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Hardwood vs. Laminate Wood Flooring

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The flooring of a home is one of its defining features. Wood flooring remains one of the most popular options, as it is a naturally inviting, beautiful and timeless material. While older, more traditional homes often have the original hardwood floors still in place, many newer homes are using laminate. What is laminate flooring? It’s imitation hardwood that creates a natural look similar to wood but at a lower price.

Hardwood and laminate flooring pros and cons leave you several facets to consider. Sure, when comparing laminate vs hardwood cost, laminate is usually the more affordable option. But you also must look at durability, repair, and the type of room that the floor will be in. This article will compare some of the factors of laminate vs hardwood and help you decide which is best for your home:

DIY Laminate Flooring
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Laminate vs. hardwood appearance

Hardwood

PROS – Hardwood flooring has a beautiful, natural texture that creates appeal for many homeowners. You can choose from different types of wood, stains, and finishes that create an abundance of options.

CONS – Hardwood floors can be scratched easily if not properly maintained. Additionally, some types of hardwood floors can be discolored if exposed to the sun for long periods of time.

Laminate

PROS – Laminate flooring doesn’t scratch as easily as hardwood floors, so its appearance will not change as much over time.

CONS – Laminate flooring is synthetic, and even though its design often copies the appearance of wood, it doesn’t look as genuine.

Best for appearance: Hardwood flooring

Laminate vs. hardwood cost

The reality of flooring costs and what you can afford may be miles apart. Take into consideration the cost of laminate and hardwood flooring to determine what is best for you.

Hardwood

CONS – Solid wood flooring can cost $5-$10 per square foot, including installation. But keep in mind that hardwood flooring is made of harvested trees; pricing depends on the type of wood you choose. In general, hardwood is considerably higher to buy and to install.

Laminate

PROS – Laminate wood flooring is made from composite wood pressed together at high temperatures. The image of hardwood is then placed over the composite wood, covering it to form the laminate. Not only are the materials themselves cheaper, but laminate wood installation cost is, on average, 50 percent less than hardwood installation.

Laminate flooring can cost $3-$7 per square foot, including installation.  Again, the exact prices will vary depending on the types of materials used and the size of your home.

Best for cost: Laminate flooring

Laminate vs. hardwood durability

Assess the traffic load and wear and tear on flooring in your home. A more durable surface is easier to maintain and will look great for years to come. But how durable is laminate flooring compared to hardwood?

Hardwood

PROS – Hardwood is the real deal; it is gorgeous and, depending on the type of wood, can add considerable value to your home.

CONS – Hardwood is susceptible to scratching, can get damaged from excessive moisture and will show wear, especially in heavily trafficked areas.

Laminate

PROS – Since laminate is made from pressed wood, it is more durable and resists scratches, moisture and wear and tear. Laminate flooring is also easier to clean.

CONS – Even though laminate is more durable, it is not as visually appealing. Lower qualities of laminate may have artificial-looking wood grain textures.

Best for durability: Laminate flooring

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Laminate vs. hardwood repair

Your home’s flooring will typically need repairs at some point. From minor accidents to excessive wear and tear, laminate and hardwood have advantages and disadvantages.

Hardwood

PROS – Hardwood can be repaired by sanding imperfections and refinishing. This gives it the edge over laminate, in that it will last for years.

Laminate

CONS – Laminate flooring doesn’t repair easily. If you buy flooring that comes in individual pieces and snaps together, you may be able to replace individual boards — although, depending on sunlight and age, the new piece may not match properly.

Best for repair: Hardwood flooring

Best rooms for hardwood vs. laminate flooring

In addition to price, durability, and repair, you should also consider the best (and worst) places in the home for both types of flooring.

Hardwood

Hardwood flooring is both beautiful and fairly durable, especially in lower-traffic rooms like bedrooms and dining rooms. But, if you have pets or a lot of foot traffic, your hardwood floors might show scratches and wear over time. Basements and bathrooms with a lot of moisture are also not good places for hardwood flooring. On the other hand, continuous sunlight can fade your hardwood flooring overtime as well.

Laminate

Because laminate flooring is so durable, it’s less susceptible to wear and tear from pets and foot traffic. While it withstands moisture better than hardwood, it should not be in a regularly wet area of the home. Because of its topcoat, laminate flooring typically does not fade from sunlight as quickly and noticeably as hardwood flooring and can be used safely in rooms with large windows.

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The bottom line

Both hardwood and laminate flooring have their merits and pitfalls. Hardwood comes with a higher price tag, but they are easier to repair and last longer than laminate. Laminate flooring pros and cons include that it doesn’t fade or scratch as easily as hardwood, but repairs may involve redoing the whole floor. To decide which option is best for your home, weigh the pros and cons of each and consider your lifestyle. Having pets, young kids or high traffic areas may influence your decision.

Frequently asked questions

Q:

Can you tell the difference between laminate or hardwood?

A:

Yes, but it might not always be obvious at first glance. Laminate flooring often has a repeating pattern, and hardwoods show discoloration and scratches more easily.

Q:

How much more expensive is hardwood than laminate?

A:

Costs for installing laminate and hardwood vary greatly depending on the type of each, but on average, hardwood is about two to three times more expensive than laminate.


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