When you’re looking to purchase durable laminate flooring, there are a lot of factors that go into determining just how durable that flooring actually is. We’re going to clarify some of the questions around durability, and show you what you should be looking for to make the best decision possible.
Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all with durability. Flooring that would be considered durable in a bedroom, may not hold up for a year in the kitchen or bathroom. Likewise, if you don’t have any pets and children, there’s no need to spend the money on flooring that will protect you against heavy use.
SHOULD YOU JUST BUY THE MOST DURABLE LAMINATE FLOORING POSSIBLE?
You can buy the most durable bullet-proof flooring on the market, but it will cost you. Like most things in life, the better, stronger, and longer-lasting the product, the more compromises you’ll need to make. Sometimes those compromises are made in price, and sometimes in the look and feel you’re going for.
You’re best to aim for the sweet spot of getting just as much durability as you need, and not a layer more. For example, a common laminate flooring term is a “wear layer”. Most residential flooring will offer a wear layer of AC2 or AC3, but for commercial applications you probably want an AC5. Commercial operations have much heavier foot traffic than your home will, and a higher level of wear layer. However, flooring with an AC5 wear layer is much more expensive. Why pay for a commercial wear layer if an AC3 will be more than adequate?
The second thing to consider is that the higher your AC rating, the cloudier a flooring product may look as you increase the thickness of the wear layer above the flooring print. The best looking floors may be AC1, but they won’t last very long. Although manufacturers have come a long way to reducing the cloudy look, this will be obvious in some cheaper big box store brands
WHAT MAKES LAMINATE FLOORING DURABLE?
It’s easy to look at the thickness of the board and think that thicker is better. The truth is that the thickness of the board has very little to do with how durable the laminate actually is. A 12mm thick board may not last as long as an 8mm if the wear layer is actually thinner.
Wear layer is probably the most common key component in how long a laminate floor will last, but it’s not the only factor. Many newer laminate floors feature either a water resistance or waterproofing that will help keep your floors looking good longer.
Laminate floors are usually made with a backer board that will absorb water. As anyone who has accidentally over-watered a plant, or spilled a drink will tell you - the backer board will sponge up that mess and warp your boards. Buying a product that offers at least a certain resistance will allow you to clean the floor in a reasonable amount of time without showing any damage.
WHAT IS AN AC WEAR LAYER?
The AC labeling of laminate flooring is just a metric used to show how thick the wear layer is. The system goes from AC1 to AC5, and each increase in AC number is approximately a 60% increase in the thickness of the wear layer.
AC1 is light residential, and you’ll rarely see anything with this rating sold in stores. AC2 would be considered average residential durability. There are not too many rooms that AC2 would make sense except those with really light traffic. AC3 is for heavy residential, and it’s really where you’ll start to see most products being sold. AC3 is usually the minimum most flooring stores will recommend for most household applications.
AC4 is considered to be a commercial product, or a really high durability residential product. AC3 and AC4 are the most common laminate flooring ratings you’ll find in stores. AC5 is rated for heavy commercial use, and in most home applications is considered overkill. However, if you’re concerned about durability, you can’t get any better than AC5 for residential applications.
A word of warning about AC ratings - not all AC ratings are created equal. It’s not uncommon for some cheaper products imported to Canada to be labeled as an AC3, even though it’s actually only an AC2. It’s important to work with an experienced flooring advisor to avoid these pitfalls, and only work with companies that stand behind the products they sell to ensure you’re getting what you paid for.
WHICH AC RATING SHOULD YOU GET?
Generally, most AC3 rated laminate flooring products will hold up just fine in almost any residential situation. It’s easily the most common rating you’ll find installed in most homes. However, if you have dogs, kids, or heavy furniture that gets moved around a lot, and AC4 may be worth the extra few bucks as peace of mind.
Ultimately, your best bet is to visit with one of our flooring advisors to find out which product may work best for you. And it may not be laminate at all! If you’re looking for a really durable laminate flooring product, you may want to consider a vinyl plank or stone core product for extra durability without the compromises.
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