Nothing can beat the rich, classic look of hardwood floors in a home. But installing hardwood flooring can be expensive—easily costing thousands of dollars for just one room. Hardwood floors are also susceptible to scratches, dents, and water damage. Not to mention, hardwood floors can be difficult and costly to repair.
Laminate flooring, however, offers a natural look at a fraction of the cost. This type of flooring is made from composite wood that’s been pressed together to create flooring that has the look and feel of real hardwood. Laminate flooring is also easier to clean and more durable than natural wood, making it ideal for high-traffic areas and rooms that may be exposed to moisture or direct sunlight, such as foyers, kitchens, and bathrooms. If you’re in the market for flooring, read on to learn what type of flooring is right for your home and why the following are among the best laminate flooring options available.
- BEST OVERALL: Pergo TimberCraft + WetProtect Laminate Flooring
- RUNNER UP: Mannington Restoration Collection
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: TrafficMaster Lakeshore Pecan Stone
- BEST FOR KITCHENS: Mohawk RevWood Plus Flooring
- BEST FOR LIVING ROOMS: Shaw Repel Water Resistant Laminate
- BEST FOR BEDROOMS: Mohawk RevWood Flooring
- BEST FOR OFFICES: Tarkett Menards’ Exclusive Laminate
- BEST FOR BASEMENTS: Pergo Outlast + Laminate
Types of Laminate Flooring
When considering laminate flooring, you have two choices: engineered wood and plastic laminate.
Engineered wood consists of multiple layers of material pressed together to form a plank. The bottom and core layers consist of three to 12 layers of fiberboard, plywood, or unfinished hardwood. The veneer, which is the top layer, consists of a very thin piece of natural wood. Engineered wood closely mimics the appearance of real hardwood because the top layer is actual hardwood. Depending on the thickness of this top layer, engineered wood can be sanded and refinished up to three times to refurbish the flooring.
Unlike engineered wood, plastic laminate flooring is completely man-made and consists of several layers. The backer, which is the bottom layer, serves as a moisture barrier. The core layer consists of high-density fiberboard that resists dents and serves as the backbone of the flooring. On top of the inner core is the design layer, which includes a high-definition photographic image—while most images attempt to simulate wood, there are also stone-like laminates. The topmost layer is a clear coat that protects the surface from damage, including fading and scratches.
Although laminate flooring lacks the natural look and feel of hardwood flooring, it is tougher, making it a good option for homeowners with young children and pets. It’s also less expensive. A mid-tier grade of laminate will run about $2.50 to $4 per square foot versus $5 to $10 a square foot for hardwood flooring, according to Home Advisor.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Laminate
There are a few considerations you should take into account when shopping for quality laminate flooring, including location, thickness, plank size, and ease of installation. Read on to learn which laminate flooring is the best fit for your needs.
Laminate flooring features materials that resist dents, scratches, moisture, and wear, making this type of flooring suitable for high-traffic areas throughout the home, including living rooms, dens, bedrooms, kitchens, dining areas, and even bathrooms and basements. At a fraction of the cost of real wood, laminate offers a budget-friendly alternative to traditional hardwood flooring.
As long as you follow proper underlayment insulation requirements, you can use laminate flooring in kitchens and even bathrooms thanks to its water-resistant qualities. You can even install laminate flooring on the walls if it strikes your fancy.
When shopping for flooring, you may see the terms “high pressure” and “direct pressure.” Direct pressure laminate (DPL) flooring consists of four layers: a stabilizing layer, a core layer, a decorative layer, and a wear layer. The layers are fused together with 300 to 600 psi (pounds per square inch) of pressure. The majority of laminate for residential use is DPL.
High-pressure laminate (HPL) flooring includes a fifth layer that consists of a kraft paper treated with a resin that gives it stiffness and strength, making it suitable for commercial use. The layers are fused at a significantly higher pressure of 1300 psi or more, resulting in a harder product that resists moisture, heat, wear, dents, and scratches. High-pressure laminate is typically used in high-traffic commercial settings.
Laminate flooring varies in thickness between 7mm and 12mm. Thicker laminate flooring covers uneven areas in your subfloor as it resists bending, and it also feels more like a real hardwood floor. Thicker laminate also does a better job of absorbing noise than thinner flooring.
Keep in mind that some manufacturers will include the underlayment in the listed thickness of their flooring while others may not.
The Abrasion Criteria (AC) rating is invaluable when determining the durability of a laminate flooring product. “AC” is the abbreviation for the Abrasion Criteria rating, which is based on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest. Most residential laminate flooring will have a rating of AC3 or AC4. AC3 means the flooring is suitable for use in busy areas, including kitchens and foyers. AC4 is tough enough for use in bathrooms and kitchens and is also ideal for commercial use. AC1 is only strong enough to handle light use, such as in a bedroom, while AC2 is appropriate for moderate foot traffic.
