Deciding between laminate vs. hardwood flooring depends on your budget, style, and lifestyle needs.
Solid hardwood has a natural, authentic look and lasts for decades with proper care. You can sand and refinish hardwoods as many as ten times. Laminate flooring is made of several layers with a photo finish that mimics the look of hardwoods. You can’t refinish laminate, but it’s much less expensive than hardwood.
Laminate vs. Hardwood: Key Differences
|Hardwood Flooring||Laminate Flooring|
|Material||Genuine wood planks||High-density fiberboard with a photographic layer that mimics wood|
|Durability||Durable and can be refinished||Durable, but cannot be refinished|
|Maintenance||Requires periodic refinishing and sealing||Low-maintenance; easy to clean and resistant to stains and scratches|
|Installation||More complex; often requires professional installation||Easier DIY installation with interlocking planks|
|Cost||$11-$25 per sq. ft.||$3-$11 per sq. ft|
|Environmental Impact||Natural, renewable resource||Contains synthetic materials|
Laminate flooring has a photographic layer that replicates wood grain patterns and texture. It comes in styles that mimic wood species, many colors, and in tile or stone patterns. Each plank has a consistent design for a uniform appearance.
Laminate doesn’t come with natural variations and imperfections like wood — instead, its uniform design creates a polished look.
Hardwood floors have a range of grain patterns, textures, and colors depending on the wood species and stain.
Hardwoods can develop a patina over time, adding to the charm and uniqueness of the flooring.
Best for Appearance: Hardwood flooring
Hardwood flooring showcases the beauty of natural wood. Every piece is unique, contributing to its appeal. Laminate flooring mimics wood’s appearance but can’t match the authenticity of hardwood.
Laminate costs $3-$11 per sq. ft. for material and installation. Those with DIY experience can save a significant amount of money by installing their own laminate floors.
Solid hardwood costs $11-$25 per sq. ft. for materials and installation. Hardwood species like pine and hickory are cheaper than Brazilian walnut and white oak. Again, DIY installation can cut costs.
Best for Cost: Laminate flooring
Laminate flooring is more affordable upfront, making it suitable for homeowners on a budget. Despite its higher initial cost, hardwood flooring adds value to your home. It lasts for decades with proper care and maintenance.
Laminate flooring lasts for 15-25 years with proper maintenance. Its multiple-layered construction and wear layer protects it against scratches and impact. Laminate flooring has excellent resistance to stains and fading.
Hardwood flooring is durable and can last generations with regular maintenance. Harder species like maple and oak are more resistant to dents and scratches. Sanding and refinishing the flooring restores its original luster.
Best for Durability: Hardwood flooring
Hardwood flooring has a longer lifespan. Solid hardwood floors are susceptible to dents and scratches, but their repairability offsets these concerns. Laminate flooring, however, can’t be sanded or refinished since it could damage the top layer.
Laminate flooring is easy to install, even for DIY enthusiasts. Laminate planks usually come with interlocking mechanisms allowing “floating” installations. They fit together without the need for adhesive or nails.
As a floating floor, laminate is not attached to the subfloor. Laminate flooring can be installed over an existing flooring like vinyl, saving time and effort.
Most hardwood planks must be nailed, stapled, or glued down. Hardwood installation demands skill and attention to detail. Unfinished flooring is sanded and finished after installation—a job for professionals. Many brands of hardwoods come prefinished, though, eliminating the need for staining. Some brands also offer tongue and groove installation, suitable for DIY.
Best for Installation: Laminate flooring
Laminate flooring has an interlocking system that simplifies installation. The planks’ tongue-and-groove design facilitates easy locking and quick lay down. Many laminate options are designed for installation without using specialized tools.
Laminate flooring’s resale value is lower than that of hardwood flooring. It’s best for low and medium-priced homes with an existing floor that’s in bad condition.
Hardwood flooring significantly increases a home’s resale value. Homes with hardwood flooring attract higher prices than those with laminate or other options. Experts suggest that hardwood flooring fetches around 70%-80% of the initial installation cost.
Best for Resale Value: Hardwood flooring
Buyers and real estate professionals consider hardwood flooring a premium feature. It boosts the resale value of homes within the mid-to-high price range.
Laminate is made from recycled wood fibers and sustainable materials. Its production process uses fewer trees than hardwood flooring, reducing strain on forests.
Many laminate products use adhesives and coatings that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These emit harmful chemicals over time. Laminate is challenging to recycle, and damaged or outdated planks end up in landfills.
When sourced responsibly, hardwood is environmentally friendly. Its longevity—with care and refinish—reduces frequent replacements. It also minimizes the demand for new flooring materials. Hardwood is also biodegradable and recyclable, reducing waste.
Best for Environmental Impact: Hardwood flooring
Hardwood has a more positive environmental impact since it’s a renewable and durable resource. Use hardwood flooring certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to ensure responsible sourcing.