In order to properly install ceramic look-laminates, it is important to understand them

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In the January/February 2000 issue of FCI, I began a series on the installation of laminate flooring on stairs. This article was to be the second chapter in that series. But after viewing the various new product offerings at the Surfaces 2000 Trade Show in Las Vegas, NV, Jan. 26-28, I believe that now is the time to discuss ceramic looks in laminates.

Since the introduction of laminate flooring, there have been some dramatic changes in both technology and design. One of these changes is the emergence of ceramic styles, along with marble and slate designs, in laminates.

These styles bring with them something that is not usually found in the popular wood looks: Patterns. These patterns are available in “tile” as well as “plank” form. Tile is available in various sizes, depending on the manufacturer. The new plank size measures 13 inches by 52 inches.

To understand the installation of these ceramic styles, one must recognize the hand-carved and natural looks the manufacturers are presenting to the consumer. We have all noticed real ceramic floors, and we walk over them regularly. Looking closely, you will notice variations in tile size as well as in grout line thickness. By reproducing these looks in a laminate floor, the installer can give customers a product with a rich, realistic appearance.

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Coming to terms

With these new looks comes new terminology. Floating grout line deviation (Photo 1) is measured by taking a continuous grout line, located across the width of two adjoining tiles or planks, and measuring the difference between the center points of each tile or plank’s grout line. This deviation can float to the right or left during the installation.

Overall grout line thickness deviation (Photos 2 and 3) is the minimum and maximum width of the grout line found within the product. Each manufacturer has tolerances that are considered acceptable in an installation.

The different manufacturers employ various techniques to give their products an authentic ceramic look. There are products that have a mottled look in the individual ceramic tiles. Some products have colorations that allow the tile and grout line to gradually blend together. Others have clean, defined lines that distinguish the ceramic from the grout line. Now that you have a grasp of the look being achieved, it is time to begin understanding the installation of these products.

After following the manufacturer’s recommended procedures for preparing the floor, begin placing the tiles or planks. When examining the product, notice that some pieces have thin grout lines, while others are thicker. To limit large variances, place thin grout lines to thick grout lines. What tiles or planks you do not use immediately, you will use as you proceed with the installation. This will add an additional step to your installation, but it will increase the appearance of a handcrafted look.