Homeowners interested in laminate flooring have plenty of options to choose from. We’ve touched on some of the top brands and how to install or remove laminate, but did you know there were more than 20 “types” of laminate flooring?
In this guide, we’re going to touch on all the types whether you’re interested in laminate flooring with a textured surface that resembles stone or something simple with a pressed edge.
High Pressure and Direct Pressure Laminate Flooring
There are dozens of variations on the traditional laminate board, but all fall into one of two categories. Whether the laminate flooring is DPL or HPL depends on how it was produced at the factory, and that has a direct impact on the flooring's performance, price, and style.
Direct Pressure Laminate
When you see the term DPL used in the flooring world, it refers to direct pressure laminate flooring. It’s the most common style sold on the market today and is an example of “pressed” flooring. These planks are constructed when four layers of laminate are pressed together under 300 to 500 pounds of pressure.
The end result is a floor board that won’t break the bank and has a bit of flexibility. This allows manufacturers to use more design options like texturing while keeping the price point to a minimum. While durable with excellent wear ratings for residential use, these floors aren’t quite as tough as our next option.
High Pressure Laminate
The same types of layers are used with high pressure laminate flooring, but companies beef up these boards with a special type of craft paper. The manufacturers use a combination of heat and pressure to produce these boards, but in multiple stages instead of all at once.
Using pressure beyond 1,000 PSI adds to the durability of HDL flooring which makes it suitable for commercial or residential areas. It’s more resistant to dents and also thicker by design than direct pressure flooring. The styles can be somewhat limited, although HPL laminate flooring has an AC 5 rating compared to AC 3 or AC 4 on DPL flooring.
Laminate Flooring Installation Styles
Because of new manufacturing techniques, laminate flooring no longer needs to be glued to the floor like the styles of old, and you’ll never need to drive a nail into modern laminate flooring. With that in mind, there are still several types of laminate flooring installation styles to consider depending on your needs and budget.
- Floating Laminate Flooring – Floating flooring is popular with engineered hardwood, luxury vinyl flooring, and laminate. This type of laminate “floats” as it lays loose on the subfloor with only underlayment separating it from the subfloor. Floating laminate flooring has click-lock edges which makes installation a breeze.
- Floating Laminate Flooring with Underlayment – There are two types of floating laminate flooring, and boards that have a pre-attached layer of underlayment have become increasingly popular. They are more expensive, but they may be worth the additional cost as you won’t need to buy underlayment and the installation process speeds up.
Laminate Colors and Styles
While not technically a type of laminate, we’d be remiss if we didn’t touch on colors and style. Unlike linoleum or sheet vinyl flooring, laminate is designed to replicate the look of natural materials. There are a few exceptions, but 90% of the time laminate flooring is designed to look like wood or stone.
Wood-look laminate flooring has the majority of the market share as laminate was intended to be a low-cost alternative to solid hardwood flooring. That means you can find laminate that mimics oak, hickory, maple, and a variety of domestic species.
Exotics aren’t as prevalent, but some manufacturers produce Brazilian cherry and walnut laminate flooring as well. Want laminate that looks like marble or stone? That’s a unique alternative along with solid colored options from Marmoleum like Adriatica, Lemon Zest, Blue Heaven, or the vivid Bleeckerstreet.
Thick Laminate Flooring
Did you know there are only four standard thicknesses with laminate flooring? With luxury vinyl, you can find close to a dozen thicknesses but will need to choose from 7mm, 8mm, 10mm, or 12mm laminate flooring in the United States.
12mm laminate flooring is the most expensive of the four types as more material goes into each board. This thick flooring provides excellent sound mitigation, especially when coupled with a thick high-quality underlayment. 10mm laminate flooring isn’t far behind, however, and both of these types are easier to install. They also sound more like hardwood underfoot than the next two options.
Homeowners on a tight budget will appreciate the price of 7mm laminate flooring. While not flimsy, the flooring does have more flexibility which can lead to issues if your subfloor isn’t in great shape. 8mm laminate is only slightly thicker, but a better option for the price and easier to find through large local home improvement stores.
Laminate Flooring with High AC Ratings
Flooring sees its fair share of abuse regardless of the style or where it’s installed. That said, certain parts of a home are considered “high traffic” areas like kitchens, hallways, and living rooms. That’s where laminate flooring with a high AC rating comes in handy, and there are only a few options to consider with high-quality laminate.
