March 25, 2018
If you're thinking of buying cheap laminate flooring online, then please listen up! (If you just want to shop the best stores to buy from, go here).
I have worked with online flooring stores as well as retail for over 15 years so I just wanted to offer some insight into the entire purchase process. You'll save yourself a lot of headaches and inconvenience by simply understanding what you're buying beforehand.
What To Look For
The biggest mistake people make in buying laminate online is to just look at super cheap products. Simply put, you get what you pay for so it's important to evaluate your options and not just seek out liquidation type sales.
Many of the cheaper brands do not have transitions believe it or not so you are left to try and mix and match with other manufacturers.
The problem here is that moldings and flooring are usually made out two different factories so it's very difficult to get a good blend as it is. If you come across this then you're going to have to take a sample of the floor and try to match it with something from a local store which defeats the purpose of buying it online.
1. Square Foot Price Vs Landed Cost
Pay very close attention here.
The temptation is to just buy the cheapest laminate flooring from an online store, Home Depot or Lowes. However you need to be aware of hidden costs.
It's not just the cost of the product you should look at since this is a typical ploy many companies use to lure you in.
Yes sure, they may have $1/sq. ft. or less laminate but what you really want to look at is your landed cost NOT the cost per square foot.
Well, because your landed cost is basically your bottom line - meaning the total amount paid for getting the material to your home. This includes all handling, shipping, fees, taxes and any other charges you are required to pay.
How do you work your landed cost out?
It's super easy: go ahead and put in your cart all the material you need - flooring, transitions, moldings, underlayment (pad) - then go to checkout and it will list for you the total of the items, tax, fees and shipping. Subtract any coupons/discounts and you have your landed cost. Then do that with 1-2 other stores for the very best deal possible.
So when you are comparing a product from different stores, make sure you're looking at the landed cost and not the advertised price per foot.
2. Purchase Policies
There are two types of policies you need to be aware of. The first is the store purchase policy the second is the internet purchase policy:
Store Purchase Policy
This is very straightforward; it just means to check with the online store of their terms and conditions.
Some stores like Home Depot will take items back or exchange them. Other stores however, have a no return / no refund policy so just check with each one to make sure you are good with everything.
The reason why this is important is because if you get shipped defective product or anything happens you can always have some sort of solution. I'd steer clear of many of these unknown warehouse type stores that seem to be popping up everywhere. From my experiences, many of them have a "all sales are final" type policy.
Yes, once you purchase the product, they wash their hands of it.
Internet Purchase Policy
This is much more important because most people are not aware it exists.
Every flooring manufacturer has an Internet Purchase Policy which means they spell out whether they will honor any warranty claims from products purchased over the Internet. Some companies are completely fine with that and others specifically exclude internet purchases from their warranty coverage.
If you cannot find a manufacturer's internet policy on this, then I'd question if their products are worth buying.
Now if you are just wanting to buy some cheap stuff for a rental and intent to replace the floors every few years then this may not be an issue. However if you want to protect your investment then that is definitely something to keep in mind.
3. Cheap Laminate Vs Higher Quality
Again, you get what you pay for.
The main differences between a cheap and higher quality laminate floor are substantial. Most cheap laminates have very thin wear layers layers like 6mm whereas the better quality ones can go up to 20. This is very important as the top wear layer is what is exposed to foot traffic and wear and tear.
After the wear layer, look at the locking system.
How easy is it install and are the joints tight or do they separate? This is critical because the tighter it is the less chance you have any water or moisture getting through.
The third thing you notice is the cheaper the laminate, the less selection you have. The better brands have much wider color and texture options for you.
Now if you don't care about any of this stuff, then cheap laminate flooring is a good option since it'll go down fine and look ok for a few years but at the same time; it will also date quickly, damage easier and need to be replaced sooner.
4. Transitions & Underlayment
Sometimes stores can sell you laminate for under $1 a foot then jack up the pad, moldings and transitions to exorbitant amounts to make up their margins. Be smarter than that.
As a guide, don't pay more than $35 for your transitions per piece although it can vary depending on their length. Some also are 2-in-1 or even 5-in1 and can go towards $50 per piece. Stair pieces are more expensive so it's not out of the ordinary to pay more for those.
That's a general rule of thumb so if you see $70 laminate transitions, just laugh and buy something else (unless you only need 1 piece).
5. Price Matching
Some companies price match, others don't.
You would think a company that does price match will have the lowest prices but that's not what I've found in my experiences. The general trend I've seen is the company with the no price matching policy tends to have a more turnkey pricing structure that factors in shipping and other fees; so their margins are already very low.
The ones that price match are the ones that tend to have slightly higher prices but I noticed they also have better selection for some odd reason.
Something else to keep in mind that many people don't know about regarding Home Depot's price matching policy: They will only match pricing between retail stores. They will not honor this online.
Many years experience has shown me the best places online to buy laminate flooring from and the ones to stay away from. I personally would stay clear of Lumber Liquidators as not only have I not had positive experiences with them, but they have had a lot of problems with their laminate flooring products carrying too much unacceptable, toxic levels of formaldehyde.
The stores below are ones my clients and I have regularly purchased from over the years:
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Well, there you have it - 5 tips to help you for your project.
You can get great deals on laminate flooring online, no doubt but from my experience, they generally do not come from any closeout offers, discount warehouses or a liquidation stock clearance. They come from established companies who run many great specials throughout the whole year.
The problem with going to one of those little known discount places is you simply don't know what you're getting quality wise and the operation doesn't always stick around.
I have had many customers over the years, purchase large quantities of laminate online for a "too good to be true" price only to learn after they received it, that it was seconds or it was breaking into pieces during the installation.
They couldn't return it either because "all purchases are final". Sucks yes, but that's what usually happens when folks get wide eyed at the first massively discounted offer.
The stores reviewed here are established brands who have a strong online presence and legitimate operations.
Think of it this way: spending just an extra $0.25 a square foot on a product will only run you $250.00 additional per 1,000 feet. Now when you factor in how many years it will be down, you begin to see value over price every single time!
Very good to higher quality laminate flooring products range between the $2.00 - $4.00+ range.
Go for the best value laminate rather than the cheapest priced one and you will be a lot happier all round.
I hope this overview has been of help to you - best of luck!