Laminate and Hardwood Flooring - What's the Best?
Today's topic of conversation is Laminate Flooring versus Hardwood Flooring. Now by laminate, I mean the one that looks like wood when there's no actual wood - not an engineered hardwood floor. Engineered is where you have the thin layer of wood on top of some kind of particle or plywood core, laminate is a picture of wood (or tile, or stone) on top of HDF or some kind of other core to it.
Now, this is one that we have gotten questions on so many times over the years as people keep trying to figure out what's going to work best for them. And of course, everything has their pros just as they have their cons.
Now the first thing I would look at when I'm talking about laminate versus hardwood flooring is durability. Okay, now, durability is the ability to withstand wear – or better yet, how long will it keep looking good. In the short-term laminate is no questions asked - more durable than actual hardwood. Long term hardwood is more durable than laminate. The reason for that is no matter what quality of laminate you have, eventually it will wear, and it will scratch. Now laminate is way more scratch and dent resistant than wood, but it's a floor and things happen, life happens. So, when laminate eventually does scratch wear and start looking rough, unfortunately it’s then time to throw it away and put a new floor in.
There have been some products out for recoating laminate, but let's just say they're not really stellar. Hardwood on the other hand, very simple; whatever you drop on the floor, it's going to dent. Whatever you pull across without a protector, is going to scratch it. But with a real hardwood floor, you can refinish - so you buff down that finish, add two more coats of a water-based polyurethane – and your floor is back to looking great.
A good rule of thumb is that a properly maintained laminate floor will look good for between 15-20 years, then time to throw out. A good hardwood floor will look good for about 10-15 years, then you recoat or refinish the floor. So short term laminate wins. Long term hardwoods wins.
Cost - on average is going to vary depending on where you are, what market you're in, labor (if you’re going to do it yourself or get somebody else to do it for you) and style. But a general rule of thumb is that laminate is going to work out to be about half the cost of hardwood. Yes, there are exceptions – but it usually holds true.
Last but not least is ease of installation. Now laminate is a floating floor, whereas real wood has to be nailed or glued down depending on the situation and the subfloor. So, for ease of install – laminate is the clear winner. Both floors will expand and contract depending on the humidity level in the home – but they react differently. Hardwood flooring will have gaps that occur in the winter (when the humidity level drops) while laminate gaps around the outside of the floor. This is why laminate (and any floating floor) requires the use of special transitions that allow for the full movement of the floor. Hardwood boards will move independently, laminate moves as a room. Expansion when it’s humid, and gapping when it’s dry.
So those would be the three main differences of hardwood versus laminate.
Short term laminate is more durable, definitely less cost, easier installation.
Long term hardwood is more durable, forever floor – if maintained properly, it will last a lifetime.
One final word I should put in there is that laminate has come a long way visually - the quality of printing, the quality of the embossing and registering, it's making it look more and more realistic every single day. Hardwood on the other hand is the original, it’s what the laminate manufacturers are trying to copy.
We're more than happy to give you samples for you to take home. Throw stuff out at drop stuff at it, see how it works. See if it's going to work for you. Have a great day!