The goal of the texture and finish of laminate flooring is to look as much like real hardwood flooring as possible. Engineered hardwood flooring does the best job of mimicking natural hardwood flooring because it uses actual hardwood as its topmost layer. Thus, it possesses the actual wood grain and texture that makes hardwood so attractive.
Plastic laminate doesn’t use actual wood, so manufacturers have to get creative to give it the appearance of real wood. Thanks to modern technology, designers can use high-definition printing and embossing techniques to replicate natural wood and stone. Laminate flooring won’t make you sneeze as it doesn’t hold dirt or dust like carpet and it’s resistant to mold and bacteria.
Similar to traditional hardwood flooring, laminate flooring comes in a variety of finishes, including walnut, cherry, hickory, chestnut, pine, maple, and oak, to name a few.
Most laminate flooring planks are about 4 feet long and range in width from narrow planks that are only 3 inches wide to wider planks up to 7 inches wide or more. Keep in mind that wider planks are notoriously more challenging to install than narrower planks. They are harder to snap together with end joints that resist staying flush with each other. You’re also more likely to feel gaps under the planks with wider boards, especially if your subfloor or concrete pad is uneven. Use narrower planks to help open up smaller rooms, while wider planks are better suited for larger spaces and open floor plans.
Laminate flooring is perfect for anyone with a do-it-yourself attitude. This product is thin, lightweight, and easy to work with. Laminate flooring uses a snap-and-lock installation process, which eliminates the need for nails or glue. You can also “float” laminate flooring over existing floors, with the exception of carpet, eliminating the headache of having to tear up old flooring. As long as the subfloor is smooth and clean, most DIYers can update their flooring in just one day.
Remember, you will need to install underlayment over the subfloor before laying down the laminate flooring unless the flooring itself includes an underlayment layer. If you elect to install the flooring yourself, you will need a chop saw and a table saw on hand to make the necessary cuts for installation.
Laminate flooring products include features that improve their durability, allowing you to use them in more than just the bedrooms and the living areas of your home. Scratch-resistant coatings make laminate a good choice for high-traffic areas of your home as well. Some laminate flooring includes additional layers and special locking designs that waterproofs the flooring for use in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms.
Our Top Picks
This list of top picks includes laminate flooring products best suited for different rooms in the home. It features flooring products from some of the most reputable manufacturers in the business.
With its waterproof construction and a look that is almost indiscernible from real wood, Pergo TimberCraft is one of the best laminate flooring options you can lay in your home. It features Pergo’s WetProtect technology, which waterproofs this laminate flooring. It also has an AC4 rating, which means this laminate flooring is capable of handling commercial use, making it suitable for even the busiest areas in your home.
Timbercraft uses Pergo’s UltraDef Technology to achieve the illusion of natural hardwood flooring. This means each plank has different grains, knots, and other inconsistencies you’d expect to find in real wood. And, at 12 millimeters thick, it also feels like real hardwood when you’re walking on it. Pergo’s Timbercraft line comes in a wide variety of finishes with sizes running around 50 inches long and 7.5 inches wide.
With its stout construction and beautiful wood look, Mannington Restoration is an impressive laminate flooring. This product uses Mannington’s SpillShield Plus Waterproof Technology, which makes the floor impervious to water damage. With an AC4 rating, Mannington’s Restoration Collection is scratch and scuff resistant. This makes the Restoration Collection optimal for kitchens, laundry rooms, and bathrooms.
It offers an elegant look, as each plank is embellished with a unique wood grain pattern. This is also a thicker plank at 12 millimeters, giving this floor a more substantial feel. Each plank measures 51 inches long and 8 inches wide. The Restoration Collection comes in many styles and finishes, including single planks that mix 3-, 5-, and 8-inch wide planks and unique patterns such as Chevron. Finishes range from the light Black Forest Oak to dark Arcadia Smoke.
Laminate flooring doesn’t have to come with an exorbitant cost. TrafficMaster offers quality products at a fraction of the price of other higher-end laminate floorings. Despite its budget price, this product will still hold up against moderate foot traffic, thanks to a scratch-resistant top layer.
TrafficMaster strives to make this laminate flooring look like the real thing with textured planks and designs that ensure no two planks will look the same. This product is 7 millimeters or 8 millimeters thick with planks that range between 6 to 8 inches wide and around 4 feet long. TrafficMaster’s laminate flooring comes in a wide variety of finishes and styles.
RevWood Plus uses Mohawk’s Hydroseal technology, which covers each plank in a waterproof seal, and a Uniclic joint locking system that prevents water from infiltrating the seams between the planks. RevWood Plus is completely waterproof, making Mohawk’s RevWood Plus line well-suited for kitchens or bathrooms.
