Laminate vs. Hardwood Flooring: Which Should You Choose?

Laminate vs. Hardwood Flooring: Which Should You Choose?

Choosing between laminate and hardwood flooring can be tricky….so many brands, so many colors, so much to think about!

Both of these popular floor materials have their pros and cons, especially when it comes to cost and resale value, and in the end you might end up installing a combination of the two in various rooms of your home.

Here’s what to consider about laminate vs. hardwood flooring as you start to plan your home renovation or build.

Laminate vs. Hardwood Flooring: Pros and Cons

Laminate Flooring Overview

Laminate planks consist of multiple layers: a core layer of high density fiberboard, a layer that gives it the appearance of certain types of wood, stone, or metal, and a transparent outer wear layer to protect the image. Some flooring also comes with an extra backing layer beneath the base to repel moisture.

Hardwood Flooring Overview

Solid hardwood floors are milled from timber acquired from certain types of trees. The result is dense and durable, solid, hardwood floors that withstand wear and tear and can be sanded and treated to remove signs of wear and tear over time.

Laminate Flooring Pros

More options

Laminate flooring gets its designs from its printed image layer, so you can find different types of wood designs. You can also opt for stone or metal image layers.

Affordable

Laminate flooring is less costly than hardwood flooring.

Easy installation

The edges and ends of laminate flooring are designed to stick together making it easy to install for those with little experience.

Hardwood Flooring Pros

Long Term Investment

If maintained properly, hardwood floors can last a lifetime. In comparison, other types of flooring need to be replaced over a shorter period of time (10-20 years).

Look more real

Laminate flooring has a uniform appearance which makes it look inauthentic. Hardwood flooring, on the other hand, has slight variations in shade and color which looks more realistic and authentic.

Spill resistant

Most hardwood flooring is spill resistant, unlike laminate flooring that needs spills to be removed immediately.

Laminate Flooring Cons

Prone to moisture damage

Laminate flooring options are not always good for areas like bathrooms, laundry rooms, and the basement without a moisture barrier. Installing laminate floors in the kitchen is okay, but you have to immediately clean up any spills.

Can’t be refinished

The image layer isn’t made of real wood so a tile or plank will have to be replaced. Depending on location, that sometimes means that entire stretches of flooring will need to be pulled up to replace a certain section.

Fake appearance

Laminate flooring may give the appearance of a wood finish but it may not really look or sound or feel like real wood.

Hardwood Flooring Cons

Prone to termites

Hardwood planks can be prone to termite infestations if not maintained carefully.

More expensive

Compared to laminate flooring, hardwood flooring is more expensive. The cost of it can also be more expensive since sub flooring is necessary. Installation is also not usually a DIY so you might end up paying more for installation.

High maintenance

To maintain the quality of hardwood floors, you need to polish every 3 to 4 years and then take care to sweep away debris.

Choosing Your Flooring Based on Different Factors

There are no right or wrong answers when choosing the types of flooring to get for your home. However, it’s best to consider several factors to understand the implications of buying either. That way you can weigh every major difference and see which one is the best option for you in the long run. Here are the factors you need to consider.

Appearance

The appearance of both laminated flooring and hardwood flooring can affect the overall look of your room.

Solid hardwood flooring is an attractive option because its texture and material is difficult to imitate. Each hardwood plank is made from certain types of trees that produce dense timber creating a unique pattern of color combinations per piece. They can be stained to match the colors in your home but you may also opt to leave it as is.

Laminate flooring, on the other hand, has its strength too. Laminate flooring has the advantage of customizability, since the image layers can vary from piece to piece. From afar or from a certain angle, it can look like real wood flooring. However, upon closer inspection, it’s easy to tell laminate flooring isn’t real hardwood. Newer laminate tiles have a random repeat pattern to mimic the appearance of hardwood flooring, but the repetitive marks can easily be distinguished as fake wood.

Verdict: Hardwood flooring is better in appearance. Laminate can also look good but it has a more artificial appearance.

Water and Heat Resistance

Both hardwood and laminate flooring are not the best choice for water resistant flooring, so they shouldn’t be your first options for rooms like your bathroom or basement.

Hardwood flooring can withstand minor spills, making it okay to use in areas like kitchens. But in case of flooding or standing water this can seep into your wood and cause cupping and warping. It is also not recommended as a flooring over your heating systems since wood tends to shrink and expand with humidity and temperature. If you’re opting for hardwood flooring you can also look into engineered hardwood flooring though this can be more expensive than regular hardwood.

