Laminate Flooring In A Kitchen – Pros, Cons & Advice
Using laminate flooring in a kitchen is one of the most popular and affordable options on the market. But what makes it so popular and is it the best choice for you?
In this post, I’ll explain what laminate flooring is, its pros and cons as well as answer some popular questions about the topic.
Let’s get into it!
What Is Laminate Flooring?
Typically sold in tiles and planks, laminate flooring is a synthetic product made out of multiple layers. Its top acrylic layer is clear and durable which protects the printed paper layer just underneath.
This printed layer will have your chosen wood or stone effect. The surface layer is scratch, stain and water-resistant and helps protect the printed layer from fading. The top two layers are then fixed to a core of melamine and fibreboard which all make up the laminate plank or tile.
Laminate often looks like wood or stone, just like vinyl flooring. However, vinyl flooring uses the same materials for its core and the top layer, which adds improved durability.
Still, with today’s manufacturing technology, laminate flooring is proving to be an affordable, durable, and attractive option for many homeowners. It is also easy to install. Most people can lay a laminate floor over a single weekend using basic tools and skills.
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Pros Of Laminate Flooring In A Kitchen
- Affordable: The average laminates are available for around £20 per square metre–half the price of premium vinyl tiles.
- Attractive: Today’s laminates offer contemporary looks that complement your decor. Many mimic the appearance of wood or stone.
- Water-resistant surface: The laminate surface will not be damaged by everyday spills or muddy shoes. Simply use a soft cloth or damp mop to keep it clean and dry.
- Comfortable: The inner core of laminate flooring provides a cushioned feel under your feet compared to ceramic or wood.
- Good Durability: Most laminates are designed to last 15 years or longer in an average home.
Cons Of Laminate Flooring In A Kitchen
- Not Waterproof: The inner core of laminates will swell and shrink with changes in temperature and humidity. If you have a flood in the kitchen, or any dampness gets into the core it will get water damage and cause the floor to warp or the top layer to bubble.
- Shows Scratches: The surface of a laminate is very thin. If the floor gets scratched, you cannot hide the damage. It might not be the best option if you have pets.
- Not as Durable as Vinyl: Laminate is most commonly compared to vinyl. However, vinyl tiles are more durable and hide the appearance of surface scratches better than laminates.
- Cheaper Laminates Reflect Their Price: The lowest price laminates often have a printed pattern that does not look as natural as premium products. It will often lack any texture and just have a smooth polished finish.
- Not Eco-Friendly: Laminate flooring doesn’t degrade or naturally break down well in landfills, mostly because of the top wear layer which contains plastic. Some laminate flooring options are also made with chemicals such as formaldehyde which can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
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How Is Laminate Flooring Installed In A Kitchen?
Laminate floors are usually laid as floating floors without the need for nails or even adhesive. The tiles or planks have a tongue and groove construction. Fit the tongue on the edge of one tile into the groove on the previous one and snap it into place. For a professional appearance follow these extra steps:
- Level the existing subfloor: After pulling out the old floor, make repairs to the concrete or wood subfloor. Any crack or divets will cause the laminate planks to shift after installation. You may need to use a levelling compound for a true and smooth surface.
- Let the Flooring Breathe Before Installation: Open the boxes of laminate and let the materials acclimate to your home for at least 24 hours. This prevents the tile from shrinking or swelling due to a change in humidity and temperature.
- Install a Vapour Barrier: While the laminate surface will resist water, the inner core will not. A vapour barrier laid on top of the subfloor prevents water from getting into the laminate core in any direction. Make sure to seal the seams of the barrier with waterproof tape.
- Use the Spacers in the Kit for Even Expansion: Laminate flooring will swell and shrink due to changes in the weather. Make sure to leave a 20 mm gap between the planks and the walls so that your floor will not buckle in high humidity.
- Baseboard Moulding Completes the Project: To secure the edges of the floating floor you will need a baseboard trim. It also helps to make the room polished.
Can you get waterproof laminate flooring for kitchens?
Sort of. Most laminate flooring options are not waterproof, they are water-resistant. However, there are some manufacturers that offer ‘waterproof laminate flooring’. These laminate floors can be manufactured in various alternative ways.
Most commonly they will coat the boards using a water repellant chemical that will prevent any moisture from soaking in through the top wear layer or click joints.
Others will remove the fibreboard core altogether and create the laminate flooring planks entirely out of PVC plastic. Making them completely waterproof. Prices vary, but you will usually pay twice as much for ‘waterproof’ laminate flooring.
Remember, if you wipe up spills immediately on your laminate floor, it will not be damaged. If your water pipes fail and flood the kitchen, the floor will most likely be done for. But so would most flooring installed on a wood subfloor.
Is Laminate Flooring Scratch Resistant?
Laminate flooring is not scratch resistant. However, it is considered very durable and even the least expensive tiles generally come with a 10-year warranty. It will get scratched by heavy foot traffic over time, but it stands up well to general daily use, especially considering its price point.
You might want to keep your dog’s nails trimmed and use only a soft mop for cleaning.
How thick should laminate flooring be in the kitchen?
For the best performance for laminate flooring, look for products listed as 10mm to 12mm thick. Less expensive laminates are available in 6mm to 8mm thicknesses.
The thicker laminate features a thicker core which provides better cushion and durability. The thicker floor is also less subject to swelling in humid summer months, which means it won’t shift as much. Best of all, a premium laminate flooring features more realistic graphics that mimic the look of real wood or stone.
You can opt for more affordable thinner laminates. They will look great when first installed, but you may be disappointed with their performance over the long run.
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Laminate Flooring Lifespan
Most of the affordable laminate flooring sold at the DIY store will come with a 5 to 10-year warranty. You can expect the floor to last twice that length. It may not look new after the warranty expires, but it should function just fine for up to 20 years.
Premium laminates sold wholesale to contractors and installers can feature up to a 30-year warranty, which implies they will last up to 50 years when properly maintained.
Most homeowners will update flooring every 10 to 20 years, so even the most affordable laminates make a good investment.
There you have it! Everything you need to know about laminate flooring in a kitchen.
With so many colour and finish options available on the market, good durability and an affordable price tag, it’s no wonder using laminate flooring for your kitchen is a popular choice.
It may not be as tough as ceramic or porcelain tiles and you won’t be able to sand it back and refinish it like a hardwood floor. It is, however, a great budget-friendly option.
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.