine (sometimes plastic) layer that gives the plank its stability.
- Core Layer. The core is made from MDF or HDF (Medium density Fiberboard or High Density Fiberboard) This layer adds the main strength and rigidness of the plank and helps to resist moisture.
- Design Layer. This is the thin layer that has the pattern or design of the plank. It can look like wood, stone, tile or have patterns and designs printed on it.
- Wear Layer. The top most layer is the wear layer, also known as the abrasion layer. It it a clear coat finish that resists moisture, traffic and wear and tear.
Ease of Installation
Laminate planks are fairly easy to install . Similar to vinyl plank flooring, laminate planks will lock together and set on the existing floor or subfloor.
However, some brands and laminate types require glue, or are self-stick and need a lot of backing to peel off.
Make sure you know what type you are purchasing and what it takes to install that particular type of laminate.
Price and Warranty
Finally, you will need to consider the price. Lower cost pieces generally come with a shorter warranty period. If you plan to replace the entire flooring soon, a cheaper laminate may be enough.
However, if you plan to keep the flooring for 10 years or more, you will need to pay for higher quality planks. The cost may also include professional installation, which will include removing older flooring, clean up, labor and time costs and other smaller fees.
Make sure you get quotes and if the install price includes the materials or not.
Review: Best Laminate Flooring Brands
With so many brands of laminate flooring to choose from, it can be hard to know which brand is best. Below, I offer you 7 of the best brands of laminate flooring to help you narrow your choices.
Pergo is the self-proclaimed inventor of laminate. Boasting aside, they have produced high-quality laminate for over 40 years . The modern laminate planks are made of the highest quality and can last you for years when properly cared for.
Pergo offers you over 100 different styles, broken down into four different collections. The Pergo Outlast+, for example, has spill protection. This collection is labeled as waterproof, but with fiberboard, regardless of HDF or not, it won’t be waterproof.
The company goes a long way to ensure their planks are high quality and durable. You will pay for this quality and durability, but with the floors lasting over 15 years, it is a wise investment. If you want to save a little money and still have a Pergo floor, the Pergo XP line is something to look into.
Each collection has various features, including stain resistance additives, padding and underlayments attached (or not) and of course, colors and patterns. Most of the collections use wood grains from pine, oak and cheery to weathered or distressed looking planks.
The feel is soft underfoot and the planks have a slight give in them. The downside here is that Pergo only uses 4 layers in their construction. Heavy furniture laying on the planks for years can result in denting.
|Highly water resistant||4-layer construction can lead to denting|
|Multiple AC ratings available||Warranty may not cover all damage|
|Limited lifetime warranty (residential)|
|Over 100 styles and colors to choose from|
If you want selection and choice, look no further than Mohawk. This company is a sister brand of Pergo, and follows the same high-quality standards as the premiere laminate giant .
Mohawk is considered mid-range as far as quality and price, however, that doesn’t mean it is any less of a floor than any other brand. Not only do you get a warm, comfortable floor, you also have well over 200 styles, colors, grains and textures to choose from.
Some, like myself, see the options as overkill and can take much longer to find a suitable choice. However, Mohawk will provide you with samples of their 240+ collection so you can take your time and view them all.
If you are shorter on time or just want an easier decision, you can limit your choice by collections, install methods (drop and lock, glue, staple, etc.) or color and tone.
Mohawk offers primarily wood grain styles in almost any color, but they also have stone, marble and patterns if that is more your speed.
The planks offer a nice feel when you walk, they are smooth and soft , but they don’t give underfoot as much as some other brands. The planks feel sturdy and thick and install with ease.
It is also worth noting that you have 30 days only to make a claim on the manufacturing defects. If you don’t notice a defect within that 30 days, it won’t be accepted.
|More styles and choices than any other brand||Warranty is tricky|
|Easy to install||Not as thick as some other brands|
|Multiple AC ratings available|
|Low maintenance required|
LifeProof is an exclusive brand sold only at the Home Depot. The laminate planks are highly resilient and make perfect laminate flooring for medium and some high-traffic areas. If you want a huge selection, you will need to look elsewhere.
However, if you want to stick with common colors, tones and wood grain appearances, LifeProof has you covered. They offer 19 different styles, which makes your selection process a bit easier. All of their styles are water resistant, too, which means a light, damp wet mop is acceptable during your maintenance.
There is a small section that is rated for use with subfloor and radiant heating, so if your home uses this type of heating, there is a laminate option for you.
