Are you looking for a flooring material that is cheap and easy to lay? Look no further than laminate flooring. It is also one of the most long-lasting flooring materials. You can expect it to stay in top condition for about three decades. Nonetheless, not all brands have these features. There are some that you should avoid at all costs.
When buying laminate flooring, the old adage “you get what you pay for” rings true as three of the five laminate flooring brands listed below cost $2 or less per square foot.
At approximately $1 per square foot, Style Selections (Lowe’s) Tavern Oak 528976 is the top laminate flooring to avoid. Other laminate floorings to avoid include:
- Shaw’s Rebel Harbour Towne,
- Home Decorators Collection,
- Armstrong Architectural Remnants Woodland Reclaim Old Original
- TrafficMaster Handscraped Saratoga Hickory
We have nothing personal against these brands. They do not meet the basic laminate flooring owner’s expectations. Stick with us to know why you should avoid them. We’ll also list the best alternatives to these brands.
What is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring is a multilayer composite made up of synthetic and organic materials. It is also durable and available affordably. Do all laminate floorings look like wood? Not really. You can find laminate floorings that resemble tile or stone. However, the common ones resemble wood.
How did it come to be? The laminate flooring is a product that was designed to cater to the homeownership explosion bubble of the 1970s. Due to its relatively low cost, it was preferred by many homeowners. It was a viable alternative to hardwood though some thought of it as a low-class option.
Some laminate is also more durable than hardwood floors. Hence, it is a viable alternative, especially for a low-budget homebuilder.
What Layers Make Up Laminate Flooring?
As earlier mentioned, laminate flooring is made up of several layers. Typically, most laminate floorings have three main layers. They include:
1. Base Layer is usually made of wood or high-density fiberboard. Its essence is to give structure to the board as it is hardy.
2. Image Layer is the second layer from the bottom. It is photo-realistic and responsible for giving the laminate flooring the fake wood look you see.
3. A Wear Layer is the top layer is this transparent wear layer that shields the floor from damage. It is made of plasticate.
Although you will not find it in all laminate floorings, most also feature an underlayment. Primarily it acts as a protector against moisture from the floor base. Also, it makes the floor feel comfortable.
Depending on the manufacturer, you will find other features on the laminate flooring. For instance, some laminate materials will also have UV-resistant coatings. The additional features are aimed at improving the quality of the laminate flooring.
What To Look For In A Laminate Flooring Brand
Laminate is arguably one of the cheapest flooring materials. Nonetheless, this does not mean that you cannot have poor-quality laminate. You must invest in laminate that gives you the best value for your money. Hence, price is not the only factor that you should consider. The other important ones include:
- Quality of the Material. Buy laminate that is made from high-quality materials. The most important part of this is to choose a laminate that has high-quality planks.
- The Installation Process. Some laminates will be relatively more complicated to install than others. You do not want a material that will give you a hard time fixing the parts. Hence, the ease of installation should be among the key things to look out for.
- Durability. You will certainly be keen on purchasing laminate flooring that will last for the longest possible period. Hence, you must choose the correct thickness depending on where you intend to install it. Also, water resistance capability is a critical consideration.
- Warranty. A long-term warranty is one of the primary guarantees that the manufacturer is confident about the quality of the laminate. Ideally, for laminate, a warranty should cover about 30 years. However, reading for the hidden terms of the warranty is imperative as everything is not all given.
Which Laminate Flooring Brands Should You Avoid?
When shopping for laminate floorings, there are brands that you should avoid buying. We promised to give you an elaborate explanation of why you need to avoid these brands. Take a look.
1. Style Selections Tavern Oak 528976 Flooring
You need to avoid Style Selections laminate flooring. At a glance, it looks like one of the best laminate floorings but reading the fine print, and you’ll realize that it’s not. It has high water resistance capabilities, and it’s also stain-proof. Nonetheless, that’s where all the goodness ends.
Regarding the ability to resist foot traffic, this is one of the poorest brands. Therefore, if you’re thinking of using the brand in a high-traffic area, take a second thought. It also easily gets scratched, so you cannot use it in a high traffic area.
