What is the best laminate flooring? Which ones should be avoided?
We’ve got the answers in this guide to the best laminate brands and ones that aren’t worth the money – unless cheap laminate is exactly what you want.
Let’s get started. Our list of best laminate brands are:
Mohawk, Pergo, Shaw, Armstrong, AquaGuard, Dream Home, Tarkett at Menards, Select Surfaces.
Each of these laminate brands fills a niche. They’re not strictly equal.
There are also two brands we recommend you avoid, and those details are discussed below.
Let’s get started.
Best Overall: Mohawk & Pergo Laminate
Are they tied? Yes, but there’s more to the connection. Mohawk and Pergo share identical technology at their core.
Pergo was the original laminate flooring, introduced to the world in 1979. Mohawk acquired Pergo in 2013. Mohawk borrowed Pergo’s fantastic design, and its used on both brands now.
Why Mohawk and Pergo are the Best Laminate
Here are the top reasons for selecting Pergo and Mohawk as best laminate.
Quality Construction: Everyone makes attractive laminate. But does it look good 5 years after installation? Are the boards coming apart or cracking?
These brands will keep their good looks, at least their midgrade and premium lines. Why? It’s that core technology mentioned above:
Almost all of the flooring has an AC4 rating for scratches and wear, which means it is suitable for residential and light commercial use.
Dependable Water-resistance: The construction allows you to wet mop your Mohawk or Pergo flooring without fear of damage. Use it in the kitchen or bathroom or basement. It will be OK.
Large and Varied Selection: Mohawk has nearly 150 laminate options in smooth and textured varieties.
The Pergo selection isn’t as large, but it is more diverse with laminate in handscraped, textured, smooth and “natural authentic” lines. Natural Authentic is an enhanced texturing that really gives the flooring a true-wood look.
Matte, Satin and Semi-gloss finishes give you the right amount of sheen for your needs.
How sheen matters – Do you sweep your floors often? Then bring out the woodgrain beauty with a semi-gloss. Do you prefer a flooring that hides dirt a little better in a busy household? Then choose a matte or satin finish.
Solid Warranties: Not the best in the business, but better than average. Many of their flooring options have lifetime residential and 10-year commercial warranties.
Reasonably Green: No laminate is perfect, since recycling it is difficult. Most laminate ends up in a landfill. However, these brands are GreenGuard certified for low-VOCs and CARB2 for low/no formaldehyde emissions.
They should not cause problems for household members with allergies or breathing issues including close-to-the-floor pets.
Ratings: We gave Pergo a 4.25 rating and Mohawk a 4 rating out of 5.
Would you like to learn more about these brands?
Runner Up: Shaw Laminate
Here’s a tidbit that tells you something about Shaw. The brand was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway founded by Warren Buffet – and Buffet is a shrewd investor.
The businesses Buffet buys are known for quality and profitability.
Why Shaw is the Runner Up Best Laminate
The Berkshire Hathaway connection is not the main reason Shaw laminate makes our top laminate brands list.
Shaw Repel: This is the industry’s best-selling waterproof laminate flooring. Like most others, it is guaranteed to resist moisture absorption for 24 hours. Only AquaGuard’s 30-hour guarantee is better.
In addition to resisting water damage, Shaw Repel is available in a huge range of options. Shaw lists 9 separate collections of Repel with almost 60 total style/color combinations.
These include the whole spectrum of colors from washed-out and nearly white to rich browns with gray and black highlights. There are multiple “looks” for every style: rustic, traditional, Old World, country, contemporary, modern, eclectic, etc.
Long Boards and Mixed Width Planks: The titles speak for themselves. The long boards are 6.5 feet long, so there are fewer end seams and installation goes faster. This produces a more elegant and expensive look.
The mixed width styles come in 3 widths to give your flooring a varied visual appearance. It’s a very authentic look.
As a bonus, these AC4 rated laminate styles come with a 5-year commercial warranty to go with the 30-year residential warranty.
American Made: Quite a bit of the laminate sold in the US is made overseas. If you’d like to support the home team, then Shaw is a good choice.
Rating: We gave Shaw a 4 out of 5 overall rating. See our Shaw Laminate Buying Guide with pros, cons, prices and more for all the details.
Best Selection: Armstrong Laminate
All the big brands – Mohawk, Shaw, Tarkett, Pergo, etc., have excellent selection. But Armstrong outdoes them all.
Why Armstrong Laminate is the Best Selection
Armstrong has the best laminate selection in two ways – The most style options and options for every budget.
Armstrong Style Options: Authentic wood-look laminate is available from Armstrong in traditional, handscraped and specialty wood options. The options are similar to other major brands.
But that’s not what sets Armstrong apart in terms of selection. This is: The brand’s collection of 20+ stone and tile styles is the best you will find.
Rich stone slab laminate looks like the genuine article – rich granite, limestone, slate, and other looks – but at a 95% savings over real stone.
The Castilian Block and Porto Alegre tile is just as attractive.