The biggest draw to the flooring is the price. With a mid-range plank at a budget-friendly price, there aren’t a lot of surprises.
The quality is good and the laminate is soft when you walk on it. However, some do complain that heavy furniture like couches or appliances can dent the flooring making it difficult to move the furniture later.
The only other complaint is that being from Home Depot, you need to be close to a store to get the full selection. Home Depot will ship LifeProof laminate flooring to your home, but the shipping selection is smaller than the options you have going through the store.
|Great pricing structure||Must be near a Home Depot to order|
|Ideal for medium and low traffic areas||Not as many variances in AC rating|
Shaw is arguably the best when it comes to vinyl planks flooring. What about their laminate selection though? While Pergo holds the top spot here, Shaw isn’t a shabby option. They maintain high quality standards and offer a spill and splash resistant line up.
Their entire laminate selection is just over 20 pieces, but those options are some of the most rigid and comfortable in the industry.
Shaw offers you three collections, each with their own colors and wood designs. The Long Board collection is designed for high-quality planks that are longer and wider, but the same from plank to plank.
The Mixed Width collection, just as it sounds, gives you the option to showcase a floor that looks more handmade, rustic and with planks of various sizes. These do wonderful in hallways and smaller rooms.
Then you have the Repel collection, which is the biggest collection. All of the planks are treated by Shaw to resist staining, liquid spills and splashes. It isn’t recommended to use the laminate planks in wet areas like the kitchen or bathroom, but in the dining room or living room where accidents happen, these planks can save your flooring appearance.
With average and higher AC ratings, Shaw floors are also some of the most versatile and durable on the market .
One of the best options is the ability to pull inspiration from a photo. Shaw will take your photo and create a color pallet for you to choose from.
You will pay more for the customized planking, but it is the only way to get a perfect match for your home décor.
|High AC rating||More expensive than most others|
|Durable, quality construction||Low selection options|
|Can match any color from a photo|
|Multiple install options|
Traffic MASTER is a brand that is a child of Shaw. There isn’t a dedicated website for viewing or ordering as with most other brands. Instead, your local home improvement and hardware stores are relied upon to deliver the images and samples when requested.
TrafficMASTER’s aim is to be simple and affordable. The budget-friendly flooring has some of the lowest per-square-foot pricing of any laminate planks. They also only offer tongue and groove, floating installation.
Since installation is so simple, the options are also somewhat limited. Currently, there are 43 colors, styles and collections to choose from. More than some of the other brands, but a far cry from the likes of Mohawk.
The planks have a lower AC rating than their Shaw branded counterparts. The highest rating you will find is an AC2, which is ideal for light to moderate foot traffic. If you have high traffic areas, such as entry ways, hallways, etc. this may not be the best laminate choice for those spots.
The biggest draw is the durability. TrafficMASTER uses a thicker top layer than almost every other brand. It resists scratches and dings from paws, claws and children.
Unlike most laminate flooring, with a light buffing (and extreme patience and care) you can remove most scratches without having to replace the plank.
|Simple installation||Not rated for high traffic areas|
|Inexpensive and durable|
|Some scratches can be buffed out|
Floor & Decor is another company, like Home Depot, with their own exclusive flooring brands. For laminate planks, AquaGuard is the name of their flooring options.
All of these planks are treated with water protection. Of course, they aren’t waterproof, but they are water resistant more than any other brand. The one exception may be the Repel collection from Shaw.
If you decide to wet mop, you can. If there are spills or splashes, they are easily cleaned up without any damage to the planks. Water won’t cause the planks to swell, bow or warp. However, they are like most laminates and susceptible to staining.
Wet spills like juice and mud tracks can leave permanent stains, so you will want to clean those up as fast as you notice them.
The AquaGuard planks only have two AC ratings, AC4 and AC5 . These are okay for residential use, but may be a little rough on bare feet. You will definitely want to test them on your bare and sock feet before lying an entire floor.
AC4 and AC5 are generally reserved for light and heavy commercial use, which is why they are also more likely rougher on bare feet. The planks do last longer and resist scratching more, but you might find you replace your socks more often than you are used to.
|Water resistant planks for residential use||AC ratings may be too high|
|Nice selection to browse through||Only available at Floor & Decor|
|Easily cleaned and maintained|
7. Dream Home
One brand you might not know much about is called Dream Home. This is yet another exclusive laminate plank flooring. This time, Lumber Liquidators is the sole manufacturer.