It might serve you well in locations that have limited foot traffic, but it’s still not the most ideal. It will easily form a dent when some little pressure is applied. Hence, again, it will turn ugly after quite some time. You deserve better quality laminate than this, even though it is one of the lowest-priced brands.
At a glance, the laminate looks great and smooth, but looks are deceiving. It does not have sufficient grip. Therefore, you can easily lose your balance when walking on it. Also, you will have to be extra careful when wet cleaning it.
Customers have complained that it begins creaking quite shortly after installation. Also, cleaning it is not easy. You do not want such an annoying brand, so it’s best to avoid purchasing it.
2. Shaw Repel Harbour Towne SA589 Sable Hickory 07013
Shaw Industries is one of the best laminate flooring manufacturers. We’ll cover why you should opt for its products over those listed in this section in the next section. But for this particular brand, you must avoid it. Here is why:
No Value for Your Money
For $3 per square foot, this is one of the most expensive brands that you will come across. Considering its superior features, it looks like it’s worthwhile to buy it. Its resistance to water, stains, and destruction by sunlight are all top-notch.
However, considering its resistance to dent capabilities, you deserve better quality for such an expensive laminate. According to Consumer Reports testing, the flooring scored only a 2 / 5 in three of the four scoring categories. The brand has little resistance to denting and will give in to the slightest pressure. Therefore, this rules it out as ideal for areas with high traffic.
3. Home Decorators Collection Distressed Brown Hickory 34074SQ
Home Decorators Collection is good in manufacturing common appliances, but their products are subpar for laminate flooring. One of their low-quality laminate flooring brands is the Distressed Brown Hickory 34074SQ. Here is why you should avoid purchasing this brand.
The laminate flooring is one of the lowest quality brands that you’ll find in the market. It is poor in resisting staining. Also, you can be sure that it will easily form dents. Its lightweight materials are incapable of withstanding pressure.
It is also easily scratched primarily because the upper layer is not adequately strong enough to resist it. It is retailed at Home Depot, and laminate boards from this store are of low quality. Perhaps this explains why this particular brand does not match the quality of market leaders.
Negative Customer Reviews
Customers have been left unimpressed after installing the brand. The most typical concern for those who have reviewed this product is pretty creaky. One customer joked that it could be an ideal burglar deterrent due to its noise when one walks on it.
4. Armstrong Architectural Remnants Woodland Reclaim Old Original L3102
Armstrong has some of the best laminate floorings that you’ll come across in the market. Even though some of their laminate is not so good, the bulk of it meets the qualifications of an excellent laminate board. So why are they on the list of the laminate brands you should avoid?
Like any other company, Armstrong gives its customers a warranty after buying their products. Nonetheless, Armstrong has tricky terms that dupe some customers into thinking they have a perfect warranty only to realize later that that’s not so. Everything at first glance looks just all fine.
Nonetheless, when you keenly read between the lines, you’ll note that they prorate their warranty at 5% per year. For example, if you buy laminate flooring from the company, the value of its warranty will have plummeted by 50% after ten years.
In that case, you will have to dig deep into your pockets to cater to the cost of repairs. The lack of honesty in giving customers a straightforward warranty is the primary blot in an otherwise good laminate flooring company.
5. TrafficMaster Handscraped Saratoga Hickory 34089 (Home Depot)
TrafficMaster laminate is so appealing. Nonetheless, it is the perfect example of the saying that all that glitters is not gold. Outwardly, the brand looks seamless. However, it has some glaring weaknesses that you cannot afford to ignore. Let’s look at each one of them.
One of the apparent downsides of this brand is its poor quality. It typically retails at approximately 68 cents per square foot. Nonetheless, this is too much considering that you will have to replace it after some time.
Customers who have also bought the brand have been left unimpressed with its quality. Many complain that the planks peel off almost a few days after laying the floor.
Any decent laminate flooring should remain in top condition for at least 20 years. Some great brands will also be unscathed for up to 30 years. Nonetheless, durability is the last of the manufacturer’s concerns for this brand. The laminate flooring will not last more than ten years, especially if it is in a place with heavy traffic.
