Laminate flooring is DIY-friendly, durable and versatile, but is it right for you?
The Good News
- Laminate flooring comes as planks or tiles. The edges and ends are designed to snap together so there’s no nailing, making installation a good DIY project.
- The laminate construction gives the pieces stability and prevents seams from opening up during changes in humidity.
- Lightweight, snap-together laminate flooring is installed over a thin foam cushion underlayment. That makes it a good candidate for installations over most existing flooring — with the exception of carpet — eliminating the need for tear-out.
- Snap-together laminate flooring eliminates the need for VOC-releasing glues.
- No old-growth or exotic trees are used to produce laminate flooring.
- The wear layer of laminate floor is extremely tough, which makes cleanup and maintenance easy. Occasional sweeping keeps the surface free from abrasive grit.
The Not-So-Good News
- Even the best laminate flooring is susceptible to moisture damage and shouldn’t be installed laundry rooms and rooms with sump pumps or floor drains. Installations on basement floors and slabs should include a moisture barrier. Laminate flooring in the kitchen is okay as long as you’re diligent about cleaning up spills and splashes. Laminate flooring in the bathroom isn’t recommended unless all edges are glued during installation and the perimeter is sealed with silicone caulk.
- Laminate flooring can’t be refinished the way real wood can, so once it’s worn out, it’ll have to be replaced. Check the warranty of the flooring you’re thinking of buying; products with higher warranties mean better quality and longer life. Avoid cheap laminate flooring.
- It may look real, but it’s still a synthetic that feels unnaturally hard and can be harsh-sounding when walked on.
- The wear layer of laminate floor contains plastic that doesn’t degrade in landfills. Some laminate materials may be made with formaldehyde and other chemicals that environmental experts say can release toxic VOCs, although stricter EPA guidelines have helped reduce VOC content in laminate flooring.