Audacity is the Armstrong waterproof laminate flooring. It is backed by a very solid Lifetime residential warranty and 15-year commercial warranty. This is one of the best waterproof laminate floors available.
Armstrong Cost Options: This is the second area where Armstrong has outstanding selection.
Poor-quality laminate starts at less than $1 per square foot – but Armstrong isn’t super cheap.
Armstrong laminate cost is about $1.50 to $4.00+ per square foot, and even the most affordable stuff is decent quality. We call that good value – a pretty good laminate floor for a low cost.
If you want midgrade or premium laminate, Armstrong has options for you there too.
Armstrong Floor Cleaner: If you prefer laminate cleaner formulated with your laminate in mind, then Armstrong laminate spray bottle and refill are ideal.
Rating: We gave Armstrong a 5 out of 5 rating for selection. It’s the only brand with a 5 in this category. The overall Armstrong rating is 4.25.
Our Armstrong Laminate guide with prices, pros and cons has more details about selection and the other factors you’re considering when buying a floor.
Best Waterproof Laminate: AquaGuard Laminate
All the major brands make a waterproof laminate. It’s not waterproof like vinyl sheet flooring is, but it resists being damaged by water for about a day.
Waterproof laminate includes Shaw Repel, Pergo WetProtect, Mohawk RevWood Plus and Harmonics SplashDefense.
But AquaGuard has the best technology, and it is backed with a 30-hour warranty, not the 24-hour warranty the others provide.
Why AquaGuard is the Best Waterproof Laminate
Several other brands have coated edges. AquaGuard planks are coated twice for superior protection against water absorption.
The manufacturer is so confident in AquaGuard’s ability to keep out moisture that it offers a Pet Friendly warranty: “AquaGuard warrants that this laminate flooring will resist permanent staining caused by pet urine (domestic cat or dog) when thoroughly cleaned.” However, that warranty is pretty narrowly defined. You might have a tough time getting a claim honored.
There are other things to like about AquaGuard.
Good Selection: How does 100 options sound? Among the wood-look brands are embossed in register (EIR), textured, handscraped, smooth and high gloss.
And within those styles are a few parquet wood floor looks and two tile-look laminates. That’s impressive!
Strong Warranties: Lifetime residential and 15-year commercial. Also impressive.
AC5 Wear Rating: Most brands on this list make AC4 laminate which is OK for light commercial. You’ll have more confidence installing AquaGuard in a commercial setting than you might with any other brand.
Rating: Our total score for AquaGuard is 4.5 out of 5.
If you’d like to compare AquaGuard to other waterproof laminate flooring, see our AquaGuard buying guide with costs, pros and cons.
Best Value: Dream Home
This is residential laminate, not designed for commercial use. It is manufactured for and sold by Lumber Liquidators.
Why Dream Home is the Best Value Laminate
Our definition of value is the combination of reasonable cost and good quality. Dream Home achieves that – and more.
Value: Most of the styles cost between $1.49 and $1.99 per square foot, even some backed by a lifetime warranty and that also have a water-resistant warranty.
Cheap Stuff Too: There’s a time for really cheap laminate – a quick fix when you’re selling, for installation in lightly used space and for wall covering. The Dream Home laminate cost starts well below $1 per square foot.
Pretty Good Selection: It’s 30+ styles give you a lot of size, style and color options in oak, walnut, hickory and other species. Widths from 7mm to 14mm, some with pad attached, are available to suit your installation needs.
Water-resistant X20 Dream Home laminate competes pretty well with Shaw Repel, Mohawk RevWood Plus and Pergo WetProtect, though it’s not as good as AquaGuard waterproof laminate.
Low-VOC: Dream Home is certified to be healthy for your indoor air quality.
Rating: We gave Dream Home laminate from Lumber Liquidator a rating of 3.75 out of 5.
See all the details in our Dream Home Laminate buying guide – pros, cons, costs and comparisons to other leading brands.
Best Cheap Laminate: Tarkett at Menards
Tarkett makes laminate flooring at all quality levels, but the focus here is on their very inexpensive lines sold exclusively at Menards.
Why Menards Tarkett is the Best Cheap Laminate
It’s simple: Good laminate for about a buck.
The range is $.99-$1.19 per square foot. There’s plenty of selection in rustic, traditional, contemporary and modern designs.
If you’re sprucing up a home to sell, finishing the basement or converting attic space to a guest bedroom (or doing a thousand other projects), you’ll find several designs that will fit your plans.
It has a wear/abrasion rating of AC3, so it’s not heavy-duty flooring. But it is backed by a 25-year residential warranty. The Home Depot sells cheap TrafficMaster flooring that’s backed by a warranty of just 15 years. That stuff is cheap and cheaply made.
Lumber Liquidators sells a line of Dream Home laminate that starts at about 59 cents per foot. It’s sub-quality too.
Rating: We give Tarkett an overall rating of 3.75 out of 5. The Tarkett from Menards is a 3.5.
There are more details about Tarkett from Menards and other Tarkett laminate flooring in our Tarkett buying guide.
