Deciding Between Laminate and Hardwood Flooring

September 5, 2019

Flooring is arguably the most important part of any home interior. It sets the stage for your interior design, carries through all the rooms of the home, and performs an important function all at the same time.

Wood flooring is one of the most popular styles and looks for home interiors. It has a timeless appeal that works in all interior designs, and complements any style of home. The look is so popular, in fact, that many people have even begun to look at wood-look alternatives, in order to get the same style. The reasons vary why someone would consider a material other than wood, from maintenance to installation to environmental factors. 

One such alternative is laminate – a material made up of many layers laminated together with a top layer that looks like wood. People install laminate often believing it will give them the look of wood along with several other advantages. The reality though, usually different, is that laminate offers no real advantages to homeowners over actual wood floors.

A Closer Look at Laminate Flooring

laminate flooring

Laminate flooring is often called a wood-based material or a wood-look material, which can give rise to the assumption that the material is actually a form of wood or is derived from wood. That’s not the case, in fact. 

Laminate is actually made up of several layers of fiberboard that are glued together with a resin. The top layer is a graphic print with a clear finish over it, that simulates the look and grain of wood. The multiple layers are laminated together or fused together using heat and pressure. 

The result is a plank or board that may resemble wood from a distance but is not made of wood in any way.

There are a few misconceptions about laminate floors that should be clarified. The first is that they’ll be easier to install than wood. This is occasionally true; laminate can be either glued down or floated with edges that click- lock together. For a DIY homeowner, floating a floor can feel a lot more doable than installing a solid wood floor.

However, wood floors are also able to be glued down, and some forms of wood flooring can also be installed in a floating manner, although solid wood cannot be.

Laminate floors are also mistakenly thought to be easier to care for than wood. This is far from the case, however. Laminate flooring can scratch, dent, and crack. It’s also highly susceptible to moisture and can swell and buckle. If installed incorrectly, the swelling and buckling can be permanent, leading to large humps in the flooring simply from moisture in the air.

Laminate can also de-laminate, meaning that the layers can begin to peel off, usually in the presence of moisture. Solid wood may also expand and contract with moisture, but not nearly as dramatically as laminate. And while it may scratch depending on the finish, wood floors can be sanded and refinished again and again – laminate can never be repaired; if it swells or scratches it must be replaced.

Finally, some people believe that laminate is better for the environment because it doesn’t require new cut trees to produce. This isn’t necessarily the case, however. The glue and resin that the laminated material uses often contains high levels of VOCs, which will offgas over a period of 5 years after manufacture. And not all wood flooring needs to come from new cut trees; reclaimed wood floors are also available that have come from structures more than 100 years old. The wood still has a lot of years left in it, and using it won’t impact the environment in the same way.

Hardwood Flooring

hardwood flooring

Real wood flooring has a look, grain, and finish that is impossible to replicate with laminate flooring. It may be more difficult for a DIY homeowner to install, but laminate won’t last long in a busy household, meaning that you’ll have to replace it again in a few years, while a well-treated wood floor can last a hundred years or more.

Wood comes in a wide range of widths, grain textures, and species, so you have numerous choices on how you’ll design your home flooring. Wood also retains value and can improve the saleability of your home – something that laminate cannot do. 

Overall, wood flooring is more attractive, more durable, longer lasting, and, in many instances, more environmentally friendly than laminate. Investing in quality wood flooring means that you will have a floor that will be a part of your home for decades, while installing laminate means that you’ll be installing a new floor again in just a few years. 

Make the Better Choice

If you’ve been trying to determine what the right material will be for your home flooring surface, take a closer look at wood flooring. Whether you want new cut wood or reclaimed, the choice will give you far superior and longer lasting results than even high quality laminates. Make the better choice for your home, and choose wood flooring each and every time.

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