My experiences with laminate flooring 


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The home we purchased many years ago already had a very high grade laminate flooring product in the kitchen/dining area called "Hartco".  The rest of the home was in carpet.  We decided to remove the remaining carpet in the home and were immediately faced with a choice ... should we continue with the same, laminate flooring that was already in the home or start all over with a true hardwood floor? 

We looked into the costs of laminate versus hardwoods and surprisingly, for this grade of laminate flooring, it was about the same.  This type of laminate flooring was an extremely tough product used commercially in building lobbies and restaurants.   It is designed specifically for high traffic use.  That was a big plus for us.  Note ... most laminate flooring products installed are about half the cost of true hardwoods. 

Laminate flooring is also relatively thin as compared to hardwood floors built on a sub-floor of plywood.  For this reason, if we stayed with the laminate flooring, we would not have to deal with cutting our doors (which we would have had to do for a thicker floor).  In addition, our kitchen appliances already fit pretty snugly underneath our countertops, so we would have had a real problem if we tried to install the thicker, hardwood floors.  There seemed to be only one downside ...we would only be able to refinish the laminate floor one time (because the top coat of wood is so thin).  We didn't see this as an issue, so we decided to go with the laminate flooring throughout about half of the home.

After pulling the carpet up, the laminate floor installer applied a self leveling concrete compound.  This was an attempt to take out any dips or waves in the foundation on which the laminate flooring was going to lay.  After the mixture was dry, they sanded it down.  The next step was spreading a thick layer of glue directly onto the concrete and they began laying the laminate on top.  Within one full day we were walking on the floor and all seemed well.

One of the first things we noticed after several months was some sections of the flooring seemed to match in color and other sections didn't.  It became more pronounced monthly.  I came to realize the installers pulled all of the boards out of one box and laid them, then started with another box.  Instead of randomly pulling boards out of different boxes to stagger the effect, our floor had large swatches of off-colored boards in several areas.  It looked like agricultural land from 30,000 feet.  Remember, laminate flooring arrives pre-stained, right out of the box, so we would have had to re-stain the entire floor to get a consistent color match.

Several months after the work was completed, I noticed some soft spots in the floor.  I also began to hear a popping noise as I stepped onto several areas.  Unfortunately, these were in high traffic areas, so I had to listen to it every day, a constant reminder of our poor decision :-).  I finally called the installer out and asked him what was going on.  He said because the concrete was not perfectly level, there was an air pocket which caused the soft spot.  The popping noise was also caused by the sides of two pieces of the wood rubbing against each other in this soft spot. 

My next question was, "Why wasn't it leveled properly and how how do we fix it?"  He replied that it is very difficult to perfectly level concrete and went on to say the only remedy was to drill holes into the wood and insert more glue to hold down the wood.  He couldn't guarantee me that would stop the problem, but was willing to try.  I had by now lost all of my affection for glue down, laminate floors. 

I recently heard a home improvement radio show host talking about this exact same problem with a call-in listener.  He hit the nail on the head when he said "Glue, wood, and concrete just don't mix.  You just need to live with it".  But we weren't through with our laminate lesson. 

After we installed our new, handscraped, true hardwood floors in the back area of the home, we wanted to scrape and re-stain the existing laminate floors to match.  We were told that the laminate wood was too thin to scrape, so those floors came back to bite us again. 

My personal opinion is ... if you have the choice between laminate flooring and true hardwoods, pay the extra money and go with the true hardwoods.  The true hardwoods are without question going to add more value to your home, plus you can scrape, re-stain, or repair them without worries. 

If you would like to see how true hardwood floors are installed, just click here!


Tom Grisak Estate Homes Realtors, Inc - Texas License # 0329533

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