Laminate Graphics


When trying to match a laminate floor, the first thing one might look at is the print, or the graphic. the graphic is a sheet of paper with a photo of the material that the laminate is attempting to duplicate. This is most times a photograph of wood but it may also be a photo of stone, bamboo, cork or any other flooring material that can be reproduced in a photograph. This photo print can say much about the laminate product that we are trying to match.

First, let’s look at the image itself. When you shop for laminate flooring, you may notice products that appear to be similar, having different labels and different brand names.

Different laminate flooring products may use the same graphic print.

This can be very confusing and can result is a “false positive” material match. So how do we know if a product has a “shared” graphic print or an “exclusive” graphic print?

That can be a tough question to answer, but in general, name brand laminate flooring products will use their own graphic print, and smaller, usually Chinese manufacturers tend to use graphic prints that are also used by other manufacturers.

For example, if a graphic print has been identified as a Quickstep product, I believe that it is safe to say that the product is either a Quickstep product or a product of Unilin, which manufacturers laminates for Quickstep, Mohawk and Columbia.


Laminate comparison, American manufacturer
The two laminate products shown are identical but sold under different names. Because the known laminate is a Unilin product, a major American manufacturer, the unknown laminate can be assumed to also be a Unilin product. Because both products appear to have been manufactured by the same manufacturer, there is a very good chance that the two materials will be compatible.


Chinese Laminate Products

The association may be similar within Chinese manufacturers but due to the number of Chinese manufacturers and the lack of transparency between importers and consumers regarding a Chinese laminate flooring material’s origin, what we see in the marketplace are multiple laminate flooring products with the same graphic, all with varying features and varying quality.

So with this information, we see that if a graphic is available under multiple brand names, it’s probably a Chinese import. Exceptions would include the same product sold under different names but produced by the same factory, such as would be seen in products labeled “Quickstep”, “Mohawk” and “Columbia” or their private labelled versions.


Laminate material comparison, Chinese manufactruer
The two laminates shown have the same graphic print and appear almost identical but the manufacturer of the piece on the left is unknown. The Eternity product is manufactured in China and the graphic print is used by several brands of laminate flooring, some of which may have been produced by the same manufacturer, but more likely just use the same graphic. It is very likely that Chinese laminates that appear to be the same product, in fact are incompatible.


An easy way to tell the difference between a generic print and a proprietary print is by comparing the products. It’s like comparing a Ford to a Lincoln. It’s obvious that both were made in the same factory. The tail lights may be different but that’s only cosmetic, like one laminate floor having an attached pad and the other having no attached pad. Different laminate flooring products with noticeable differences in the products itself but using the same graphic print are usually produced by different Chinese manufacturers. Differences in tooling or manufacturing will be noticeable, such as dimensions, locking systems, distressed surface textures or sheen.


Laminate graphic comparison
From a flooring inspection report: A graphic feature (almost like a fingerprint) in a known product, is compared to the exact feature in an unknown product. This means of identification can be effective, but is far less conclusive with Chinese imports. Not only are the same graphics used by multiple Chinese manufacturers, the same manufacturers may have considerable variation between material lots due to lower quality control than that of American and European manufacturers. Also, notice the color variation between the photo on the left, from the manufacturer’s website, and the photo on the right taken with a digital camera. Both laminates are actually the same color, or very close to the same color, but identification by digital imagery proves to be extremely difficult.


Bottom Line

If a matching graphic print is found on a known American or European manufacturer, there is a good chance that the product has been identified correctly.

So, when a graphic print has been identified, if a product using that print is not an established brand name, it will be necessary to closely examine the dimensions, locking systems, textures and sheen of the products to see if they are the same. If not then the material search is not over.

Regardless of how certain we are about a laminate material match, it is always a good idea to purchase one carton so that material compatibility can be verified.