Laminate flooring offers consumers the look of natural wood grain at a fraction of the cost of genuine hardwood. This visually appealing flooring option is long-lasting and resilient to many types of damage — but not all laminate is the same. The longevity of your laminate flooring depends on several factors, including quality, installation, maintenance, cleaning, and foot traffic.
Laminate floors last, on average, between 15 and 25 years. Thick, high-quality laminate with a high abrasion class rating may last up to 30 years with proper installation, regular cleaning, and protective measures, including the placement of furniture pads and area rugs.
Read on to learn more about how long you can expect laminate flooring to last and how to extend its lifespan. Your new laminate flooring is an investment in your home. After this article, you’ll be able to keep that investment paying off for as long as possible.
Is Laminate Flooring Durable?
Laminate flooring is durable and is comparable to hardwood and should last at least 15 years with proper installation. The floor planks consist of a rubber base, core fiberboard, decorative covering, and a protective layer. Laminate is resistant to fading, scratches, and quick spills.
Manufacturers produce laminate flooring with a core layer of medium or high-density fiberboard. The bottom layer is usually a rubber or padded “stabilizing” layer that allows the floor to “float” and stay in place. The decorative layer features the aesthetic design, and the wear layer at the top protects the floor from stains, fading, and spills.
However, the durability of laminate flooring depends on several factors, including its abrasion class rating, protective coating, and thickness. I’ll discuss each of these factors more in-depth below:
Abrasion Class Rating
The abrasion class (AC) rating of laminate dictates how durable the laminate flooring is. In the table below, we’ll break down laminate’s AC ratings and what they mean:
|Abrasion Class (AC) Rating||Characteristics|
|AC 1||• Lightest laminate |
• Withstands light foot traffic
• Best suited for low-traffic areas (i.e., walk-in closets, infrequently used hallways, etc.)
|AC 2||• Low-medium grade laminate |
• Withstands light to moderate foot traffic
• Best suited for moderate traffic areas (i.e., bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.)
|AC 3||• Common in residential homes |
• Withstands moderate foot traffic
• Best suited for household use in moderate or high-traffic areas (i.e., entryway, living room, etc.)
|AC 4||• Heavy-duty laminate |
• Withstands moderate to heavy foot traffic
• Best suited for commercial facilities
|AC 5||• Heaviest laminate |
• Withstands regular heavy foot traffic
• Best suited for commercial facilities
AC 4 and AC 5 are the most durable ratings, but they’re more costly and may not be necessary for the average family’s foot traffic. On the other hand, AC 3 is perfectly suitable for residential homes with moderate and high-traffic areas like the front door, living room, and hallways.
The higher the AC rating, the longer the floor is likely to last — AC 1 laminate flooring will most likely need replacing before AC 3 flooring. Keep this in mind if you’re in the market for long-lasting, durable laminate.
Laminate flooring is made of pressed wood and is not waterproof. Some manufacturers apply a clear, water-repellent seal on top of the protective layer — but this doesn’t protect against long-term exposure to moisture. Instead, it’s designed more for protection from scratches and quick spills.
Floors installed in high-humidity areas or rooms with water access (i.e., bathrooms, kitchens, utility closets, etc.) are more susceptible to water damage. In addition, flooring placed in these high-moisture areas may not last as long as laminate installed in other rooms.
Long-term exposure to liquids or high humidity will penetrate the protective layer and cause the core to swell, ruining the floor. Once a laminate floor is water damaged, it cannot be sanded down and refinished — the entire floor needs replacing.
Thickness and Quality
When choosing laminate flooring, pay attention to the thickness — the thicker, the better. Thicker laminate increases the floor’s lifespan, as it is more durable and less prone to wear and tear.
In addition, you’ll want to observe the quality of laminate closely. Many low-quality laminate floors will have a cheaper appearance and, typically, a shorter lifespan. In addition, cheap laminate flooring locks do not hold planks properly, causing them to buckle, which significantly reduces the lifespan of your laminate.
