The process of finishing the interior of a house is often a demanding task that can consume a lot of time and money. One of the first steps in this process is laying the floor. Wooden floors used to be popular, but now laminate and vinyl planks have become more popular. Unlike wood, they are easy to install yourself and allow you to quickly enjoy the new interior finish. An additional advantage is their lower price compared to natural raw materials.
Which panels should I choose?
The quality of the panels guarantees their durability. If one of the elements is damaged, you do not need to replace the entire floor – just replace the damaged panel. They are also relatively light and can be installed independently, without the need to use professional equipment, all you need is an appropriate foundation. Most often, both types of panels are installed without the use of glue, connecting them with tongue and groove or using a “click” mechanism. There is no dust or chips during installation, which is a common problem when trimming wood. Both laminate and vinyl planks can be placed over an existing, even surface, such as laminate flooring or ceramic tiles, without the need to remove them.
Both types of panels can be installed on floors with underfloor heating. However, it is worth making sure that the product has the appropriate markings. Not every laminate is suitable for this application. Both types of panels use wall strips that can be matched in color to the floor or window and door frames. There are also white MDF strips that can be painted any color to match the walls. A similar feature of both types of panels is their layered structure, but they differ in terms of the material from which they are made.
Laminate panels: 6 characteristics
1. Material: Laminate panels consist of several layers, and their core is usually an HDF or MDF board made of compressed wood fibers. The top and bottom layers are laminate, which protects the core from moisture. The laminate is printed with a pattern and covered with transparent coatings, increasing resistance to damage such as scratches and UV radiation.
2. Size of the pieces: Laminate panels are available in a variety of sizes, typically ranging from approximately 100 to 200 cm in length, approximately 25 to 35 cm in width and 6 to 12 mm in thickness.
3. Installation: Most often, laminated panels are laid as a floating floor, which means that they are not attached to the substrate with glue. The elements are tongue-and-groove together using a special underlay that dampens footstep sounds and thermally insulates the floor. You can perform this installation yourself by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
4. Durability: Laminate panels vary in terms of abrasion resistance, marked from AC1 to AC6. For rooms with heavy traffic, it is recommended to choose panels with abrasion class AC4 or AC5. In addition to the abrasion class, they are also classified in terms of usability – panels marked with the number 2 are suitable for single-family houses, while those marked with the number 3 are intended for public buildings.
5. Special features: Laminate panels often imitate various types of wood and are cheaper than the materials they imitate. The surface of these panels is smooth and aesthetic, although it can be cool to the touch. In the case of low-quality laminate panels, they may be at risk of swelling under the influence of moisture, just like wood. It is recommended to use specialized detergents or a damp cloth to clean laminated panels.
6. Application: Laminated panels are a popular finishing material, available in many color variants. They can be installed in dry rooms, and some models are also suitable for bathrooms and kitchens and for underfloor heating.
Vinyl planks: 6 characteristics
1. Material: Vinyl panels are made of polyvinyl chloride with the addition of e.g. glass fiber.
2. Size of elements: Vinyl planks are available in various sizes, usually ranging from 100 to 200 cm in length. They can imitate wood, stoneware tiles or concrete in both design and size.
3. Installation: Vinyl panels can be laid in two ways: as a floating floor, connecting the elements using a “click” mechanism, or by gluing the panels to the substrate. There are also vinyl planks integrated with an adhesive backing, which makes their installation easier. However, this type of panels do not provide adequate stability because the underlay does not protect the most exposed elements of the panels, i.e. the locks.
4. Durability: In the case of vinyl planks, durability is determined by the usability class, which is determined by conducting 11 tests. The abrasion class (AC) is just one of these tests. Panels marked with resistance class 23 are suitable for houses, while 33 are the most durable and abrasion-resistant.
5. Special features: Vinyl panels are soft and warm to the touch, conduct heat and effectively isolate sounds. They are resistant to water, impacts and dirt. They can be laid on underfloor heating, maintaining their properties. Vinyl panels do not generate static electricity and do not attract dust, which makes it easier to keep clean.
6. Application: Vinyl panels are suitable for laying over underfloor heating, with due care taken when connecting the elements to avoid gaps. They can also be used on stairs, using special stair profiles. Stairs finished with vinyl panels are a cheaper alternative to wooden stairs and do not require special care.
It is worth mentioning that the choice between laminated and vinyl panels depends on individual preferences and needs. Both types of panels have their own unique properties and advantages that can be adapted to a specific interior design. Before making a final decision, it is always worth consulting to choose the solution that will best meet your expectations and needs.