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Laminate Flooring vs. Hardwood Flooring

laminate floors vs hardwood floorsThe look and feel of hardwood flooring makes it one of the most popular flooring choices found in millions of homes throughout the U.S. There has also been a rise in the look and quality of laminate flooring that mimics hardwood flooring. Both trends have given rise to a debate as to the pros and cons of laminate flooring vs. hardwood flooring.

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Both hardwood flooring and laminate flooring have their benefits and detriments. It is up to the homeowner to decide which option is the best for the home’s floors.

Main Points about Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring consists of boards cut from a tree trunk to be laid down in long strips on a floor. Generally hardwood, or deciduous, trees are used for hardwood flooring, but some softwoods are used as well.

There are many different kinds of hardwoods used for flooring–the options range from trees grown in the U.S. such as Maple, Oak, Mahogany, and Cherry, to exotic hardwood species like Brazilian Cherry, Tigerwood, and Hawaiian Koa. Species that are not technically even a hardwood, such as bamboo and cork, have found a niche in the market as well. Each different type of wood has its own color, design, and hardness.

laminate flooring vs hardwood floorsFurthermore, there is also a wide range of stains and finishes that can be used on hardwood flooring, as well as different grades of wood–so the choices are nearly endless. Prices for hardwood flooring vary depending upon the cost of the wood, the cut of the wood, and any special effects such as hand scraping or distressing.

Engineered hardwood flooring is also considered to be in the same category as solid hardwood, according to the National Wood Flooring Association. Engineered wood flooring is still made out of wood. However, instead of being made from a solid piece of wood, engineered hardwood is made up of several strips of wood glued together under great pressure.

The life of a hardwood floor depends upon many things. The type of wood and finish that are used are important, but even more important is how well the floor is cared for.

Main Points about Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is an alternative to hardwood flooring, as well as many other types of underfoot options. Laminate flooring is basically a picture that is printed onto fiber boards, according to the DBH Remodeling and Construction Blog. The picture can resemble many different kinds of wood, stains, and glosses. Laminate flooring tiles can also resemble other flooring options such as tile, marble, and stone.

hardwood flooring vs laminate flooringThere is no actual wood involved in laminate flooring that is made to resemble hardwood; most laminate flooring is composed of plastics. As with hardwood flooring, the options and possibilities are nearly endless. The cost of laminate flooring has a great range also, from very inexpensive prices to high-end laminate flooring that costs more.


Overall, hardwood flooring is a more expensive option than laminate flooring. There is the cost of the wood; the cost to cut, plane, and sand the wood; the cost of finishing; and the cost to ship the wood. Generally speaking, hardwood flooring costs range from $3 a square foot to $15 a square foot.

Higher grade planking and hardwoods that are more expensive will bring up the cost. Also, additional effects such as hand scraping can increase the price of hardwood flooring significantly.

Laminate flooring is generally less expensive than hardwood flooring, so that is a plus in its favor. Average prices of laminate flooring range from $3 a square foot to $6 a square foot, though there are very cheap laminate flooring options that can be had for much less, but they really aren’t worth your time.

laminate flooring vs hardwood flooringOne more aspect about cost is how your flooring choices affect the resale value of your home. Generally, hardwood flooring scores higher in this category, as it improves the resale value of a home significantly. Laminate flooring, on the other hand, generally does not add any value to your home.

Bottom line: Laminate flooring is generally cheaper, but hardwood flooring increases the value of your home.

Appearance and Feel

Hardwood flooring has a desirable appearance that can be customized through color, design of the wood, and the finish. Hardwood colors can be found in near-white, blond, honey, oranges and reds, and every variation of brown imaginable. Special stains can even enhance the color of the wood; traditional colors include chocolate and mocha, but every color of the rainbow is a possibility.

Hardwood flooring can also have a myriad of designs; from wood that is almost entirely free of knots, swirls, and rings, to wood that has naturally contrasting bands of color that many find desirable. Hardwood flooring can also be laid out a number of ways for a different look. Layouts include straight lines, diagonal lines, and artistic layouts.

