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Laminate flooring is relatively new to the North America, but it has been popular in Europe for more than two decades. Pergo was the first major brand to be promoted in a big way in the U.S. so many people refer to laminate flooring materials as Pergo. However, it’s like calling all soda pop “Coke.” There are differences.
What they have in common is that all laminate flooring is made up of several layers that are bonded together. The top layer is the surface or wear layer, the next one is the core, and the bottom layer is the backing. The top layer is made of either solid wood or of a melamine laminate coated with aluminum oxide. Typically, the melamine includes a photograph of real wood or stone. That’s why it’s easy to identify many laminate wood floors; the wood pattern repeats every few feet. And that’s why some manufacturers offer a top layer of real, honest-to-goodness solid wood. There’s no repeating pattern in wood.
The center layer is a core board, typically a high-density fiber (HDF) board that uses wood chips or recycled wood bonded together with adhesive, heat, and pressure. The bottom layer is made of paper or of a melamine material, depending on its function. Some bottom layers are softer to smooth out any inconsistencies in the subfloor. Other bottom layers are intended as a moisture barrier, an excellent choice when installing over concrete such as in a basement or a slab floor.
The type of laminate flooring you choose depends on where you plan to install your new floor. If the floor will be installed in a basement, over a concrete slab, or in a high-moisture area like a bathroom, you’ll need to select flooring that is recommended for use in these areas.
The finished appearance you’re after and the cost of the material will also figure in your buying decision. These topics are covered in Planning Your Floor and Choosing Flooring. Make sure you select the product and design based on value rather than solely on price. You'll be looking at your flooring for many years to come.
Laminate flooring looks like wood and wears like vinyl.