Solid hardwood flooring remains the most popular option for homeowners who love the natural appeal and grain of the wood. It is regarded as the real deal, and a lot of real estate professionals believe that this floor covering can increase a home’s resale value. However, many homes across Maryland use laminate flooring as a cost-effective hardwood alternative. This flooring material can mimic the look of genuine hardwood for a fraction of a price. But does it mean that laminate is better than hardwood as a flooring material? Or is it the other way around? As a Maryland flooring company, we have put together categories to guide you through the process of choosing the best flooring material for your home. In this blog, let’s compare and explore the differences between solid hardwood and laminate flooring.
The Major Differences
Solid hardwood flooring is made from different wood species and formed into floorboards or planks. If you have solid hardwood flooring, the boards or planks are genuine wood through and through. It comes in a variety of sizes, textures, patterns, and cuts depending on the wood species you prefer. Solid hardwood flooring can either be unfinished or prefinished. If the planks are prefinished, it is sanded down and finished in the factory before you even purchase it. Whereas, unfinished hardwood flooring is completely raw wood, but it can be stained, sanded down, and finished once after the installation is done.
Laminate flooring, on the other hand, is composed of several layers of compressed, durable materials. The top clear layer of the laminate flooring is a photographic applique layer that provides extra protection against surface damages such as stains and scratches. The inner layer, however, is a high-density fiberboard that gives strength to the entire flooring. The bottom layer, or the backing, is a stabilizing layer that acts as the foundation and resists moisture. Unlike solid hardwood, laminate flooring is a fully man-made floor covering that can resemble the look of genuine hardwood and other hardscape materials.
Category 1: Appearance
Solid hardwood is highly attractive and has a timeless appeal that blends well with any décor inside your home. It offers a variety of textures, stains, and finishes that will leave you with limitless design options. This makes solid hardwood a perennial favorite in many homes in Maryland. Even the cheaper wood species are more stunning than the premium version of laminate flooring. There’s something about the unique appearance of genuine hardwood that laminate flooring cannot imitate completely. However, keep in mind that the beauty of solid hardwood will fade if not properly maintained. Also, several wood species of hardwood are very prone to discoloration, so you need to discuss your options with a Maryland flooring company for better recommendations.
From a distance, premium-quality laminate flooring can mimic the look of real hardwood. With the help of modern flooring technology, some manufacturers offer different imitation possibilities to improve the appearance and quality of laminate flooring. However, at a closer look, most people can distinguish that laminate flooring is not really a genuine hardwood. The glossy texture of laminate flooring makes it appear different from the natural solid hardwood flooring.
Best Material For Appearance: Solid Hardwood
Category 2: Installation
Installing a hardwood floor is quite challenging for DIYers. Typically, you need to hire a Maryland flooring company or contractor to install your hardwood floor, whether it be prefinished or unfinished. If you plan to install a hardwood floor yourself, you need special tools such as a stapler or floor nailer. Also, hardwood floors are not made to be installed as a floating floor. For unfinished floorboards, you must wait until the installation is complete before you can sand or apply wood finish on them. As a Maryland flooring company, we recommend using prefinished planks or floorboards to save your time.
Unlike solid hardwood, laminate flooring is much easier to install, making it an ideal option for DIYers. Mostly, it can be installed as a floating floor where planks or floorboards click together at the edges. This means that you don’t need special tools, glue, fasteners, or adhesive to install it. In general, laminate floors are prefinished, so you won’t need to sand or apply the finish for extra protection. However, this type of floor covering emits volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, after installation. Also, if you plan to install laminate flooring yourself, make sure that you have the right tools and know the process very well. Otherwise, you can always ask a professional Maryland flooring company to help you with the installation.
Most DIY-Friendly: Laminate
Category 3: Price
According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of hardwood flooring installation is ranging between $2,500 and $6,740. This cost is depending on the wood species you will use and the project size. Exotic and imported wood species are more expensive than domestic wood species. Also, there are additional costs to finish and apply the treatment on your hardwood floor to make it long-lasting. Refinishing hardwood floors may cost extra, but it will still depend on your agreement with the contractor. Hence, it is better to schedule a free in-home consultation and talk to a Maryland flooring company for better pricing and options.
The national average cost of laminate flooring installation runs from $1,400 to $4,240. High-end laminate floors are much more expensive. Also, the thicker the laminate flooring, the higher the price you need to pay. But choosing a high-end variety is much better as you can guarantee a premium-quality and durable type of laminate flooring.
Most Budget-Friendly: Laminate
Category 4: Durability And Lifespan
With proper maintenance, solid hardwood can last for 20 to 30 years, but some wood species can survive for more than 100 years. You can keep your hardwood floor in pristine condition through frequent refinishing, ideally at least 4 to 5 times. If you want a hardwood floor that can last for a long time, choose any hardwood species with a higher Janka rating because they are tougher and more durable. On the other hand, softer wood types such as pinewood are more prone to scratches, so they tend to have a shorter lifespan.
If you plan to refinish your hardwood flooring to extend its lifespan, make sure to always consult a Maryland flooring company or hardwood contractor for the best advice. It is important to evaluate the condition of your hardwood floor first before you sand it down or apply any wood finishes.
Laminate flooring has good resistance to surface damages such as scratches, and dents because of its protective top layer. With proper maintenance, you can expect that laminate flooring can last for 10 years or even more. However, exposure to UV rays, excessive scratches due to heavy furniture, and water infiltration can shorten the duration of your laminate floor. And once damaged, there is no way to refinish or sand it down. Thus, damaged laminate floors need to be replaced. In this case, you may ask a Maryland flooring company or laminate floor contractor to repair or replace the flooring.
