Laminate flooring is being installed in record numbers. Years ago, it seemed laminate would be relegated to a minor position in the flooring hierarchy. But laminate's trends have changed and the days of boring old 3 1/2" faux oak laminate are long-gone.
Laminate manufacturers have wised up to the fact that homeowners are looking for greater variety. Also, higher-end consumers have entered the laminate flooring market, driving the need for richer-looking materials and styles. Manufacturers stepped up their game with technology that results in flooring that looks closer to wood or stone, and with improved wear resistance.
Which are the major laminate flooring brands? Are there any less-than-major brands that still offer decent products?
Pergo originated laminate flooring. In 1977, Swedish company Perstorp brainstormed this novel concept and put it into the first homes 2 years later. The word Pergo
itself has become synonymous with laminate flooring, a case of the brandname standing in for the product itself. But as so often happens with front-runners, Pergo has run into troubles. Pfleiderer, a German company, bought Pergo. Now, running into money problems, Pergo is closing down all of its North American manufacturing operations. But the company as a whole is still in business and thriving. But it's good to know that Pergo is no longer the only game in town.
The Bruce flooring name will ring a bell to most homeowners: it's a staple of both Lowe's and The Home Depot stores. Bruce has mainly been recognized as a maker of wallet-friendly hardwood flooring, not laminates. In 1998, Armstrong acquired Bruce but has kept the two brands mainly separate. Bruce doesn't have a huge (about 40) line of laminate floors, but it does offer competitive prices.
Yes, Tarkett does have a laminate flooring brand. But this pebble of a flooring division tends to get lost in the huge multinational conglomerate's portfolio of other types of floors. Currently with only 11 types of laminate flooring, Tarkett isn't your go-to destination for wide selection. However, it does have a number of attractive faux-antiqued laminates in hickory, teak, and ash species.
Where Wilsonart has failed in flooring, Armstrong has prevailed. It has been producing flooring for the U.S. market for well over a century, beginning with linoleum--the hot flooring product of the early 20th century--and moving onto cork and vinyl flooring
, which it is famous for. Lovers of Made-in-USA products will be gratified to learn that Armstrong still is headquartered in Lancaster, PA, with 14 flooring plants across America. Armstrong provides a wide selection--over 130 types of laminate flooring. Adding in subsidiary Bruce's laminates brings that number up closer to 200 types.
(c) Lumber Liquidators
You will find St. James only at one place. St. James laminate flooring is a house brand of Lumber Liquidators
, a discount flooring shop that is mainly known for selling solid hardwood
and engineered wood flooring
. St. James goes under sub-brands as Dream Home and Nirvana. Buyers' reviews of St. James flooring products are mixed--some like it, some hate it. Lumber Liquidators does have reasonably good prices, though, and their service has vastly improved over the last few years.
Like Pergo, Wilsonart was another major player in laminate floor and had an equally illustrious past. Those interested in Midcentury Modern style may know that founder Ralph Wilson was one of the founders of the laminate industry as a design concept (his laminates-rich house in Temple, TX is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places). But Wilsonart didn't enter into the laminate flooring market until almost 20 years after Pergo. During its 15 years, Wilsonart Flooring was known for producing unique, aesthetically-pleasing laminate flooring. The division ceased business in 2010/2011, but is worth mentioning because many dealers still have Wilsonart Flooring in stock and continue to sell it. Even though available, I do not recommend purchasing Wilsonart Flooring because the company has stated that they will no longer service warranties for flooring purchased on and after January 1, 2012.
Congoleum isn't upper crust, but as a history buff I'm always partial to any laminate manufacturer whose name is derived from an African country. Congoleum is more known for its resilient kitchen vinyl flooring. But Congoleum also does have a line of laminate (oddly enough, they avoid the use of the term "laminate flooring") that they call DuraPlank.
Quick-Step is a good, solid laminate manufacturer. Only nice thing about Quick-Step is that they concentrate only only on laminates. Quick-Step boasts the installation system that gets high marks from DIY installers: the Uniclic system. Quick-Step distributes through Web retailers or through traditional flooring stores.