Laminate flooring is one the most popular of all types of floor covering. The first laminate flooring product based on direct pressure technology was launched on the market in 1989, and within just 10 years this product developed to become the trendsetter among floor coverings. Laminate flooring is quick and easy to lay, offers a multitude of individual design ideas and is good value for money.

Laminate flooring is represented in Europe by the Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring (EPLF). It is made up of 18 laminate flooring producers, 20 supplier companies and 10 supporting members. This is the world’s largest regional association for the laminate industry and it celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

EPLF members account for around half of global laminate sales which amounts to over one billion square metres. From a worldwide perspective, laminate flooring is still experiencing growth and it is only in western Europe, particularly in Germany, that sales have been declining for a while.

Trends towards substitution are becoming evident, especially in regions with strong purchasing power. EPLF producers are currently benefiting from being well positioned in terms of worldwide exports and the fact that sales of European laminate flooring are continuing to improve in eastern Europe, Asia and North and South America.

Collaborative work is being carried out within the EPLF on developing the potential of laminate – especially with a view to the European domestic market.

Flooring markets are in the midst of change; customers today have new and very individual requirements. They want a modern type of floor covering that corresponds exactly to their usage requirements. European laminate is produced sustainably – it is eco-friendly because it uses renewable resources, economically efficient because it is produced in large quantities using advanced technologies, and it is socially responsible due to fair and regulated working conditions and employment relationships.

The winning features of superior quality European laminates are not only ‘superficial’, ie, in their perfect look and feel, but also in their technical properties: they are produced to a high quality, which makes for extremely hard-wearing and durable flooring.

Intelligent click systems make it easy to lay or swap out extra-long or extra-wide planks. Laminate is easy to maintain and can be used in any living or working area. With the appropriate equipment, the robust laminate floors are suitable for all living and working areas, and they also have new applications in commercial and office spaces and doctors' surgeries.

On request, manufacturers can offer planks with useful additional features such as integral sound insulation to reduce footfall noise, anti-static surface, edge protection or special moisture protection for use in bathrooms and kitchens. Many producers also include skirting boards and finishing edges in their range, which match their board decors.

No other floor covering offers such a large choice of attractive surface decors and textures. With authentic wood finishes ranging from rustic to elegant and featuring stone, metal or graphic decors, laminate allows everyone to express their own personal taste underfoot and pick just the right laminate floor to suit their needs and requirements.

Classically produced laminate flooring is made up of three layers: melamine resin overlay plus decor layer, core layer and backing layer.

The decorative paper is what gives the laminate flooring its individual appearance. There is a wide range of highly authentic wood reproductions, but the infinite variety of interesting tile designs and creative décors should not be forgotten either.

The wear layer is provided by the melamine resin, a highly wear resistant material that makes laminate flooring so hard wearing.

The core of the laminate floor is provided by the core layer. As its name suggests, this supports the decorative paper and the overlay, and of course the people who later walk on the floor. The core layer is made of compressed wood fibres, which is differentiated by HDF or MDF depending upon its density degrees.

A variety of other different papers can also be inserted between the core layer and the decorative paper, for example, a footstep sound insulation layer.

The stabilising layer, a compact elastic paper, makes up the bottom layer of laminate flooring and is what gives the floor its stability.

Laminate flooring is produced in board form. The production process involves the individual layers in the laminate floor being pressed together under high pressure and at high temperature.

Beside the classically produced laminate flooring with an overlay of melamin resin there is also directly printed laminate flooring, with which the core layer is directly printed with the décor.

Summer 2018 saw the start of new research projects for the EPLF: moisture resistance and micro-scratches/polishing effects. Both these topics reflect the current state of product development. Regarding the first topic, the range of moisture-resistant laminate flooring for installation in kitchens, bathrooms and utility rooms is increasing.

To be able to compare and assess the quality of these products, the EPLF is working on a suitable classification system for resistance to moisture.

The second topic stems from the degree of gloss of easy-care laminate floors. More technical knowledge is needed on how micro-scratches occur on gloss or high-gloss surfaces and what causes the polishing effect on matt surfaces.

The association wants to establish clear definitions for these studies, issue practically-oriented classifications and ultimately develop meaningful, reproducible test methods for product evaluation.