#Can You Install Laminate Flooring In The Kitchen?
By Lee Wallender. Home Renovations Expert
As the ultimate know-nothing beginner, Lee Wallender’s first experience with home renovation was remodeling a 100 year-old house.
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The viability of laminate flooring in the kitchen is one that I ve tossed around for years on this site, and one that s provoked questions from readers. It s taken as an article of faith that laminate flooring, at best, is barely acceptable in kitchens. At worst, laminate is considered a kitchen pariah.
But is it really? The short answer is that laminate can be installed in kitchen, and actually works quite well.
Flooring your kitchen is a big enough endeavor, though, that I urge you to read on and consider all aspects before you take the leap.
Water Damage: A Matter Of Concern But Overrated
Water is a bad thing for floors of most types. Even ceramic and porcelain tiles. as water resistant as they are, have water absorption limits. If water sits on ceramic tile long enough, it s inevitable that the tile will absorb water.
Let s not even mention grout, a far more porous substance than the surface of fired tile.
Grout-sealing is an imperfect business, and if water infiltrates tile, it will first go through those seams.
The only perfectly impermeable kitchen floor is sheet resilient flooring (sheet vinyl) because the vinyl itself is non-porous and it has practically no seams.
With those considerations, laminate flooring is on more of an equal footing with other types of materials such as solid hardwood and engineered wood.
You ll get your laminate wet in either of two ways: from ordinary use or from a catastrophic event.
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Ordinary use means that you slosh water out of the pasta pan onto the floor and quickly mop it up. Catastrophic event means that your dishwasher supply line leaks and you don t discover the mess for three days.
Laminate holds up well against water because:
- Sealed Surface. If laminate has an Achile s Heel, it s the edges. While the top is sealed with the wear layer and the bottom is coated, edges are raw and thus prone to soaking up water. Yet a properly installed laminate floor has seams on the top that are so tight that they are practically non-existent. The perimeter is covered with baseboards or quarter-round. Theoretically, water won t even reach the core.
- Core Is Pretty Good Against Water. One frequent knock against laminate is that it s a kind of pressed board, not real wood. Yet the fact that it s fake wood acts as a strength. These lignocellulosic fibers (i.e. dried wood pulp) are combined with a synthetic resin as a bonding agent. The addition of these non-organic resins help promote dimensional stability. In other words, they help the laminate core maintain its shape–to some degree–when subjected to water. I tested laminate s resistance to water by cutting it to expose the raw core and soaking it in water. Even after two hours, the laminate core did not swell and the top layers did not de-laminate.
Superior Scratch Resistance and AC Ratings
Laminate flooring is a sandwich composed of the core substrate, the image layer, and the wear layer. This clear melamine wear layer serves only one function: to protect the more fragile image layer from abuse.
Know what? It actually does a great job of it, even better than a site-finished wood floor.
Wearability is measured by the Association of European producers of Laminate Flooring s (EPLF) AC rating system. Most laminate floors for residential use have an AC-3 rating. A sample of laminate is run through a Taber testing machine which revolves the sample against a piece of sandpaper. To achieve an AC-3 rating, the sample s wear layer must stand up to 2,000 revolutions.
If durability is a major concern for you, you can even dial up the floor s durability to AC-4 levels. AC-4, formerly just for commercial use, is now permeating into the residential market.
Anecdotally, I ve found that my laminate kitchen floor does an awesome job of standing up to hard scratches such as the ones the come from sliding a chair in and out.
Laminate s Planned Obsolescence
Our Flooring Expert makes the good point that laminate, should a section need to be replaced, can be replaced with little fuss. As this is a floating floor, it s not connected to the substrate and usually boards are not permanently joined to each other.
Your biggest concern, then, isn t how to replace the flooring, but where will you find replacement boards. Unless you had the foresight to purchase an additional carton or two, you will not be able to find the laminate on the market any longer.
With a natural product such as solid red oak hardwood flooring, this is a product that is perennially available. Red oak is red oak; knotty pine is knotty pine. While it s true that runs of natural wood do vary, it s still possible to find a close match.
But since laminate is a branded, man-made artificial product, it has a color and texture that s all its own. Once you buy Shropshire Tavern Oak Laminate the only thing that can replace it is the exact, same product.
And because manufacturers introduce and pull products as often as car makers cycle automobile models in and out, you won t find it on the open market next year. Your best bet is eBay.