A question I often get asked is whether a floor with a 30 year or lifetime warranty is really worth the extra money. The short answer is NO! This is due to the fact that the average family will remain in a home for 12 -15 years in which case your 30 year or lifetime warranty is of no consequence. Also keep in mind that warranties apply to the original purchaser only and are not transferable.
A laminate flooring warranty covers 3 different aspects of the floor: Board construction, surface (wear and tear) and moisture. Adhering to the installation and maintenance instructions will also affect your warranty.
This refers to the laminate core. Regular wear and tear usually will have no effect on the laminate core unless there is excessive moisture in which case the core will weaken and damage may occur. Aside from this, any core damage will be related to a manufacturing defect in which case your floor will be covered under the manufacturing defects warranty. Some manufacturers will offer a very good warranty on board construction and a lesser warranty on wear and tear. You should know that this is a case of selling the sizzle and not the steak.
Any defects in your floor due to manufacturing are covered by this warranty. Generally speaking, it is difficult to ascertain whether a defect is due to manufacturing if the floor has already been installed, and the longer the floor has been installed so the more difficult it becomes. For this reason, it is best to inspect the boards prior to installation. Additionally, many manufacturers state that installation of flooring that contains any manufacturing defect is not covered so you will not be reimbursed for additional installation costs.
Surface - Wear and Tear:
This warranty refers to wear and tear under normal use. Included in this warranty is: scratching, fading and staining. This is the most important aspect of your warranty as it refers to the surface of the laminate which is visible and subject to foot traffic and wear and tear.
Some warranties are all inclusive e.g a 15 year warranty on the entire floor. In these cases, the warranty often will exclude damage as a result of accidents which could include damage caused by scratching and impacts. Due to this type of exclusion, it is difficult to claim for any kind of damage due to wear and tear as this is basically the full definition of wear and tear for a laminate floor.
Some warranties are variable warranties and cover each aspect of the floor individually e.g. 2 years on surface, 15 years on board etc. From a sales point of view, the manufacturers will use the 15 year warranty as a selling point; so be sure to scrutinize these warranties.
Fading to a laminate floor can occur if the floor is subject to direct sunlight for a good portion of the day. Note that indirect sunlight will not cause fading. Fading very seldom happens, and if it does, you should be able to claim quite easily. However, the warranty might stipulate exclusion for areas that receive direct sunlight so be sure to check for this if you are placing laminate in an area that receives direct sunlight.
Generally speaking, gloss and sheen reduction is not considered surface wear or fading and in most cases will not be covered by the warranty.
The majority of these warranties are also subject to the adherence to the maintenance instructions supplied by the manufacturer. If you do not follow their maintenance instructions, they will void your warranty. The following maintenance methods can lead to a voided warranty: use of a j et mop, spray mop, or similar wet mop.
As a general rule, do not place laminate flooring in areas that are moist or so called wet areas, such as bathrooms or kitchens, unless the laminate has been specifically designated for this kind of use. Laminate flooring can never be placed outside. Some warranties also stipulate that the flooring must be installed in a climate-controlled area which excludes installations on porches that are not completely covered.
Any moisture damage resulting from sub-floor moisture or water directly underneath the floor is not covered. Additionally, flooding and liquid spills that are not mopped up within 30 minutes are also not covered. Most warranties require a moisture test when installing over concrete sub-floors and stipulate the acceptable moisture content.
Make sure that you adhere to the installation instructions or your warranty will be void. In particular, be sure to install the correct underlayment as specified by the manufacturer to avoid warranty issues. A moisture test is also usually required when installing over a concrete sub-floor. If the moisture content exceeds the maximum allowed, and you experience moisture damage, you will have a difficult time claiming.