You may not stop and think about the history of your floors, but laminate is one type of flooring that has had an amazing transformation over the few short years it has been around. Europeans have been enjoying the benefits of laminate flooring for several years, but its arrival to America has been relatively recent - especially when compared to other types of floors like hardwood and tile.
From Vinegar to Flooring
Laminate flooring as we know it comes from a town called Perstorp, Sweden. You may recognize the popular brand name of the floor itself - PERGO. What many people don't know is that the company itself originally manufactured vinegar for the European food market. How they went from vinegar to flooring is a bit of a mystery, but in the 1920s, they successfully developed a process that made laminate a product for tabletops. Perstorp - also the name of the company - enjoyed great success in this market, but the idea to develop this tabletop covering for floors didn't hit them until around 1977.
Laminate Floors Hit European and American Shores
Europeans were enjoying laminate flooring by 1984, but it would be another ten years or so until its introduction in the United States. At first, laminate was installed using a special type of glue, but that was quickly found to be too cumbersome and difficult. Glueless laminate flooring was introduced in 1996 by another Swedish company called Valinge. In 1997, the tongue and groove "click-together" style of laminate (the most popular and common type available today) was released by a Belgian company called Unilin. Today, nearly every type of laminate flooring is made under license from one of these two companies.
Widespread Popularity and Appeal
Laminate in the United States quickly spread in popularity for several reasons. First, it was easier to care for and maintain than traditional hardwood floors. It was available in a number of patterns, styles and colors that mimicked natural wood, stone and tile, so homeowners could create a more expensive luxury look at a fraction of the price. What's more, laminate floors never needed to be re-sanded or refinished the way that wood floors can demand - so they were a "must have" for busy households. Laminate floors also don't need to be waxed or polished, and can be installed over nearly any type of sub-floor including concrete or plywood, making them extremely versatile.
The combination of all of these factors has made laminate a definite contender for the most popular type of flooring in American homes today. Its combination of naturally inspired beauty coupled with easy care and maintenance makes it in demand for families around the country. Plus, it's highly resistant to scratches, scuffs and sunlight - and won't bend, bow or fade over time. That means laminate flooring can stand up to nearly anything you can throw (or spill) on them, and still look great with regular floor care. So the next time you set foot on a laminate floor - thank the Swedish!
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Gina Hopkins writes about interior design projects including all about materials like laminate flooring. Always looking for the best bargain on renovation materials, she tends to end up shopping at www.flooringamerica.com more often than not.
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