Engineered Hardwood VS. Laminate Flooring: A Detailed Comparison

Home & gardenby Debamalya Mukherjee15 December 2023

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Deciding on flooring is a big part of home renovation or construction. Two common choices are engineered hardwood and laminate flooring. Both have their features, advantages, and downsides. This guide gives you a thorough comparison to make a smart choice.

What They’re Made Of And How They’re Made

Engineered hardwood and laminate floors are both popular, but they’re made differently. Engineered wood is built with several layers, including a core made of plywood or high-density fiberboard (HDF). This design keeps the floor stable and less affected by moisture and temperature changes.

The top layer is a thin slice of real wood, giving it an authentic wood look. During production, these layers are pressed together under high heat and pressure. This process makes engineered hardwood strong and less likely to bend or swell, unlike solid hardwood, which tends to warp about 8-12% under changing conditions.

Laminate flooring is crafted from pressed composite wood. It features a top layer with a photographic image capable of mimicking various materials like hardwood, stone, or tile. This layer is usually coated with a durable melamine resin or aluminum oxide, offering protection against scratches, dents, and fading. This layer’s effectiveness is evident in the fact that laminate flooring can withstand up to 1,200 pounds of pressure per square inch.

Looks And Styles

Engineered hardwood provides an authentic wood look and feel, thanks to its real wood veneer, showcasing natural color variations and grain patterns. This flooring is available in various wood types, shades, and finishes, from traditional oak and cherry to exotic woods like acacia.

In contrast, laminate flooring, though synthetic, employs advanced printing technology to realistically replicate hardwood’s look. Its photographic layer accurately depicts different wood grains and finishes, boasting a design versatility that extends to stone and tile imitations. This allows for a wide range of style options, catering to diverse interior design preferences.

Practical Aspects Of Flooring

When picking out floors, it’s important to think about how long they will last and how tough they are. Engineered hardwood and laminate are two popular types, each with their own benefits in terms of lasting a long time, being easy to put in, and taking care of them.

Engineered hardwood is well-known for its layers, making it very stable and less likely to bend or twist because of changes in the moisture in the air. This flooring has a top layer of real wood, which is thinner than solid hardwood but still holds up well to daily use.

A big plus of engineered hardwood is that it can last for many years. You can sand and refinish these floors 2–3 times during their life, which makes them even more appealing. The thickness of the top wood layer, usually between 0.6 mm to 4 mm, is key to how many times you can refinish the floor and extend its life.

Laminate flooring, meanwhile, is great at resisting scratches, dents, and color fading, perfect for busy areas. It has a tough top layer that protects the picture underneath, keeping the floor looking new for a long time. But it’s worth noting that laminate floors don’t usually last as long as engineered hardwood, typically around 15–25 years. A downside of laminate is that you can’t sand or refinish it. When the top layer gets worn out, you have to replace the whole floor.

Installation And Maintenance

When it comes to installation, engineered hardwood offers various methods such as floating, gluing down, or nailing down, and is compatible with most subfloors, including concrete. Regular sweeping or vacuuming is necessary to maintain its appearance, along with immediate cleaning of spills and the use of specific cleaners. Occasional polishing or resealing may also be required.

Laminate flooring, conversely, is particularly noted for its ease of installation, often featuring a click-and-lock mechanism that appeals to DIY enthusiasts. It’s adaptable to a variety of subfloors, including concrete and pre-existing flooring.

Maintenance-wise, laminate flooring is low-effort, requiring just regular sweeping and occasional damp mopping with an appropriate cleaner. However, it’s important to avoid excessive water to prevent swelling at the seams. Unlike engineered hardwood, laminate does not require polishing or refinishing, making it a convenient option for those seeking minimal upkeep.

Economic And Environmental Considerations

Cost Factors

When considering flooring options, the cost is a crucial element. Engineered hardwood and laminate flooring come with different price tags. Engineered hardwood is often more expensive initially due to its real hardwood layers.

The cost varies depending on the quality and type of wood. However, the value it adds to a home and its durability, thanks to the ability to refinish, can balance out the initial investment over time. On the other hand, laminate flooring is more budget-friendly.