However, like the other two exclusives on our list, Dream Home is also sold in retail outlets around the country. If you aren’t near a Lumber Liquidators, you can still purchase the flooring locally.
Dream Home is a budget flooring that attempts to get mid-range status. Easily the cheapest flooring on the market , it is ideal for those on a tight budget that are looking for a new look for their home.
However, you will most likely get a cheaper plank that needs replacement far sooner than most others. With thickness ranges between 6mm and 12mm, you will need to find the right balance between cost and durability.
The 12mm options will stand up to the most abuse, but even they are more susceptible to scratches and stains. The exception is the Dream Home X2O line. These planks use a special HDF core that has water treatment built in making them less prone to swelling from water damage.
They are also thicker and have a deeper clear coat layer than some other brands, making them better for higher traffic areas, pets and scratch resistance. Don’t expect lifetime miracles with these prices.
It also isn’t recommended to put these planks in a rental home, or you will need to replace them every year.
However, if you have a low traffic home, or specific rooms that don’t see a lot of use, Dream Home can save you a lot of money on smaller area projects that still look great and perform well when they are used.
|Low price||Not suitable for high use areas|
|X2O line has higher water resistance||May crack or dent easier than other brands|
|Easy to install|
Laminate Vs. Vinyl Plank Flooring
Premium laminate planks and luxury vinyl planks (LVP) are similar in a lot of ways, they also have some remarkable differences. Find out how the two compare in the table below.
|Cost||Wide range of pricing options||Wide range of pricing options|
|Maintenance||Sweep, vacuum, steam or wet mop||Sweep, steam mop|
|Installation Method||Floating, lock and drop, glue, peel and stick||Peel and stick, lock and drop, glue|
|Durability||Highly durable in almost every situation||Durable but prone to scratching, cracking and breaking after repeated use|
|Pets||Very pet friendly||Pet friendly but may develop scratches|
|Traffic||All traffic zones including high traffic residential||Low to medium traffic zones recommended for residential applications|
|Warranty||Up to 20 years commercial and lifetime residential||Up to 20 years commercial and 20 years residential|
How to Install Laminate Flooring
Installing laminate planks is a fairly simple DIY job. About the only thing easier is installing vinyl planks. However, if you have zero experience laminate is something you can do on your own.
If you wish to have the flooring installed by a professional, that is certainly an easy call to make. Just ensure you get at least three quotes from reliable contractors and make sure all of your questions are answered prior to signing a contract.
If you want to take on the project yourself, here is what you will need and the basic installation process so you know what you are getting into.
- Chalk line. This will help you measure the room and mark a starting line with the expansion gap clearly identified.
- Power saw. For laminate flooring you will need to remove the tongue of the first row and cut planks to size. Most brands require a circular or table saw to accomplish this.
- Bubble level. To ensure everything matches and that you are working on an even surface, you will need your level.
- Crowbar. This simple prying tool allows you to easily and safely remove your trim and baseboards prior to installation.
- Hammer. Many installers use a rubber mallet or a standard claw hammer. This will help you lock end pieces into place or to get under doorjams.
- Square. A square tool will allow you to mark the right angle to start laying planks.
- Personal Protective Equipment. You need to protect yourself from injury. Gloves and eye protection while using the saw are recommended, as well as knee pads to help prevent fatigue or bruising.
DIY Laminate Flooring Install
The installation process is marked into four stages. First you have the preparation, then the measuring and cutting followed by the installation of the planks. The final stage is the setting stage that allows the planks to expand before use.
Before you can lay a plank you need to prep the room. This is done by removing any old flooring (if you aren’t laying the new on top), as well as trim and baseboards. Of course any furniture will need to be removed as well.
Once everything is out of the room, you should clean the floor with a good sweep and a vacuum to remove any dust, dirt or debris that can upset the planks.
If your planking does not come with an underlayment layer attached, you will need to roll and tape an underlayment in place. Underlayments generally come with the planks (if not attached) and are primarily rolls of foam or cork.
Now is the time you want to lay the underlayment, covering the entire floor from edge to edge.
Cutting and Measuring
The next stage is to measure the room and find the center. Using your square tool, bubble level and chalk line, you will want to mark the middle of each wall, leaving at least 1/8-inch gap from the wall to the chalk line.
This will ensure you have a straight line in case your walls aren’t true square. It also gives the planks room to expand during the setting stage.