Best Laminate You Might Not Know About: Select Surfaces
This is Sam’s Club laminate, and we think it is superior to Harmonics sold at Costco and TrafficMaster sold at The Home Depot.
Why Select Surfaces is the Best Laminate Unknown to Many
It’s really good quality, of course. There are lines ranging from midgrade to premium. It’s 10mm to 14mm thick, and much of it comes with attached underlayment that speeds installation.
Other features worth noting are:
The selection is good – 20 designs in classic hardwood looks from traditional and rustic to contemporary. That’s much better than the 3 options Harmonics offers, for example.
All Select Surfaces laminate is backed by a Lifetime warranty for residential use, and most of it has a 10-year commercial warranty too.
Rating: Our overall Select Surfaces rating is 3.5 out of 5.
We’ve prepared a Select Surfaces buying guide that has pros, cons, comparisons to other brands and costs too.
Worst Quality: TrafficMaster
Here’s one to avoid when quality counts.
The Home Depot sells a lot of laminate. This includes Pergo laminate in midgrade and premium lines.
TrafficMaster is the cheap stuff, and it’s quite cheaply made.
How cheap is TrafficMaster laminate? It starts at 68 cents per square foot, backed by a 15-year warranty. It’s one of the shortest residential warranties on any laminate flooring.
There are two lines with a 25-year warranty, but the 6 others are 15 years.
TrafficMaster laminate is good looking and the selection is decent. If you’re in the market for inexpensive laminate flooring, this will fit the bill. Just don’t expect it to look good for more than 6-10 years in a busy household.
Rating: TrafficMaster earned a 3.25 rating – the lowest of any major brand.
The runner up in this category is the cheap Dream Home laminate lines from Lumber Liquidators. You just can’t expect much from flooring that costs just 58 cents per square foot.
Worst Warranty: Cheap Armstrong
Armstrong is a huge producer of laminate flooring, and it makes some of the best. We gave it the nod for best selection, and the overall rating is a healthy 4.25.
But like all consumer goods, Armstrong laminate is available in really cheap lines too. That’s fine. Something for everyone and every budget.
Timeless Naturals: This is the cheap laminate from Armstrong. It is backed by a 20-year warranty. That’s longer than the TrafficMaster laminate warranty.
But here’s the catch: It is prorated after the first year, and the proration proceeds at about 5% per year. So, in 10 years, if the flooring fails due to manufacturing, Armstrong will cover just 50% of the material cost and none of the labor cost.
To be fair, laminate warranties aren’t very good across the board. Most do not cover wear, though a few do. They only cover manufacturing defects, which are rare.
Shaw warranties are among the best. They cover wear, stains, fading due to light – as well as manufacturing defects.
Rating: As noted, the overall rating for Armstrong is one of the highest we gave. But the specific rating for Timeless Natural would be a 3.25 out of 5.
Before You Go
Just a reminder that our brand buying guides are comprehensive with pros, cons, comparisons and costs.
We list costs in tables that also show the style of floor, it’s thickness and warranty.
If you’re just starting your research into laminate flooring, our Laminate Flooring Guide is another great resource loaded with information that will assist you in your buying decision.
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Q: Do all of Armstrong’s laminate flooring products have poor warranties?
A: While we didn’t give them high marks in that regard, you have to read the fine print as some products may have a better prorated period than others.
Q: Are any of the best laminate brands easier to install than others?
A: It all depends on the installation method. As most use click-locks planks and are floating floor systems, all should be relatively easy to install as long as your subflooring is sound.
Q: Is Tarkett’s linoleum only available through Menards?
A: No, but you will find some of their more budget-friendly styles their as an exclusive. Tarkett laminate flooring can be found at thousands of flooring stores throughout the United States, but aren’t as prevalent at big box stores.
Q: Why is Dream Home so cheap compared to other brands?
A: Quality is one reason why this brand is so cheap as it doesn’t look as realistic and isn’t waterproof. It’s also partly because of exclusivity as well, considering its a store brand that is only sold through Lumber Liquidators.
Q: Do any of the top laminate brands make a completely waterproof product?
A: Contrary to what marketing material would lead you to believe, no laminate flooring is completely waterproof because of the material it’s made from. Porcelain tile and luxury vinyl flooring with a plastic core are your best flooring options where water is a concern.
Q: Are VOCs still a significant concern with laminate flooring brands?
A: They can be, but the industry as a whole addressed many of the indoor air quality issues that plagued consumers in the previous decades. You still need to be wary of smaller, unknown, and budget-friendly brands, however, so look for certified flooring.
Q: Which brand manufactures the most realistic laminate flooring?
A: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so this can come down to personal preference. With that in mind, Pergo and Shaw tend to have the most realistic looking premium planks, in our opinion, although Mohawk is not far behind.
Q: Are there any brands of laminate flooring that are easy to repair?
A: Unfortunately, no. Once damage gets past the wear layer and into the image layer on a laminate plank, the board itself usually needs to come up. You can use various “touch-up” kits on laminate for minor repairs, although your results will vary.