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Laminate Flooring AC Ratings Explained

Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2021-09-13      Origin: Site


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Buying a laminate floor might be on your radar after hearing how affordable it is compared to buying real hardwood. With laminate using real wood products inside, it’s become a perennial favorite with floor buyers.


Before buying, you might want to know about an important rating system you’ve likely seen on laminate floor products. It’s known as an AC rating, which stands for “Abrasion Criteria.”


The rating comes from the Abrasion Ratings System devised in Europe years ago. It’s also broken down into five numbers across six categories—with three ratings for residential, and three for commercial.


Take a little deep-dive into what these scores mean and whether the AC ratings apply to other floors.


AC Rating 1

On the lowest end of the AC Rating scale is laminate flooring for residences with only moderate foot traffic.


Those of you who live by yourself in your own home may prefer an AC 1 floor since your floor traffic will clearly be less than anywhere else. The only exception would be if you bring people into your home for private or business parties on a regular basis.


Think bedrooms and closets when it comes to AC 1. It could also apply to other rooms of the house if you think those places are not as well traveled as your bedroom.


A Look at How AC 1 Floors Work in Bedrooms


Perhaps placing a laminate floor in a bedroom seems unusual when so many generations have grown up with carpet there. More people are starting to change their bedroom floors because of how hard it is to keep carpet fully maintained.


Besides, with laminate giving the look and feel of real wood, it can feel like a dream to walk on. The best thing with hardwood is you have surface textures that never become slippery.


Yes, being able to walk on your bedroom floor in your slippers, socks, or bare feet is a good feeling without worrying about slipping and falling.


The aesthetic difference can also be quite striking when placing a laminate floor in a bedroom. No one should be shocked why laminate is starting to go into bedrooms. In other words, the next time you see an AC 1 rating on laminate, you’ll know it’s good to go in rooms where you sleep. Let’s just assume you don’t have A LOT of floor traffic in there.


A Look at How AC 1 Floors Work in Closets


Even in a busy home, a closet isn’t going to receive much floor traffic. Some might argue otherwise if it’s a walk-in closet and the person spends considerable time there choosing or trying on clothes.


For the most part, a closet clearly won’t receive the kind of floor traffic seen in a business. To maintain flooring consistency, you’ll probably want to place laminate flooring in your closet, whether walk-in or not.


Since AC 1 laminate is often used in guest rooms as well, you should use the same floor in the room’s closet. For aesthetic purposes, it’s ideal.


Thanks to laminate also being stain resistant, it’s good to use in your closets if you have pets hanging out there. Urine stains should always be cleaned up immediately, though, to avoid damage.


Best of all, laminate is scratch-resistant at all rating levels, giving you protection if your pet cats play in the closet while hiding away.


A Look at How AC 1 Floors Work in Other Rooms


All possibility may exist you have other rooms at home barely used in a year’s time. Maybe you have a bathroom upstairs that only rarely gets used other than when having occasional guests.


Guest rooms may apply here as well. Any exceptions would have to be kitchens and your main bathrooms. Arguably, we all spend more time in those places than our own living rooms.


AC Rating 2


The next step up in the AC Rating chart is AC 2, or laminate floors applicable in homes with moderate traffic.


In this case, it may apply to living rooms or dining rooms with either one person or maybe a small family. What it wouldn’t apply to is a family living in a residence with numerous kids running around day after day.


You can say the same about a house full of pets, something already challenging if you own laminate floors. Regardless, AC 2 laminate flooring is a good compromise for the general homeowner.


One thing about the lower rated floors is they’ll be cheaper to buy since they have a thinner wear layer. Now you know how important it is to measure exactly how much floor traffic your home receives per day or hour.


How AC 2 Floors Work in Living Rooms


AC 2 floors are usually best suited to two people living in a home. For a newly married couple just buying a new home, this could be the perfect floor.


In a living room, this is a great choice. Just like bedrooms, perhaps the idea of using laminate flooring in a living room seems out of the ordinary. More and more people are starting to use laminate there for aesthetic beauty and because it needs less maintenance than a carpet or other option.


For farmhouses or other homes with a rustic feel, laminate in a living room always looks beautiful. Assuming you and your spouse only walk in there yourselves to watch TV or for other entertainment, an AC 2 floor is an affordable investment.


Further protection of this floor can come from using area rugs or mats in the event major floor traffic occurs once in a while.


How AC 2 Floors Work in Dining Rooms


Whether you buy an AC 2 rated floor for your dining room depends on how much activity there is. On a general level, no one is going to give their dining room extensive floor traffic any more than two to three times per day.


When eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the dining floor might take a bit of wear. However, most of that time is spent sitting at a table anyway during meals.


Unless you hold dinner parties every night with large gatherings, an AC 2 laminate floor for your dining room is perfectly acceptable. When you have rustic surroundings, that laminate floor will also bring unique character to a dining room.


How AC 2 Floors Work in a Children’s Room


According to AC 2 rating charts, a children’s room is usually considered another good place for these floors. If you have a newborn, this would certainly make sense since they won’t be up walking around quite yet.


As your child or children grow older, you may need to find a stronger floor later. Adding a laminate floor to a bedroom for your children can certainly bring character, something they may appreciate themselves. After all, imagine how much cleanup you’d have to do if your children played on a carpet for long hours.


Before you make a final decision on using an AC 2 laminate floor in a children’s room, look ahead to what you’ll really need. Perhaps that room might only get moderate foot traffic now. Once your child becomes a rambunctious preschooler, perhaps an AC 3 floor would be a better investment ahead of time.


AC Rating 3

As you might guess, an AC 3 rating means the floor is the most durable for a home. More homes than ever are being used as work centers due to COVID-19 and the push to start work-from-home scenarios.


In this case, a home can almost be as chaotic as a business. For some people, a home really is a business, if maybe most of the transactions occurring online.


If your home is starting to look more like ground central as a busy office or shipping center, you need to look out for the AC 3 rating when floor shopping.


The rooms best suitable for this rating include busier living rooms, hallways, and home offices.


How AC 3 Floors Work in Busy Living Rooms


Every living room is going to differ when it comes to how busy they are. Those of you who hold parties and business gatherings in your living room every week will likely wear your laminate floor out faster.


Looking for an AC 3 rated laminate floor is fairly common and considered the most purchased by residential buyers. Some of those buyers may be playing it safe to buy for heavy traffic in the event it ever happens in the future.


As noted above, if you’re planning to have heavier floor traffic in your living room someday due to business or family, buying AC 3 is a good bet.


Despite that heartier rating, keep in mind laminate floors still need maintenance. You’ll want to keep your laminate living room floor cleaned at least once per week with simple sweeping, vacuuming, or dry mopping.


How AC 3 Floors Work in Hallways and Foyers


Nothing extensive needs to be said about how busy hallways are in homes. You can say the same about foyers where foot traffic is sometimes overwhelming.


AC 3 floors are made for these two areas of a home more than anywhere else. No matter if you think you’ll never have a thundering herd of people entering your home immediately, it could happen eventually.


Consider even a home with two people living in it will give plenty of floor traffic in the foyer alone. Going in and out an entryway every single day multiple times is going to wear real wood out without protective layers.


Hallways are no different since it’s the main throughway to all your bedrooms, plus a likely bathroom. When adding kids to that equation, kids may play for hours in a hallway to give them an indoor spot for running.


AC 3 Floors are Also Made for Kitchens, Plus Some Commercial Use


Some might debate whether kitchens are visited as much as bathrooms. They seem about equal in foot traffic.


An AC 3 rated floor is perfect for kitchens when parties and other entertaining becomes a recurring event. If you think you stay in place while preparing meals, you’d probably be surprised at how much floor traffic you’re giving that kitchen floor.


Because these floors are also intended for light commercial use, it’s perfectly acceptable to use an AC 3 floor in your business. Some small businesses don’t receive excessive amounts of floor traffic as seen in a mall or hotel.


Business offices often use these floors, if not even hotel rooms. Still, AC 3 has a separate designation especially for businesses with less human interactions.


AC 3 and AC 4 Floors for Businesses


The reason AC 3 and AC 4 ratings overlap is they both apply to businesses. As seen above, AC 3 ratings do double-duty providing more durability for residences while offering the same for businesses with moderate foot traffic.


Because these two ratings overlap, it does create confusion on occasion. One reason AC 3 is both is because it does cost more, meaning it might be more effective for a business rather than homeowners on tight budgets.


Also, since home and business have seemingly become one of late, AC 3 ratings make more sense now. Since we already told you about AC 3, it’s time to look at AC 4 exclusively since it’s made directly for businesses with generalized traffic.


How AC 4 Floors Work in Offices


Everyone knows how much traffic an office can receive. It’s a given that with employees coming and going for eight hours (if not more) per day, a laminate floor is going to take a beating. An AC 4 rated floor usually is the first choice, albeit some using AC 3 as well.


Determining which rated floor to use in your office will have to be carefully chosen by measuring exactly how much floor traffic the workspace has. Sometimes taking a time-lapse video determines how many times employees and visitors walk that laminate floor on a daily basis.


