Compare Laminate Floors, Quality and Price

LaminatesWondering why one laminate floor cost R100m2 while the next floor cost double the price or more, if it is a drastic price difference for the same type of floor board then the chances are good it is because of a quality difference between the products. Below are a few factors that influence the price you pay for your laminate floor and should help you making a more informed decision.

Quality or Grade of Laminate Floors

It is important to compare apples with apples here and there are different grading systems for laminate floors, from AC1 to AC5 or Grade 21 to 33 with the higher number being better quality, this will influence the price you pay, so you will pay nearly double for a AC5 than for a AC3. Below are a few factors that can influence the price of laminate flooring.

  • Protective Layer: This is what gives laminate floors its surface strength and mostly determine the AC or Grade rating of the laminate planks, see here for more details

    Quality and rating of Laminate Floors.
    Test done on laminate floors by the EPLF (European Producers of Laminate Flooring) include resistance against Stains, Fading, Fire, Burn and Formaldehyde Emission Levels, for more information about these test and to see who are members of the EPLF click HERE

  • Surface texture: Textured or wood grain laminate boards which looks more like the real thing is usually more expensive to manufacture, these planks are embossed with a pattern to mimic real or solid wood flooring.
  • Repeat Pattern: With the cheaper laminates you usually find a 1 in 3 repeat pattern which means every third or fourth laminate plank looks the same which is noticeable after installation where some of the more expensive products you might be looking at a 1 in 8 or even a 1 in 10 repeat pattern.
  • Locking System: The locking systems of some laminate planks are superior to others and these locking systems are usually patented and thus the manufacturer need to pay a fee to use these locking systems which add to the cost of production. Examples of a superior locking system could be a neater joint and that the boards can be uplifted and re-installed a few times without compromising the locking system. One of the most known patented locking systems are Uniclic
  • Core Board: The density of the core or laminate board which is about 95% of what the plank is made up of should be HDF (High Density Fibre Board), there are some laminate floor manufacturers that lower their cost by using cheaper board which is usually MDF (Medium Density Fibre Board) or somewhere in-between, these laminate boards dents easier than HDF.
  • Machining: Some products are machined better than others, make sure the laminate manufacturer or supplier can provide a list which is usually in their catalogue or on the box of the standards they guarantee on their laminate product. All laminate manufacturers differ but usually they have detailed information about the maximum height difference between connecting laminate planks (about 0.15mm), the maximum space difference between connecting boards (about 0.20mm) and the board straightness (about 0.30mm).
  • Direct Pressure: This is the most common method where the 4 layers that the laminate plank consist of get pressed together under pressure and high heat but then you also get High Pressure Laminates, this method takes longer and thus costs more, the top and bottom layers are done separately and then fused together again, the end result is a stronger and more durable laminate floor.

Other factors that influence the price of Laminate Floors

  • West or East: It is fairly common knowledge that the East can nearly manufacture anything cheaper than the West, when it comes to Laminate Flooring as specially China plays a major role here. Cheaper labour, energy, raw products, taxes is just some of the factors that can play a role to lower the cost of laminate floor manufactures in the East or China. Furthermore the exchange rate can also play a role here as Chinese manufacturers mostly sell their laminate floors in Dollars and the European manufacturers sell their floors in Euros.
  • Green Factor: How green the floor is can also have an impact on the cost of the floor as sustainable resources and low emission factories usually cost a bit more to run, make sure there are a “green” label on your laminate floor product. The most well known one when it comes to wood products are the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council).
  • Laminate Flooring Accessories

  • Underlay: There are a wide variety of laminate floor underlays, the most common is the 2mm foam combined with the plastic damp proof membrane, here it is important to make sure that the plastic is made of Virgin material which will be a few rand more expensive per square metre. The reason for this is that plastic bags need to be degradable, this plastic gets back into the recycled plastic and that compromises the structure of recycled plastic and make it unusable as a damp prove membrane.
  • Profiles: There are a wide selection of flooring profiles on the market with the main difference being what the product is made of, mainly you get wooden, plastic and metal profiles. Metal is always a safe bet but not as attractive on the eye, the wooden laminted profiles has quality differences that you need to watch out for. You get MDF and HDF profiles and most wooden profiles in the South African market at the moment are MDF which is not as good as HDF but again the price of the HDF might be double of the MDF profiles. Some of the good quality profiles have an EPLF rating on it which indicate the quality, it is important to remember that the wooden profiles are not suitable for commercial application and are best suited for residential use.
  • Skirting: Most laminate skirting is made of MDF (Medium density Fibre Board), Plastic or Solid Wood. With skirting it doesn’t really matter that much as it will not get any traffic on it like the floor and the profiles. The MDF skirting usually match the floor board and are more expensive than your Solid Wood skirting like Pine and Meranti. The MDF and Plastic skirting usually needs to be glued to the wall and thus not suited for very uneven walls, with uneven walls you would be better off with solid wood skirting that can be nailed or screwed into the wall.

The above is a guideline for comparing the different laminate floors on the market.

Great Article

Thanks for the great explanation. I guess at the end of the day you get what you pay for.

Yes, but...

Sure, one always should compare apples with apples, but what do you call when the suppliers bring in cheap, good quality apples from China and then use the hugely overpriced European apples to justify high profit margins by setting the retail prices of the cheap apples high?

The article implies the obvious, that the price is determined by the quality, but it does not means it is true.

You see, the local suppliers do not abide by the riles they say play role in this market.

Like in most industries, the laminate flooring suppliers skew the market model, de-link the price-origin relation of the products, go for a model that allows them to maximise their profit margin and not satisfy the market demand.

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