Choosing a laminate flooring for your home can be a bit overwhelming due to the huge array of looks, styles, colors and textures on the market today. Narrow down your laminate flooring choice by following these simple steps:

Consider your home’s overall style: Modern or traditional? Relaxed or formal? Country classic? Rustic? Refined? If you’ve just moved in and your home doesn’t reflect your taste (yet) take your personal or family living style into account. Style can guide you towards tone and color considerations. A lighter toned floor opens up space, creating an airy, breezy ambiance. Darker floors are exotic and create warmth and intimacy, but make space look smaller. Medium toned floors may balance out wall color and furniture–and dirt doesn’t show up as much on a medium toned floor.

What finish or texture will suit your home or room’s style: Laminates are available in everything from a flat, smooth, more modern finish to rustic, wood-grain replicas to high gloss finishes. In general, the more textured the finish, the closer the laminate mimics the real thing, be it wood, stone or marble. On another note, textured finishes are often more practical for pets and seniors as they provide more grip.

What flooring will your laminate meet up with: Your laminate choice needs to complement or match the flooring it meets to create a unified overall impression. Dramatic contrasts are best left to interior decorators, and distract rather than relax the eye.

Think about traffic, patterns and photo finishes: Which room or rooms will have laminate floors? The primary décor aspect of laminate flooring is in the laser photo layer. A common complaint against laminate is the lack of variety and pattern in the photo layer, making the “faux” look less real. Many manufacturers have addressed this problem handily with refined optical technology producing greater variety in the photo layer, thus a more realistic look.

Here’s what that means for you: in a lower traffic area such as a bedroom, you can opt for a less variegated (and less expensive) photo layer and go with a more realistic looking pattern in a highly traveled, highly visible living or family room.

Look at the width of laminate planks available: Before you determine what will suit your style. A wider width is more rustic looking–and widths can run from 3 ½ inches to 8 inches.

Plank edges are another décor detail: these contribute to the overall look and feel of a floating laminate floor. Many products are beveled or micro-beveled on all four sides to simulate hardwood. Beveling creates a slight plane or angle that adds dimension to the laminate look. More details here.

Take samples home and test them: Test against the light, furnishings and another flooring in your home. How thick is the sample? A thicker laminate sounds more like a hardwood floor underfoot. Laminate thicknesses run from 7 mm. up to 12 mm. and are also an indicator of core density; the thicker the laminate, the higher the core density and more the floor stands up to heavy traffic and pressure.

Finally, apart from tone, many laminate flooring brands sort their products according to style sub-brands (such as contemporary, classic, rustic or natural) and wood species. Do a bit of research online to get a sense of your preferences, then go to a flooring retailer to see what’s available.

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