TESTING STANDARDS FOR LAMINATE FLOORING PRODUCTS
It is common for industries to develop and implement testing standards. While their use by manufacturers of products in an industry is usually not mandatory unless required by regulatory bodies of the government, such standards provide many important benefits. These benefits include evaluating the suitability of new products, defining performance envelopes, comparing different products to determine which product to use, guiding research and development (R&D) activities towards the attainment of specific and well-quantified targets, and building credibility by demonstrating that a product will work as advertised.
This post summarizes the use of industry standards for laminate flooring products. The image below, which shows some examples of popular laminate flooring products, was reproduced from the website of Home Depot.
This post will discuss the standards published by NALFA (North American Laminate Flooring Association) as well as by some other organizations. It should be noted that European and other international standards, covering evaluations of aspects of laminate flooring products similar to those covered by the NALFA standards, are also available.
Unlike the standards used for establishing suitability for use in proposed applications and for determining technical specifications, the use of any of the sustainability standards discussed below is optional. Laminate flooring product manufacturers decide whether to pursue evaluations based on one or more of the sustainability standards to gain greater market acceptance by proving that their products are environmentally friendly.
Laminate Flooring Specifications and Test Method, NALFA Standards Publication LF 01-2011, Laminate Flooring (2011), provides eleven test methods:
- Resistance to residual indentation when a static load is applied.
- Ability to resist increase in thickness via swelling after exposure to water.
- Ability to retain color when exposed to a light source having a frequency range approximating sunlight coming through window glass.
- Ease of cleaning as well as stain resistance when exposed to common household substances.
- Resistance to fracture when impacted by a steel ball possessing a large diameter.
- Resistance to fracture when impacted by a steel ball possessing a small diameter.
- Resistance to abrasive wear.
- Dimensional tolerances (variances with respect to thickness, length, width, straightness, and squareness), between tiles in a manufactured free standing (unrestricted) shape.
- Ability to preserve appearance as well as to remain stable under the movement of a castor chair.
- Strength of surface bonding measured as the force required to delaminate or split away the surface of laminate flooring plank or tile.
- Meeting governmental regulations stipulating that laminate flooring products must have low formaldehyde content.
The minimum performance levels that are considered to satisfy the needs of four major application category segments (residential, light commercial, commercial, and heavy commercial) when applying each of these test methods are listed in Table 2-1 of NALFA Standards Publication LF 01-2011 (2011), which is reproduced below.
Laminate Flooring Sustainability Standard, NALFA Standards Publication LF 02-2011 (2011), provides measurable market-based definitions of sustainable laminate flooring by establishing performance criteria that address environmental and social aspects throughout the supply chain. Its intent is to encourage reduction in environmental impact.
- This standard addresses sustainability in four areas and provides a scoring system:
- (Section 5) Product design, to encourage integration of environmental and life-cycle thinking into the product design process.
- (Section 6) Product manufacturing, to encourage the quantification of environmental impacts from manufacturing and production and the taking of action to reduce these impacts.
- (Section 7) Durability and use, to encourage production of durable (long-lasting) products which are environmentally friendly during use.
- (Section 8) Social responsibility and progressive corporate governance, to encourage good business practices and continued social responsibility.
- The maximum number of points attainable by meeting all of the sustainability criteria described in these four sections of the standard is 98.
- In addition (Section 9), a manufacturer can gain up to ten points by demonstrating innovations in the product design, development, and/or manufacturing process, so that the maximum number of points attainable by a product that meets all of the sustainability criteria in addition to manifesting significant innovation is 108.
- The criteria used in calculating the overall sustainability score of a product and the number of points assigned to each criterion are listed in Annex A.
- Four different levels of certification are awarded depending on the sustainability score:
Underlayment Pad Specifications and Test Methods, NALFA Standards Publication UL 01-2008, Underlayment Pad (2008), establishes the minimum requirements that a non-attached underlayment pad must meet to achieve the NALFA Seal of Approval. The first tier establishes the minimum requirements in terms of acoustical performance, compression resistance, and thickness. The second tier establishes that a product that meets the requirements of the first tier of approval also offers good moisture resistance. The table showing the performance property levels that an underlayment pad needs to meet to earn approval is reproduced below.
NSF 332-2012, Sustainability Assessment for Resilient Floor Coverings, NSF International, 31 October 2012, establishes the basis of the NSF/ANSI 332 certification process. It was developed by the NSF National Center for Sustainability Standards (NCSS) in collaboration with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It is recommended by the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (an industry trade association). It is performed by NSF/NCSS. Sustainability is assessed quantitatively in six areas (product design, product manufacturing, long-term value, end-of-life-management, corporate governance, and innovation) and points are assigned. Total points earned determine certification at the Conformant, Silver, Gold, or Platinum level.
UL GREENGUARD Certification Program is offered by UL Environment (a business unit of Underwriters Laboratories) to help manufacturers create (and buyers identify and trust) interior products and materials that have low chemical emissions, improving the quality of the air in which the products are used. All GREENGUARD-certified products must meet stringent emissions standards based on established chemical exposure criteria.