Have you ever wondered what makes one type of discount laminate flooring different from another? Some laminates sell for as little as $.39 per square foot, while others are over $10 per square foot. And, they all claim to have long warranties ranging anywhere from 10-50 years. If you wonder how to choose the right discount laminate for your home, and can’t seem to differentiate between all these differences, then continue reading.

Discount Laminate Flooring

What is a discount laminate? As a general rule, I consider anything under $1.50 per square foot a discount laminate. If you see the words: special buy, limited time, or clearance attached to any laminate flooring than it fits in this category. Although there is some discount flooring available on clearance, typically speaking, it has been mass-produced and then sold at an incredibly low price. Because of this, it can be poor quality and not worth the money.

While not all discount laminates are bad news, you will need to know a couple of things before installing one in your home. First of all, quantities are limited. This is especially important to know if you’re only installing part of your flooring now and want to install the same laminate later on. In this scenario, you would want to purchase more than enough for the entire job. Because it probably won’t be available later, and it will be near impossible to find an exact match. Another thing to know before purchasing laminate flooring is to ignore most of what the salesperson or packaging may tell you about the product. Specifically as it relates to the warranty.

Discount Laminate Flooring

About the Warranty

Don’t trust the warranty printed on the side of the carton of any discount laminate flooring. For all practical uses, these are merely guesstimates and should only be expected in the best-case scenario. Remember what I said above, these laminates are mass-produced and after one run aren’t made again.

Despite having a printed warranty, I doubt you’ll be able to find help should you need it. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of faith in warranties for do-it-yourselfers in general.  Because they are limited warranties and are only honored if the flooring was installed and used in the exact ways specified by the manufacturer.  On top of this, if you need to file a warranty claim it could take months to get anything settled.

AC Ratings

The warranties can be misleading but depending on the company you may find help in the form of an AC Rating. This type of rating, rates the type of wear a specific laminate can withstand with a number value from AC1 to AC5. The low point of the rating is an AC1. This rating is for light residential use, in barely used rooms like spare rooms and adult bedrooms. While AC2 laminates were for slightly more traffic areas, such as dining rooms and formal living spaces. AC3 was deemed the perfect rating for more commonly used areas of the house, such as kitchens, hallways, and family rooms. While AC4 was rated for light commercial and AC5 for higher traffic commercial settings. Unfortunately, the AC rating is not always found on the product packaging. So be prepared that you may have to do some research online or contact the manufacturer to it find out.

The Key Test

All of the other research and warnings aside, the most important aspect of finding out if a discount laminate is right for your home, is to do the key test. It is a very simple test and will let you get an idea of how a laminate will hold up in your home. You simply place a sample or plank of laminate on the ground and hold out your keys at shoulder height, above it. Then drop them. If your keys hit the plank then pick it up, and examine what type of damage it did. Otherwise, drop them again, until they land on it. If the keys did a lot of damage to the laminate plank, I’d stay away from it, unless it is going in a low-traffic room. Otherwise, in a short time you’ll start to see scratches and dents.

While this test will only help you with how the planks will hold up with light objects causing dents and scratches, if you use it combined with the AC rating, you’ll have an idea how the flooring will hold up over time and if it provides enough value for the price.

Written by Amanda Hartley