Laminate Vs. Hardwood Flooring: Which is Better?

Laminate Flooring

Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood is a superior flooring material, but it doesn’t outdo laminate in some areas. So, depending on the room you want to install a floor, you can choose either of the two.

Laminate flooring has some superior characteristics over hardwood like resistance to scratches, abrasion, and water. But which one should you choose in your case? First, we will look at the characteristic of laminate and hardwood flooring to know which fits best.

Hardwood comes from trees like maple, hickory, and oak. On the other hand, laminate floors are made from synthetic material from wood byproducts. The material can mimic wooden floors.

There are two types of hardwood flooring: engineered and solid wood floors. Solid hardwood is a combination of both plywood and solid wood on the upper side. Most people confuse engineered hardwood with laminate flooring because of the striking similarities.

Laminates are not only thinner than engineered hardwood but also differ in composition. The material is made up of a photographic layer that exposes the wood-like appearance of the other layers.

It is time to compare laminate vs. hardwood flooring. Let the showdown begin.

Comparison between Laminate and Hardwood Flooring

Feature Laminate Flooring Hardwood Flooring
Composition Wood byproduct Natural wood
Appearance Wood-like Grey or brown
Size Thin (¼ to ½ inches) Thick (¾ to 1 inch)
Water Resistance Considerable Not resistant
Scratch Resistance Resistant Not resistant
Maintenance Easy Refinishing requires an expert
Durability 10 years 50 years or more
Cost Low High
Installation Easy (DIY-friendly) Complex (need a professional)

1. Composition and Sizes

Hardwood Composition and Sizes

Hardwood flooring, as the name suggests, comes from wood. The standard thickness of the wood planks is ¾ to 1 inch. However, the length and width vary depending on the patterns you want to achieve.

Laminate Composition and Sizes

Laminate flooring is made up of 3 layers:

  • Wood byproduct: in most cases, the material is plywood
  • Wood-like design: over the first layer, there is a design that mimics wood
  • Clear or photographic layer: this part is transparent and wear-resistant. It makes the wood-like design visible and protects the material from abrasions and scratches.

Laminate flooring boards are thinner than hardwood. They come in ¼ to ½ inches thickness.

2. Laminate Vs. Hardwood Flooring Installation

Hardwood Floor Installation

Wood flooring has a tongue and groove joint to hold the planks together. During installation, the installers drive nails through the joints to stick the planks to the subfloor. You need an expert to install the floor if you want it to last for long. Sanding hardwood floors also require a professional. However, you can opt to buy prefinished wood.

Laminate Floor Installation

Unlike hardwood, laminate flooring is easy to install. The material has click-lock joints, which make it DIY-friendly. In addition, laminate floor installation does not require nails or complex equipment.

3. Appearance

Hardwood Appearance

Hardwood floors are arguably the coolest flooring material in appearance. The material comes in natural colors, and you can choose from various options, depending on your preferred color. However, it is essential to note that the prices of different types of hardwood differ.

If you want an appearance that will wow your eyes, wood flooring is the best option. After finishing, the material glows with elegance and reflects light to give your rooms a warm appearance. There are also unfinished types that retain the natural appearance of wood.

The most common colors of hardwood floors are brown and grey. However, it can be stained if you want to change the color to match your interior décor.

Laminate Appearance

Although laminate can mimic wood flooring, it can’t match the latter’s natural appeal. However, there is a reason why floating wood tile is wood-like in appearance. Wood is an appealing flooring material.

Laminate floors can come in different colors and can mimic other flooring materials like stone. Therefore, they are easier to modify to fit your preferred colors and patterns.

4. Application Differences

Because of the physical and composition variations, wood and laminate floorings have functional differences.

Hardwood Application Pros and Cons

Hardwood flooring is not resistant to water. Therefore, it is not ideal for use in water-prone areas like bathrooms and laundry areas. The material is prone to warping and molding if exposed to dampness. You should avoid concrete as the subfloor because it tends to absorb moisture.

Apart from wetness, hardwood is also affected by high temperatures. Under high exposure to heat, the material can shrink, and joints open.

If you have pets in the house, a hardwood floor might not be the best option. The material is prone to abrasions and scratches. However, you can sand or refinish the wood to retain its initial glow.

Do you want a floor that will last a lifetime? Hardwood floor is the best option for long-lasting flooring materials. It can last for more than 50 years if well-maintained. However, 2-3 sandings within the floor lifetime will help restore its elegance.

Some of the maintenance practices of wood flooring are:

  • Damp mopping
  • Refinishing
  • Mold removal
  • Sweeping
  • Use furniture pads

Laminate Application Pros and Cons

The material is superior in resistance to water, abrasions, and scratches. However, it is not waterproof. When laminate floors are exposed to excess water, they can peel off, but they can withstand dampness and spills.

Laminate floors are pet-friendly because they are not prone to scratches like hardwood. However, they can wear or tear when dragging chairs. The disadvantage of laminate is that it can’t be restored after damage.

Heat does not affect laminate floors as much, and they can remain intact after exposure. The material lasts for around 10 years with proper maintenance practices. Fortunately, it is easy to maintain laminate floors because they are easy to clean.

You should regularly clean the floor with a damp mop or vacuum cleaner and use furniture pads to avoid abrasions.

Laminate floors are prone to damage from UV light if exposed for long. Therefore, you should protect the material from direct sunlight.

5. Laminate Vs. Hardwood Cost

Hardwood Floor Price

There is no doubt that wood flooring is premium. The price of hardwood floors ranges between $7 and $10 per square foot, inclusive of the installation cost. However, with its elegance and durability, the material is worth every penny. The cost of wood flooring material depends on the type of tree used.

Laminate Price

The cost of a laminate floor ranges between $3 and $7 per square foot. So, if you are on low-budget but want to get a wood-like appearance, this is the best option. Although the price of laminate is lower than that of hardwood, the durability of the two is worlds apart.

Laminate vs. Hardwood Flooring: Which Takes the Day?

There is no definite winner between the two materials. You should consider your budget as the primary factor when choosing. The area you want to install the floor will also determine your choice. For kitchens, laminates would do a better job because they are water-resistant. However, if elegance and warmth are your highest bid, hardwood flooring will do.