How To Make Laminate Flooring Last Longer
Properly caring for and maintaining your laminate flooring will preserve and extend its lifespan. This section will cover how you can ensure that your flooring lasts as long as possible.
Clean Them Regularly
Regular cleaning is necessary to maintain your laminate flooring, but it’s vital that you adequately clean it to avoid damage.
As mentioned earlier in this article, laminate flooring has a thin transparent coating that protects the decorative layer. It’s vital that you use non-damaging chemicals when cleaning your floors. Avoid using strong, acidic cleaners like ammonia. Never use a soaking wet mop to clean laminate as standing water can seep into the joints and cause swelling.
It’s also best to sweep floors with a regular broom and dustpan. You can use a vacuum cleaner, but you should avoid the beater brush, as it may nick and scratch the surface of the laminate’s protective layer. Use a vacuum hose to suck up dirt from any cracks and the corners of the flooring.
Consider Foot Traffic and Pets
To prevent damage from pets, keep their nails trimmed or filed down. When an animal’s sharp nails scratch the surface of the laminate, it allows water, dirt, and other debris to fall into the crevices, leading to an unsightly surface. In addition, moisture can seep into these crevices and lead to warping.
Prevent damage from heavy foot traffic by placing area rugs and runners wherever possible. Rugs and runners increase the longevity of your laminate floors, especially in areas like entryways and living rooms.
Place Furniture Pads Under Tables and Chairs
To further extend the life of your laminate flooring, always use furniture pads under tables, chairs, and other furniture. These felt pads are essential when moving furniture around, as they prevent scraping the protective layer and helps avoid any unsightly scratches.
Choose Flooring With a Warranty
Always purchase laminate flooring from a trusted retailer and manufacturer and ensure that a warranty backs it. Manufacturers of premium laminate flooring sometimes offer warranties for 15+ years. Even budget flooring options should come with a warranty, usually for at least ten years. Beware of companies that do not offer warranties on their laminate flooring.
How Installation Affects the Longevity of Your Laminate Flooring
Installation of laminate flooring involves leveling the subfloor, laying underlayment if required, installing the flooring with spacers, and sealing it along the wall with a silicone sealant. Proper installation is essential and increases the lifespan of your flooring.
Most homeowners can install laminate in a day with little to no help. Below, we’ll discuss the steps to installing laminate floors and how installation affects their longevity.
Before beginning the laminate installation process, the subfloor must be level. A level subfloor provides stability and support. Conversely, unlevel subfloors can damage the locking system, resulting in a less durable floor and, therefore, reduce its lifespan.
Check out this article for more information on how to measure the slope of your floor.
Some laminate flooring comes pre-fitted with underlayment on the bottom of the planks. The manufacturer’s instructions should say whether you need additional underlayment.
It provides stability, support, noise reduction and keeps the locking system in place. Without underlayment, the laminate flooring is more likely to buckle, resulting in the need for a whole new floor.
Installation With Spacers
When installing laminate flooring, it must be appropriately fitted from wall to wall, using spacers. Changes in temperature and humidity cause the floor to expand and contract — spacers create an “expansion gap” to allow that movement. Without an expansion gap, the floor will buckle with environmental changes.
When installing planks, install them in a staggered, alternating pattern. Staggering is necessary, not only for appearance but for additional stability and support. It puts less stress on the floor’s locking mechanism. Unstaggered planks can compromise the floor’s strength and stability and will result in greater wear on the flooring.
Seal flooring along the wall with waterproof protection. Silicone sealant is recommended for laminate. Sealing the floor ensures that it is protected from water damage, prevents shifting, and increases the longevity of the flooring.
Laminate is a cost-effective, visually appealing flooring option that’s easy to install. It offers both durability and longevity and is resilient to nicks, dings, and dents. Quality laminate will hold up to heavy foot traffic and, with the proper installation and maintenance, has the potential to last for over a decade.