Hardwood flooring is also valued for its feel underfoot, as it softer and warmer than other hard flooring options, like tile, according to the Timber Merchants Association. Most solid hardwood flooring usually also works as a sound-deadener, muffling footsteps and echoes.

laminate floors vs hardwood flooringLaminate flooring is available in just about every look, color, and design as hardwood flooring, though it really isn’t made for an artistic, unique layout. Most people feel that the look of laminate flooring is not as desirable as hardwood, but there are so many varieties and options available.

Another undesirable quality is that the design of laminate flooring will repeat, as it is basically a picture and not the genuine object. Laminate flooring is also much softer and warmer than tile, stone, and marble.

Many people feel that laminate flooring does not cut down on noise like hardwood flooring; many complain of a hollow sound or magnified footsteps and echoes. However, the choice of underlayment can have a lot to do with such sounds.

Bottom line: Both hardwood and laminate flooring have a desirable look that is available in countless colors, shades, designs, and glosses, though hardwood is deemed to have more desirable characteristics in this category.


The installation of hardwood flooring consists of a wide range of options. It can be nailed or glued with a wood subfloor and underlayment. The moisture level of a home and the subfloor must be taken into account when laying hardwood flooring. For this reason, solid hardwood flooring cannot be laid in a below-ground situation, such as a basement.

Laminate flooring is very easy to install. It can be floated over an existing floor, and it has a tongue-and-groove design that makes installation almost as easy as snapping the boards into place.

Laminate flooring can also be installed in many places that solid hardwood flooring cannot. Underground floors can be covered with laminate, as can other rooms that typically have a high moisture content in a home, like bathrooms, mud rooms, and kitchens.

The bottom line is that laminate flooring is much easier to install, and it can be used in a wider range of flooring applications, than hardwood flooring.

Durability and Maintenance

hardwood floors vs laminate floorsHardwood floors generally has a long life, with some types of hardwood and engineered hardwood options enjoying warranties that last for more than 50 years. Many old homes and historic buildings have hardwood flooring that is well over 100 years old!

One of the benefits of solid hardwood flooring is that it can be sanded and refinished if it sustains too many scratches, dents, and other damage. While refinishing a hardwood floor is not the easiest of jobs, it does allow hardwood flooring to enjoy a long life.

Furthermore, the type of care that a hardwood floor enjoys will also affect its longevity. The better care the flooring receives, the longer it will keep an attractive appearance that adds to your home’s appeal and ambiance.

Water is enemy number one when it comes to hardwood flooring, so it is important to keep it dry. Spills need to be wiped up immediately, and the humidity of a home needs to be kept low at all times. The World Floor Covering Association recommends a dehumidifier for those homes that are located in moist, humid areas of the country.

It is also important to head off drips and leaks that may affect the underside of your hardwood flooring. Rot can set in, requiring parts of the hardwood floor to be replaced. Luckily, hardwood flooring can be replaced in sections if needed.

Hardwood flooring also needs to be kept free of dirt as much as possible, because dirt and debris will act like sandpaper underfoot on a hardwood floor. Mats, throw rugs, and runners are also recommended for high-traffic areas and in front of doors. Most experts recommend that hardwood floors be cleaned with the cleaning product recommended by the manufacturer.

On the other hand, laminate flooring is much easier to clean and care for. Generally, a number of non-abrasives can be used to clean laminate flooring, though it is always best to go with the manufacturer’s recommended product.

hardwood flooring vs laminate floorsLaminate flooring is also a bit tougher when it comes to standard scratches, dents, and dings, but no flooring is completely impervious to damage. The issue with laminate flooring comes when the boards do suffer damage, because it is essentially ripping the picture that looks like wood and revealing the fiber board beneath it. Such damage is really obvious, and there is little hope of fixing it.

That leads to another issue concerning the care of laminate flooring. If one or two boards are damaged and need to be replaced, it is near impossible to just replace the damaged boards. Also, manufacturers discontinue different varieties, so it may be hard to find an exact match if a few boards need to be replaced.

While laminate flooring can also withstand water a bit better, it cannot do so forever. If it is wet long enough–such as from a leak from underneath the floor–the laminate floor can be ruined. It cannot be dried out and refinished, such as hardwood flooring. Generally, laminate flooring enjoys a lifespan of less than 20 years.

At the end of the day, laminate flooring is easier to care for, but hardwood flooring has the edge on longevity.

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