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Laminate Floors vs. Engineered Hardwood Floors

By Amy Kahler and Charmaine Simmons

Laminate flooring is fast becoming a popular choice over engineered hardwood floors for homeowners across North America because of its durability and cost effectiveness, both important aspects to consider in today’s economy. Laminate is also more environmentally friendly and easy to install.

The core of laminate flooring is made of highly pressurized wood fibers, agricultural waste and resin. A decorative paper is added to the surface and covered with a durable melamine resin. The special backing creates a moisture barrier, making it the ideal flooring choice for kitchens, bathrooms and basements.

Laminate typically has three rating levels, based on the use of the room it will be installed in. Low-use laminate is perfect for the bedroom or similar rooms that have low traffic. Average-use is made for the rooms that the whole family frequents, but where the flooring wouldn’t receive as much abuse, such as living rooms and dining rooms. High-traffic laminate is designed for just that, heavy traffic. This rating is ideal for rooms where durability is most important, such as kitchens, bathrooms and utility rooms.

Many people look to solid hardwood because of its natural beauty and use of all natural materials. This type of flooring is comprised of solid pieces of wood, but homeowners may want to consider which room they are planning to place it in. Solid hardwood floors do not hold up to water and moisture well. When placed in a high humidity environment, the boards will warp and buckle over time. Homeowners should check to see if the materials were obtained in a sustainable forest in order to maintain an environmentally friendly project.

Although engineered hardwood is made similar to laminate (with a high density core), its top layer consists of a thin piece of natural wood covered by several layers of veneer. Both engineered hardwood and laminate flooring are comparable in durability, but there’s a distinct difference in price-point. Laminate varies in price from $1-$6 per square foot whereas engineered hardwood costs anywhere from $5-$15 per square foot, depending on the finish and type of wood. That’s a considerable difference especially if you’re planning to cover hundreds of square feet.

Thanks to today’s technological advances, laminate flooring has come a long way from the boring designs and feel of the 1980s. Homeowners can now enjoy a floor that looks, feels and sounds like real wood without having to empty their wallet.

Source: http://www.house-energy.com/Floors/Laminate.htm ; http://cleanmyspace.com/hardwood-vs-laminate-vs-engineered-hardwood-floors-whats-the-difference/

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McKee Homes online marketing manager

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4 thoughts on “Laminate Floors vs. Engineered Hardwood Floors

  1. I think saying it “looks feels and sounds like hardwood” is a ridiculous claim, and only true if you’ve never seen, felt, or heard hardwood floors. Is it better than it used to be? Yes, but it is distinctly different than hardwood. If the moment you enter a room you can tell it isn’t hardwood than it isn’t that close of a match.

    • Thanks for the post Rosallee. Engineered flooring looks and feels like solid hardwood flooring for the most part because it has real hardwood as the top layer. I agree that most laminate flooring does not have the same look and feel as hardwood but it has improved a great deal over the years and makes a good quality floor. Some of the newer laminate flooring looks very much like hardwood but it does feel and sound different. Here’s a good article on laminate flooring – Laminate flooring article on Houzz

  2. What you don’t mention is maintenance and cleaning. We put down laminate throughout our living areas. I rapidly learned to hate it. It showed every drop of perspiration and dog drool. I couldn’t sanitize it because I couldn’t use water and antiseptic cleaners on it, a definite drawback in bathrooms and kitchen. Because of all normal living spots and the above, we ended up ripping it out after one year. We replaced it with porcelain tile, which doesn’t show dirt and water marks and is easy to clean and sanitize. I hate laminate with a passion! It is NOT for a person who has to maintain/clean their own home.

    • It sounds like you had a bad experience with laminate flooring Georgianne. There are different grades and prices of laminate flooring with different types of substrates and surfaces designed for various uses and areas, so when choosing the flooring product, it’s important to make sure you choose laminate flooring that can handle being cleaned frequently and can handle mopping. Laminate flooring in the $1-$3 sq. ft. price range isn’t going to cut it. There is also a difference in the finish from satin to gloss. A high gloss finish will definitely show everything so isn’t a good choice for families with dogs and kids. In fact, as you mention, laminate in general is not necessarily a good choice for areas with high-traffic use or families with kids and dogs. Even solid hardwood floors would not be a good choice in those situations. Tile flooring is the better choice for areas that need to be cleaned frequently with detergents and water, so it sounds like you ended up with the best flooring for your needs. I’m sorry you had to go through that expensive and frustrating experience to finally get to the best solution.

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