Saturday, June 26, 2010

Consider this before you buy laminate floors

Recently I installed laminate floors in our basement. I've done several laminate floor projects now, so I wanted to share my insight. This is the third time I've flown solo on installing floors, and I have experienced the whole spectrum of product (from cheap to primo). I wanted to let you know that this is a job any weekend warrior can tackle.

Since there's already a lot of great tutorials online for installing floors, I won't try to reinvent the wheel here. However if you need that information, here is a good tutorial of the basics of installing a floating laminate floor. Instead I want to talk about my experiences with installation based on the different types of laminate flooring that I've installed.

The first project was putting in the flooring in Kristi's parent's kitchen. Kristi's dad spared no expense and bought real Pergo flooring, which rings in at the hefty price tag of almost $4.00 per square foot.

The benefits of this product are evident in the ease of installation. The foam underlayment (for noise reduction) was already attached to the panels whereas normally you need to lay that down as a separate layer. The pieces were thick (which is a good thing), and the click-lock mechanism worked like a dream. The pieces also have a raised texture to simulate natural wood grain, which is an added bonus.

Here are photos of the before and after:

This material is great for a first timer due to the ease of installation and overall quality. The disadvantage is that it costs as much or more than real pre-finished hardwood from a discounter like Lumber Liquidators.

The second project was a real adventure. I was installing flooring for a buddy. He wanted to install flooring in his entire basement (several rooms and an entryway) and decided to save money by buying the cheapest flooring he could find. It was IKEA Slatten, which costs a whopping $.65 per square foot.

The difference was night and day between installing the Pergo and the Slatten. It was very difficult to install because the click-lock tabs would break off as the pieces were being installed. Whenever that happened, I had to throw the piece away and fish out the broken tab from the other piece. Lame. The finish on the flooring was not great by any stretch of the imagination, and the pieces were thin and flimsy. There is no attached pad, so I had to lay that out before installing the floor (not a big deal at all, but an extra step). For these reasons, it took a lot of extra time to install the Slatten. The finished product looked nice, but I am not sure about the quality or how durable this will be in the coming years. My buddy was happy, and the product fit his budget, so it all worked out.



The third project is our recently completed basement floor, and I felt like Goldilocks. Whereas the Pergo was too nice and the Slatten was not nice enough, the IKEA Tundra was just right.

Tundra is available in several colors, but we went for the lightest shade to brighten up our dark basement

It was not as easy to install as the Pergo, for sure, and did not have the attached pad. Nor was it as tricky to install as the Slatten. But it looks great (significantly better than Slatten) and was only $1.15 per square foot.



I hope this helps anyone who is looking to install laminate for the first time. It is really not too difficult. It takes a little bit of time, a little bit of swearing, and patience as you envision how great the floor will look when you are done!


Kristi June 26, 2010 at 3:12 PM  

Wow! You basement looks great. I didn't even know Ikea had flooring. The closest one to us in 2.5 hours away, in Atlanta so we've never been. We usually just price flooring at Lowe's. It looks like Ikea might be worth looking into. Thanks!

Alexis L., The Studioist June 27, 2010 at 5:54 AM  

That's a really helpful breakdown and lovely results in all three cases.

Amanda @ Little House on the Corner June 27, 2010 at 1:40 PM  

Very interesting comparison! I've never considered doing a laminate wood floor when we finish our basement, but it looks great!

hiphousegirl June 28, 2010 at 9:19 AM  

Thanks for this! When I finish my basement (probably eons from now- tear) I think I'll do laminate wood-look flooring too. I have wondered if it's a bit cold in a basement, but I've known people who have it and haven't complained, so I'm assuming it's not too bad. Anyway, your basement is looking fantastic!

Life in Rehab June 28, 2010 at 11:49 AM  

Nice comparison, guys. I went high end downstairs, and was considering IKEA TUNDRA for the upstairs since it gets less traffic, but was a little hesitant. This just convinced me, and I still love your light color choice. Thanks!

Robert June 28, 2010 at 9:08 PM  

There are different types of flooring available in the market today. The experience that you had with three different types of flooring shows the advantages and disadvantages of certain types of hardwood.

We also installed different types of hardwood in our new house. For the living room we used laminate wood flooring (tampa) since we wanted the room to look polished and clean. While, we used vinyl flooring (tampa) for the bedroom. Even if they are two different types of flooring, I agree that it's still a job that 'any weekend warrior can tackle'.

I'm looking forward to more home improvement tips from your blog. Thanks!

Sara Williams July 28, 2012 at 2:03 PM  

This is good to know. I tried installing the Slatten, and became very frustrated and had to end up throwing the open packages away and returning the unused flooring.

Laminatas May 27, 2013 at 3:26 AM  

I have tries laminate installing one time, but it was totally fail. But I will try again :) Now I have your advices.

Anonymous June 22, 2013 at 11:29 PM  

I installed IKEA SLATTEN flooring in a living room in a rental. That is, I'm the renter (not the landlord), and I was ready to get rid of the carpet. It has held up well in the year it's been installed; I didn't have problems with the tabs breaking off. I figure it will last at least as long as I am here, and it is much easier to clean and live with than the carpet.

unixguy November 3, 2013 at 12:25 PM  

I had IKEA's Slatten ("Oak Effect") installed a few months ago. Looked great when completed, yes, very cheap price per sqft. I don't know how it will hold up. IKEA seemed to use it for many of their demo floors, so it might. Probably not as durable as others.

I watched and spoke to the installers who were familiar with Pergo.. they said the Slatten install was tricky, but not unusually so. They didn't seem to have much throw away due to breakage. "You just have to be careful when you snap them together."

Of note: I was just at IKEA yesterday to get more, they said they didn't have it in stock, and are getting out of flooring. Called several stores, all were out of stock. To double check the IKEA store person, I entered 'flooring' in their in-store computer, and got zero results. (The website still shows the items, but when I checked stock at the two stores near me in Los Angeles, they were out of stock on SLATTEN, and said you couldn't buy it on the web.) So perhaps no more cheap flooring from IKEA as of this date.

Kate November 22, 2013 at 12:37 AM  

This is just what I needed to know. Thank you for the info!

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