Laminate vs hardwood floors: Which is best for you?
Whether you’re remodeling your home or rental property or buying a home for the first time, there are many aspects of home design to consider. When deciding between hardwood floors versus laminate, there’s also a lot to consider. While both have their pros and cons, hardwood flooring versus laminate flooring comes down to a few key factors.
We’ll lay out the laminate wood flooring versus hardwood flooring argument with consideration for cost-effectiveness, longevity, durability, environmental friendliness, and the function of the room. We’ll also include some special laminate versus wood flooring considerations for homes with pets, children, high traffic, and moisture.
Keep reading for everything you need to know to choose whether hardwood or laminate flooring is right for your home or investment property.
The difference between laminate and hardwood flooring
First, what's the difference between hardwood and laminate?
Hardwood floors are made from organic, naturally occurring aged wood. Hardwood is built from solid wood planks laid on top of a subfloor.
Laminate flooring is made from a composite material designed to look and act like hardwood with a photographic layer on top. While the composite layer is made of composite wood, it is not made of solid wood. Its composition of compressed chunks of wood with a synthetic top layer means that it looks and acts slightly differently from solid hardwood.
Their composition is the key difference between hardwood and laminate flooring, which is why they have different strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a look at each.
Laminate versus Hardwood: cost comparison
One major advantage of laminate flooring vs hardwood flooring is that laminate is often less than half the price per square foot than natural hardwood. The cost of hardwood flooring depends largely on the species of wood you’ll use and can also be affected by the finish and stain you choose to protect it.
Laminate flooring is a wonderful cost-effective option for first-time home buyers looking for an economical refresh or for rental properties that are expected to sustain a lot of wear and tear—more on that in the next section.
Laminate flooring versus hardwood: durability comparison
While laminate flooring is highly durable and best for spaces with high traffic and semi-frequent spills, dirt, or mud build-up, they don’t last quite as long as hardwood.
Hardwood floors can be refinished several times and, when well cared for, are expected to maintain their natural beauty for more than 20 years. Some hardwood floors in American homes have lasted up to a century! Laminate is made to be scratch resistant but can not be expected to last more than 25 years, at best.
Because of their longevity and timeless beauty, hardwood flooring adds to the value of your home. So, if reselling is in your home’s future, consider investing in hardwood. If your home will soon be a high-traffic rental, laminate might be best.
Which looks better, hardwood floor vs laminate floors
One thing homeowners often love about genuine hardwood flooring is its classically beautiful appearance. While laminate can mimic the appearance of the wood grain in hardwood floors, it’s not the real deal.
Hardwood offers the versatility of applying different stains and finishes to the surface to customize the look of a room. While laminate flooring today can be very similar in appearance to hardwood and resistance to moisture, its repeating patterns are a dead giveaway that it’s not real hardwood flooring.
If repeating patterns don’t bother you, good news! Laminate comes in a much wider range of patterns and textures than ever before. Laminate can mimic the look of almost any wood type, plus marble and other patterns. Some patterns work really well in rooms that require more durability than others. Keep reading for more on the best rooms to install laminate floor versus hardwood.
Is laminate flooring good for my… (kitchen, living room, hallway, etc.)?
If you’re still struggling to decide which flooring type is best for your installation project, it might be best to consider the function of the room or space. Laminate can be much more scratch resistant than hardwood flooring, depending on the type of finish you choose for your hardwood. It can also be used on subgrade floors that are more prone to moisture and spills, like your basement or bathroom.
However, hardwood floors are a good fit for central spaces and the focal points of your home. Avoid hardwood in rooms that are exposed to continuous sunlight throughout the day, as sunlight can fade the look of hardwood. For hallways and entryways that will be kept dry, hardwood can make a beautiful first impression.
We recommend laminate flooring for bathrooms and entryways because hardwood can be a little more prone to mold when moisture buildup occurs. Just remember that hardwood floors and laminate floors can both do well and are comparable in appearance as long as they are well maintained.
Hardwood vs laminate for homes with pets and children
While laminate flooring is much more durable and scratch resistant than most hardwood, it can also be slippery for your pets. Pet nails are less likely to dig into laminate flooring, and pet paws will be slightly less noisy on laminate than on hardwood.
Children and pets are both prone to spills and messes, so protect your flooring; laminate may be best in children’s areas and rooms that your pets eat or sleep in. That doesn’t mean that laminate is undamageable. Both hardwood and laminate should be cared for diligently in order to maintain their longevity and fresh appearance.
Not sure how to care for spills on your hardwood or laminate flooring? Check out our recent articles, “How to Make Laminate Wood Floors Shine” and “Cleaning Dog Urine on Your Hardwood Floors”.”
Environmental impacts of laminate versus hardwood flooring
If you’re worried about the environmental impact of your home investment choices, consider the environmental impacts of laminate flooring versus solid wood floors.
Hardwood flooring is an organic material that can be refinished several times and lasts longer than laminate flooring or engineered hardwood. This means your single investment in solid hardwood flooring will have a smaller carbon footprint, especially if you maintain your natural wood floors well and choose a widely-available species that are native to your area. These include species like white ash, black cherry, mahogany, maple and oak.
If you’re looking for cost-effectiveness and sustainability, consider choosing laminate flooring that is recyclable. Today, up to 85 percent of laminate flooring is recyclable, but you’ll need to find local recycling facilities near you that are able to take on the task. Sometimes, your flooring company itself or local builders can recycle your laminate flooring.
Engineered hardwood versus laminate
Last but not least, what about engineered hardwood flooring?
Engineered hardwood flooring is a stronger composite than laminate flooring with a layer of real wood on top. It can be used in spaces that require the natural look of wood floors for a slightly lower cost. Engineered hardwood has similar features to hardwood and requires the same attention and care that hardwood does.
Engineered hardwood is often easier to install but can only be finished a couple of times before it needs to be replaced. However, laminate can not be refinished at all, andd complete planks must be replaced when damaged.
The final word on the hardwood versus laminate flooring comparison
Ultimately, the choice you make in the decision of laminate versus hardwood versus engineered wood comes down to your style preference and the room type. There are plenty of benefits to each flooring type, and your hardwood flooring experts at Strong Hardwood Floors can help walk you through the process.
Whether you choose laminate, solid hardwood floors, or engineered hardwood floors, we can install and repair each of these types of flooring. Call us with your flooring questions, or reach out for your free estimate today.