Depending on the degree of traffic, you might even find yourself replacing the laminate even in less than two years. It is also likely to get stained easily. Also, expect it to tear easily, which explains why it won’t last in heavy traffic.
When you purchase this brand, you will get a 15 years warranty. A good warranty should be of an extended period spanning more than 20 years. Also, while the warranty sounds like a brilliant idea, it’s noteworthy that it does not cover aspects like tear and wear.
You’re probably wondering what the warranty covers, if not tear and wear. TrafficMaster’s warranty only caters to the damaged planks opening the laminate flooring package. Ideally, this should not be the only aspect covered by a laminate flooring warranty.
Should You Avoid Buying Laminate Flooring from Lowes?
Lowe’s is one of the most profitable companies in the US, but that does not mean high-quality flooring products. Their laminate flooring brands are of poor quality and will give you all sorts of problems during installation. Among what makes their laminate not attractive include the following issues.
Customers who have previously invested in their laminate have been disappointed at its quality. Their installation professionals have also been faulted for doing a shoddy job. Either they have failed to honor appointments, or they have other times overpriced their services.
The quality of Laminate from Lowe’s is also below par. Customers have often complained about laminate flooring warping and peeling a short while after installation. Others are unsure of the particular brand that Lowe’s installs, further highlighting the company’s lack of professionalism.
Given that they charge quite some sum for the installation, it would be better if you use the money to invest in better laminate flooring.
Should You Avoid Buying Laminate Flooring from Home Depot?
Home Depot is another market giant that you should avoid when looking for laminate flooring. The company is good at home renovation projects, but when it comes to laminate flooring, that’s where they draw the line. Their laminate flooring is of low quality and also hard to install.
A quick look at customer reviews of customers who have bought from the company will tell you something is amiss with the laminate quality. Most people complain of the laminate having tracks that do not fit. Also, their laminate has more resemblance to cardboard than the actual laminate boards.
As a result of the poor quality, their laminate boards are prone to warping almost immediately after installation.
Difficulty in Installation
You are not alone if you have unsuccessfully tried to fit the Home Depot laminate flooring. Even professionals find it hard to work with the materials. The primary challenge is that the tracks are not correctly interlocking, thus leading to warping.
Also, if you are thinking of engaging a professional from Home Depot to install the laminate for you, you may have to rethink it. The professionals are also poorly rated by customers they have served in the past. Many have been accused of being shoddy in making their cuts.
Others will leave the waste laminate flooring materials lying all over the surface after doing the job. You want a professional who does a meticulous job, and unfortunately, Home Depot’s professionals are not up to the task.
What Are the Best Laminate Flooring Brands?
In the previous section, we have listed some of the laminate floorings that you should avoid. So which are the alternatives? There are several brands. Let’s look at some of the features that make these brands outstanding.
1. RevWood by Mohawk
Mohawk is a renowned entity in the manufacture of laminate flooring boards. Are you looking for a 100% waterproof laminate board? Look no further as RevWood by Mohawk fulfills this quality. The laminate is also beautiful and smooth. Also, it is comfortable to touch and walk on, making it ideal for your home space.
Mohawk created RevWood to compete with vinyl plank flooring, and the brand has perfectly usurped the vinyl material as a better alternative.
If you visit many stores, you will most likely find RevWood in the section where they stack hardwood boards. It is a testament to the quality of this brand. Also, its waterproof properties are not in doubt. The feature is facilitated by the brand’s use of the UniClic technology, which aims at preventing the infiltration of liquids.
In addition, the laminate is also lined with Hydroseal further to reinforce it from damages caused by water.
RevWood’s Laminate Offerings
When you shop for RevWood Laminate Boards, you’ll find the simple Revwood brand, RevWood Plus, and RevWood Select. The first option is water-resistant and does not have perfect waterproofing features.
However, if you are looking for a perfectly waterproof brand, the RevWood Plus and RevWood Select types are the best options. Nonetheless, you must ensure that you install the laminate perfectly to make it waterproof.
How Durable is RevWood Laminate Floorings?
The brand is arguably one of the most durable kinds you’ll come across in the market. One of the prominent features that we’ve already covered that makes it durable is its waterproof property.
