Types & Grades of Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is an engineered flooring product that uses a locking tongue-and-groove system to join the floor covering together when installed.

The process used to manufacture laminate flooring, either high-pressure lamination or direct-pressure lamination, determines the type of laminate flooring. Resistance measurements concerning abrasion, impact, stains and cigarette burns determine the grade laminate flooring receives (AC). A further understanding of the manufacturing processes and the resistance measurements used to rate laminate flooring assists the buyer in purchasing the appropriate laminate flooring.
Wood Floor Photo

Core Materials

Common core materials used in the manufacture of laminated flooring are wood or fiberboard. Higher-grade laminated floor materials often treat the core material of the laminated flooring product with melamine resins and water repellent to resist swelling from moisture and increase the durability of the laminated flooring products, and the tongue and groove system used to lock the flooring together is part of the core material. Core material lamination takes place using one of two laminating processes, direct pressure or high pressure.

Direct-Pressure Lamination

Direct-pressure lamination subjects approximately 300 lbs. per square inches of pressure on the core material, usually a high-density fiberboard, and the laminate at temperatures of 200 degrees F. The pressure bonds the two materials to create a section of laminate flooring. Direct-pressure lamination is the least expensive type of laminate flooring and less durable than high-pressure laminate flooring. Direct-pressure lamination uses lower pressures and temperatures than high-pressure lamination.

High-Pressure Lamination

High-pressure lamination passes the core material through heated laminate while applying more than 1,000 lbs. of pressure per square inch at more than 500 degrees F. High-pressure laminate flooring is extremely resistant to scratches and dents. The high pressure and heat of used in high-pressure lamination creates laminate flooring that is thinner and harder than direct-pressure laminate flooring. Laminate floor products are rated using AC ratings after manufacture to determine the products durability.

AC Ratings

The Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring established AC ratings as a standardized measure of hardness for laminate flooring. Resistance measurements use an acronym of AC for the rating, which goes from AC1 to AC5. With an understanding of AC ratings and the knowledge of the traffic pattern of the laminate flooring installation location, it is possible to choose the appropriate laminate flooring material. AC1-rated flooring is for intermediate-traffic areas; AC2-rated laminate flooring material is suitable for most residential installations. AC3-rated products are adequate for medium-traffic areas in small commercial locations. AC4-rated laminate flooring is for higher-traffic areas in commercial locations and AC5-rated laminate is for heavy commercial traffic.

Choosing the Right Laminate Flooring

Choose laminate flooring according to its intended installation location. For residential bedrooms and areas in the home that will see minimal traffic, laminate flooring with an AC1 rating is suitable. Residential hallways and main living areas should use a minimum of AC2-rated laminate flooring product. Commercial applications use AC3 to AC5 products with AC3 a suitable option for small offices and businesses with light traffic. Use AC4 laminate flooring materials in medium-traffic areas such as busier office buildings and restaurants. For public buildings, department stores and other areas that face the heaviest traffic, use an AC5-rated material.

About the Author

Randall Bullard holds an Associate of Arts in business and will receive a Bachelor of Science in business/information systems from the University of Phoenix in 2010. He currently attends Altamaha Technical College for computer information systems/networking specialist certification. Bullard has worked as a sales consultant for Ford Motor Company, has owned a residential construction business, and has work published with eHow, Associated Content and Helium.