Hardwood flooring can be expensive and it is susceptible to scratches, dents, and water damage. Alternatively, laminate flooring is made from composite wood that’s been pressed together and has the look and feel of real hardwood.
The best laminate flooring brands make products that are easy to clean and more durable than natural wood, making it ideal for high-traffic areas and rooms that may be exposed to moisture or direct sunlight. Read on to learn what type of flooring is right for your home and why the following are among the best laminate flooring products available.
Types of Laminate Flooring
When considering laminate flooring, you have two choices: engineered wood and plastic laminate.
Engineered wood consists of multiple layers of material pressed together to form a plank. The bottom and core layers consist of three to 12 layers of fiberboard, plywood, or unfinished hardwood. The veneer, which is the top layer, consists of a very thin piece of natural wood.
Engineered wood closely mimics the appearance of real hardwood because the top wear layer is actual hardwood. Depending on the thickness of this top layer, engineered wood can be sanded and refinished up to three times to refurbish the flooring.
Unlike engineered wood, plastic laminate flooring is completely man-made and consists of several layers. The backer, which is the bottom layer, serves as a moisture barrier. The core layer consists of high-density fiberboard that resists dents and serves as the backbone of the flooring.
On top of the inner core is the design layer, which includes a high-definition photographic image—while most images attempt to simulate wood, there are also stone-like laminates. The topmost layer is a clear coat that protects the surface from damage, including fading and scratches.
Although laminate flooring lacks the natural look and feel of hardwood flooring, it is tougher, making it a good option for homeowners with young children and pets. It’s also less expensive. A mid-tier grade of laminate will run about $2.50 to $4 per square foot versus $5 to $10 a square foot for hardwood flooring, according to Home Advisor.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Laminate Flooring
There are a few considerations you should take into account when shopping for quality laminate flooring, including location, thickness, plank size, and ease of installation. Read on to learn which laminate flooring is the best fit for your needs.
As long as you follow proper underlayment insulation requirements, you can use laminate flooring in kitchens and even bathrooms thanks to its water-resistant qualities. You can even install laminate flooring on the walls if it strikes your fancy.
When shopping for flooring, you may see the terms “high pressure” and “direct pressure.”
The Abrasion Criteria (AC) rating is invaluable when determining the durability of a laminate flooring product. “AC” is the abbreviation for the Abrasion Criteria rating, which is based on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest. Most residential laminate flooring will have a rating of AC3 or AC4.
Laminate flooring varies in thickness between 7mm and 12mm. Thicker laminate flooring covers uneven areas in your subfloor as it resists bending, and it also feels more like a real hardwood floor. Thicker laminate also does a better job of absorbing noise. Keep in mind that some manufacturers will include the underlayment in the listed thickness of their flooring while others may not.
Most laminate flooring planks are about 4 feet long and range in width from narrow planks that are only 3 inches wide to wider planks up to 7 inches wide or more. Keep in mind that wider planks are notoriously more challenging to install than narrower planks. They are harder to snap together with end joints that resist staying flush with each other.
You’re more likely to feel gaps under the planks with wider boards, especially if your subfloor or concrete pad is uneven. Use narrower planks to help open up smaller rooms, while wider planks are better suited for larger spaces and open floor plans.
The goal of the texture and finish of laminate flooring is to look as much like real hardwood flooring as possible. Engineered hardwood flooring does the best job of mimicking natural hardwood flooring because it uses actual hardwood as its topmost layer. Thus, it possesses the actual wood grain and texture that makes hardwood so attractive.
Plastic laminate doesn’t use actual wood, so manufacturers have to get creative to give it the appearance of real wood. Thanks to modern technology, designers can use high-definition printing and embossing techniques to replicate natural wood and stone. Laminate flooring won’t make you sneeze as it doesn’t hold dirt or dust like carpet and it’s resistant to mold and bacteria.
Similar to traditional hardwood, most laminate flooring comes in a variety of finishes, including walnut, cherry, hickory, chestnut, pine, maple, and oak, to name a few.
Laminate flooring is perfect for anyone with a do-it-yourself attitude. This product is thin, lightweight, and easy to work with. Laminate flooring uses a snap-and-lock installation process, which eliminates the need for nails or glue. You can also “float” laminate flooring over existing floors, with the exception of carpet, eliminating the headache of having to tear up old flooring. As long as the subfloor is smooth and clean, most DIYers can update their flooring in just one day.
Remember, you will need to install underlayment over the subfloor before laying down the laminate flooring unless the flooring itself includes an underlayment layer. If you elect to install the flooring yourself, you will need a chop saw and a table saw on hand to make the necessary cuts for proper laminate flooring installation.
