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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Wednesday (10/26/11) 1:48pm - ... wherein Peter does some research about laminate flooring.

Another part of the moving process: firth is going to get a new laminate floor for the bedroom I'm moving into. To help her out, I've done some preliminary research on what kind of flooring might work well for that bedroom.


Color & Style
Recall that I'm trying to make the bedroom into a 'sleepcave', and a dark floor would help suck all the light from the room. (A 'low gloss', less reflective surface would also help here.) Dark laminates *do* show dirt more than usual, so I'll just have to keep that floor clean. I assume some standard wood pattern would do fine.

Thickness
Different laminates have different thicknesses; usually residential laminates range from 7mm to 12mm, and commercial laminates can be even thicker. Thicker laminates cost more. Thickness confers certain advantages. Anything under 7mm will be liable to buckle over time, and thicker laminates tend to be more durable. But the general sentiment seems to be that anything 8mm or thicker should do fine. A more important deciding factor is...

Brand
The Consumer Reports "ratings" page recommends Armstrong and Quick-Step laminates -- at about $4 per square foot -- but they give their "Best Buy" to Surface Source, which is the house brand from Lowe's. (Its only drawback is an only-"fair" resistance to dents.) I'm not sure if Lowe's carries any darkly colored laminates in that brand, though -- they only list this one online. Beyond that, I found some reviews here.

Other Considerations
Laminate floors are given "AC" ratings (one to five) for abrasion durability. Anything under AC3 is not durable enough. Anything over AC3 is probably overkill for residential use, and overkill on one's budget -- AC4 and AC5 are really meant for commercial use only. Also, consider the warranty -- specificlally don't go for anything below a 15-year warranty. If you have a flooring that satisfies those criteria, then you should be okay if you can just check its user reviews. Honestly, bedrooms don't require the most durable and amazing floors ever, so a dark, matte, wood-grain laminate that's at least 8mm thick, has an abrasion rating of at least AC3, and a warranty for at least 15 years, should be fine, so long as the customers aren't saying "Don't buy this! It scratches easily!"

Some Possibilities
From Lumber Liquidators, I've been considering their Dream Home Charcoal Laminate, their Chilton Woods Oak Laminate, and possibly their Angel Fire Cherry Laminate (though that's un-reviewed, and lacks an attached underlay). They have a brick-and-mortar shop in town, so it should be easy to check the selection out in person, and perhaps hold it against a paint chip of Rock Garden. (Failing that, one can have samples shipped to the location.) Armstrong laminates are available at several local stores, but always at $4/sq. ft. Same goes for Quik-Step (the other Consumer Reports recommendation.) There are some laminates available on Craigslist and ebay, but I don't know how much I trust those.

Underlay
You can install an underlay beneath the laminate. This can confer several advantages. (1) It can serve as a noise barrier, mostly preventing noise from the room from bleeding down into the floor below. (2) It can smooth out imperfections in the subfloor, preventing unevenness in the subfloor from translating into unevenness in the laminate. (3) It can include a 'moisture barrier', which prevents moisture from coming up through the subfloor and harming the laminate. (4) It can dampen the 'hollow' sound that footfalls can have on a laminate floor. (5) It can make the floor a tiny bit of 'give', making it *feel* just a little softer to walk on. As far as I can tell, (1) and (2) don't apply here. I don't think (3) applies, unless the bedroom has some kind of crawl space under it, or a concrete subfloor. I doubt that I'll be walking around much in the bedroom in noisy shoes, so I don't think (4) applies. And (5) might be nice, but every guide advises that the effect in question is very, very minor. To me, this says that a simple, cheap standard-foam underlayment should do fine -- and that's only necessary if the laminate doesn't come with an underlay (some do).

Quantity
The bedroom is about 130 square feet, IIRC, and Consumer Reports advises to pick up 7-10% extra "to allow for mistakes, bad samples, and waste", and perhaps even a bit more on top of that for later repairs. Typically laminate is sold by the carton, so it'll likely be a matter of starting at 140-ish and then rounding up to the nearest number of cartons.

Accessories
The bedroom looks like a fairly simple rectangle with a couple of doorways, so I think it's mostly just a matter of getting a ton of planks and laying them down, and then perhaps laying down quarter round around the baseboards to cover the expansion gap if there's no baseboard. Also, a reducer might make sense for the doorways, if either of them leads into a room with a lower surface. Finally, I'll need to buy a bunch of felt pads to put under all my bedroom furniture. I can't have the bottom of my bookshelf gouging into the top surface of the laminate.

How to Install It
There are several sites online that describe installation -- this one seems as good as any. There are some other sites that detail specific steps, like this one about subfloor preparation and this one about "dos" and "don'ts".

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Mood: [mood icon] contemplative · Music: none
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