Professional flooring installer laying down a wood-look flooring material

Laminate vs. Wood Flooring: The Ultimate Guide

Are you renovating your home, or considering it?

The flooring you end up choosing could be with you for the next 20 or 30 years, and it’s one of your room’s defining features. So, deciding between laminate vs. wood flooring is no easy feat.

There are pros and cons to both materials including maintenance, durability, cost, and installation. We made our guide to help you figure out the best flooring for your home.

Laminate vs. Wood Flooring

Let’s start with the physical differences between the two.

Wood flooring, or hardwood flooring, is flooring boards made of natural solid hardwood. They come either finished or unfinished. Finished or pre-finished wood flooring is already stained and varnished, while unfinished boards go through this process once installed.

Wood flooring boards are generally around ¾ of an inch thick and have tongue and groove edges to interlock the boards together. The tongue edges of the boards are usually blind-nailed to the subfloor to install them, which can be a tricky process.

Meanwhile, laminate is man-made, created out of synthetic layers. Firstly, a core layer of fiberboard, made from wood byproducts. On top of this is a design or photographic layer which is printed to resemble various materials, but most often wood.

The final top layer is a clear, protective layer of melamine resin to help resist scratches, stains, and so on. Underneath the core layer is the bottom layer, which is made to resist moisture. Even though there are so many layers, laminate flooring boards are much thinner than wood, around ¼ to ½ an inch thick.

Laminate flooring is much easier to install. The boards are made with click-lock edges that snap together to secure them. Laminate is what’s known as a floating floor as it requires no nailing or gluing to the subfloor.

Laminate vs. Wood Flooring: Appearance

It’s difficult to argue that anything looks better than real hardwood flooring. They add prestige to a home and feel timeless. Their natural texture, including the unique grains and knots, are difficult to mimic in a synthetic floor.

This being said, while wood floors may initially be the most aesthetically pleasing, this may not always be the case. Some hardwood species are prone to discoloration from daylight. It’s worth bearing this in mind when choosing your floors as your hardwood floors may not always look as great as they initially did.

While laminate might not have the same renown as wood flooring, it still has its place in a home. Top-quality laminate brands nowadays are very convincing. They also have UV protection, which means they won’t discolor in the sun like wood flooring.

Additionally, there’s a huge variety of other textures available for laminate floors outside of wood. Choices include beautiful textures like marble, stone, or tile. Alternatively, there are imitations of expensive woods like mahogany, ebony, and rosewood that would not usually be within most budgets.

Laminate vs. Wood Flooring: Durability

Both types of flooring have great durability, but their individual pros and cons may help you make a decision for which is right for your home.

Hardwood flooring is not recommended for wet areas. It will become damaged quickly from standing water or floods. This damage can often be severe enough that it is not repairable.

Laminate, on the other hand, is highly water and stain-resistant. However, it still isn’t recommended in extremely wet areas like bathrooms. This is because if water gets between the joins of planks, this can cause swelling or chipping.

For homes who have a radiant heating system, or underfloor heating, installed laminate is a clear winner. Laminate is fine to be installed over radiant heating systems, while wood flooring is not recommended.

Day to day maintenance of your floors should also be a consideration, although both are minimal. Modern hardwood floors require no extra care, they are sealed with polyurethane varnish and shouldn’t be polished or waxed. You can sweep, vacuum, and damp mop them.

Laminate floors are very similar and are easily cleaned with a vacuum, broom, or damp mop. For both types of flooring, you should never use excessive water and never use a steam cleaner.

Hardwood flooring is more prone to scratching and wear, particularly in busy areas of your house. Laminate is more durable to moisture, wear, and usually scratch resistant. This can make the latter a lot more appealing for some rooms in your home.

Which Is More Pet Resistant?

About 67 percent of families in the US own a pet. If you're one of those families, you need to take this into consideration when choosing your floor.

Laminate is far less likely to scratch than wood flooring. As it’s a synthetic material, it’s got a much smoother finish and is therefore even easier to clean pet hair from.

For those with new four-legged members of the family, like puppies and kittens, it may also be worth considering water resistance. Though house training doesn’t last forever, an accident-prone puppy can cause a lot of damage to wood flooring, whereas laminate is usually more resistant to these smells and stains.

Laminate Vs. Wood Flooring: Repairs

From all of the above, laminate might seem like the obvious choice. However, hardwood flooring has one big advantage - it can be repaired.

There are a limited amount of times you can sand down and repair hardwood floors, but for bad damage, or build-up of wear and tear, this is an option. Hardwood floors, if maintained properly, can last a lifetime. They need to be refinished periodically, depending on wood species.

Laminate on the other hand, although durable, once it’s damaged is irreparable.

Which Is Right for You?

Now you know the pros and cons of both, you hopefully have a better idea of what flooring you’d like in your home. Remember to consider which room you’re choosing for as this will affect laminate vs. wood flooring use.

If you’ve made your mind up already, you can contact us for a free in-home estimate to meet with one of our professional flooring experts who will give you an accurate quote.