Hardwood vs. Laminate

Things to consider when deciding which to purchase for your home.

Before we begin, let’s define the difference between the two:

Laminate is a multi-layer synthetic flooring product. The core layer of laminate flooring is manufactured primarily from melamine resin and fiberboard material. The top layer has an imprinted textured image made to look like real wood.

Engineered hardwood flooring is a type of wood floor that consists of several layers of wood or plywood. The bottom and middle layers are manufactured from cross-laid solid wood or plywood planks. The top layer consists of a solid sawn wood lamella, often stained and prefinished in a factory setting.

Solid hardwood flooring planks are produced from single pieces of wood that can be purchased unfinished or prefinished.
Basically, while solid or engineered hardwood flooring is manufactured from real wood and preserves the unique textured grain and appearance of natural wood, laminate flooring is only an imitation.

The advancements in laminate and hardwood flooring make the decision between the two more challenging than ever. Technological and structural improvements in each option have led to increased demand for both types.

Years ago, the decision was usually based upon budget- but not anymore! In order to make the best flooring decision for your home or business, the laminate vs. hardwood flooring debate must incorporate an objective and informed analysis of six fairly broad elements.

  1. Lifestyle or Usage – Homeowners and business owners who impartially assess their lifestyle or usage are more likely to make the right decision. For example, households with young children and a number of pets or a business that experiences high traffic, might find the durability of laminate flooring more productive. However, advancements in hardwood manufactured finishes and maintenance allow hardwood flooring to work in busy offices and in hectic households that take preventive measures, such as clipping pet’s nails and using rugs.
  2. Maintenance Commitment – Regular maintenance is important and no floor can survive without responsible maintenance. However, if your maintenance budget is tight, and if excessive accumulation of dust, dirt, and wear and tear is likely, laminate is easier to maintain. More thorough hardwood floor maintenance cannot be put aside, but laminate can survive quite well with only regular sweeping and vacuuming.
  3. Climate and Exposure – Homeowners and business owners must again be objective about the exposure of the floor. Where the floor will be installed is a big consideration. For example, if a bathroom tends to accumulate moisture on the surface, laminate is the more prudent choice. Hardwood floors do not thrive in damp climates with significant temperature swings. Solid hardwood floors should never be installed below grade, which is a popular setting for laminate flooring.
  4. Aesthetic Appeal – Laminate has an amazing likeness to hardwood floors. But, there really is nothing as authentic and durable as an authentic solid hardwood floor. Hardwood flooring can also increase the value and demand for your property, be it residential or commercial. If you feel the authenticity of your flooring is important to attract clients or buyers or for the elegant luxury your home requires, hardwood is the right decision.
  5. Environmental Considerations – Hardwood gets the nod for renewability and sustainability as it is drawn from carefully managed forests. But, laminate flooring basically eliminates the destruction of any trees. Yet, laminate floors are made from non-renewable sources. In order to assess environmental concerns, remember that hardwood has a much longer life cycle than laminate. Hardwood floors can last hundreds of years, which is a plus.
  6. Budget – The cost of laminate flooring is lower than the cost of hardwood flooring. Laminate has a shorter life expectancy but is tough, practical, and durable. However, the return on investment is usually better with hardwood flooring. How tight is your budget? Can you afford to invest in hardwood and maintain it to achieve your maximum return? For a majority of buyers, this is the biggest concern, but certainly not an exclusive consideration.

Many hardwood floor owners say that because of its authenticity, the “real feel” and exclusiveness of hardwood flooring, it is more desirable. However, as we can see, there are situations that indicate laminate is the wiser choice. Be sure to consider all the factors and prioritize your needs before deciding.


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