Tips for Buying Laminate Flooring

Buying laminate flooring is almost as bad as buying paint - you're expected to make a decision that will last 20 years or more based on a small sample of wood. There's no magic wand for deciding which flooring to buy, but in this article we'll offer some tips for buying laminate flooring.

Laminate flooring patterns and finishes

Most flooring manufacturers offer several surface finishes similar to paint finishes, with satin and semi-gloss being the most popular, followed by high-gloss. There are also different surface textures such as smooth, handscraped, and natural authentic.

Laminate flooring thickness

Laminate flooring comes in several thicknesses from 6mm (shy 1/4") to 10mm (3/8") thick. Don't forget to factor in the underlayment when measuring the final thickness. When deciding which laminate flooring to buy, look at the surrounding flooring and determine how the new laminate will compare as far as thickness. The adjacent flooring doesn't need to be the same thickness, but you'll need to make sure there's a transition piece that will bridge the different thickness in order to avoid a tripping hazard.

Laminate flooring underlayment

Some laminate flooring such as Pergo Outlast® has the underlayment attached to each flooring plank, but some laminates don't, so the underlayment will need to be purchased and installed separately. Flooring underlayment comes on two thicknesses; 2 mil or 3 mil, either in rolls or folded into an accordion. It's important to check the underlayment because it impacts the total cost. If one laminate is $2.49 per square foot without underlayment and the other is $2.79 with underlayment, you'll need to add the cost of the underlayment to the first laminate in order to make an accurate price comparison.

Laminate flooring for bathrooms

If you're installing laminate flooring in a laundry room, bathroom, or any potentially wet environment, choose a laminate like Halstead's Lifeproof, Bruce's Hydropel™ or Armstrong's Vivero. Regular laminate flooring is semi-synthetic, but it's still made of wood and won't hold up as well as to high moisture environments.

Read the instructions

Even though you're only in the buying stage, read the major floor manufacturer's instructions ahead of time, especially if you're installing the flooring over concrete, a crawl space, or any location out of the ordinary living space.

Laminate flooring samples

If you have a Lowe's or Home Depot nearby, that's your first stop. If there's no Lowe's or HD nearby, head to their websites anyway to see what your options are for laminate flooring brand names. From there you can head to the various flooring manufacturer's websites to get more info and possibly order samples. The flooring samples might be free, but most will probably charge shipping.


Take your time making your final decision because you'll be looking at the laminate for many years. Look at the manufacturer's images of the installed floor and read the customer reviews, both on the manufacturer's website as well as Lowe's or Home Depot.