AC ratings are used in the flooring industry to measure resistance against impact or abrasions. That could be anything from a coffee cup that gets dropped on the floor to castors wheels on a shelving unit or rolling chair. The rating covers things that are commonly dragged across laminate or vinyl flooring and lets you know how well these planks will hold up.
With AC 3 laminate flooring, you’ll find hundreds of options as these floors are rated for heavy residential traffic. Those will suffice for most homeowners, although AC 4 laminate flooring is the next step up and can handle medium foot traffic in commercial areas. Laminate rated at an AC 5 is also available, but comes at a premium through HPL flooring.
One way solid hardwood manufacturers have begun to differentiate themselves is with finishing techniques. From boards ridden with nail holes and saw marks to hand-scraped planks, there are close to a dozen techniques used by manufacturers today.
Some of those tricks have carried over into the laminate world, which allows companies to make more realistic flooring. It’s not uncommon to find laminate flooring with an embossed surface alongside boards with a smooth finish. Gloss levels also come into play with finishing techniques, so you can choose from low, medium, high gloss, or even matte laminate flooring.
Waterproof Laminate Flooring
Any flooring that uses organic material is susceptible to damage from water or moisture, which has made laminate flooring tricky to use in certain areas. A new type of laminate has been able to alleviate those fears through waterproof laminate flooring.
Waterproof laminate is designed to lock together so that water cannot get between the cracks and onto the subfloor below. While you still need to take precautions around the perimeter of a room, this type of laminate is safe to use in below-grade rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens when properly installed.
Waterproof laminate is considered a premium form of the product, but water-resistant laminate flooring is also available. It doesn’t offer the same degree of protection, although there is a wider array of designs. Both waterproof and water-resistant laminate flooring can be wet-mopped, but you’ll need to check with the manufacturer beforehand to see if steam cleaning is an option.
Beveled Edge Laminate Flooring
One of the final features that helps separate different types of laminate flooring are the edges of the boards themselves. How they are designed not only has an impact on price but also how realistic the flooring looks compared to hardwood or stone.
- Square Edge Laminate Flooring – If you’ve seen older laminate installed homes, you’ve experienced this type of flooring. All the edges are square on each plank which gives the floor a seamless, uniform appearance across a room.
- Beveled Edge Laminate – This is considered the “entry-level” edge board as you’ll see a noticeable groove on all four sides of the plank in the shape of a V. The texture of the edges will match or may vary to a degree with this type of flooring.
- Micro-Beveled Edge Laminate – While a micro-beveled edge isn’t as deep, it’s more stunning. This type of laminate flooring has finely detailed edges with details matching the surface which adds another layer of depth.
- Pressed Beveled Edge Laminate – Some bevels are printed directly onto the plank but the technique lies in the name with pressed beveled edge laminate. The edges of each plank are a perfect match for the surface it creates through extreme pressure on the décor layer.
- HPL Beveled Laminate – This type of edge is unique to only high pressure laminate. During the milling process, the kraft paper layer is exposed which could match or provide a unique contrast to the surface of these durable floors.
Laminate Flooring Shapes and Sizes
One of the bigger trends we’ve seen with homeowners in the past several years has been the popularity of wide flooring. It’s especially trendy with synthetic flooring like luxury vinyl, but can also be found with engineered hardwood and laminate flooring.
Wide laminate flooring outnumbers narrow planks by a wide margin through most retailers. The definition of “wide” varies, however, depending on the manufacturer. In our research, we found that most wide laminate is classified at 7” wide or more while a medium width plank ranges from 5.1” to around 6.5” in width.
Narrow laminate flooring is also available, even if the styles and brands are limited to a handful of companies. It’s even possible to mix and match certain widths to create a unique look, but only if they are from the same company with matching edging and height. While not as popular, laminate tiles are available in traditional sizes as well.
Now that you know the types of laminate flooring available, choosing the right one for your home should be simple. These planks can have well over a dozen features that set them apart, although you have to keep the room itself in mind along with your budget and décor as well. Our laminate buying guide is also full of helpful tips if you’re ready to take the next step!