What types of floor coverings have been invented recently – linoleum, carpet, corrugated board, raised floors, etc. etc. And yet the most attractive word for the owners of apartments, cottages, offices is the word “parquet” (translated from French “plank”). Miniature boards of a certain shape, carefully fitted to each other, coated with a special varnish or rubbed to a shine, create a beautiful, durable, warm base in any room.
Until recently, natural parquet from various wood species did not have any serious competitors. However, possessing a lot of advantages, it had one significant drawback – a high price. An inventive person found a way out here too – he came up with something very similar to natural parquet, superior in durability and affordable. The new material was called laminated flooring, or simply laminate.
Laminate is a multi-layer product made of different materials, reminiscent of a pie stuffed with all sorts of things. Its basis is fiber, or HDF, which consists of recycled wood, bonded with compounds. To make the floor less abraded, instead of natural wood plates, they began to use a decorative protective coating based on melamine. The result is a worthy analogue of parquet, which has retained its main positive qualities – environmental cleanliness and characteristic of the pattern, but distinguished by a lower price, increased strength, resistance to scratches and dents. And last but not least, it can be washed.
Each manufacturing company has its own secrets of making a laminate, but in all cases it has at least four layers: a protective top (strong film made of special resins); decorative (resin-impregnated paper with a pattern applied to it); base (high-density fibreboard – HDF) and stabilizing bottom (waxed or resin-impregnated paper).
The top coating of melamine or acrylate resin can be either single-layer or multi-layer, it can include microscopic mineral particles (corundum), it is additionally treated, for example, with electron beams, covered with a non-electrifying film, etc. This coating provides the laminate with properties such as abrasion resistance, resistance to stains, chemicals, exposure to sunlight, resistance to all kinds of mechanical damage..
The decorative layer stands out as an element purely formally: when pressed, the resin of the top layer impregnates the paper image and forms a single whole with it.
Most laminates are based on 6.7-7.7 mm high density fiberboard (HDF for short). It is distinguished by high mechanical strength (in particular, to fracture), water resistance (1.5-2 times higher than that of fibreboard), and also a lower content of formaldehyde resins. It is this core plate that provides the material with impact resistance, resistance to pressure and long-term stress..
According to abrasion resistance (which is assessed by testing according to Taber), the laminate is divided into 6 classes.
Most of the laminate on the Russian market is from Germany, including the products of the Perstop Flooring AB Corporation, one of the world’s first developers of laminate floors..
The minimum price for laminated flooring is $ 8.3 / m2, the maximum price is $ 36 / m2. Naturally, the price depends on the quality, and the quality depends on the indicators characterizing its main properties, which include:
abrasion resistance (abrasion resistance);
resistance to long-term loads (pressure, crushing);
resistance to scratches and cracks;
immunity to stains;
resistance to chemicals;
UV resistance, fading (lightfastness);
heat resistance (heat resistance, resistance to the action of a burning cigarette);
hygiene (ease of cleaning);
ease of stacking (assembly);
thermal conductivity (the possibility of laying on a heated floor).
The most important quality criterion is undoubtedly the wear resistance of the material. Any type of laminate is initially designed for certain operating conditions, load intensity. Each meets the requirements for his class. Three “lower” classes – 21, 22, 23 – are designed for the “movement of a small number of people.” It is advisable to use them only in the residential sector. The three “highest” classes (31, 32, 33) include laminated flooring that can withstand loads in public spaces with different “traffic”, these are the so-called “commercial laminates”.
When choosing a laminate for a particular room, remember about its “cool” and do not use a laminate designed for a bedroom in the kitchen.
The main disadvantage of the vast majority of floor coverings, including laminate, is hydrophobia. Witex is committed to improving the water resistance of laminate flooring. In some series, HDF ends are treated with waterproof compounds (resins, glue). And the laminates of the Art and Contry series, made according to the Aqua-Protect system, can be used even in the bathroom.
Although most of the patterns of laminated floors imitate precious woods, there is also a laminate “like a stone” – marble, granite. It can also simulate metallic and plain painted surfaces. Lately, laminate with “fantastic motives”, ornaments and even with the image of some objects has come into fashion. Woodgrain laminate sheets are usually long, like planks. Large squares are most often used for laminates with “stone” and “metal” decor, and small ones – for ornaments and other decorative elements. Plates of different shapes can be easily combined when laying.
Installing laminate flooring is fairly straightforward. The main thing to remember is that it cannot be glued to the floor. The laminate is assembled in the so-called “floating way”: the plates are fastened according to the “tenon in the groove” principle. For a long time, it was obligatory to comply with two requirements: the use of a special proprietary glue for gluing the ends of the plates and the use of a “backing” made of corrugated cardboard or cork to level the surface under the laminate and so that the floor is not “echoing”.
Nowadays there are collections of glueless laminate with a lock connection. Its volumes are increasing. The ALLOC company, for example, uses an aluminum profile lock, it is mounted on a heavy-duty Fibo-Trespo laminate. Another lock, Fiboloc, is cut in the middle of the fiber in the high strength compression molded laminate. Laminate boards are connected by snapping their edges into one another. The design of the lock allows you to quickly and firmly connect the boards to each other.
As for the underlay, the Witex Silit Comfort range has recently been introduced, in which the underlay is already incorporated into the coating structure..
Laminate has confidently taken positions in the range of flooring (in Europe – 8% of sales), displacing linoleum and carpets. And there is no doubt that its popularity will grow.