Increased practicality in commercial environments

By James Erskine Sales manager Pergo Professional.

WITH continued technical innovation that has led to improved realism and better performance, laminate is a serious proposition in commercial environments where it can provide authenticity without many of the trade-offs associated with natural products.

Laminate construction
High pressure laminate flooring, such as those produced for commercial environments under the Pergo brand by UNILIN, are formed under heat and high pressure. In its simplest form; a high-definition print décor layer is sandwiched between a moisture-resistant HDF core and a highly-durable wear layer that carries a textured finish. The best quality laminate floors also feature a back stabiliser for better stability.

Of course, quality can vary greatly and so it’s important to ensure the laminate flooring is suitable for use in commercial environments. At the very least, you should be looking for a Class 32 (AC4) rated laminate floor, though for the most intensively trafficked areas, such as supermarkets, airport terminals and public-facing government buildings, a Class 34 (AC6) rated floor is the best option.

Wearlayer performance
Other than contributing to the laminate floor’s AC rating, the wear layer’s performance has a big impact on the ability of a laminate floor to withstand use in commercial environments. While two floors may have the same AC rating, wearlayers may not be created equal and so careful attention needs to be paid to ensure the floor retains its looks, even under intense use.

TitanX is a multi-layer surface protection, exclusive to Pergo, ensuring the manufacturer’s floors retain an elegant finish under intensive commercial use.

With protective layers of aluminium oxide particles – one of the hardest materials in the world – TitanX provides superior resistance to wear and scratching as well as excellent protection against impacts.

In TitanX Advance, Class 34 rated floors are given even higher levels of performance. The technology has made laminate flooring a serious proposition for intensive use in commercial environments.

Secure installation
Laminate flooring gave birth to the click revolution, but wide-adoption throughout the industry has led to some click-systems that aren’t up to the standard when it comes to commercial use. Of course, much of the battle is ensuring that the subfloor is flat and that an underlay is used, as this will help to combat undue pressure on the joints through irregularities in the subfloor.

However, there is no substitution for quality, particularly in providing a lasting joint that holds good tension in extreme use. Look out for a patented and proven joint such as PerfectFold. This will not only be more secure, but it’ll make installation easier and faster, helping to reduce operational down-time.

Game-changing water resistance
One of the biggest compromises facing laminate flooring has been its susceptibility to moisture. When spills are left standing, as is possible in busy commercial spaces, moisture can seep through the joints of the floor, penetrating through to the HDF core.

Causing swelling and damage to the surface of laminate flooring, moisture can render an otherwise perfect laminate floor beyond use. The challenge comes in not with the surface itself, but in preventing moisture ingress at the joints.

Now, Pergo has developed a new technology which can ensure a Class 33 rated laminate floor that’s waterproof, making the floor even more practical in commercial environments. The solution was developed around three pillars: compressing bevels during production, adding a water-repellent coating and using the pre-tension available in the latest generation PerfectFold 3.0 joint.

Exclusively available on the Sensation collection by Pergo, bevels are pressed into the HDF surface layer and coated during production to avoid any weakness.

Creating a fully-sealed surface through installation under tension, the technology gives a waterproof floor without aesthetic trade-off.

Up until the introduction of Sensation, industry tests for a floor’s ability to withstand moisture had involved submerging a test plank in water and measuring the swelling. The trouble with this method is that it only tests the water resistance of an individual board, rather than the installed floor as a whole. Only when an installed floor – including joints, bevels, and perimeters – can be tested as a whole can it be rated as waterproof.

Therefore, Pergo had to develop a series of new tests to be able to guarantee Sensation floors as waterproof, recreating situations that reflect real-world use; simulated mopping, the cylinder test and real-life trial.

The tests are stringent, for example; the mopping test is carried out over 14 hours, with soap added to reduce the water’s surface tension. After the floor has been exposed to water for 24 hours, a rolling caster chair test double-checks water-tightness.

The cylinder test sees one of the floors weakest areas (the ‘T’ junction where floorboards meet) tested. A cylinder is placed at this junction and then filled with water and soap and swelling tested at four, 12 and 24 hours. The next test recreates everything from washing machine leaks, spilled drinks and pet urine, ensuring Pergo Sensation floors are waterproof in real world situations.

Laminate flooring has developed significantly over recent years and the best quality laminate floors are now indistinguishable from their real counterparts. In the best laminate floors, wear layers are textured, with Antique Wood, Genuine Rustic and Genuine Sawcut giving life to the rich grain and character marks of these high-impact wood styles.

Matt finishes enhance the appeal yet more for a floor that has fooled many through its realism. Stone textures too can be closely replicated in a structure that enhances the look while eliminating the specialist sealing and porosity encountered with the natural material.

One of the biggest tell-tale signs of synthetic flooring compared to its natural counterpart is also in the pattern repeat, which can vary greatly. Low-value laminate floors will tend to have a short pattern repeat that when installed in large areas such as those found in commercial environments, begins to look repetitive.

A higher quality laminate floor avoids this and will give a more authentic look over large area.
Another marker comes in the form of V-grooves – bevelled edges – that help create a plank look. Better quality floors have a bevel that continues the texture and look of the floor right to the edge. On poorer quality laminates, the design and texture stop at the point of the bevel starting. This compromises the authentic look of the floor, but laminate floors of this quality are unlikely to be suitable for commercial use anyway.

From a design perspective, one of laminate’s major strengths is to replicate anything that can be digitally captured, but there are few manufacturers that embrace this unique quality. Pergo does have a solution through its Custom Flooring programme that allows the creation of a bespoke floor in pattern, colour, texture and format.

Capable of perfectly replicating other surface materials within a project, or matching to a brand identity, provide direction or adding a strong graphical element to the floor, Pergo Custom Flooring demonstrates the design versatility of laminate flooring.

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