Our Top Picks
These flooring products are at the top of their class for different rooms in the home, featuring some of the best laminate flooring brands in the business.1Photo: pergoflooring.com Check Latest Price
With its waterproof construction and a look that is almost indiscernible from real wood, Pergo TimberCraft is one of the best laminate flooring products you can lay in your home. It features Pergo’s WetProtect technology, which waterproofs this laminate flooring. It also has an AC4 rating, which means this laminate flooring is capable of handling commercial use, making it suitable for even the busiest areas in your home.
Timbercraft uses Pergo’s UltraDef Technology to achieve the illusion of natural hardwood flooring. This means each plank has different grains, knots, and other inconsistencies you’d expect to find in real wood. And, at 12 millimeters thick, it also feels like real hardwood when you’re walking on it. Pergo’s Timbercraft line comes in a wide variety of finishes with sizes running around 50 inches long and 7.5 inches wide.
Cons2Photo: mannington.com Check Latest Price
With its stout construction and beautiful wood look, Mannington Restoration is an impressive laminate flooring. This product uses Mannington’s SpillShield Plus Waterproof Technology, which makes the floor impervious to water damage. With an AC4 rating, Mannington’s Restoration Collection is scratch and scuff resistant. This makes the Restoration Collection optimal for kitchens, laundry rooms, and bathrooms.
Mannington laminate flooring offers an elegant look, as each plank is embellished with a unique wood grain pattern. This is also a thicker plank at 12 millimeters, giving this floor a more substantial feel. Each plank measures 51 inches long and 8 inches wide. The Restoration Collection comes in many styles and finishes, including single planks that mix 3-, 5-, and 8-inch wide planks and unique patterns such as Chevron. Finishes range from the light Black Forest Oak to dark Arcadia Smoke.
Cons3Photo: homedepot.com Check Latest Price
Laminate flooring doesn’t have to come with an exorbitant cost. TrafficMaster offers quality products at a fraction of the price of other higher-end laminate floorings. Despite its budget price, this product will still hold up against moderate foot traffic, thanks to a scratch-resistant top wear layer.
TrafficMaster strives to make this laminate flooring look like the real thing with textured planks and designs that ensure no two planks will look the same. This product is 7 millimeters or 8 millimeters thick with planks that range between 6 to 8 inches wide and around 4 feet long. TrafficMaster’s laminate flooring comes in a wide variety of finishes and styles.
Cons4Photo: mohawkflooring.com Check Latest Price
RevWood Plus uses Mohawk’s Hydroseal technology, which covers each plank in a waterproof seal, and a Uniclic joint locking system that prevents water from infiltrating the seams between the planks. RevWood Plus is completely waterproof, making Mohawk’s RevWood Plus line well-suited for kitchens or bathrooms.
With 27 different finishes and plank widths of 5, 7.5, or 9.44 inches, Mohawk RevWood Plus offers plenty of styles to choose from. Finishes range from the bleached look of Buff to the dark brown of Buckthorn Pine. Individualized hand-scraped textures and planks give this laminate the look of real wood. Its substantial 12-millimeter thickness gives this product the feel of natural hardwood.
Cons5Photo: shawfloors.com Check Latest Price
It’s the top layer of this laminate that makes this product from Shaw so appealing, or in this case, repellant. That extra top layer provides a water-repellent agent that waterproofs this product. Not only does this product resist water, but it does so for an extended period of time—you have 24 hours to clean up that spill before it begins damaging this flooring.
This product is also scratch, stain, and fade-resistant, ensuring it’s ready to take on all that your family can throw at it. With its AC3 rating, this flooring is a good choice for living rooms and other moderate traffic areas of the house.
Shaw’s Repel line comes in widths ranging from 5.43 inches to 7.4 inches wide and between 50 inches and 72.6 inches long, each is 12 millimeters thick. The line includes 2 different styles with multiple finishes for each.
Cons6Photo: mohawkflooring.com Check Latest Price
With its thinner 7-millimeter planks and lack of a waterproof layer, Mohawk RevWood may seem like a step down from its vaunted RedWood Plus line, but it’s still an impressive product.
It offers a wide selection of styles covering eight collections with up to 12 different finishes in each collection. That’s a lot more styles to choose from than Mohawk’s higher-end models. Unlike other laminate flooring collections, which have standard one-size approaches, Mohawk RevWood gives you some options with three different plank widths: 5.25, 6.12 inches, and 7.5 inches.