All the RevWood Laminate floorings are also scratch-resistant. They also don’t easily form dents. Its rating of AC4 is a testament to its durability. We’ll cover ratings later in the article.
How is the Warranty on RevWood Laminate Floorings?
The product’s warranty is also an impressive lifelong cover against scratches and fading, among other features. The company will also cover all the manufacturer’s defects that you encounter while using the products.
The primary condition for their warranty is that it applies as long as you are the original buyer of the flooring materials. It’s quite a great deal that you cannot afford to turn down.
Also, the other good thing about their laminate is that it features an All Pet Protection guarantee. It is a promise that the laminate will not warp or scratch due to contacting pets’ urine, feces, and nails.
Pergo invented laminate flooring in the 1970s, and the company has continued to deliver high-quality products over the years. It has not shied from innovating new products, making it one of the most distinctive laminate brands.
Mohawk acquired the company in 2013. Mohawk is renowned for its quality. Thus it is no coincidence that the two are some of the best in the market.
Pergo’s Laminate Offerings
With Pergo, you have access to four main types of laminates. They also feature designs of more than 100 wood look types. The four offerings include:
- Pergo XP
- Pergo Portfolio+WetProtect
- Pergo TimberCraft+WetProtect
- Pergo Outlast+Spill Protect
The last two brands retail at Lowe’s and Home Depot. Hence, you can consider avoiding them given the shortfalls of the two companies that we have already covered earlier.
Most Pergo laminate floorings will cost $2.50 to $3.25 per square foot.
How Durable is Pergo Laminate Floorings?
Given that Mohawk now owns Pergo, you can expect nothing less than high-quality standards of their laminate boards. The water resistance of the laminates is outstanding. Also, many of the clients have given positive reviews about the company’s products.
In terms of their rating, all Pergo laminate boards have a rating of AC4.
How is the Warranty on Pergo Laminate Floorings?
Pergo’s warranty is more reasonable than the brands that we cushioned you against buying. For residential laminate flooring, the warranty is an impressive limited lifetime offering. On the other hand, the warranty lasts ten years for commercial laminate flooring. Again this is impressive.
However, we caution you to read the warranty correctly first before installation. Some of the most common negative reviews of Pergo’s warranty boil down to the poor installation of the floor.
3. Shaw Industries Laminate
While the Shaw Repel Harbour Towne SA589 Sable Hickory 07013 was poorly rated, the Shaw brand produces good quality laminate flooring. At $3 per square foot, the Shaw Repel Harbour Towne SA589 Sable Hickory 07013 laminate flooring is at the least expensive end of the scale of Shaw products.
Shaw is among the largest flooring products manufacturing firms in the world. They have not got to such levels by fluke but through the production of high-quality flooring products. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that while their quality is out of doubt, their laminate floorings are pretty expensive. A square foot of Shaw’s Laminate flooring retails $4.50 to $7.
How is the Durability of Shaw Industries Laminate Flooring?
What makes Shaw’s laminate boards spectacular is the water resistance capability. It is so water-resistant that it can hold water on the surface for 24 hours without the water seeping inside. Also, if you are looking for various styles to choose from, Shaw features one of the largest collections of laminate board designs that are all durable.
Also, Shaw’s laminate is rated AC4, which is a sign of a superior quality laminate board, especially for home space. You can also install it in a commercial building, and it will remain in top condition for an extended period.
How is the Warranty on Shaw’s Laminate?
If you are purchasing Shaw’s laminate flooring for a residential house, you are set to reap from one of the best warranty offers. The company gives a warranty of up to 30 years for residential-based laminate flooring.
If your laminate is for commercial purposes, the warranty covers some pretty little time of five years. Nonetheless, the warranty is worthwhile considering that it has no hidden terms like Armstrong.
Therefore, in addition to the impressive AC4 rating, Shaw offers a great warranty that fully cautions you against any eventuality.
Where Are Shaw Laminates Manufactured?
If you are a fan of locally assembled products, Shaws is undoubtedly the company for you. It is a US company based in Dalton, Georgia.
