Laminate wood floors are an engineered flooring product. Four layers comprise the durable and tough surface of a laminate floor: back, core, decorative and wear, also called the surface layer.
A back layer often includes a moisture barrier and is a support layer that holds the preceding layers together. The core layer is made up of high-density fiberboard and wood resins pressed together to create the floor's strength.
The decorative layer includes a printed image of the wood style — mahogany, maple, oak -- offered by the manufacturer. The wear layer is the surface that absorbs the impact of daily traffic and makes for an easy-to-clean, stain-resistant product.
Many wood laminate flooring products are available from manufacturers — if a type of wood can be photographed and reproduced as an image, a manufacturer can make a laminate floor product that looks like it. In some instances, higher-priced laminates use a wood veneer at the decorative layer instead of a photographed image.
Wood laminate flooring is sold as a square tile or a plank. Wood styles may include hand-scraped, distressed, parquet and traditional or specialty woods.
Manufacturers make both glueless and glued interlocking tongue-and-groove installation systems. In either case, the plank is milled with the tongue-and-groove system in place.
Wood laminate plank sizes are identified by width and length. Lengths can vary between 8 and 84 inches, allowing homeowners and installers to reduce waste during installation.
Choosing to purchase a combination of lengths can lower the amount of laminate cut and disposed of on the job site. The width of the laminate planks, or strips, ranges between 2 1/2 inches to about 8 inches, depending on which manufacturer makes the product.
A plank's thickness averages about 1/4 to 5/8 an inch. Custom plank widths may be offered by a manufacturer if volume requirements are met.
Because laminate flooring can be reproduced in just about any color or wood type possible, it offers a wider variety of decorating choices on a limited budget. This makes a laminate wood floor a good choice for anyone remodeling or building within a tight budget.
A layer of noise dampening material can be placed beneath the floor before installation to add further value. The purchase of a wood laminate floor typically comes with a long-term warranty — up to 25 years in some cases.