When I first started working with laminate flooring a decade ago (not a vinyl-based product, but made with wood fiber boards, usually called HDF, High Density Fiberboard, or MDF, Medium Density Fiberboard), I thought all of the products looked great, but after a couple of years of looking at samples representing millions of square meters I started to become more discriminating in my tastes.
There are several qualities that distinguish inexpensive laminate flooring (the type that perhaps you “can instantly tell” from photos) from the floors that can be difficult to distinguish from real wood floors.
First is the print.
Some products will print pictures of planks, usually two or three strips wide, and after I became more expert at judging the aesthetics of laminate planks I thought this look was inferior to decors where the print and the plank were the same size, i.e. no printed strips lines or printed planks.
Second is the texture.
Usually the more inexpensive laminate floors have a “run-through” texture, a random, low-relief texture that imitates a brushed wood texture or a rolled lacquer texture but does not match any of the printed wood grain features of the décor. The better products will have textures sometimes refereed as E.I.R surfaces where the printed wood grain knots and swirls will have matching textures, raised or indented, and will also sometimes include more extreme textures like the “hand-scraped” product a texture meant to replicate an old handcrafted floor that was finished with draw knives.
Thirdly is repetition of patterns.
The more inexpensive laminate floors have more repeats of the same wood grain pattern (I’ve seen as little as two unique planks from some manufacturers), whereas the better products have many more unique prints to make it more difficult for the human eye to start picking out the repeating planks in an installation (a favorite hobby of mine). this is called Synchro tech by some manufacturers
Fourth is the core .
Solid wood has the highest strength as compared to other flooring but is usually very expensive . Among-st the engineered laminated Wood flooring the core structure determines the strength and longevity of the floor . HDF or High density fiber core is the most durable followed by MDF. Particle board is weakest engineered laminated wood thus the cheapest , the surface tends to deform in the cheap core products after a short period of usage , also the change in temperature also tends to de laminate the bonding of inferior core products as they are prone to buckling and warping,