Back To 1920’s…
Laminates are man-made materials which have been used in surfaces such as back splashes and counter tops since the early 1920’s. Laminates were originally not strong enough as to be used for flooring, but innovations within the manufacturing process have refined the finished product. This has made laminates to be more durable over the years.
Laminate flooring was initially designed almost an afterthought by a countertop producer for the primary purpose of conserving its unused raw material. Perstop, a Swedish vinegar-making company that was founded in 1888, was also involved in the business of chemicals. In 1923, the company ventured into the manufacture of laminated countertops, tabletops as well as panels that mimicked a wooden look yet cost a lot less than real wood products. But the time, it wasn’t feasible to turn this laminate into a flooring product.
However, Perstop acquired a competitor that operated an industrial plant which produced bonded products in 1974, a factor which expanded their product line and gave rise to the concept that would be the birth of laminated flooring. Paper impregnated with resins that made it wear-resistant would be bonded with a board made out of wear-resistant composite materials. The resultant surface had 20 times the durability of countertops, thus producing the first laminate flooring prototype in 1977. Full-scale production began two years later, and the first laminate product would be sold in Sweden in 1980.
In 1984 the company started marketing their laminate products in Sweden and across Europe. These marketing efforts were so successful that by 1994, laminate flooring products had spread to the US. Initially produced to solely replicate wood, this new popularity gave rise to a need for various other alternatives, leading to the development of stone, granite, slate and marble looks. In 1989, the Perstop Company launched its flooring department as a new entity and named it “Pergo”, an acronym for its full name, “PerstopGlov”. The word “Pergo” is today almost synonymous with laminate flooring.
Development of Laminate Flooring Types
The Glueless click lock type of laminate flooring was invented by two separate companies, Välinge [Swedish] and Unilin [Belgian], at the same time in 1997. All interlocking laminate floors are today almost practically sold by either of the two corporations.
Because finished laminate is glued onto “wooden” cores that are cut into sections with exact dimensions, a fastening system was required to aid installation. This led to the invention of flooring panels that had tongue and groove joints. These joints would be glued together or mechanically locked for the bond to permit heavy objects like bookcases or refrigerators.
One feature which has continually improved laminate flooring is photographic technology that makes the laminate planks look even more realistic. Surface technologies have also led to hand-scraped and distressed stylings, plus “embossed in register” where the surface adds to the realism by adjusting according to the picture beneath. No dye lots are necessary with laminates unlike almost every other type of flooring, which means you can buy additional flooring planks that are an exact match to your floor.
As for the laminate flooring, it was designed to be laid over an existing floor but without glue [floating floor]. Due to this revolutionary design alongside the ease of installation, durability and removal for re-use, a huge do-it-yourself market would develop in Sweden and across the world that still exists today. It’s no surprise that IKEA hails from Sweden too.
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