Once you have your lines and measurements, you need to cut off the tongue of the planks that will make up the first row. The cut side will face the wall.
With the first row cut and measured, you are ready to start laying.
The first row is the most important and is generally laid along the longest wall of the room. You interlock the ends of the planks together following your chalk line to maintain the expansion gap.
After the first row is complete, The second row will begin. The first piece of the second row should extend at least 6-inches past the first row’s first joint. You can also cut the first plank of the second row to 6-inches short of the first row joint, just so long as they don’t align joint to joint.
Continue this offset as you lay the following layers, working to the edge of the room near the exit.
Once the final row is locked in place, you will want to leave the room without walking on the planks and enter the set time stage of the process.
After the floor is completed, you will need to wait at least 24 hours before you can walk on the floor. This means your trim, transitions and baseboards will need to wait.
After the 24 hour period is over, you can safely walk on the floor without disrupting the expansion of the planks. After you have your trim and baseboards reinstalled, you can then, carefully, move your furniture back in.
Take care to lift and set heavier furniture on the floor instead of sliding them across. This will help prevent scratching and bubbling of the planks from any movement room that is still there.
Pros and Cons of Laminate Floors
Laminate planks have their distinct advantages and disadvantages. Some of these could be dealmakers or deal breakers. Read on to find out.
- Durability. Laminate plank flooring is moderate to highly durable. Depending on the AC rating the planks can be reliably sturdy.
- Styles and design. The modern designs include multiple colors of wood and grains, but also mimicked stone, marble, tile and random patterns.
- DIY install. Laminate plank is simple to install and makes a great DIY project.
- Comfortable to walk on. With the cork or plastic bottom layers and the underlayment, the laminate floor is soft and comfortable under foot.
- Price for every budget. Laminate flooring is usually sold by the foot. There is a price range for every budget from extremely low to moderately high, depending on brand, style and size.
- Low maintenance. The flooring choice is also low maintenance. Regular cleaning of the laminate floor with a broom and a steam mop will be primarily all you need to keep the floors in tip top shape.
- Toxin possibility. While it is getting better, a lot of laminate manufacturers still use chemicals that produce VOCs that can cause reactions to certain immune systems.
- Cannot be refinished. The planks out of the box are the best they are going to get. You can clean laminate, but you cannot refinish or repair the planks.
- Not waterproof. Most laminate is moisture resistant and the multiple layers maintain that, but the fiberboard will swell and bow when it gets too wet.
- Stains easily. Unlike LVP, laminate is not stain resistant. Spills need to be cleaned up immediately to help prevent staining.
- Not easily repaired. If the planks to crack, tear or accumulate scratches, it cannot be repaired and the individual plank needs replacing.
Frequently Asked Questions
I will now answer some of the questions people often ask about laminate flooring. Do you have any other questions? Use the comments below for any further help you need.
Q. There is a crack in my laminate plank, can I repair it?
- Unfortunately, cracked, broken, swollen or damaged laminate planks cannot be repaired or refinished. You will need to replace the damaged plank or planks with a new one.
Q. Is laminate flooring waterproof?
- No. The primary layer of the planks is made from fiberboard which is not waterproof. There is a moisture barrier that helps retain the moisture resistance, but laminate planks are not waterproof or water resistant. For this reason, laminate flooring is not ideal for wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms.
Q. Do I have to cut the tongue side off when installing laminate flooring?
- It is highly recommended that you remove the tongue edge of the first layer of laminate planks when installing. This will ensure your first row is straight and has an even edge to meet the wall when expanding.
Q. How long does laminate plank flooring last?
- The warranty period of your laminate flooring will vary from a few years to 20 years. The brand, type and AC rating of your planks will determine how long they will last. With proper care and light to medium foot traffic, a laminate floor will outlast its warranty period.
Q. Why am I required to wait 24 hours after installing laminate before I can use it?
- Laminate planks require 24 hours to expand and stretch to their full and proper width or length after the manufacturing and packaging process. After the floor is laid, you will need to give the planks at least 24 hours before you walk on them or place your furniture to ensure that the planks remain flat and flush as they expand.
Laminate flooring has come a long ways since the large, flimsy rolls of the late 1970s. Today, laminate plank flooring is an inexpensive, easy to install flooring system that looks great and lasts a long time .
Choosing one of the best brands of laminate flooring is crucial to your enjoyment of he new floor and this article aimed to help you decide which brand or brands you should look closer at while making your next flooring decision.