Most Durable Laminate in the World
Installing laminate in your home and want it to last?
This article will break down the recipe for the most durable laminate you can buy. For a full rundown on what you need to know buying laminate, check out our unbiased laminate guide.
This will be a to the point reference on what you need to know to get the most durable laminate for your home.
One thing I think is important to set from the start: this is actually not the most durable laminate you can buy. They make commercial laminate. I’ve limited this to home use.If you want help finding a pre-qualified installer, HomeAdvisor is a company I recommend because they do the homework on the installer for you. Click here to enter your zip code and get connected with 3 installers in your area OR call this number instead: (888) 231-5203. I get a small commission if you use their service, but I believe it’s a great service.
Most durable class
Laminate floors have five AC classes. AC 1 is the lowest rank and AC 5 is the highest. You can read our full article on laminate AC ratings here.
Go with an AC3 rating for the most durable.
That’s weird, why would I go with the middle number?
AC4 and AC5 are for commercial use. So if you’re remodeling your home, they don’t make sense. But what if I want commercial durability?
The problem with higher AC ratings is they are rough underfoot. They’re intended for high commercial traffic with shoes. They’re very abrasive underfoot and can even rip holes in your socks. The other drawback is sometimes the thicker wear layer of the higher AC ratings looks more commercial and not as much like polished wood.
Color and design
I know this article is about the most durable laminate, and I don’t trust my own interior design skills, so I’m not going on too much of a tangent here.
But design choice can have some impact on the laminates durability.
If durability is a big issue, go with a laminate that has a varied appearance. If your laminate is extremely uniform (one solid color throughout) any small scuff and scratch will stick out like a sore thumb.
Variation makes small imperfections much less noticeable.
Waterproof laminate floors
Water is laminates biggest weakest.
Waterproof laminate floors have long been a dream of both homeowners and flooring manufacturers. And they have made strides in the right direction, but it’s still not perfect.
At the end of the day, it’s best to avoid areas with moisture when using laminate, but there are still laminates that will help protect you should someone spills a drink.
The difficulty is there is not a rating for water resistance. These are the things that make laminate more water resistant:
- tighter locking (installation) system that keeps water out
- melamine used in the backing
Again, the problem is there is no way to tell how tight the locking system is, and you could find out if melamine is used but it might not be listed. What you can do is ask for the more water resistant floors, and then verify that they are water resistant by checking that they have these two features.
You can also be fairly confident is the floor has a NALFA certification seal on it. These laminates have to go through a series of tests, and one of the tests is water resistance. The problem with this is certifications aren’t free, so you may pay more for these floors. Also, there are floors that would easily pass to get the seal but don’t apply for it.
Many newer types of laminate floors will include UV light protection. Flooring that is exposed to direct sunlight without UV protection will fade or lose some of its color over time. If you know that some of your flooring will be in rooms with a lot of natural light and limited UV protection from the windows or blinds (most rooms), you can improve the durability of your laminate floor by making sure it has its own built-in UV protection.
When I first learned about laminate, I thought thickness would play a big role in durability. It doesn’t.
That said, it does provide some durability. Thicker laminates are more forgiving during installation and less likely to buckle.
From a pure durability standpoint, you need 10mm or thicker. You can go 12mm or higher and the laminate will feel more durability, but it likely won’t make a difference in how long it lasts.
Laminate manufacturing technique
Why does laminate manufacturing matter?
Laminate is made out of separate layers that are combined into a single plank. The way that the layers are combined will have a direct impact on the durability of the laminate floor.
There are two basic methods:
Direct Pressure Laminate (DPL): Direct Pressure Laminate is made out of four layers. Those layers are assembled together then filled with a melamine resin under high heat and pressure to pull them together. This is historically how companies have manufactured laminate floors.
High-Pressure Laminate (HPL): High-Pressure Laminate is going to be your more durable option of these two. With High-Pressure Laminate, there are five layers instead of four. Those five layers are fused to the central core under heat pressure. The extra pressure and the fusion to the core layer give it the added strength. This is a new technology that is showing a lot of promise at delivering durable and long lasting laminate floors.
So HPL laminate is more durable, but it’s sort of like AC3 vs AC4 (remember that from above?). HPL is used more in commercial settings, and I think it’s overkill for most homeowners. Also, it can add a commercial feel and look, meaning rough underfoot and a bit of a hazy appearance.
Here’s another certification you can look for:
This is an international rating that guarantees some quality in the laminates materials. This is important for laminate where you don’t know where it was made because sometimes manufacturers will stuff the laminate with cheap filler.
Sometimes these will be listed with the laminate, but if not, you can ask and the retailer should be able to look it up.
Captain’s parting words!
So what is the most durable laminate in the world for homeowners?
Go with a 12mm thick, AC4 HDF varied color and pattern laminate that has water and UV resistance and an ISO 9001 certification. Bonus points if it has NALFA certification.
Is that too commercial and rough?
You can drop the HDF for standard construction and AC4 to AC3, and this will be plenty durable for most homeowners.
Of course, no matter how durable the laminate you choose is, keeping it clean is crucial for extending its lifespan. I’ve gathered the best mops for laminate floors to help you do just that!
And if you want something even sturdier than laminate, e.g. for your decking outdoors, check if aluminum decking is worth it for you.
Any questions on laminate and durability? Let me know in the comments below.