Meanwhile, the wear layer of laminate flooring is water resistant and can protect it from minor spills on the surface of the board. But if too much water seeps into the edges and eventually makes its way to the fiberboard, then it can cause swelling and chipping that can affect the surrounding boards. However, in terms of heat resistance it can withstand strong heating systems without coming off or shrinking.

Verdict: Laminate flooring is generally better when it comes to moisture and heat resistance, but it shouldn’t be your first choice for places like the bathroom or laundry room. However, if you prefer real wood and want water and heat resistant flooring you can have your hardwood flooring modified to resist moisture and heat.

Maintenance and Repairs

Maintenance for hardwood floors means recoating and refinishing periodically, depending on the foot traffic in your home. In case of severe damage, it’s possible to sand down and refinish hardwood floors, though most hardwood floors can only be sanded up to four times. This makes hardwood flooring the more practical option if you’re thinking long term or want to install wood in high traffic areas.

Laminate flooring takes on damage similar to hardwood flooring, except it cannot be refinished or sanded. There’s no option to repair laminate flooring, so you’re left with no choice but to replace the affected tiles. It’s also best to buy extra pieces of laminate flooring tiles so that when some older tiles eventually get worn out you can have them replaced without worrying whether your local laminate flooring shop still has the exact patterns with your tiles or not.

Clean and Care

Hardwood flooring only needs fairly simple cleaning methods. Sweeping and vacuuming is acceptable, though the vacuum should have brushes that won’t scratch the flooring. Older types of hardwood flooring needed to be polished or waxed, but newer flooring materials are already coated with polyurethane varnish and shouldn’t be polished or waxed. Hardwood floors can be cleaned with a damp mop, but avoid soaking it too much. After mopping, wipe away any excessive moisture that’s still on the floor.

Laminate flooring can be swept, vacuumed, and mopped. For best results, use laminate floor cleaners rather than all-purpose cleaners. Wipe away any moisture after mopping.

Verdict: Both are equally easy to clean, but make sure to be extra careful with what ingredients your cleaning agents consist of to avoid damaging your flooring.

Installation

Hardwood flooring requires professional installation to avoid damage during the installation process. After sub flooring is installed, hardwood should be carefully installed to avoid any issues that can affect quality in the long run. You can buy finished or unfinished hardwood floors and the latter need to be sanded and finished after installation.
Laminate installation is much easier and can be a DIY project if you are handy. Laminate flooring planks click together and require fasteners or glue.

Verdict: Laminate flooring is much easier to install than hardwood flooring.

Overall Costs

There is no doubt that wood flooring is a premium. You also have to consider the cost of installation for sub-flooring and having professional contractors with experience in hardwood flooring. However, with its elegance and durability it can be a sound choice economically.

The cost of laminate flooring, on the other hand, is much more affordable. Installation is much simpler, so you can choose between hiring contractors or installing the flooring yourself.

Verdict: Strictly on a dollar analysis laminate flooring is much more affordable, but considering the durability of hardwood flooring makes this a toss-up.

Lifespan

If maintained correctly hardwood flooring can last longer than a century. The quality of the laminate floor can last about 10 years (there are exceptions) before it starts to lose its quality. Because laminate can’t be repaired, the entire floor may need to be completely replaced to maintain a uniform quality.

Verdict: Hardwood flooring has a longer lifespan than laminate flooring.

Property Value

If you’re planning to sell your home in the future, hardwood flooring can significantly affect your property value by up to 5% of your home value. However, they should be in good condition, otherwise your buyer will have to consider the costs of having a professional sand and treat your flooring.

Laminate flooring does not have a significant effect on property value but can add visual appeal to a room. This makes it a fast and affordable option for homeowners looking to spruce up their home before listing their property to attract potential buyers.

Verdict: Hardwood flooring can increase property value, but laminate flooring doesn’t. However, laminate flooring is a good option for those looking to freshen up their property to attract potential buyers.

There is no wrong answer when choosing between laminate flooring and hardwood flooring. Your decision comes down to your preference. If you want real looking floors that can last a lifetime and withstand years of wear and tear, hardwood flooring is the better option. But if you want something more affordable and versatile with easy installation then laminate is your best bet. At the end of the day, your choice will come down to what’s more important to you.