With 27 different finishes and plank widths of 5, 7.5, or 9.44 inches, Mohawk RevWood Plus offers plenty of styles to choose from. Finishes range from the bleached look of Buff to the dark brown of Buckthorn Pine. Individualized hand-scraped textures and planks give this laminate the look of real wood. Its substantial 12millimeter thickness gives this product the feel of natural hardwood.
It’s the top layer of this laminate that makes this product from Shaw so appealing, or in this case, repellant. That extra top layer provides a water-repellent agent that waterproofs this product. Not only does this product resist water, but it does so for an extended period of time—you have 24 hours to clean up that spill before it begins damaging this flooring.
This product is also scratch-, stain-, and fade-resistant, ensuring it’s ready to take on all that your family can throw at it. With its AC3 rating, this flooring is a good choice for living rooms and other moderate traffic areas of the house.
Shaw’s Repel line comes in widths ranging from 5.43 inches to 7.4 inches wide and between 50 inches and 72.6 inches long. The line includes ten different designs with multiple finishes for each.
It offers a wide selection of styles covering eight collections with up to 12 different finishes in each collection. That’s a lot more styles to choose from than Mohawk’s higher-end models. Unlike other laminate flooring collections, which have standard one-size approaches, Mohawk RevWood gives you some options with three different plank widths: 5.25, 6.12 inches, and 7.5 inches.
While it may not offer the waterproofing treatment that its higher-end line offers, it’s also less expensive. This makes it a great flooring option for areas in your home that don’t see heavy traffic or require waterproofing, such as bedrooms.
Whether it’s a home office or a professional office that sees a lot of traffic, Tarkett’s Menards’ Exclusives offers the dent and scratch resistance you need to handle foot traffic and heavy office chairs. It includes a melamine layer that makes it scuff resistant and stain resistant, giving it an AC4 rating.
Although Tarkett’s Menards’ Exclusives line offers fewer styles than other manufacturers with 14 different finishes, it includes classic walnut and oak finishes suitable for an office. Each plank is 48 inches long by 8 inches wide. Installation is easy with Tarkett’s flooring thanks to its Angle Lock and UNIFIT lock system.
With its Spill Protect and Uniclic technologies, Pergo’s Outlast Plus is completely waterproof, making it ideal for basements, bathrooms, and kitchens.
Constructed to be impervious to water, Pergo Outlast Plus is a great option for basements. Pergo Outlast Plus combines two proprietary technologies into this product: Uniclic joint technology and Spill Protect, which prevent liquid from infiltrating the joints, making it completely waterproof.
It’s rated AC4, meaning it’s tough enough to handle commercial settings. This makes it ideal for basements, kitchens, and bathrooms. This product also features Pergo’s SurfaceDefense technology, which resists scratches, stains, and scuffs.
Outlast Plus also comes with the underlayment attached, making installation easier and the flooring quieter when combined with an additional layer of underlayment. Pergo also eliminates the telltale look of cheaper laminate products with 6-inch wide plank designs that include realistic wood grain and random wood knots that add character.
The Advantages of Owning Laminate Flooring
Although traditional hardwood flooring certainly has its appeal, there are quite a few advantages of choosing laminate flooring. Because laminate flooring consists of pressed wood that resists dents, scratches, and moisture, it’s more durable than standard hardwood. Some laminates are even waterproof, allowing you to use this product in areas that may get wet such as laundry rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms.
Laminate flooring is also easy to clean with a broom and a damp mop and there’s no need to buy special wax or other floor cleaning products.
Laminate flooring is significantly cheaper than hardwood flooring and easier to install. Most wood floors cost between $12 and $20 per square foot installed, compared to $2 to $8 a square foot installed for laminate flooring, according to FIXR.
- Laminate flooring is resistant to dents and scratches.
- Some laminate flooring is waterproof, making it a good pick for bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
- Laminate floors are easy to clean.
- Laminate flooring is significantly cheaper than hardwood flooring.
FAQs About Your New Laminate Flooring
If you still have lingering questions about installing laminate flooring, here’s some frequently asked questions to help you out.
Q. How do you install laminate flooring?
Installing laminate flooring is easier than you might expect. With the right tools, this is a job most DIYers can accomplish in a weekend.
Q. Which direction is best to lay laminate flooring?
While it’s possible to lay laminate flooring in any direction in a room, the accepted way of doing it is to run the boards parallel to the room’s longest wall.
Q. How do you remove laminate flooring?
Removing many types of flooring is a laborious process, but removing laminate flooring is a comparatively easy task.
Q. How long does laminate flooring last?
The life of laminate flooring depends on various factors, including the amount of traffic and the quality of the flooring. That said, you can generally expect laminate flooring to last between 15 and 25 years.