Some of the laminate boards manufactured abroad have attracted negative reviews. You are not going to encounter this. You can even sue them locally if they do not deliver on their promise, especially the warranty.
4. AquaGuard Laminate
If water resistance is one of your key concerns when buying laminate flooring, AquaGuard just got you sorted. Remember, we earlier said that Shaw’s laminate would repel water for approximately 24 hours. AquaGuard laminate takes it a notch higher as it can hold water for 30 hours.
Hence, if you want the ideal kitchen laminate flooring material, AquaGuard is the go-to brand. AquaGuard ensures that their laminate has two coatings to facilitate the water resistance property. Therefore, it is one of the best laminate floorings, especially if you live in areas with excess moisture.
Also, concerning the superior water resistance property, you can choose from more than 100 styles of the product. The product retails at a price range of $2.50 to $4.00 per square foot.
How is the Durability of AquaGuard Laminate Flooring?
So far, all the recommendable brands that we have covered have a rating of AC4. AquaGuard takes it a notch higher by offering boards that are rated AC5. They are thus more durable than the average laminate flooring boards. Hence, you will find it in spaces with heavy traffic, such as schools, malls, and restaurants.
How is the Warranty on AquaGuard’s Laminate?
Having a double coating is not all that AquaGuard does to their laminate. They also ensure that they have further cushioned their customers by offering a pet-friendly warranty. It aims to keep your laminate flooring in good condition even after a pet soils it.
In addition, if you are using the laminate for commercial flooring, you have a warranty of up to 15 years. The warranty lasts for a lifetime for those intending to use it for residential spaces.
5. Dream Home Laminate
As the name suggests, the laminate is made explicitly in a residential space. It is one of the best value laminate brands that you will find in the market. Although it does not boast superior quality like the brands mentioned above, it is pretty cheap.
You can get a square foot of this brand for as little as $1.49 to $1.99. Do you know of the adage that cheap is expensive? It does not apply here as, despite the low price, Dream Home Laminate is one of the most durable brands. They do not have a wide range of designs, but this is one of the few shortfalls of the brand that you can pick on.
How Durable is Dream Home Laminate?
Of course, it is not as durable as the best brands such as AquaGuard and Pergo. Nonetheless, it ranks among the best laminates, especially for residential use. Also, it is environmentally friendly and does not release harmful toxins to the surrounding (We’ll discuss this later).
6. Tarkett Laminate
The number one upside of this laminate flooring is that it is the cheapest in the market. For as little as 99 cents, you can get a square foot of the material. The highest you will spend for a Tarkett laminate is $1.19 per square foot, which is also relatively cheap. Hence, if you are operating on a low budget, this is the ideal brand.
How is the Durability of Tarkett Laminate Flooring?
The low cost of the laminate may probably have you worried about its quality. Calm your nerves, though, as it is still quite a great quality laminate for residential floors. It has a rating of AC3, which is not too bad for a residential area floor.
If you install it in areas with little traffic, such as in the closet, you can expect it to remain durable for an extensive period.
How is the Warranty on Tarkett Laminate Flooring?
If you are still skeptical about the relatively low AC3 rating, Tarkett got you covered on the side of the warranty. For 25 years, the company will have you covered for your residential floor. There is no warranty for commercial floors, given that it is specifically made for residential areas.
What is the Best Grade of Laminate Flooring?
There are several laminate flooring grades. Each is useful for a particular type of floor. Hence, your fundamental guiding factor when selecting a grade should be the intended use. All in all, the higher the rating, the more durable the laminate floor.
Typically, the grade type depends on the type of wear layer. Here is a breakdown of the abrasion class ratings:
- AC1 is rated for light use purposes. You can use such laminate in places with little to no traffic, such as the closet space.
- AC2 is suitable for general use but on floors that have little traffic. For instance, it is ideal for spaces such as guest bedrooms.
- AC3 is ideal for general residential purposes.
- AC4 is the grade that is commonplace in laminate floors that are rated as scratch-resistant. It is thus most ideal for homes.
- AC5 has the highest rating and is also the most durable laminate flooring material. It is ideal for floors in commercial buildings or areas that receive heavy traffic.
