As you search for a beautiful alternative to hardwood flooring, you will discover that there are two primary options available. True hardwood flooring has unrelenting charm, but it can be expensive, difficult to maintain and challenging to install. Through your comparison of engineered wood flooring vs laminate flooring, you can confidently decide which of these wood alternatives is a good fit for your home.
The Composition of Engineered Wood Flooring vs Laminate
The differences between engineered wood flooring and laminate flooring begin in their composition. Engineered wood flooring is comprised of several layers of fiberboard, unfinished hardwood and plywood compressed together, and these layers usually lay in opposing angles for strength. The top layer is a veneer material comprised of true hardwood, and it is finished and stained to produce the desired look. In comparison, laminate flooring has a moisture resistant bottom layer. The middle layers are comprised of high-density fiberboard mixed with resin for strength. A photographic layer is placed over the fiberboard to give the planks the look and feel of true wood. A top wear layer is placed over the photographic layer to promote durability.
A Comparison of Flooring Styles
Both of these wood alternatives can mimic the look of hardwood floors perfectly and are available in a wide range of finishes. For engineered wood flooring, the top layer is actually a solid piece of hardwood, so your floor will look identical to solid hardwood. As is the case with true hardwood floors, engineered wood flooring can lose its sheen and may require special care steps in order to keep it looking great. In comparison, laminate flooring once had a poor reputation because of the low-quality graphics used in its production. Today’s graphics and the overall design processes have been refined dramatically, so it may be difficult to determine the visual difference between laminate flooring, hardwood floors and engineered wood floors.
A Look at Affordability
Laminate flooring is generally more affordable to purchase, but there is some cost overlap based on the quality of the materials that you compare. For example, you may easily find laminate flooring available between $1 to $5 per square foot. On the other hand, engineered hardwood flooring is available between $3 and $13 per square foot.
The Installation Process for Engineered Wood Flooring vs Laminate
The cost of installation directly affects the overall cost of your new flooring project. Installing flooring yourself is a smart way to avoid labor costs altogether. Laminate flooring is well-known for being relatively easy to install, but you may still be required to measure and cut the planks. In addition, you may need to install a vapour barrier as the first step in some homes. Engineered hardwood is available in the same interlocking style that laminate flooring is available in. If you purchase this type of material, it may be just as easy to install as laminate planks. On the other hand, many engineered hardwood products may need to be precisely cut and either glued or nailed in place.
Unique Care and Maintenance Needs
Laminate flooring is easy to care for on a routine basis. You generally should sweep the floor daily and periodically run a damp mop over the surface. Excessive moisture and harsh chemicals can cause serious damage. In comparison, engineered wood has the same routine instructions and cleaning precautions. However, you should take steps to prevent scratching the floor, such as by using furniture pads. Waxing or refinishing may also be required periodically.
The Differences in Durability and Overall Toughness
One of the primary reasons why people search for alternatives to true hardwood flooring is because of the many forces that can damage hardwood. Laminate and engineered hardwood flooring are both durable and may be more resistant to damage from moisture exposure and scratches. Nonetheless, these issues can be problematic for laminate and hardwood flooring alike. Notably, laminate flooring has a lifespan of up to 20 years when it is properly cared for. Engineered hardwood flooring, on the other hand, may provide you with up to 100 years of use.
The Effects of Moisture Exposure
The surfaces of laminate and engineered hardwood planks are generally moisture resistant when they are fully intact and free of deep scratches. The sides of the planks, however, may be subject to moisture-related damage. Because of this, moisture should be removed promptly so that it does not have time to seep between the planks. While these materials may be better suited for use in laundry rooms, bathrooms and kitchens, they still may not have the full moisture resistance that you truly need in these rooms.
Compatibility of Engineered Wood Flooring and Laminate with Radiant Heat Subflooring
Are you planning to install a radiant heating system underneath your new floor? Generally, both of these hardwood alternatives are ideal for use with a radiant heat subfloor. Each flooring material may have unique properties, so you should always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines before finalizing your floor material selection.
Suitability for Homes with Kids and Pets
Homes with children and pets must be given special attention when selecting new flooring. This is because both children and pets can increase foot traffic and wear. They may also increase the likelihood that the flooring will be scratched and exposed to standing liquids. Neither of these materials is fully resistant to these types of damages. However, laminate flooring with a waterproof base layer and a thick wear layer may be the best options if you want the beautiful look of wood in a home with kids, pets or both.
Wood and Laminate Flooring Impact on Value and Aesthetics
Both of these materials will incorporate the charm of wood floors in your home without the hassle and high price tag. This look is coveted by many buyers, so both materials may be preferred by some buyers in comparison to other flooring options. Generally, laminate is viewed less favourably by home buyers. In addition, engineered hardwood flooring has a dramatically longer life. Because of these two factors, you may see a higher return on cost when you install engineered hardwood floors.
Making Your Final Decision
As you finalize your comparison of engineered wood flooring vs laminate planks, the cost may be your deciding factor if you are shopping on a tight budget. Both the lower price per square foot and the fact that laminate may be easier to install yourself than engineered wood flooring are important points to consider. You also should consider wear, moisture and other types of damage that the floor may be exposed to. The amount of time that you plan to remain in the home could affect your decision to buy more durable flooring as well. Analyze your home’s needs and your budget with these points in mind, and you can more easily decide between engineered wood flooring vs laminate flooring.