Laminate flooring is made of layers of synthetic material, such as melamine resin, or a combination of synthetic and natural materials, such as wood fiberboard. An image design layer gives the impression the floor is made of hardwood or stone tile. A finish layer above the image design typically is made of aluminum oxide.
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Laminate flooring usually consists of four layers. The bottom layer, or backing layer, is moisture resistant and provides a solid foundation. The second layer, which is the inner core, provides stability along with increased moisture resistance and durability. If the flooring contains medium density or high density fiberboard, it is in this layer. The image design layer is placed above the inner core. A thin spray coating of aluminum oxide protects the design layer.
Aluminum oxide, also called alumina, is extracted from ground aluminum ore bauxite by combining bauxite with lime and caustic soda in high-pressure containers. The caustic soda dissolves the aluminum oxide, which then is removed from the solution, washed and heated to remove water. Aluminum oxide is the most durable finish for laminate floors and also for hardwood floors, according to SimpleFloors.
A high-quality finish is important for the longevity of a laminate floor, as laminate is susceptible to scratching from dirt, tiny stones and sand, as well as your pet's nails. An aluminum oxide finish seals the surface of the flooring, and protects against scratches and daily wear and tear. It also slows the process of fading due to sunlight. Even with this durable finish, for best results, sweep or dust-mop your laminate floor regularly. You also can vacuum it with a soft brush attachment. However, before rolling the machine onto the floor, make sure the wheels are clean to prevent scratching.
When buying laminate flooring with aluminum oxide finish, choose from different finish glosses to tailor your preferred look further. Examples of aluminum oxide finish glosses include matte, flat and satin. A shiny high-gloss finish called piano gloss also is available.