If you haven’t figured it out by now, the world of home renovations are filled with choices suited to any number of different homes, budgets, lifestyles and tastes. This can be pretty overwhelming for anybody, whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned home-reno vet. For big-ticket investments like flooring, the pressure to make the right decision can be high. Since we know how tricky it can be to make up your mind, here is a little information on the differences between hardwood flooring and laminate flooring to help you along.
What Is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring is a synthetic product. Its core is manufactured from composite materials such as fiber board materials and resin, pressed together to form a board. A textured image that mimics the look of real wood is then added on the top layer.
What Is Hardwood Flooring?
Engineered hardwood is actually made up of several layers of wood or plywood, because layering makes for added strength and moisture resistance. It’s used for floating hardwood installations, as extra core strength is need given that the floorboards don’t sit directly on the sublayer.
Solid hardwood is a single plank of wood, which you can get unfinished or prefinished. This is for traditional type of flooring, and cannot be used for floating hardwood installations.
One of the biggest factors that matter to home renovators is the cost of the materials and the installation process. Most homeowners dream of genuine hardwood flooring, but it may not be within your budget. This is especially true of more exotic woods. Either way, hardwood flooring is significantly more expensive than laminate in terms of material and installation costs.
Laminate flooring. It’s the more affordable material of choice, and installation is generally about half the cost of genuine hardwood flooring installations.
While in some situations, the look of real wood can be reproduced in a relatively convincing manner with other alternatives, this is not the case when it comes to flooring. Real wooden planks never look the same due to the variety of whorls and grains, whereas laminate flooring makes use of identical patterns that repeat themselves every few boards or so. Higher quality laminate floors will do a better job of looking like real wood, but you just can’t get away from the repeating patterns.
Hardwood flooring. Like a human thumbprint, genuine wood is made up of unique features that cannot be truly mimicked, even by the best laminate flooring.
Floors are meant to be walked on, and it’s only natural that they will accumulate signs of wear and tear over the years. That said, it’s important to consider durability when making a major renovation investment, because the right choice can be better maintained and retain its glamour well into the future. As far as durability goes, hardwood and laminate both have pros and cons. In both cases, foot traffic and proper maintenance play a big role in the life of your floorboards.
Hardwood is not only aesthetically pleasing, it can also add more resale value to your home if you maintain properly. Durability depends on the type of wood, how it was manufactured and maintained, and on the finish. While natural wood can dent easily, it still has the advantage of being easily refinished or repaired. Even minor surface dents can add texture to the already unique look of genuine hardwood. However, genuine wood can also suffer from moisture damage and excessive foot traffic. As such, solid hardwood flooring isn’t great for moisture-prone areas, though engineered hardwood does perform rather well under such conditions.
Laminate flooring has the advantage over hardwood in that it is easier to clean and to maintain. Durability wise, it is also more resistant to scratches, moisture, staining, fading and other signs of wear and tear. However, in the event that laminate does become damaged, repairing it is pretty much out of the question. You can’t simply sand it down or refinish it like you can with real wooden planks. Furthermore, in terms of aesthetics, damaged laminate flooring really stands out (and not in a good way).
While maintenance factors are important to longevity, the construction and material differences between laminate and hardwood really make the difference. Good manufacturers will offer 10 or 25-year warranty on laminate floor finishing, but the fact is most families can do a good deal of irreparable damage in about 20 years.
Hardwood flooring, whether solid or engineered, is the clear choice when it comes to making a decision on flooring materials based on longevity. With proper maintenance, it can last 40 to 80 years. Even if damage occurs, genuine wood floorboards can be sanded down and refinished more than once. Solid wood can be redone 6 or 7 times, while engineered hardwood can be refinished up to 4 times.
Laminate flooring is made up of a variety of different materials, resin and glue. These are not organic, and in many cases, manufacturing products can contain toxic products like formaldehyde which will continue to emit substances into the air long after installation. While there are non-toxic products out there, the onus is on you to do your research to and to ensure that eco-friendly products are clearly labelled as such. Choosing non-toxic flooring products is important, because volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can have a range of negative health effects, and they can be up to ten times more concentrated indoors than outdoors.
As far as toxicity goes, hardwood flooring takes the eco-friendliness prize. Beyond being made of genuine wood, many North American and European manufacturers must obey strict regulation which require them to produce non-toxic flooring that does not emit harmful VOCs into the air. They also make use of glue that does not contain toxic formaldehyde.
Armed with this these pros and cons, you should be better equipped to make an informed flooring choice, suitable for your home, budget, taste and lifestyle.