Hardwood vs Laminate

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Hardwood vs laminate is a true debate among homeowners, with pros and cons on both sides. After all, flooring is one of the most important factors involved in creating a wonderful home interior.

When it comes to laminate vs hardwood flooring there are some basic pros and cons involved that will be discussed below. Both types of floors have their own factors that need to be considered before making a decision. 

Let's get right into it.

What are the differences between hardwood and laminate?

Research has shown that hardwood floors are all-natural, with natural colors.

Laminate floors are man-made products, although they look very similar to real wood flooring.

The biggest difference between laminate and hardwood is the price tag. 

An average priced laminate floor costs around $4 per square foot, while an average hardwood floor costs around $16 per square foot.

What are the pros and cons of hardwood?

The biggest pro when it comes to hardwood floors is that they are real wood, which means that you have something that’s natural under your feet.  Wood also has natural grain lines in different colors and textures.

This means that it feels amazing to walk on a hardwood floor barefoot. Another pro is that it can be refinished when necessary, and with advanced care, you can make the wood last for as long as 50 years.

The biggest con when it comes to hardwood floors is that they are highly sensitive to moisture, and if left untreated may start warping or even snap.

The best part about having hardwood is that it can be refinished again and again, so you don't have to worry about replacing your flooring in a few years.

However, you will need to sand down the damaged parts and treat them with a sealant regularly to keep them looking good as new.

What are the pros and cons of laminate?

The biggest pro when it comes to laminate floors is that they are easy to install, making them your go-to option for rental homes and apartments. They are very reasonably priced, as mentioned above.

Another pro of laminate is that they are better-insulated than hardwood, which is why they tend to be kept even in cold areas. This means that you won't have to worry about your feet freezing in the winter while you are walking on them.

Laminate flooring is also resistant to moisture damage, so if there's ever a flood in your home you can be assured that laminate will not soak it up and start rotting.

The biggest con of laminate is that it isn't a natural product, which means that if it gets damaged or dented then there's no way to repair or refinish it like (as mentioned above) hardwood floors.

They can irreversibly get scratched, which is why they should be handled very carefully during installation.

Another obvious con is that they are not real wood. They look just like hardwood floors but cost much less than those made from wood's natural resources.

Although this might sound good at first sight (who wouldn't like saving money?), laminate floors lose their shine over time and tend to chip, showing the black layer underneath.

Moreover, harder surfaces make laminate floors a little slippery because they are slicker than real wood and that you're going to need more care for them (and probably invest in some floor mats).

However, the biggest disadvantage when it comes to laminate floors is that they tend to chip easily. Laminate tends to lose its luster after two or three years, but if properly maintained it may last for about 10 years at the most (with minimal use).

Some people who have installed laminate floors complain about squeaky floors as well. Damaged surfaces can be repaired by replacing the damaged layers, and the laminate floor will look as good as new – but it will require time and effort to do so.

laminate floors
Image Credit: Kitchen Infinity Photo

Maintenance that hardwood and laminate floors require

Both hardwood and laminate floors require regular cleaning, with occasional refinishing to maintain the sheen of your floor. 

Hardwood floors require periodic sanding and resealing every few years to retain their beauty.

On the other hand, laminate floors should be mopped regularly and have a layer of sealant applied annually. Proper maintenance will ensure that both hardwood and laminate floors last for many years to come.

Both kinds of floors tend to be easy to clean and maintain but there are some minor differences between the two.

Hardwood floors need regular cleaning with warm water and mild soap solution diluted with water (1:10 ratio) or just plain water if it is cleaned every day after use.

After cleaning, use a dry towel to dry up any excess liquid on the surface. It's important to mention that hardwood flooring should not be cleaned with anything other than water, as any type of chemical strongly affects hardwood and strips it down of its natural properties.

Does laminate flooring look cheap?

The short answer is NO. 

Credits: https://www.idsurfaces.co.uk/

Although laminate floors lack the texture of real wood, they look very close and feel similar under your feet. If someone were to bend down and inspect them both closely with their eyes closed (given that they have never seen hardwood before), there would be no way for them to know which one was which by looking at them without getting a closer look.

Laminate flooring has made huge leaps forward in terms of design and quality over the past decade, so if you are looking for an inexpensive alternative to real wood, laminate will be your best option.

It's a great choice for rental properties and homes with pets and children (or any kind of abuse for that matter) because they are very durable compared to regular flooring tiles or laminates.

What about the environmental impact?

Both kinds of flooring have a significant impact on the environment, which is why many homeowners go out of their way to install eco-friendly floors in their homes.

Laminate floors may look like hardwood but they're made from plastic trees so there is an ecological price to pay for this material as opposed to wood grown from natural resources.

Also, some claim that laminate flooring has many disadvantages over hardwood in terms of its durability, resistance to staining, and marking, but the truth is that laminate flooring has significantly improved over the years.

The only disadvantage of laminate floors is their manufacturing process, which creates harmful emissions as part of its production.

What is the price difference between laminate and hardwood flooring?

The cost of a laminate flooring product will vary depending on the thickness, type (solid, engineered), and quality of the materials used during manufacturing. Solid floors are heavier than engineered ones; therefore they are more expensive.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $3 to $5 per square foot for solid hardwood if you decide to install it yourself in a DIY manner.

Engineered wood is not as heavy and thus cheaper than solid wood planks, so the price will be somewhere around $2 per square foot installed. Laminate floors have similar costs with solid wood products: their price range usually falls between $1-$4 per square foot installed.

This means that solid wood tends to cost more since its production process involves less toxic emissions compared to engineered wood.

Which is more durable – laminate or engineered hardwood?

The answer to this question is subjective because both materials have their pros and cons. Real wood floors are more durable than laminate ones but they require a lot more care; also, you need to make sure the moisture content of the floor is equalized so as not to crack or warp it.

Laminate floors can be installed in any room or area of your home without worrying about humidity levels, mildew, or mold growth, and they do not demand as much maintenance compared to hardwood.

Credits: https://www.thespruce.com/

In addition, some homeowners find them easier to install than real wood flooring because you only have to place everything down instead of nailing anything together (although this is not always the easiest thing for everyone).

Moreover, even though laminate floors are more affordable than real wood, they offer all the quality that you will need.

However, their colors and textures still might not be as realistic compared to hardwood if you like the natural look of wood; also, there is no possibility of adding a texture or color variation to them aside from the types already available at flooring stores.

Which is the winner between hardwood vs laminate?

While there are many advantages and disadvantages to each kind of product, it all boils down to your personal preference.

If you want a long-lasting, good looking floor that requires less maintenance than hardwood but still looks great, laminate will be the choice for you.

If you like real wood products with natural properties and all the benefits they come with over laminate, then solid wood floors will suit your needs perfectly.

Keep in mind that if you plan to use hardwood floors in the kitchen, bathroom, or any other area of your home where moisture might be present, laminate will be a better and safer option.

Final thoughts on hardwood vs laminate floor

The answer to this question is really up to your personal preferences and needs, but  at the end of the day, make sure you do enough research on both laminate and solid wood products.

Once you decide which one you like better, make sure that you hire a professional installer who will guide you through the entire process of installation while offering helpful tips to get better results.

Dino Paccino

Dino Paccino

Dino is a lifelong writer and home improvement specialist. He enjoys bringing cutting-edge information on home renovation and remodeling to Kitchen Infinity.

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