If you’re observant enough, you may already know how busy your office is. An AC 4 floor may be better, especially if you have customers visiting your office regularly. Yet, with a more abrasive wear layer, it’s not quite as comfortable to walk on.


Businesses with busy shoppers coming and going usually use AC 4 floors.


How AC 4 Floors Work in Smaller Restaurants


A typical place where you’ll see an AC 4 floor beyond an office is in small restaurants or cafes. Foot traffic isn’t quite as bad here as seen in larger eating establishments. Plus, restaurants are never quite as intense in traffic as in a mall.


Some cafes are open 24 hours, so it’s possible a higher rated floor might be in order. Nevertheless, AC 4 will do well in a small restaurant if most of the floor space is only walked on primarily by wait-staff.


Customers are seated most of the time in restaurants and cafes, so it definitely falls under the more moderate foot traffic category.


When you see a list of AC ratings, AC 4 usually lists cafes as one of the best-suited business niches. Even so, many other business applications apply here with these floors. Think “small shops” when going by size comparison.


How AC 4 Floors Work in Boutiques


Another good example of a small shop where AC 4 floors work best is boutiques, if even barber shops. While these can become busy, they don’t have a constant foot traffic problem since customers are again seated most of the time.


Boutique workers are also stationary a lot of the time, if not even seated themselves. These might be designated the only businesses with the least amount of foot traffic, meaning an AC 3 floor could work here as well.


Any exception would be if facing really busy days, and if the boutique has other services where more foot traffic might occur.


All businesses should analyze if they can realistically use laminate in this rating category. If you find out your business has more foot traffic than you ever estimated, AC 5 floors are there for you. Despite being more expensive, they’re designed specifically for what anyone would deem a “large business.”


AC 5 Floors for Very Busy Businesses

Listed as “heavy commercial”, the AC 5 rating is designed for the most intense floor traffic possible. You might think laminate flooring wouldn’t hold up under such traffic. It can when the right amount of wear layer is placed in the product.


Keep in mind AC 5 floors can also be used in residences if the home becomes like Grand Central Station. Perhaps this is uncommon, if maybe not in the work from home era.


Any large business, though, is where these floors will become necessary. In this case, it means malls, department stores, and any type of public building.


How AC 5 Floors Work in Malls


Maybe malls aren’t getting the business they used to, but they still receive more floor traffic than other average businesses. Laminate flooring is sometimes seen in mall walkways, including in certain businesses with rustic ambiances.


With stores lined up along busy mall walkways, any business in a mall is sure to receive more foot traffic than in a standalone location. During the holidays, particularly, the amount of customers walking a laminate floor could give it more wear and tear than it receives normally in a few years.


Yes, the price is usually steeper when buying an AC 5 floor. At least it does pay off over time from having to replace a laminate floor so soon. No mall or mall store wants to disrupt their business because they invested in a flimsier floor when first opening. The cost of having to shut down to replace a worn laminate floor would cost more than the cost of a floor rated AC 5.


Malls are certainly far from businesses receiving the most significant amount of customers at a time.


How AC 5 Floors Work in Department Stores


Sure, department stores are not quite as prevalent as they used to be. This isn’t to say many still don’t exist, including the big corporate stores like Target and Walmart.


These stores need an AC 5 floor as much as malls do. Many of these big-name stores usually have the budgets to invest in AC 5 floors. Some of the smaller department stores still existing maybe don’t have quite the same budget.


Again, a good argument exists to invest in AC 5 floors for stores like this, outside of maybe getting heavy foot traffic only part of the year. In a COVID-19 world, maybe such an investment doesn’t make much sense at the moment. Once the virus is gone, it’s likely to bring a rush of customers back through those department store doors.


Of course, retail businesses like malls and department stores don’t stand alone in being AC 5 floor candidates.


How AC 5 Floors Work in Public Buildings


Using the word “commercial” can sometimes be malleable when it comes to using laminate floors in large buildings. Public buildings fall under the category of gaining heavy floor traffic without necessarily being commercial businesses.


Governmental services would be the best definition here. Employees may be coming and going out of these buildings for long hours every day. Social service buildings would also have clients entering and exiting all week long.


These types of laminate floors are also very abrasive, so they shouldn’t be used if wanting foot comfort. Some homeowners may feel tempted to get this type of floor just so they have the most durable floor available. It’s not really made for residential use and only for floors walked on the most.


Beyond public buildings, these floors could also be used in industrial plants where heavy equipment is used. Certainly not all industrial centers will be using laminate floors, unless part of the building is used for public visitations.


Anything attracting tourists would also apply here, if also hospitals at the most extreme end.

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