Most European 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 usage level of various laminate flooring product. Anyone familiar with the automotive industry can relate the EPLF standards to the QS system, and others can compare them to ISO. Although the EPLF rating system may seem confusing at first, it is really not that difficult to understand.
The common term used to denote the durability level of laminate flooring is its “AC” rating. AC ratings are an abbreviated representation of a laminate’s 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. If a laminate flooring product has a rating, then 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.
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.
The following is a breakdown of the AC ratings, their associated symbols and some suitable uses (click on the rating # to view prodducts in that category):
House, One Person, 21 (Residential, Moderate Traffic: Suitable for bedrooms or guest rooms)
Residential, General Traffic: Suitable for living rooms or dining rooms
Residential, Heavy Traffic: Suitable for all areas
Commercial, Moderate Traffic: Hotel rooms, small office
Commercial, General Traffic: Office, boutique, café
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. However, in some cases the course surface texture of these products may be too rough for bare feet. In fact, there have actually been complaints of people wearing holes in their socks from laminate flooring rated higher than AC3.