The Low-Down on Laminate vs. Hardwood Floors

Perhaps because their look is often so similar (many argue that it’s practically impossible to differentiate between quality laminate and hardwood flooring; others disagree), laminate and hardwood are often compared as viable flooring options.

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Proponents of hardwood argue that it’s the best choice, while proponents of laminate sing its praises and wouldn’t trade for anything. Deciding which type of flooring is best for you depends on a variety of factors. In this article, we’ll break down the advantages and disadvantages of each so you will be better able to make a decision as to which type of flooring truly fits your design style and your lifestyle.

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WHAT IS LAMINATE FLOORING?

Laminate wood flooring (also called floating wood tile) is a multi-layer synthetic flooring product that’s fused together with a lamination process. Laminate flooring simulates wood with a photographic applique layer under a clear protective layer.

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WHAT IS HARDWOOD FLOORING?

Hardwood flooring is any product manufactured from timber that’s designed for use as flooring, either structural or aesthetic. Hardwood floors come in a variety of widths, stains, grains, and woods.

ADVANTAGES OF LAMINATE FLOORING

1. Laminate floors are “soft” underfoot.

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Laminate flooring “gives” a little when it’s walked on because the laminate itself is installed atop a layering of acoustical underlayment. This adds a bit of cushion to the completed floor.

2. Laminate floors provide a natural vibe for less cost.

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Laminate flooring is typically less expensive than hardwood floors. This is a huge benefit to people who want the natural look of wood but who have a lower price point. In fact, laminate wood installation cost is on average 50% less than hardwood.

3. Laminate floors are durable.

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Being manufactured out of pressed wood, laminate floors are durable and resistant to scratches, moisture, and daily wear and tear.

4. Laminate floors are easy to clean and maintain.

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Unlike hardwood floors, laminate floors require no additional topcoats or wood oils once installed; simply clean with regular floor cleaner and you’re on your way. Laminate floors don’t require polishing, neither do they yellow or fade from sunlight over time.

ADVANTAGES OF HARDWOOD FLOORING

1. Hardwood floors are the “real deal.”

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That’s the bottom line. Hardwood floors are authentic, gorgeous, and unique. That’s an advantage that’s hard to beat.

2. Hardwood floors last a long time.

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Despite the higher upfront costs (e.g., installation), many feel that hardwood floors are totally worth the initial investment because of their longevity. Hardwood floors can easily last decades…and look good doing it.

3. Hardwood floors are quieter to walk on.

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Laminate flooring requires an acoustic underlayment to dampen the echo potential. As a rule, most hardwood floors are naturally more sound absorbent and, therefore, quieter. (Of course, the acoustics of the room itself, as well as textiles and décor, play a huge role in noise level as well.)

4. Hardwood floors add to the home’s value.

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Many people enjoy the authenticity and old-world appearance of true hardwood, and, as a result, a home with hardwood floors typically has an increased value over one with laminate flooring. Because each piece of hardwood is unique, this lends the entire floor an individual, one-of-a-kind look that is, frankly, priceless.

5. Hardwood floors can be refinished to look as “good as new.”

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Although some people prefer the character and charm of a worn hardwood floor, some people may not like this look. One benefit of hardwood floors is that they can be sanded down and refinished to look as good as new no matter how old and worn it is currently.

6. Hardwood floor has a genuine natural appearance.

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This is no shocker – hardwood is natural, so it would follow that it would appear that way when laid as the floor.

DISADVANTAGES OF LAMINATE FLOORING

1. Laminate flooring is artificial.

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Laminate flooring, particularly the lower quality stuff, tends to look less visually appealing than true hardwood. Some laminate flooring “wood grains” look more artificial than real, which detracts from the beauty of any space.

2. Laminate floors are not easily repaired.

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Laminate flooring is installed in pieces that snap together. If you’re able to replace the damaged section with similar laminate, it will likely still stand out because the wear and tear will differ from the newly installed section to the previously installed floor. This disadvantage can decrease the longevity of laminate overall.

DISADVANTAGES OF HARDWOOD FLOORING

1. Hardwood floors are more expensive.

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Depending on how exotic the wood is, hardwood floors are typically higher in materials cost as well as installation costs, simply because there are more variables in installing hardwood than installing laminate.

2. Hardwood floors require a natural resource.

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Because they are made out of, well, trees, hardwood floors are no friend to the sustainable-resource camps. This is something to consider if your allegiances are closely tied to Mother Earth. (Note: To alleviate this, a more recent option of bamboo flooring has become popular as well, due to the quick-growing nature of bamboo.)

3. Hardwood floors are susceptible to scratching.

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Just like with any piece of wooden furniture (perhaps more so), wood floors are fairly easily damaged due to scratching, moisture, and everyday wear and tear. Some people call this “character,” others call it “worn out.”

So, what do you think? Are you a laminate floor person, or do you prefer hardwood? Did we leave out any advantages/disadvantages of either? Leave a comment and let us know!