Laminate flooring is amazing! So much so that I spent last weekend taking up the old carpet in our house and putting down a very nice rustic oak laminate floor.
We fit a lot of laminate flooring, and by doing this, we get to see the pro’s and con’s of different flooring systems.
People are often asking why some laminate floors are better than others, and what we would recommend? So here it is, our mini guide to understanding laminate floors:
What does an AC Rating mean?
When it comes to laminate flooring, it’s all about the AC rating. You should find the AC rating on all packs of laminate floor that you buy. If it’s not on there, our advice is simple, don’t buy it! So what is the AC rating and how can it help you to decide what laminate floor to buy?
Over the years, the popularity and array of laminate flooring led to the European Producers of Laminate Flooring (EPLF) developing a set of standards for grading laminate floor. This system is known as the Abrasion Rating System.
The Abrasion Rating System encompasses a series of tests that include impact resistance, burn resistance, stain resistance, swelling under moisture, and also includes a Tabor Abrasion test.
From this test, the results are collated, and the laminate floor is given an AC rating (which means abrasion class rating), with the higher the number often associated with the better quality laminate floor.
- AC1 – laminate flooring is designed for residential areas with light traffic. Great for bedrooms.
- AC2 – laminate flooring can withstand more traffic than AC1. Suitable for living rooms and dining rooms.
- AC3 – laminate flooring can withstand any type of heavy residential traffic, such as hallways and may also be used in a professional setting with light traffic.
- AC4 – laminate flooring is designed for commercial applications with moderately intense traffic. Ideal for small shops and offices.
- AC5 – laminate flooring is designed for high-traffic commercial areas like department stores, shopping centres, and office buildings. It has a rough finish that can withstand the most abuse.
We would not consider laying or recommending AC1 or AC2 laminate flooring systems. We would also not consider laying flooring with no AC grade, as these types of floor are often cheap alternatives that offer no warranty.
Next level up, and we are now moving into the territory of a quality product. Don’t get us wrong, AC3 can in the right situation be a very good floor, but when you are choosing, consider the price on upgrading to AC4.
With an AC4 floor, plain and simply, you get a higher specified product. An AC4 floor is often a thicker floor, often has some sort of water/ splash protection, and fits together easier. Now you may be thinking that it’s the fitters problem to make sure it fits together correctly, but we have found there is a definate link between floors that fit together well and those which end up still looking great after 10+ years. Think about it, if a manufacturer has put time, effort, and has developed a locking system that works, they care about what they are producing, and that attention to detail follows through to the quality of the end product.
The flooring I chose to lay at home was an AC4 level floor, and it is what I can only describe as ‘solid’. It was amazing to lay, and I get a 20 year guarantee with it. It was also aqua-lock, which meant although not waterproof, would certainly last in splash areas. It’s a floor that is going to last, and wont need replacing for a long time.
When considering laminate flooring, you need to consider whether you want the bear minimum or want that little bit more protection and subsequently piece of mind. For me the choice is a simple one, and even though laying AC4 in a bedroom or light traffic areas may be slight overkill, I know I’m covered if I spill anything, or accidently drop something on the floor.