If you have been recently shopping for interiors, there are more chances than not that you came across laminates in one form or the other. Available in a range of decorative patterns and colors, today these form the surface of a lot more products than you can imagine. Read on for a quick summary of the features of this versatile material and tips on using it in your home.

What are laminates?

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A composite artificial material

The most commonly used finishing layer for MDF, plywood, particle board, wooden furniture, wall panels and flooring are laminates. Essentially, a composite artificial material, they are made by pressing together thin layers of flat paper and plastic resins. The upper layer is printed with a decorative pattern or color.

All About Laminates: Types

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Five main types
  • Decorative laminates – These have greater aesthetic appeal in terms of finishes and patterns. Decorative laminates can be used for doing ornamental overlays on furniture. And there are so many to choose from as well! Take a look at some of the popular decorative laminates.
  • Industrial laminates – These have higher strength and are more resistant to wear and tear. They include high-performance laminates which are fire retardant, antibacterial and chemical resistant for application in hospitals and other industries.
  • Compact laminates – These fairly thick ones are self-supporting and do not need to be glued to any other material.
  • Post formed laminates – These flexible versions are thinner than regular laminates. They are used to wrap around tables, columns etc.
  • High-pressure and low-pressure laminates – Differing only in the pressure with which the laminate is applied on a substrate, HPL is usually used with plywood while LPL finds its use with MDF.

All About Laminates: Colors and patterns

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Used to mimic natural materials

Laminates are available in a wide variety of patterns. If you want to simulate the appearance of solid wood textures and other natural materials, using laminates are your best bet. They are also available in bright colors and funky motifs.

All About Laminates: Finishes

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Glossy and matte finishes

Although available in an array of finishes, the most common are smooth, medium to high gloss, and matte finishes. Furniture and wall finishes often use textured laminates, which replicate the tactile feel of natural materials. Popularly used textures include handscraped, rustic wood, metallic and leather finishes.

Sizes

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You would need expert opinion to find the right size

Laminates are commercially available in sheets, panels and boards depending on the type of application. The approximate size of sheets available is around 8 feet by 4 feet. Wall panels and boards are available as squares or rectangles in different sizes.

Durability 

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More durable than solid wood

Laminates are fairly durable and scratch resistant. They are more resistant to wear and tear, moisture, and heat when compared to veneer and solid wood products. However, laminated surfaces tend to warp when exposed to excess water. Since they are brittle materials, these are also prone to chipping.

Cost 

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A great swap for hardwood flooring

As a wood finishing material, these are cheaper than veneers. Laminated wooden flooring is also an inexpensive, eco-friendly alternative to solid hardwood floors.

Maintenance 

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Easy to clean

Laminated products are easier to maintain and can last with just a few measures. Dust your laminated surfaces regularly. Clean with a mildly wet cloth and wipe dry with gentle strokes. Avoid using abrasive cleaners or steel wool scrubbers. Protect the surface from exposure to excess water and sunlight. For the proper lowdown, you can check out How to Clean & Maintain Laminate Surfaces.

Installation, repair & replacement 

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A fuss-free installation

Flooring: It is easier to install laminated wooden flooring when compared to vitrified tiles or marble. The boards are interlocked using a tongue and groove joint. You can install laminate flooring on top of an existing floor, making them suitable for DIY refurbishment projects.

Furniture & Wall Panels: You can also fix laminated sheets onto furniture using high-grade adhesives. Chipped or warped laminates on furniture need to be completely stripped off and replaced. It is best to hire professionals for this process as it requires some finesse.

When to opt for & avoid laminate finishes 

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A laminate bar cum storage unit

Decorative laminates are perfect for everyday surfaces that see a lot of wear and tear — such as your living room or bedroom floor, table tops, cabinet shutters etc. They are also an inexpensive and eco-friendly alternative to solid wood products when it comes to flooring. Patterned versions are a great way to liven up your furniture and add some interest to a space.

While these are available in a wide variety of realistic textures, they can sometimes have a rather plastic and mass produced feel. If you’re aiming for a distinctive, authentic look for a focal piece of furniture, go with veneers or solid wood instead.

Hence, to make a laminate purchase take into account all the above factors and your own custom requirements. Furthermore, always make sure that laminates used for kitchens, bathrooms and outdoor areas are of the requisite quality to withstand exposure to heat and moisture.

Also, if you liked reading this, take a look at Acrylic or Laminate: Which is the Better Finish?

Send in your comments & suggestions.

— editor@livspace.com