Laminate and engineered wood flooring—two of the most popular hardwood floor alternatives. Both flooring options share similarities in composition and look that people often use these terms interchangeably and confusingly. While these flooring types were developed to provide a versatile and economical substitute to a solid hardwood material, both laminate and engineered wood flooring have key differences. This means that each flooring option has drawbacks and merits that you need to weigh in. So, to identify which flooring option is better, here’s a comparative guide between laminate and engineered wood flooring.
What Makes Each Flooring Option Different?
The laminate floor is a fully man-made material that is much thinner than engineered wood flooring. It has a rigid synthetic flooring and can also be called floating wood, pergo, or composite tile. Laminate flooring consists of several layers of compressed materials. Backing, or the bottom layer, resists moisture and serves as the foundation. The inner layer is a high-density fiberboard that strengthens the resin, while the top clear layer is laminated to the photographic applique layer to protect the surface from damages.
Engineered wood flooring, on the other hand, contains a slice of genuine wood on top. It is a much more convincing replica of the natural hardwood although engineered wood flooring bonds a thin layer of genuine hardwood over a substrate of high-quality plywood. This flooring option is designed to deal with the pain points of solid hardwood such as warping and weakness to humidity or moisture. Like laminate flooring, engineered wood consists of several compressed layers to build a solid plank. The layers include compressed fiberboard, plywood, or unfinished hardwood, while the veneer is the thin slice of genuine hardwood on top.
Consideration 1: Installation
Laminate flooring is one of the easiest floor coverings to install, making it a staple favorite of DIYers. It has a thin, lightweight, and unique click-lock edge system that interlocks with other planks to “float” over a layer of the existing floor. In installing laminate flooring, you do not need to remove the bottom floor or nail it to keep it intact. Laminate flooring is so easy to install that you can do it in a day or even less. However, while it is true that laminate flooring is among the easiest flooring options to install, it still requires some experience to do so. If a DIY project is not really your cup of tea, do not hesitate to seek help from a highly qualified local flooring contractor.
Installation of engineered wood flooring happens in the same manner as genuine hardwood. Though it is much easier to install than natural hardwood, it is more likely to require expertise from a flooring contractor. To install engineered wood floors, it requires gluing, nailing, and precision cutting—steps that won’t make it a DIY-friendly project.
DIY-friendly and Best for Installation: Laminate
Consideration 2: Appearance
With the help of modern technology, laminate flooring has become better at mimicking the look and appeal of hardwood and other flooring types. It offers great options for wood grain textures to create a more realistic feel of solid hardwood. However, laminate flooring constantly comes up short as the best replica of genuine hardwood. It has a more artificial look due to its glossy appearance, making it less convincing to appear as a true hardwood.
What makes engineered wood flooring better than laminate flooring is the thin surface layer of real hardwood on it. This appears engineered wood indistinguishable from solid hardwood, making it a great choice as a hardwood substitute in terms of appeal.
The Best Appealing Option: Engineered Wood
Consideration 3: Maintenance
Laminate flooring has a synthetic wear layer that won’t scratch easily as other flooring materials do. It is typically smooth, which makes it easier to wipe and clean. Laminate does not absorb dust or dirt as well, so it is a perfect choice for families with members suffering from asthma or allergies. While it is so easy to maintain, cleaning laminate flooring requires a special product to protect its outer layer from damages. Improper cleaning could shorten its lifespan.
Engineered wood flooring has a smooth surface as laminate flooring, so it won’t trap allergens or dust as well. To clean it, you need a special wood cleaner or damp mop, making it easy for upkeep. However, maintaining engineered wood flooring is the same as solid hardwood. You need to vacuum or sweep it regularly to prevent the floor from scratches, impacts, and standing water. To keep your engineered wood flooring in great shape, it is also necessary to do periodic waxing and refinishing.
Easier to Clean and Maintain: Laminate
Consideration 4: Cost
The cost of laminate flooring is its great advantage over engineered wood. You can purchase laminate flooring for as low as $1 to $3 per square foot. However, the price of designer styles is much expensive which ranges from $10 to $12 per square foot.
Engineered wood flooring is a bit more costly than laminate. It normally costs $4-$5 per square foot, although the average price is about $8 for every square footage. Also, there is typically an additional cost for installation which depends on the complexity of the project, room size, to name a few. In this case, you may talk to a local contractor near you for an estimate.
Least Expensive Cost: Laminate
Consideration 5: Durability
Due to its compressed layers and top wear layer, laminate is one of the most durable flooring options available in the market. This floor covering has a pre-applied varnish to keep the boards in exceptionally good condition, making it an ideal choice for high foot traffic areas. However, because of its limited quality, the lifespan of laminate flooring is much shorter than any other hardwood flooring alternatives. It can only last for about 10 to 20 years. Also, once the wear layer is damaged, you cannot refinish or repair laminate flooring anymore. Instead, you need to replace it completely.
The creation of engineered wood flooring addresses some pain points of solid hardwood flooring. Thus, it is much stronger than hardwood. Engineered wood is more water-resistant than solid wood as well. To extend its life span, you can refinish an engineered wood a few times, but not as much as that of the genuine hardwood. However, since engineered wood has a solid hardwood veneer, it is not completely immune to rot or moisture damage. It is still susceptible to dents, scratches, and expansion. With proper maintenance, it can last for about 20 to 100 years.
Winner in Toughness: Laminate
Consideration 6: Moisture
Laminate flooring has moderate protection to moisture from below and above, especially when installed properly. However, if water or moisture seeps through exposed seams or cracks between boards, it may damage the core layer of the fiberboard. This may cause swelling and eventually damage the floor.
Unlike laminate flooring, engineered wood flooring can experience fewer moisture issues because it is usually finished with a waterproof surface sealer. Its plywood layers intend to block water. This makes engineered wood a great choice for areas like bathroom or basement rooms.
A Better Moisture-resistant Option: Engineered Wood
Consideration 7: Resale Value
Installing laminate flooring can sometimes compromise the resale value of your home. Though it is an economical option, it does not give much impact to impress potential home buyers. When it comes to marketing a property for sale, laminate flooring is not as favorable as genuine hardwood.
Most potential home buyers will recognize engineered wood flooring more superior to laminate flooring. Thus, it offers a greater resale value to a home as compared to laminate.
Best Resale Value: Engineered Wood
Consideration 8: Environmental Impact
While laminate flooring has made great progress when it comes to sustainability using recyclable materials, some other types are still synthetic and can emit volatile organic compounds that are harmful to human health. To reduce the chances of buying a laminate flooring with VOC properties, make sure to check the product first.
Made from organic materials and scrap woods, engineered wood flooring is a 100% natural and recyclable material. Since the engineered wood floor only needs a thin slice of finished wood on top, fewer trees are used to produce this type of flooring.
The Greenest Option: Engineered Wood
Which Flooring Material is Better?
After a thorough explanation of why laminate is better than engineered wood flooring, or vice versa, the decision is still up to you. These differences and similarities are just your guide to weigh in your options and determine which is the best one for your home. However, if you want to get more insight regarding laminate and engineered wood or any other flooring materials in the market these days, feel free to contact us. Carpet Ready is always here to provide you with a great inventory of flooring options suited for your home.