Need To Know | All About Laminates
From wall panels to floors and furniture, laminates are now widely used in virtually all elements of interior design. But what are they, how much do they cost and when should you use them? We answer it all and more.
If you have ben 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 laminates 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
Laminates are the most commonly used finishing layer for MDF, plywood, particle board, wooden furniture, wall panels and flooring. 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.
Types of laminates
- Decorative laminates – These have greater aesthetic appeal in terms of finishes and patterns.They are used as ornamental overlays on furniture.
- Industrial laminates – These laminates 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 laminates are self-supporting and do not need to be glued to any other material.
- Post formed laminates – These flexible laminates 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.
Colors and patterns
Laminates are available in a wide variety of patterns. They are most commonly used to simulate the appearance of solid wood textures and other natural materials. They are also available in bright colors and funky motifs. In addition, some brands offer laminates with custom prints as well.
Although available in an array of finishes, the most common are smooth, medium to high gloss, and matte finishes. Textured laminates, which replicate the tactile feel of natural materials, are widely used for furniture and wall finishes. Popularly used textures include handscraped, rustic wood, metallic and leather finishes.
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.
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, laminates are also prone to chipping.
As a wood finishing material, laminates are cheaper than veneers. Laminated wooden flooring is also an inexpensive, eco-friendly alternative to solid hardwood floors.
Laminated products are easier to maintain and can be made to 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.
Installation, repair and replacement
Flooring: Laminated wooden flooring is quite easy and simple to install when compared to vitrified tiles or marble. The boards are interlocked using a tongue and groove joint.These floors can generally be installed on top of an existing floor and are ideally suited for DIY refurbishment projects.
Furniture & Wall Panels: Laminated sheets are fixed onto furniture using high-grade adhesives. Chipped or warped laminates on furniture need to be completely stripped off and replaced. This is better done by professionals as it requires some finesse.
When to opt for laminate finishes
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 laminates are a great way to liven up your furniture and add some interest to a space.
When to avoid laminate finishes
While laminates 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.