Choosing the ideal flooring for your home can be tricky as there are so many factors that influence the choice. The climatic condition, local building regulations, the aesthetics, budget, and flooring features all should be considered together to find the best match. The confusion arises when you have more than one flooring type in mind and cannot decide between them.
If you are considering laminate or engineered hardwood, comparing the pros, cons, characteristics and overall suitability will help you determine which will be the better choice for your specific needs. Here we discuss in detail all the necessary pointers associated with both the flooring type, creating a comprehensive guide.
Laminate and engineered hardwood are often confused with each other owing to the similarity in their method of manufacturing. But there are subtle and vital differences that set them apart.
- Engineered hardwood incorporates a thin veneer of natural wood as the top layer of the floorboard made by pressing plywood together. It is a more authentic replication of solid hardwood and can be refinished, depending on the thickness of the top-layer wood veneer.
- Laminate flooring features a high-quality image of wood veneer fused with the fibreboard core and a protective and transparent layer of extremely hard lacquer. Though it cannot be refinished, laminate flooring these days not only look but also feels like hardwood due to deeper embossing of the wood grain texture into the board.
While both have a very attractive look, there is a slight difference in the look you will achieve with each of the materials.
- Engineered hardwood is nearly indistinguishable from solid hardwood since the top layer is a wood veneer. You can even find an engineered version of exotic hardwoods and enjoy the look and feel of exotic wood at a much lower price. The only drawback is that it will become dull over time like real hardwood, if it is not maintained properly.
- Laminate flooring uses a high definition image and hence, you can choose from a wide variety of wood texture, irrespective of the availability and supply of the organic material. The downside of the material is its artificial look with a high gloss finish and image embossed top-layer which is distinguishable easily when compared to the real material.
- Engineered hardwood is designed to eliminate the potential damage risks associated with solid hardwood. They can withstand high traffic and water-resistant to a significant extent. Depending on the thickness of the wood veneer, engineered wood can be refinished a few times too. But since the core materials are natural, it is not immune to moisture damage and rotting. If well cared for, they can last from 20-100 years like solid hardwood.
- Laminate is extremely tough due to the top layer coating of aluminium dioxide and compressed fibreboard core. Hence, it is ideal for places with high foot traffic. But the artificial top layer cannot be refinished and hence, it does not last as long as natural wood alternatives. The maximum lifespan of laminate flooring is 10-20 years.
The thermal conductivity of the material should be considered to ensure your home is well insulated and comfortable. Engineered hardwood and laminate reacts quite differently to heat and cold which is another important factor to be considered.
- Being a poor thermal conductor, the wood surface of engineered wood flooring is relatively warm without any additional thermal underlayment.
- Laminate is thinner than engineered hardwood, making it easier for the cold to pass through. This condition can be rectified with a suitable foam underlayment which keeps the flooring warmer and comfortable to walk on.
Both laminate and engineered hardwood can be installed easily by trained professionals or a DIY method, though seeking professional help is always advisable for the best results and quick installation.
- Engineered hardwood can be installed with floating, click and lock method, nail-down, glue-down and stapling method. A structurally sound subfloor which is stable enough like concrete is essential for installing this material. It is rather difficult to handle for DIY installation as they are thicker than laminate and require precision cutting and skilled use of table and chop saws.
- Laminate can be easily installed as they have interlocking planks and can be floated on almost every subfloor. However, if the subfloor is concrete, moisture proofing must be done first to avoid any damage. Also, certain variants have underlayment attached to the floorboard and hence, the installation should be planned accordingly.
Cleaning and maintaining both the floor materials is easy. However, laminate is stain-resistant to most chemicals and elements which make it much easier to maintain.
- Engineered hardwood can be cleaned in the same way as solid hardwood and needs the same maintenance methods. Moreover, if the veneer is 2 mm to 6 mm thick, it can be refinished a few times. But the refinishing and installation is time-consuming and costly compared to laminate.
- Laminate can be easily installed and removed. Cleaning it is very easy as it is not susceptible to moisture, stains and scratching. However, it cannot be refinished once the top layer wears off and must be replaced.
Fluctuating moisture levels is common for organic or organic-based flooring. Hence, one must keep in mind how the moisture level influences the material while choosing it.
- In the case of engineered hardwood, which is designed to water and moisture better than hardwood, the effect of moisture cannot be completely out ruled as the core materials are organic components. It may be more resistant to moisture than hardwood but still needs to be cared for well to minimize the chances of water damage.
- Laminate flooring, on the other hand, is processed to be stain and moisture resistant. If it is installed with tight seams, suitable vapour barrier, and underlayment, the floorboard will be protected against moisture from above and below. Proper installation can make laminate flooring nearly waterproof. However, without the underlayment and vapour barrier, moisture can get trapped between the flooring and the subfloor which can damage the floorboards from underneath.
Laminate flooring clearly wins when you consider the maintenance, affordability, durability, and moisture resistance. However, the aesthetics, longevity, comfort and resale value of engineered hardwood is noteworthy. It comes down to personal preference and features that the homeowner values more. If you are confused regarding the right choice, you can always discuss your requirements with a flooring expert who can advise you best, after considering your unique situation.