Is it bullet proof or indestructible as the marketing and advertizing suggest?  They are a tuff & durable product if the environment and installation procedures are followed.  Laminates have several critical issues that need to be addressed and if properly done they do last and perform as advertised.

The most important and critical step in the performance of a laminate is the subfloor levelness and floor flatness.  All manufactures require floor flatness and they range from 1/16” in 3 feet to 3/16” in 10 feet depending on the manufacture.  Basically if your laminate floor moves under your feet when walked on, your subfloor more than likely is not within the recommended floor flatness specifications.  What happens is over time the joints break and you start seeing gaps.

The second most critical step is expansion.  Laminate floors move as a unit when locked together.  All manufactures require expansion space around all vertical surfaces ranging from ¼” to 3/8” depending on the manufacture.  Laminate floors should be the last thing installed leaving the proper expansion around the perimeter of the room and all vertical surfaces, including kitchen cabinets and center islands.  All moldings including ¼ round should be nailed straight into the base and not nailed down into the laminate.  If there is a tight spot anywhere, it could cause a raised or buckled joint even on the other side of the room.

The next thing I see a lot of is T-moldings not being used in doorways.  All manufactures require the use of T-moldings in doorways, and they range from 4’ or less to 6’ or less.  The T-moldings separate each room allowing them to expand and contract as a unit.

All laminate Manufactures have their own installation instructions and although they are very similar, they differ in performance requirements.  The best thing you can do is to make sure the installation of the product selected follows all the recommended performance requirements and the laminate purchased will perform to your expectations and satisfaction.

Dick Olesen

Certified Laminate Inspector

NALFA  (North American Laminate Flooring Association)