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Laminate and luxury vinyl flooring are two of the most popular flooring options in residential construction. In this video, we’re going to look at how they are made, their main differences as well as their pros and cons.
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0:16 Laminate flooring
2:40 Luxury vinyl flooring
Laminate flooring consists of several layers fused together under high heat and pressure.
- The underlayment can be cork or foam. It acts as a vapor barrier, absorbs impact, evens out any surface irregularities, and distributes moisture away from the bottom layer of the flooring.
- The bottom layer is a melamine or paper backer that provides foundation and water resistance.
- The core layer is the most important and largest part of the flooring. It is made of MDF or medium density fiberboard or HDF which is high density fiberboard.
- The pattern layer. It is created using a high resolution 3D photograph of real, natural wood grain.
- The topcoat or wear layer which is a mixture of aluminum oxide powder, melamine and urethane.
Now let’s look at how luxury vinyl planks are made. Vinyl or polyvinyl chloride or PVC was developed in Akron, Ohio in 1926 by blending it with various additives. It soon became the world’s third-most widely produced synthetic polymer of plastic. The basic raw materials for PVC are derived from salt and oil. Electrolysis of salt water produces chlorine. Chlorine is then combined with ethylene that has been obtained from oil. The resulting element is ethylene dichloride, which is converted at very high temperatures to vinyl chloride monomer. These monomer molecules are polymerized forming polyvinyl chloride resin.
The layers of luxury vinyl flooring are similar to those of laminate flooring.
- The underlayment can be cork or foam. It evens out any subsurface irregularities.
- The bottom layer or backing can be made of rigid fiberglass.
- The core layer provides structure. It can either be SPC or stone plastic composite which is made of calcium carbonate, PVC and plasticizers or WPC or wood plastic composite which is made of a PVC mixture and wood flour.
- The pattern layer is a high resolution digital image of wood, stone or tile.
- The topcoat or wear layer is a clear, urethane based coating that makes the floor scratch and stain resistant.
Ease of use - They are both DIY friendly and affordable with an easy click and lock assembly. The tongue of one plank is fitted into the groove of another at an angle and folded down. This draws the boards together.
Acclimate - Laminate flooring needs to acclimate to the inside of a home for at least 48 hours before installation. It has to get used to the new temperature and humidity levels to avoid expansion or contraction. Vinyl flooring doesn’t need to acclimate at all.
Tools - Laminate flooring is cut with a circular saw or table saw. Luxury vinyl can be scored with a utility knife, bent back and snapped into two. It can also be cut with a circular saw or table saw.
Scratch resistance - The scratch resistance of laminate flooring depends on the thickness of the top layer and ac rating, which we discussed earlier. Luxury vinyl shows better scratch resistance.
Water resistance - Water puddled on the surface of this laminate flooring and did not penetrate the top coat. Luxury vinyl showed the same water resistance.
Uses - New, water resistant laminate flooring can be installed anywhere in a building, but flooring that isn’t water resistant shouldn’t be used in bathrooms, mudrooms or kitchens. Luxury vinyl is waterproof and can be installed anywhere.
Fire resistance - The foam underlayment on laminate caught on fire easily and melted away. The MDF core charred but didn’t burn. Vinyl flooring melted and gave off very strong fumes.
Health concerns - They also use phenol formaldehyde resins and glues that off-gas. In high concentrations, this can be a serious health concern.
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