What Thickness of Laminate Flooring is Best?
As earlier mentioned, the base of laminate floorings is a layer of high-density fiberboard (HDF). It is mainly composed of wood fibers merged using a bonding agent.
Looking at the common laminate flooring reviews, you’ll realize that those with more extensive base layers are highly rated. Also, the same applies to laminate boards with a relatively thick HDF. So which thickness is ideal?
The best thickness for laminate flooring is a base layer of 12mm thickness. However, a 7–8mm laminate floor is also ideal for spaces with limited traffic.
What is the Hardest-Wearing Laminate Flooring?
The hardest laminate flooring will depend on the quality of the wear layer. As highlighted above, there are five main types of laminate flooring ratings. The higher the rating, the harder the wear layer of the laminate flooring.
Most laminate floorings are made of aluminum oxide and polyurethane. Nonetheless, other reinforcements on the laminate floorings determine the hardness. Thus, a material with the highest abrasion class rating has a superior wear layer.
What is the Healthiest Laminate Flooring?
Finding utterly healthy laminate flooring is not easy. Why is this so? Well, it’s all in the composition of the laminate flooring. We earlier mentioned that this material is a composite made of different layers. Therefore, the layers are enjoined using an adhesive. All adhesives will emit some Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are toxic.
Nonetheless, there has been a keen emphasis on manufacturing low VOC laminate boards in recent times. Thus, some laminate floorings are healthier than others. You should, therefore, settle for the more healthy laminate floorings.
Some of the common VOCs that you will find in adhesives include formaldehyde, tetrachloroethylene, toluene, and ethyl glycol. The healthiest laminate flooring is the one that contains the least VOCs.
Does Laminate Flooring Give off VOCs?
Laminate floorings have adhesives that also contain VOCs. The most common VOC in laminate floorings is formaldehyde. It is colorless and has a strong odor. Additionally, It is a toxic health hazard. However, it is noteworthy that the chemical is not found in all laminate floorings.
During laminate flooring installation, it will undergo a process called off-gassing. Typically, the laminate board material’s excess VOCs are released into the atmosphere via this process for many years.
Therefore, choosing a material with the least amount of VOCs is imperative in safeguarding your health.
If you live in a zone with high humidity, the off-gassing process is more pronounced than in less humid areas. Similarly, high temperatures accelerate the process. Therefore, if you live in such places, it is advisable to avoid laminate boards with VOCs from the word go.
Keep windows open after installing the laminate flooring to bring in some fresh air.
How to Buy Non-Toxic Laminate Floors
Laminate is a potential health hazard, especially if you buy brands with plenty of VOCs. But does that mean that you should avoid using it altogether? Not at all. You can still find laminate floorings that are non-toxic. When going to shop for laminate floorings, consider the following tips:
- Buy Laminate Products with Low Formaldehyde. The ideal laminate flooring should contain less than 0.03 parts per million of the chemical. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends less than 0.03 parts per million as it is not toxic to humans.
- Settle for Laminate With GreenGuard Certification. Laminate flooring that has the GreenGuard Certification has been tested for the presence of chemical emissions and found safe. Suppose you can find those with the GreenGuard Gold, the better. They are purer than those with the former certification. If you intend to use the laminate for spaces children will frequent, buy laminate with the GreenGuard Gold certification.
- Use Click Together Floating instead of adhesive to join the laminate. We have mentioned that adhesives are the primary source of toxic fumes. Hence, avoid using them in laminate floor installation. Instead, use the click together method. It will not require you to use adhesives. Laminate designed for click-together floating will lock together. The installation process is also easier than using glue.
Choosing the best laminate for your floor is a critical step that you cannot afford to get wrong. You could be overwhelmed by the numerous brands that are selling the product. Nonetheless, be keen on avoiding some renowned brands and companies for poor-quality laminates.
Sometimes, it is not only the quality that matters but also the warranty terms. Some brands will offer a warranty but conceal some of the terms to dupe you into thinking that they mean good for you.
For that reason, we have listed some of the firms that you should avoid. Additionally, we have also given you several alternatives that are worth buying. Pick the brands that offer the best quality depending on your intended use.