Choosing between Laminate or Hardwood Flooring

January 25, 2016
Laminate or hardwood

If you are looking to re-floor one of your rooms, you will no doubt be in a quandary over whether you want carpet, tile or wood. Having finally decided that a wood floor will compliment the walls whilst making the room warmer, you are stuck at the final decision, laminate or hardwood. In the past this question was fairly straightforward: if you have a large budget you would choose hardwood and if you didn’t, laminate. However, times have changed and the range of options has increased significantly. Therefore we need to take a step back and look at both sides in a bit more detail.

With all of the flooring products that are currently available on the market, choosing the right one can prove to be a challenge. So before you make a decision, do your research and analyse the space that you are looking to floor. We have analysed the pros and cons of each option below to help you make your decision. If this doesn’t help you our experts are always just a call away to help you choose the best for your space.

First you need to understand the fundamentals of what each product consists of:

Laminate is a practical and cheaper alternative to standard hardwood flooring. Over the last decade advancements in technology have meant flooring companies can create laminate flooring with any real wood effect. We are pleased to say that it has come a long way since the plastic looking laminate flooring you may remember.

Real wood flooring has a couple of options, with the most popular being engineered wood and solid wood. Solid wood is the classic option with timeless charm created from single pieces of wood. On the other hand you have engineered wood, which has grown substantially over the years with people realising its various benefits.

Below is a handy comparison of the two options:

Durability

The durability of your flooring significantly depends on the amount of foot traffic that it will be exposed to. Compared to other types of flooring, both laminate and hardwood are very durable. Hardwood is known for being durable and hard wearing, however it does depend largely on the type of wood, finish and how well you maintain it. In comparison, laminate has increased in popularity because it is extremely hard-wearing. In terms of resistance to scratches, dents, dings and general wear & tear, laminate is the clear winner. Although real wood is very resistant to these, it can vary significantly between finishes and it will need to be restored every 5-10 years. On the other hand, laminate flooring has the manufacturer’s guarantee that it will not change in appearance from the day that it is installed, without requiring any major repair.

Another important durability factor is resistance to moisture. As an organic material, wood reacts to changes in humidity and temperature. As a result, hardwood floors can warp if they are in a humid environment; this is why we will always advise against laying hardwood floors in bathrooms or kitchens. If you would like hardwood floor but are nervous about the levels of humidity then we would recommend that you use engineered wood flooring. Engineered floors have a better dimensional stability than solid wood and less likely to warp. The best option is laminate flooring, which has been developed to exhibit high moisture resistance.

Composition and Appearance

In terms of appearance, if you are looking for a traditional wood floor there is no competition against real hardwood. The texture of the wood flooring is one of the most important aspects that people look for. No two wood boards will ever look the same or have matching patterns, resulting in a very natural finished floor. On the other hand, laminate flooring has a pre-designed wood pattern printed on to the top layer to imitate wood, resulting in a repeating pattern appearing on every 5 boards.

Upkeep

For the most part laminate and hardwood floors require the same amount of general upkeep: vacuum, sweeping and cleaning up any major spills. It is the long term upkeep where laminate comes out on top. After 5-10 years you will be required to sand down and restore your hardwood floor, to make it look like it did on day one. Laminate will require no repairing or restoring if maintained correctly.

Accidents do happen and you may be faced with the decision to replace one of the floorboards. In this case it is a lot easier to repair hardwood floors. As mentioned earlier, if the damage is solely to the surface you have the option to sand and re-finish the floorboard. If the damage is more extensive then you can replace individual floorboards with minimal hassle. Laminate flooring is a completely different case; if you find yourself needing to repair it you are in for a difficult task. Laminate does not repair easily as it cannot be sanded down or re-finished. Boards can be replaced, but only if they have been laid without glue and are floating. Upon replacing a board there is no guarantee that the new board will match the old ones.

Environmental Impact

If you are trying to reduce your carbon footprint and be eco-friendly, hardwood is by far the better option. Being produced from single pieces of wood, hardwood flooring can be listed as 100% organic. Even though engineered hardwood is manufactured by pressing several pieces of solid wood together it is still mostly organic. Even though it is organic, the rate in which some types of wood are being harvested can have a detrimental effect on the environment. Therefore it is important that you identify exactly what wood you wish to go with.

In comparison laminate flooring consists of various composite materials and resins. Although the core of the floorboards are made from wood, it is the melamines and resins that are made from non-renewable resources. If you are concerned about the environment, do your research beforehand and see which material is best for you and your needs.

Laminate or Hardwood: Conclusion

As you can see above, there are a number of pros and cons for both hardwood and laminate floorings. At the end of the day it depends entirely on what you are looking for in a floor and where in the house you are looking. Most people will agree that hardwood is the best option, providing you with a stunning natural feel that will last a lifetime. Even though it is not as resilient as laminate, it can be easily repaired and restored. Having said all this you should still not disregard laminate as a potential option. In comparison, it is extremely cost-effective and strong. So when you come to making your choice, consider all of the factors above and compare the attributes of each that are most important to you.