The Difference Between Laminate and Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood and laminate are both excellent choices for flooring, but there are those who do not know the difference between them. One of the reasons for this must be that laminates have advanced to the point that it is hard for the layperson to tell the difference between laminate floors made to look like hardwood and the real thing. But mimicry aside, the two types of flooring are quite different.

Laminate
Laminate flooring is a surprisingly new invention: it’s only been around since 1977. A laminate floor is made up of layers that have been pressure glued together to make them strong. There’s the base layer, which is made out of a composite of wood chips. On top of this is an image layer, which is sometimes an actual photograph of real wood. On top of it is a wear layer. This is a tough but transparent plastic that protects the image layer.

Hardwood
Hardwood floors have been used for centuries. It is wood harvested from deciduous trees such as maple or ash. Hardwood floors can be solid or engineered. A solid hardwood floor is a single piece of wood. Engineered flooring has several layers of plywood or inexpensive wood pressure glued together then topped with a veneer of quality wood. Engineered wood floors tend to be tougher than solid wood floors but can’t be refinished as many times.

Hardwood vs. Laminate
Hardwood floors tend to be more expensive than laminate floors, both to buy and to install. Laminate floors can cost half of what a hardwood floor costs even though it has a similar look.

Hardwood floors need to be sealed with a coat of polyurethane to protect them against wetness, dings and dents. On the other hand, many homeowners love hardwood for its warm beauty and the way it feels under bare feet. It can also increase the resale value of a house.

Laminate resists damage and moisture. Though hardwood is fairly easy to clean, laminate is even easier to clean. However, unless it is truly high-quality and therefore rather expensive, laminate just doesn’t look as good as hardwood.

Though it’s a job of work, a hardwood floor can be sanded and refinished, which extends its life. Well cared for hardwood floors can last longer than the house they’re installed in. Laminates are hard to repair if they are damaged, though homeowners can get new boards to replace those that are in very bad shape. They will probably not match the rest of the floor, however.

Laminates and hardwood floors are both worthy types of flooring. Hardwood, however, has that centuries-old pedigree and a beauty that is hard even for high-end laminates to reproduce. Laminates are cheaper and easier to maintain. In the end, the type of flooring to choose is up to the homeowner.