If laminate looked fake the last time you checked, check again

Published On: Jul 25 2012 10:30:25 AM EDT   Updated On: Oct 15 2012 02:22:07 PM EDT

Laminate floors were in use in Europe long before they made their way into mainstream interior design in the States. Consumers can be glad they’re here. They offer exceptional durability and stain resistance and are easy to maintain. And these days, designers say, they even look like wood!

"When laminate first came out, it only came in three shades -- maple, natural, or cherry -- and the cherry could be really pink," says Jamila Wilson, Specifications Designer with Courtney Ford Design of San Diego. "It had an artificial look. Now, however, you can’t easily tell the difference between laminate and hardwood."

Manufacturers are, in fact, producing an impressive array of traditional, rustic, and exotic wood grain designs. Some laminate floors lock together without the use of adhesive, like Shaw's VersaLock, allowing busy families to resume their activities immediately. And some patterns resemble natural stone, complete with mottled colors and textural shadings.

No doubt about it, says designer Debbie Gunson with JPS Surface Solutions in Westlake, CA, "laminates have improved. Some are more textured and distressed looking than they were. The benefits are easy maintenance and that this flooring is virtually stain-proof. It’s for a busy family."

It’s also for the budget-conscious, Jamila Wilson points out. She knows that laminates can be quite cost-effective, offering a wood look that’s often less expensive than the real thing. "It’s a great choice in today’s economy," she says, "if you want the overall look of high-dollar without the high-dollar cost."

Designer Andrea Kaja agrees. Kaja is a Project Manager with Ryan Young Interiors in Livermore, CA. "I used to think, ‘Oh, laminate,’ but now there are lots of amazing things they’ve done with it," she says. "Today’s laminate allows homeowners to get a more expensive look. It has a lot of potential, especially for first-time buyers."

The look is upscale without the upscale cost -- an objective that, in itself, is a recent trend. "It’s absolutely fashionable to be budget-conscious," says Kaja. "It’s a movement back into family values. Instead of putting money into ‘things,’ people are saving for the future of their family -- college, for example. They’re more concerned with making a house a home ..."

Certainly, making a house a home … on a budget … is something laminate does well. If consumers want a warm wood look in their flooring, durability, and the best quality for the money, laminate is an exceptionally good choice.

Beyond all those benefits, Andrea Kaja puts her finger on what is perhaps the real beauty of installing a laminate floor: "People want things that are easy care so they can spend more time caring for their family."

Information provided by: Mercury Carpet & Flooring