Until a few years ago, laminate flooring was manufactured in 8-inch-wide planks made to look as if two or three strips of wood had been glued onto a single piece of backing. This produced a joint pattern that was a bit odd and not entirely pleasing, especially in strong light.
Now manufacturers are producing laminates in 4 to 5 inch widths, with each piece made to look like a separate piece of hardwood, just like the natural products these floors imitate. And they are paying closer attention to the patterns and textures they stamp into the melamine plastic overlays of these floors.
The effect? Today's laminate floors are more realistic in size and appearance than earlier versions. And yet they're still far cheaper than real hardwoods.
Formica - best known for its countertop line - is one of the newer entrants into the laminate flooring business.
The company's Mirabella collection, shown here in Chestnut, features a random-pitted finish. Planks are long and narrow, just like real wood, measuring 54.33 by 4.45 inches each. And the edges of the planks are micro-beviled, mimicking the look of prefinished hardwood flooring.
The Mirabella line's eight styles include various colors and styles of walnut, chestnut, plum, pear and mahogany. The collection carries a 30-year residential limited warranty.