Laminate is a popular flooring choice, but is it a good option for commercial installations? We're looking at the relative strengths and weaknesses of laminate flooring, to understand whether it's a smart commercial flooring choice, or if there are better alternatives.
The Strengths of Laminate Flooring
The biggest selling point for laminate flooring is how it looks: it can rival the aesthetics of solid wood flooring, but without the high purchase or installation cost. As it's available at a much lower price point than solid wood flooring, laminate flooring is a much more accessible flooring option for organizations whose renovation budgets won't stretch that far.
Laminate flooring is also a popular, and recognizable flooring type. For many people, it's the go-to option when looking for an affordable alternative for wood flooring, as they are less familiar with other alternatives.
The Weaknesses of Laminate Flooring
One major drawback of laminate flooring is its poor acoustic profile - even compared with other types of hard surface flooring. This means it can create a very loud, echoing space, which is a particular concern in open plan office spaces, where elevated noise levels can negatively impact productivity and employee happiness.
It's also particularly susceptible to moisture damage: it's prone to warping or buckling in environments with high moisture levels. This is down to the structure of laminate flooring, which has a powdered wood core that absorbs any moisture it's exposed to - either through wet cleaning, spills, floods or from the subfloor. This means it's essential to take extra care when cleaning laminate flooring, to avoid introducing excess moisture that can damage or distort the planks.
Laminate flooring also suffers from the common misconception that it's an extremely durable flooring choice. However, it can be easily dented if objects are dropped on it, or simply by walking in high heels. This means people choose laminate flooring expecting it to be virtually indestructible, and are disappointed when it doesn't live up to their expectations.
Is Laminate Flooring a Good Fit in a Commercial Environment?
For some organizations, laminate flooring may seem like a smart flooring choice by virtue of being attractive and affordable. However, for the majority of companies, its acoustic drawbacks and impact on employee productivity and wellbeing mean there are other commercial flooring types that are a better fit for both their practical and aesthetic requirements.
For design-conscious companies who want to make a striking first impression on visitors, employees and customers, there are other flooring choices that can achieve a similar aesthetic to laminate flooring, without some of its biggest drawbacks. For example, luxury vinyl tile, rigid core vinyl and engineered hardwood flooring all have a better acoustic profile than laminate flooring - and are available at a lower price point than solid wood flooring.
For organizations that are trying to create a healthy, positive and productive work environment, laminate flooring has even less of an appeal. Luxury vinyl flooring and rigid core vinyl offer the best acoustic profile of all common hard surface flooring types, while still enabling you to recreate the wood flooring aesthetic. Some rigid core vinyl flooring offers enhanced acoustical performance due to an integral backing such as cork.
However, if you wanted to create a more comfortable commercial working environment, why limit yourself to hard surface flooring? Carpet - especially carpet tiles with open-cell cushion backing - offers the best in noise absorption, alongside the added benefit of improved underfoot support, which will improve the health and wellness of standing workers.
So while laminate flooring looks great and is an affordable flooring option, it's worth looking into other popular commercial flooring types, as you're likely to find something that is a better practical fit for your organization, without compromising on how it looks.