Laminate floor questions

This was probably beated to death hear already, but I still cannot collect all the pieces of this, so I thought I might ask. If you'd be so kind to share your knowledge...
So, we have this house, which is on a slab. The floor is Berber carpet all over (except the kitchen), and I believe it is on plywood put onto the slab (not sure if there's any vapor barrier under the plywood).
What we'd like to do is to put some laminate in the dining room and in the hall, so that the carpet doesn't get stained from food and dirt (kids!) My wife really likes the idea and pushes me forward, but I'm a little bit reluctant -- don't want to screw up. I'd like to DIY (or DIM).
So, here're my questions. From what I gathered, I need to put some vapor barrier on the concrete. OK so far, but what about the plywood which is already there? Should I remove it, or could I put it under the laminate flooring? What are the potential dangers of having that plywood there? I'd like to keep it -- it will add some insulation, it will make the floor more even (I'm not sure about flatness of the slab underneeth). Is there going to be a problem? Would it invalidate warranty? Also, the special foam underlayment -- do I put it over or under the plywood?
Second, I'm looking at different laminate options, and they seem to differ in thickness and warranties. Is the cheaper stuff (like the one in Costco -- for some $1.49/sq.foot) really a crap? How much difference does it make to use the more expansive quality stuff? This is not going to be commercial usage, just to be able to wet-moap it occasionally.
Also, I'm a bit concerned that laminate floor on a slab will feel cold. Is this going to be a factor?
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I installed Pergo in a small room once, and hated it. Looks like a photocopied drawing of wood, and it got wet and bowed up like a wavy ocean, and never went down. And that stuff isn't cheap. At the time wished I had put in prefinished wood floors (I never have used the stuff, though). At the local HD, "Bruce" wood flooring is sold. It is prefinished in strips of 3, installs very similarily to Pergo, and theoretically could be refinished if so desired (I believe). just my 2c.
Alexander Litvin wrote:

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Alexander Litvin wrote:

I can answer SOME of your questions.
1. The floor will not feel cold, or at least no colder than any other kind of wood. 2. The foam stuff goes between the flooring and whatever's beneath. This is to allow the floor to move as the humidity and temperature changes. If you glue the new floor directly to something else, the new floor will buckle and/or generate gaps. The entire floor expands and contracts as much as 3/4". You therefore put the new floor UNDER the baseboards and leave room between the floor and the framing for this expansion. 3. You do not damp mop wood. 4. The new floor will not duplicate imperfections in the concrete, should you decide to take out the plywood. Me, I'd leave the plywood. 5. I don't know why you would need a vapor barrier. Do you have one for carpets or vinyl tile?
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JerryMouse wrote:

Any smooth surface will feel colder than any rough surface. It is a matter of the physics of heat transfer. Your body is 98 degress, the floor is going to be about 70 degress, therefore it is trying to absorb heat from your foot, thus the cold feeling. Smooth surfaces offer more actual skin contact than say, carpet.
3. You do not damp mop wood.
You do not WET mop wood. Some finishes allow for a slightly damp mop. Most manufacturers of laminates and engineerd wod sell a liquid cleaner for their floor. I have both WilsonArt and Mannington in my house and the dealer gave me a bottle of their cleaner for each at the time I bought the material.

Moisture will pass through carpet and will damage wood. Most manufacturers sell a barier made for concrete floors. NOT using it will void the warranty. I'd ask the technical service people from the makers of the flooring about the plywood. It would be easier to leave it if they say OK. Thee may be a barrier under the plywood and it would be good to know that. Any place you can see if a barrier is sticking out from under? Maybe in a closet or under the dishwasher?
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going
contact
White foam is pretty smooth on touch, yet it does not feel cold. It's not only the level of smoothness that matters, but the ability of the material to conduct heat. Having said that, if you compare materials with similar heat conductivity properties, those that have rough surface will in fact feel less cold than the smooth once.
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I put laminate in my basement (on the slab) and I used a foam backing that had a vapour barrier built into it (pink rather than blue in colour). Keep whatever floor is there. One of the advantages of a floating floor is that it can go over any flooring (except for carpet). Level out the plywood as much as you can and go to town!
The only time water should get on your floor is if it is designed for bathroom/moisture situations. Many such applications require you to glue the boards together, so keep that in mind. Cleaners designed for laminates are always better.
This is a good DIY project and will make a huge difference but don't buy the cheap stuff. Thickness in material (5mm vs 6mm vs 8 mm) makes a huge difference. Also, the quality of the image on the laminate will cost you more but prevent you from thinking about your floor as a picture of a real wood floor.

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(snip)

(snip)
Others in this string did a great job answering your other questions. I'll only add my 2 cents over your "crap" question. I probably have the very same stuff now in my basement that you're looking at over at Costco. I wouldn't say it's crap, but it's not the pinnacle of what laminate flooring ought to be, either. Basically, the $1.49/sqft stuff is good for the few places where you don't have to give a shit much about what's covering the floor but want something a little classier-looking than bare concrete or shopping center tile, or easiser to maintain than carpeting. It's easy enough to work with, but the tongue and groove is just fiber stuff (like hard matchbook cover), not actual wood, so it's fairly fragile. Which means you can't do stuff like drop it much on edge or whack it too hard when you pop the set block with a hammer, which incidentally can cause the actual lamination along the edges to chunk off. Plus you're forever having to remember to make sure there are no little flakes of fiber stuck in the grooves on all four sides of every "plank" you lay, because otherwise the joining pieces don't lock together quite right.
Myself in my own house, I really don't consider places like living rooms, kitchens, or master baths places deserving of $1.49 economy stuff. Those rooms tend to be display areas that call for as much dressing-up as you possibly can spend on them -- and really, those are the rooms that not only charm your house while you're there but also *sell* your house when you decide it's time to get out of Dodge -- and there are tons of house shoppers out there who know cheap when they see it and start thinking about how much they're going to have to spend ripping out the cheap stuff you've put in and put in the really good stuff. So penny wise and pound foolish and all that. No, those kinds of rooms call for a really good mid-grade lam at minimum, or no lam at all in favor of something else -- and it could possibly be something else that will give you high-end results for less than what you'd spend on mid/upper-mid grade laminate.
Lam flooring isn't the answer to everything. There are all kinds of choices and combinations of possibilities out there. It's kinda up to you to hunt around.
AJS
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