Longest Lifespan And Best For Durability: Solid Hardwood
Category 5: Care And Maintenance
Cleaning a solid hardwood floor is quite simple and easy. Present day’s hardwood floors are typically sealed with a polyurethane finish, so you don’t need to polish or wax them. Regular upkeep includes sweeping, light vacuuming, and mopping with a hardwood floor cleaning solution.
When cleaning hardwood floors, make sure to wring out mops because hardwood is very prone to moisture or water damage. Don’t let water sit on your hardwood floor for a long time as it will contract and expand. It is important to clean with products designed or specified for wood floor only. To prevent your floor from scratches and dents, always place doormats on the entryway and put furniture pads at the bottom or legs of furniture, sofa, tables, and chairs.
Like solid hardwood, laminate flooring is so easy to clean. This type of floor covering does not trap or absorb dust, so you can clean it through sweeping or light vacuuming. Laminate floors are moderately water-resistant; hence, it is fine to mop them with water. However, make sure not to clean it using a steam cleaner or let excessive water sit on the floor for a long time.
Best For Care And Maintenance: Both
Category 6: Water And Heat Resistance
While a solid hardwood floor is a popular choice in the kitchen, it is not really a good material for moisture-prone areas. Hardwood flooring is very susceptible to moisture or water damage, so you need to make sure that you wipe up spills and splashes quickly to prevent the floor from expansion and contraction. Also, this type of floor covering is not ideal to install over a radiant heating system because the floorboards or planks can easily shrink, leading to extensive damage.
Because laminate flooring has a protective top layer, it can moderately resist water and stain. You can also install it over a radiant heating system because it has enough heat resistance to endure it. However, don’t let standing water on your laminate floor as it can seep into joints, which may lead to swelling and chipping. As much as possible, do not install laminate flooring in wet areas such as bathrooms or laundry rooms.
Best For Heat And Water Resistance: Laminate
Category 7: Resale Value
When it comes to increasing your home’s real estate value, there is no doubt that solid hardwood has a great advantage in this category. Prospective home buyers recognize hardwood flooring as a premium floor covering and substantial investment in the long run. A lot of homeowners invest in hardwood flooring because it can make their homes sell much faster in the event that they put their properties for sale. Plus, they also see hardwood flooring as a great asset as it can last for a lifetime if well-maintained.
Unlike solid hardwood, laminate flooring rarely increases the resale value of a property. Because it is fully man-made and has a lower cost, home buyers do not see it as a premium material or a long-term investment. When it comes to longevity, laminate flooring has a shorter lifespan as well.
Best For Resale Value: Solid Hardwood
Category 8: Comfort And Sound
Solid hardwood has the tendency to be cold and hard underfoot. This type of floor covering does not normally adapt to a radiant heating system. Also, solid hardwood can be quite noisy and annoying when you walk on, especially under pet toenails and heels.
The good thing about laminate flooring is that it can be soft and comfortable underfoot, particularly if installed with foam underlayment below. Since you can install laminate flooring over a radiant heating system, it can create a warm, cozy floor.
Most Comfortable And Least Noise: Laminate
Category 9: Pet-Friendly
Prefinished and waxed solid hardwood flooring can work well against pet waste or nail scratches. Cleaning isn’t a problem as well. However, an unfinished hardwood floor is a bad choice for a family with pets because this kind of hardwood can absorb pet waste and is not resistant to moisture. If your furry family members damage your hardwood floor, you can either refinish or replace it depending on the damage. In this case, you may need to consult a Maryland flooring company for recommendations.
Laminate flooring is water-resistant, so it won’t easily absorb pet waste. It is much easier to clean pet hair with laminate flooring because it has a smooth surface. And since laminate floors have protective top layers, they are less likely to get scratches due to pet nails or claws. However, be mindful to clean up pet accidents quickly as waste can still leave a smell on your floor.
Most Pet-Friendly: Laminate
Category 10: Environmentally Friendly
Solid hardwood flooring comes from natural, biodegradable materials, so you can guarantee that it won’t harm the environment and your home. It does not emit any harmful substances or VOCs, which makes it an ideal choice for anyone with asthma or allergies. Also, solid hardwood can take decades to decompose depending on the thickness and wood species you will install. If you want a hardwood with a thicker and longer duration, always ask a Maryland flooring company or hardwood contractor for better recommendations and options.
Laminate flooring is fully man-made and created from recycled materials. Some laminate flooring can emit VOCs, which are harmful to the environment. These substances can also contribute to indoor air pollution, so laminate flooring is not a good choice for a family with members suffering from allergies or asthma.
Most Eco-Friendly: Solid Hardwood
It’s Time To Talk To A Maryland Flooring Company
Based on the categories mentioned above, it is easy to conclude that both laminate and solid hardwood floors have merits and drawbacks. Solid hardwood may come with a higher price tag, but it is more durable, longer lifespan, and can increase the resale value of your home. On the other hand, laminate flooring is a cost-effective hardwood option with moderate resistance to moisture and stains. Both flooring materials have myriad benefits but show certain limitations as well. If you are still confused about which flooring option is better for your home, we are here to help you. Carpet Ready is a Maryland flooring company that offers a free in-home consultation, so you can rather make an informed decision for your next flooring makeover. Call us today to schedule an estimate!