Recently my friend is doing a low budget reno project for a homeowner in Surrey, BC. His client, like many other homeowners, just couldn’t resist the temptation of upgrading a few extra things during the process. So at the final stages, they realize there isn't much left in the flooring budget. They are trying to stretch every dollar but still have the place look nice. So he wonders if he can put laminate flooring in the kitchen.My answer to him was yes, but not the laminate floor he picked. Years ago, installing laminate flooring in kitchens is considered a huge newbie mistake. The product is just too susceptible to water damage. Putting it anywhere near moisture is a big no no. But homeowners want their flooring to flow into the kitchen for many reasons. So manufacturers improved their technology since then and introduced products that are more water resistant.
Laminate flooring like everything else are so different in terms of quality across brands. And a kitchen is full of things that laminate flooring doesn’t like. Heat, water, spills, kids dropping stuff etc. I would recommend these brands Swiss Aura, Marquee, Kronotex and Quick-Step. For laminate floor to last in a kitchen, go for the highest anti scratch rating, AC 5. Best to do some research and find out by whom and where was the product made. Most importantly, find out if the product is at least somewhat water resistant. Finally, take some precaution while installing. Do not weight down the floor with cabinets and dishwasher, so damaged boards can be replaced relatively easily in the future. Check all these boxes, and it will be in fine for years!
What does AC 5 mean?
Laminate flooring are classified in terms of their anti scratch rating. The number range from AC 1 to AC 5. AC 5 being the best. “AC” stands for abrasion class. The number value represents how long will it take to wear through the protective layer on top. AC 5 rated products are good for heavy commercial use such as department floors and showrooms. Kitchen being the busiest part of the house, it makes sense to use a product that is the most resilient. Remember laminate flooring is not really wood flooring. The beautiful decor on the surface is only paper thin, literally. Once worn through, the core will be exposed and there is no other ways to fix it except replacing the damaged boards. Most of the products on the market nowadays are AC 4 rated but be aware the testing scheme is less stringent in some parts of the world. When it comes to choosing a tough flooring, I would place more faith into a product that is made in Europe or North America. There is AC 6 rated laminate products out on the market now, but they are still fairly uncommon and expensive. If the price comes down in the future, that would then become my recommendation.
Must BeSome What Water Resistance
Spills in kitchen is sadly like death and taxes, inevitable. So the laminate flooring you put in has to be somewhat water resistant. Since there are so many brands out there nowadays, I can’t say for all of them. But from past experiences and my own testing, I have found these brands, Swiss Aura from Unifloor, Marquee from Torly’s, Kronotex and Quick-Step, can sustain standing water for more than a few hours. Keep this in mind though, this is from personal experience, doesn’t mean these brands officially provide warranty over water damage. Please read the warranty paper carefully before you make purchase. The brands I recommended are available in most flooring stores in Vancouver, BC. Look for them in your local market. I try to test laminate products as often as I can. I usually get a small piece of cut off and put it in some water then observe the change every 10 mins. Some will swell up in less than 5 minutes. That is probably due to an inferior core material. Laminate flooring is made from High Density Fibreboards. Which is made heat pressing lignocellulosic biomass (wood dust) and polymer resin together. The more condensely the materials are pressed together, the more water resistant is the product. Cheaper products not surprising use a HDF that is less condense and is more susceptible to moisture. Another easy way to tell how good the flooring is is by feeling its weight. The heavier it feels, the more likely it is a better product. Better products will not swell up in under 30 mins. The brands I mentioned before can last a couple of hours in water.
Who makes it?
So what made Swiss Aura, Marquee, Kronotex and Quick-Step so special? I think it is the manufacturer. Much of their product line is from the same manufacturer in Germany. (I know, shocker right?) Krono is the name of the company to be exact. However, Krono is a huge organization with factories all over the world. While its products are generally of better quality, it seems to me quality is usually the best when the it is made in their German or Swiss plant. I have nothing against products from certain countries, but I know Krono has certain technological advantages over other producers. Krono has been an industry leader since its conception in 1897. In the world of laminate flooring, they are the golden standard and they launching innovative products almost every year. For kitchen use, I won’t risk putting in anything else other than a Krono made. This year, I heard they have launched a 100 percent waterproof laminate product. It will be a game changer in this industry if that is true.
No matter how good the product is, it will eventually succumb to abuse. A slip of hand and that coffee mug will put a nice dent in your floor. Things will start to deteriorate quickly once the protective layer is punctured. Now you will have to replace that board. That is why it is a good idea to not install cabinets over laminate flooring. For one, it limits the floors ability to expand and contract in different temperatures, which will likely lead to squeaks and separation of floor boards. More importantly, it will be much harder to remove the damaged floor boards. Also don’t put flooring under the dishwasher for the same reason. It’s different for ranges and fridges because they can be pulled out easily. Simply use thicker kickboards to hide the gap between flooring and the base of cabinets, no one can tell the difference.