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Laminate AC Ratings

What are Laminate AC Ratings?

Many people assume that because a certain laminate is thicker or has a longer warranty, that it is more durable and longer-lasting. This is not necessarily the case. That is why the European Producers of Laminate Flooring (EPLF) have developed the Abrasion Rating System (AC). Most laminate flooring manufacturers belong to the Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring (EPLF). This cooperative effort was formed to develop industry standards and provide consumers a means of identifying the durability and usage level of various laminate flooring products.

The common term used to denote the durability level of laminate flooring is its Abrasion Criteria or "AC" rating. AC ratings are an abbreviated representation of a laminate's overlay film resistance to abrasion, impact, stains and cigarette burns. The ratings also indicate that the product has been tested for the effects of furniture legs, castors, and swelling along its edges. When a laminate flooring product has a rating, that means it has passed all of the test criteria. Failing just one test will disqualify a product.

The AC rating levels are designated AC1 through AC5. Each is represented by international pictographs reflecting the product's application and durability. The primary application is divided into two groups: residential and commercial. Each group is further divided into traffic intensity levels: moderate, general, or heavy. An AC1 rating, which is the lowest, should only be used in light-traffic areas. At the other end of the scale is AC5, which is produced for the commercial market and for use in very high-traffic area's. A laminate flooring rating of AC2 or AC3 is found on flooring tailored to the domestic and residential market. As can be seen, laminate ratings are beneficial to customers for product comparison shopping. If you are tempted by some very cheap laminate flooring, be cautious, you may find that it hasn't received any type of AC rating indicating it failed to meet the minimum requirements. During product testing, if it fails on just one single test, then approval for that laminate flooring rating is denied. For residential use, a rating of AC3 is perfectly adequate. Typically, the higher the laminate flooring rating, the higher the price may be.

The test devised for abrasion resistance is the European standard (EN13329).         
A similar but separate Taber Test is also used to establish abrasion or wear ratings for hardwood floor finishes.

Typical Laminate composition highlighting the top film overlay subject to AC testing

The following is a breakdown of the Abrasion Criteria or AC ratings, associated symbols and some suitable uses:

The residential rating is designated by a pictograph of a house and the commercial rating by a building. To the right of those is a pictograph of one, two, or three people corresponding to the traffic intensity levels. Below the person or people is a numerical equivalent of the pictographs. The first digit indicates the primary application: 2 for residential, 3 for commercial. The second digit indicates the traffic intensity level: 1 for moderate, 2 for general, 3 for heavy.

AC 1

House, One Person, 21 (Residential, Moderate Traffic: Suitable for bedrooms or guest rooms)

AC 2

Residential, General Traffic: Suitable for living rooms or dining rooms

AC 3

Residential, Heavy Traffic: Suitable for all areas

AC 3

Commercial, Moderate Traffic: Hotel rooms, small office

AC 4

Commercial, General Traffic: Office, boutique, cafe

AC 5

Commercial, Heavy Traffic: Public buildings, department stores

Note that products with an AC3 rating can be used for all residential applications as well as moderate commercial applications. Of course, AC4 and AC5 rated products could also be used in all residential areas.