The flooring of a house is one of its defining characteristics. Hardwood flooring remains one of the most popular choices because it is a naturally attractive, beautiful, and timeless material. While older, traditional homes often have the original hardwood floors still in place, many newer homes use laminate. It offers a natural wood look akin to hardwood but at a lower price.
When choosing between laminate vs. hardwood flooring, there are several merits and drawbacks to consider. Of course, when you compare the cost of the laminate to hardwood, laminate is usually the most affordable option. But you also need to consider durability, installation, upkeep, and maintenance, etc. This article will compare some of the aspects between laminate vs. hardwood flooring and help you decide which is better for your home.
Laminate Vs. Hardwood Flooring: Main Differences
Solid hardwood floors, as the name suggests, are made up of solid wood parquet planks from start to finish. The boards, typically 3/4-inch thick, are generally ground with a smooth top surface and tongue and groove edges that link to hold the boards together. They are typically installed by nailing the boards to the subfloor through the tabs along edges of the boards. If the planks are not finished, the floor is stained and varnished after the installation is complete. However, pre-finished solid wood floors are becoming more and more preferred.
Laminate floors are made from a core layer of fibreboard by-products. On top is a design layer printed to look like wood or other material. The design layer is protected by a transparent and resistant layer that offers excellent resistance to scratches and stains. The floorboards are relatively thin, 1/4 ” to 1/2 ” (6-12 mm) thick, and are made with snap edges that interlock to secure the boards. This is a floating floor that does not require nails or glue.
Here is a summarized comparison of laminate vs. hardwood flooring based on various factors:
Hardwood Flooring: Hardwood flooring is a beautiful high-end building material with a positive reputation. Even the cheapest hardwood species (red or white oak) tend to be more attractive than the higher quality exotic artificial laminates.
Laminate: From a distance, a quality laminate floor can look a lot like real wood. But when looking at it closely, people almost always realize that laminate floors are not real hardwoods. Newer and better laminates have a more random repeating pattern and incorporate surface grain texture to make the flooring more realistic, but the imitation is far from perfect.
Hardwood Flooring: With proper care, hardwood floors are a better long-term investment than laminate floors. But the upfront costs of wood can put homeowners off. However, the cost of hardwood varies widely: some woods (oak, maple, American cherry) are quite affordable, and others (exotic wood species, wenge, teak) are expensive. Mostly, the harder the hardwood, the more expensive it is, but also, the more durable it is. Including the labor costs for installation, most hardwood floors cost between $ 8 and $ 15 per square foot. Another affordable alternative is engineered hardwood flooring, typically less expensive than hardwood flooring. (learn more about what is engineered hardwood floor)
Laminate: In comparison, a laminate floor is a cheaper option- $ 4 to $ 8 per square foot, including the cost of installation. However, homeowners should be careful when purchasing cheaper brands of laminate flooring. They can be much more prone to damage and need to be replaced much sooner than more expensive quality brands.
Hardwood Flooring: In the past, hardwood floors were difficult to install and could require cutting, nailing, stapling, and gluing, where mistakes can be frustrating and costly. Today, many hardwood floors, especially those made from engineered wood, are precut with interlocking tongue-and-groove planks. However, some hardwood floors are still made the traditional way.
Laminate: With its typical tongue and groove planks, laminate flooring is designed to be easy to install. Still, a professional will surely install it better than someone with less experience with flooring.
Upkeep and Maintenance
Hardwood Flooring: Preventing hardwood floors from aging faster than the rest of the house requires a little care, including regular sweeping and the use of a multi-tool. Before using a restoring agent, make sure that it is specially designed for your type of flooring. Given the sensitivity of hardwood to sunlight, scratches, dirt, and debris, it is advisable to take extra care beyond regular cleaning.
Laminate: Laminate is generally easy to maintain, but knowing what not to do is imperative. Avoid all detergent-based cleaners, which leave a dull film when dry. Besides, waxes and abrasives can build up residue and compromise the smoothness of the surface. Instead, with regular sweeping and vacuuming, use a commercial laminate cleaner. Place rugs in exterior entryways to trap incoming dirt and always clean up spills promptly to help extend the life of your laminate.
Hardwood Flooring: Hardwood floors are long-lasting, even can last a lifetime, if not longer. However, unusual circumstances, such as a flood, can render a hardwood floor worthless if rescue attempts come too late. Hardwood may need to be repainted periodically, depending on use and care. It is recommended to close it periodically, and when the damage is significant, the floor can be sanded and repaired.
Laminate: Laminate flooring has moderately excellent impact resistance. If the material is heavy enough and hits the laminate hard enough, the floor will puncture or warp. Expect a maximum of 10 years of use. Dangers that shorten the life of laminate: water infiltration, scratches on chair legs, and even ultraviolet rays. However, laminate flooring cannot be restored or sanded.
Considering the factors mentioned above, you’d expect us to say laminate. And we would, frankly, but not necessarily for those reasons.
Ultimately, the debate of laminate vs. hardwood flooring comes down to whether the quality and beauty of modern laminate floors match not only the natural beauty of hardwood but also the wear and tear of life with children and pets. For many, it does. And it looks excellent!