While it may not offer the waterproofing treatment that its higher-end line offers, it’s also less expensive. This makes it a great flooring option for areas in your home that don’t see heavy traffic or require waterproofing, such as bedrooms.
Cons7Photo: tarketthome.com Check Latest Price
Whether it’s a home office or a professional office that sees a lot of traffic, Tarkett’s Menards’ Exclusives offers the dent and scratch resistance you need to handle foot traffic and heavy office chairs. It includes a melamine layer that makes it scuff resistant and stain resistant, giving it an AC4 rating.
Although Tarkett’s Menards’ Exclusives FloorScore-certified line offers fewer styles than other manufacturers with 14 different finishes, it includes classic walnut and oak finishes suitable for an office. Each plank is 48 inches long by 8 inches wide. Installation is easy with Tarkett laminate flooring thanks to its Angle Lock and UNIFIT lock system.
Cons8Photo: pergoflooring.com Check Latest Price
Constructed to be impervious to water, Pergo Outlast Plus is a great option for basements. Pergo Outlast Plus combines two proprietary technologies into this product: Uniclic joint technology and Spill Protect, which prevent liquid from infiltrating the joints, making it completely waterproof.
It’s rated AC4, meaning it’s tough enough to handle commercial settings. This makes it ideal for basements, kitchens, and bathrooms. This product also features Pergo’s SurfaceDefense technology, which resists scratches, stains, and scuffs.
Outlast Plus also comes with the underlayment attached, making installation easier and the flooring quieter when combined with an additional layer of underlayment. Pergo also eliminates the telltale look of cheaper laminate products with 6-inch wide plank designs that include realistic wood grain and random wood knots that add character.
With so many laminate flooring options available today, it can be hard choosing one that can match your style, needs, and budget. One of the best options overall is the Pergo TimberCraft flooring with its AC4 rating, sturdy 12 millimeter thickness, 18 finishes, and waterproof construction. For a budget-friendly option, the TrafficMaster laminate flooring has an AC3 rating, light-duty 7-8 millimeter thickness, 37 different finishes, and an added scratch-resistant top wear layer.
How We Chose the Best Laminate Flooring
We researched the most sought-after laminate flooring options in their respective categories and discovered that the best picks are determined by their AC rating, dimensions, number of finishes offered, ease of installation, and other special features included by the best laminate flooring brands.
The above list prioritized quality while finding the best laminate floors, which is why our picks have AC ratings of AC3 to AC4 and each option has an ideal thickness, length, and width. While some options run thin at 7 to 10 millimeters thick for low-traffic areas, most come with 12 millimeter thicknesses which provide durability in high-traffic zones and absorb sound.
To match your home and personal preference, each laminate flooring option comes with a range of finishes, most with individual textures per plank, and have click-in technology for easy installation. To ensure this list includes the best options, we also ensured that the majority of our selection were waterproof and stain, dent, scuff, scratch-resistant.
The Advantages of Owning Laminate Flooring
Although traditional hardwood flooring certainly has its appeal, there are quite a few advantages of choosing laminate floors. Because laminate flooring consists of pressed wood that resists dents, scratches, and moisture, it’s more durable than standard hardwood. Some laminates are even waterproof, allowing you to use this product in areas that may get wet such as laundry rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms.
Laminate flooring is also easy to clean with a broom and a damp mop and there’s no need to buy special wax or other floor cleaning products.
Laminate flooring is significantly cheaper than hardwood flooring and easier to install. Most wood floors cost between $12 and $20 per square foot installed, compared to $2 to $8 a square foot to install laminate flooring, according to FIXR.
If you still have lingering questions about installing laminate flooring, here’s some frequently asked questions to help you out.
While it’s possible to lay laminate flooring in any direction in a room, the accepted way of doing it is to run the boards parallel to the room’s longest wall.
Installing laminate flooring is easier than you might expect. With the right tools, this is a job most DIYers can accomplish in a weekend.
It is recommended that you avoid laying down laminate flooring in any place that has excess moisture such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, or wet rooms of any kind in your home.
To ensure that the laminate flooring remains laid properly and will last long-term, it is recommended that you wait for 24 hours after installation before walking on it..
It is always safe to mop laminate floors. However, it is recommended that they should only be mopped damp as any excess moisture could damage some finishes.
Removing many types of flooring is a laborious process, but removing laminate flooring is a comparatively easy task.
The life of laminate flooring depends on various factors, including the amount of traffic and the quality of the flooring. That said, you can generally expect laminate flooring to last between 15 and 25 years.