Hardwood Flooring vs. Laminate Flooring

Some people pick laminate flooring because it can be cheaper than hardwood flooring, but on the other hand some people pick hardwood flooring because they think it is nicer than laminate.  However, hardwood flooring can be just as low cost as laminate and laminate can look just an great as hardwood.  Both floorings have great benefits and drawbacks.  I created this article to line up side by side the differences between to two floorings so you, the consumer, can make the best decision for you.

Hardwood (left), Laminate (right) from Armstrong.com

Hardwood (left), Laminate (right) from Armstrong.com

Hardwood Flooring

*Not to be confused with Engineered-wood flooring

1. Cost:  Moderate to High

2. Life Span:  Long;  will need to be refinished, frequency of refinishing depends on wear and tear.

3. Durability:  Moderate to Durable.  The durability of hardwood depends on the wood species and the finishes applied to the flooring.

4. Pets:  will add to the wear and tear thus will need to be refinished sooner

5. Maintenance:  Sweep, dry mop, vacuuming and wet mop with vinegar-water; If floor has a wax finish then will need to be rewaxed

6. Installation: There are several ways to install Hardwood flooding

Nailed-down: The flooring is nailed to the subfloor

Glue-down: The planks are glued to the subfloor

Floating: The planks interlock and are "held in place by their own weight" thus no glue or nails are needed

*For more information Home Improvements 1-2-3 is a great resource.

7. Types/Finishes:  Besides the wood species, the finish is very important for hardwood flooring because it helps protect the wood from wear and damage.  Also different finishes have higher off gases than others.  Some of the finishes types are wax, formaldehyde, urethanes, epoxy-ester, and polyurethane.  These finishes would be on top of the stain.

8. Problem and Drawbacks:  Even with a finish UV light will damage the wood.  Hardwood flooring is influenced by moisture.  Also furniture can damage the floor, so felt/nylon foot protectors, coasters, or rubber cups will need to be applied.

9. Important Facts:  Never use below ground level.  Always check moisture levels before installing and allow for the wood to expand with expansion gaps.

Laminate Flooring

1. Cost:  Moderate

2. Life Span:  Moderate; Can not be refinished; If damaged the plank will need to be replaced

3. Durability:  Very Durable and Scratch Resistant

4. Pets:  Recommended for pets because of it's durability

5. Maintenance:  Sweep, dry mop, and wet mop

6. Installation: There are two ways to install Laminate flooding

Glue-down

Floating

*For more information Home Improvements 1-2-3 is a great resource.

7. Structure:  The top layer is a laminated image.  Then there is the inner core which is the fiber board or particleboard.  Finally there is a plastic-foam backing which helps keep moisture from the core.

8. Problem and Drawbacks:  Laminate flooring is not recommend for wet areas and water will damage the inner core fiber board.  The printed image will repeat.

9. Important Facts:  Always let the planks sit in the room to acclimate.

Resources

Karla J. Nielson and David A. Taylor, Interiors: an introduction, Third Edition (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002), 316.

Maryrose McGowan, Specifying Interiors: A Guide to Construction and FF&E for Residential and Commercial Interiors Projects, Second Edition (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2006), 241-247.

Corky Binggeli, Materials for Interior Environments (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2008), 202-209.

The Home Depot, Home Improvement 1-2-3, Second Edition (Homer TLC, 2003)

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