Laminate, or “Pergo” flooring as many people refer to it, is basically highly compressed wood dust compressed with adhesive, and a laminated wear layer and finish over the top of that.
The floors are designed to “float” unattached over the top of a level subfloor, concrete, or an existing (flat) surface. The concept of a floor that literally is unattached to the floor beneath it was revolutionary here in the Midwest back in 1998. For the first time, there was another option to traditional hardwood flooring that closely resembled what a wood floor looks like.
The fact that these laminates expand and contract with our houses made it possible to have the appearance of a hardwood floor without the inevitable squeaking of a traditional hardwood floor. Some hardcore hardwood enthusiast refer to laminates as “fake hardwoods”, which of course, is completely accurate. But at the same time, they have some big advantages. Laminates are significantly less expensive to buy and install. Acclimation time is far less than for a solid hardwood, and most importantly, the surface of a laminate product is much “Harder” than most solid wood floors (unless you are talking about Bamboo) The one major thing to consider when thinking about the appropriateness of a laminate floor is this, MOISTURE. Laminates perform wonderfully so long as they are not subject to chronic moisture/humidity over prolonged periods. Over the last 16 years of installing laminate floors, I have seen only one reason for failure or complaint with laminate flooring. That is unforeseen water/liquid tolerance. To put this issue in perspective, I would say this. Water coming from a person’s shoes or snowy boots in the wintertime on a laminate floor in an entryway is not a problem. However, putting a laminate floor in a Sauna or having a dog watering bowl on a laminate floor with no protector is a recipe for floor failure. Laminate flooring is a fine option for certain areas so long as the moisture issue is addressed. I personally am a fan of “Quick Step” laminate flooring as I believe that it has the best locking mechanism on the market as well as a fair price to the consumer.