Its synthetic makeup and mass production reduce costs, offering a wood-like appearance without the hefty price. Although it may not increase property value as much as engineered hardwood, its lower initial cost makes it accessible to a wider range of budgets.

Suitability For Different Settings

In terms of suitability for different environments, each type of flooring excels in specific settings. Engineered hardwood is more stable than solid hardwood under fluctuating temperatures and humidity levels, making it a suitable choice for areas with radiant heating systems and basements. However, it is not ideal for highly moist areas like bathrooms or laundry rooms.

Laminate flooring, conversely, is a strong contender for high-traffic areas and homes with pets or children, thanks to its scratch and wear resistance. It also fares well against fading and moisture, making it a good choice for kitchen spaces. However, laminate is not recommended for places prone to frequent water spills, as standing water can cause damage to the flooring.

Environmental Impact

Engineered hardwood is more eco-friendly than traditional hardwood, using about 50% less wood. It’s often made from responsibly sourced wood and uses green adhesives, reducing its environmental impact. In contrast, laminate flooring’s impact varies.

Some use recycled materials, but they can’t be refurbished or recycled at the end, contributing to landfill waste, with 70-90% of its material being non-recyclable. Both flooring types offer different environmental pros and cons, influencing the choice based on individual preferences and needs.

Pros & Cons

Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Pros:

  • Natural Beauty: Mimics the real look and feel of wood, complete with unique grain patterns and textures.
  • Durability: Strong and can handle everyday wear, making it a good choice for most areas in a home.
  • Refinishing Option: Can be sanded and refinished several times to fix scratches and refresh its look.
  • Adds Value: Often boosts a home’s value thanks to its beauty and long-lasting nature.
  • Moisture Resistance: More resistant to moisture than solid hardwood, suitable for slightly damp areas.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Uses less real wood than solid hardwood, which is better for the environment.
  • Style Variety: Comes in many wood types, colors, and finishes.

Cons:

  • Cost: Pricier than laminate, including the cost of materials and installation.
  • Prone to Scratches: The wood surface can get scratched and dented, needing occasional refinishing.
  • Sensitive to Moisture: Even though it’s better than solid wood, it can still be damaged by too much moisture or humidity.
  • Complex Installation: Putting it in can be tricky and might need professional help.
  • Shorter Lifespan than Solid Hardwood: Durable but doesn’t last as long as solid hardwood.

Laminate Flooring

Pros:

  • Affordable: Usually cheaper than engineered hardwood, both to buy and install.
  • Easy to Install: Made for simple installation, often with a snap-together design good for DIY.
  • Low Upkeep: Needs little care – just regular sweeping and some mopping.
  • Durable: Stands up to scratches, stains, and fading, great for busy spots.
  • Design Options: Comes in many styles, patterns, and colours, including looks that mimic wood and stone.
  • Allergy-Friendly: Doesn’t trap allergens and is easy to clean, which is good for people with allergies.
  • Pet and Kid Friendly: Resists damage from pets and kids’ activities.

Cons:

  • Not as Natural-Looking: Doesn’t have the depth and texture of real wood.
  • Cannot Be Refinished: If it gets worn or damaged, you have to replace it, not refinish it.
  • Noisy and Hard: Often louder and firmer underfoot compared to engineered hardwood.
  • Environmental Concerns: Not as green, and often not recyclable.
  • Vulnerable to Water: Can get warped or swell if it gets too wet.
  • Less Value-Adding: Usually doesn’t increase a home’s value as much as engineered hardwood.

Summary

Selecting between engineered hardwood and laminate flooring hinges on factors like your financial plan, style preferences, and practical needs. Engineered hardwood brings the classic beauty of genuine wood, whereas laminate flooring offers an affordable and sturdy option. To determine the most suitable choice for your home, assess your requirements.

Debamalya Mukherjee

Debamalya is a professional content writer from Kolkata, India. Constantly improving himself in this industry for more than three years, he has amassed immense knowledge regarding his niches of writing tech and gaming articles. He loves spending time with his cats, along with playing every new PC action game as soon as possible.

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