Laminate or Hardwood? Which is the Best to Choose?

Nothing helps a home sell like hardwood floors. One of the benefits of an older home is the original hardwood flooring, beloved by modern homeowners and buyers alike. If you live in a newer home, of course, you don’t have the luxury of antique floors. However, you do have the luxury of choice—hardwood or laminate flooring?

Obviously, the first thing you’re probably going to consider is the price. Hardwood floors are going to be more expensive—sometimes significantly so depending on the wood you choose. The more exotic the wood, the more expensive. Prices aren’t just raised for the materials, but also for the installation. The cost of installing laminate floors is sometimes up to 50% less than hardwood floors.

Depending on your lifestyle, you also need to consider the durability of the materials. Hardwood is susceptible to scratching and warping due to water damage and humidity, compared to laminates, which can take a little more abuse and don’t mind a little humidity, which makes it much better for areas like bathrooms and kitchens.

Laminate flooring is highly resistant to staining, fading, and any other kinds of wear that cause wood floors to need refinishing after a while. Unfortunately, because laminate is so hard and resistant, any damage that does happen to the floor will show and can’t be easily repaired. Both materials can be replaced by the plank depending on the type of installation, but the beauty of hardwood floors is that scratches can be sanded out and refinished. The lifespan of the floors is pretty much indefinite depending on the care you give it and the wood itself. Laminate floors last around 20-50 years depending on the brand and quality of the laminate itself.

Also consider the look you’re going for.

While hardwood flooring is pretty limited by species and finish, laminate flooring can literally look like anything. Stone, hardwood, ceramic tile, laminate can do it all without the vulnerabilities of any of them. However, natural hardwood had a classic, warm feeling that can be hard for laminate to mimic.

Installation depends on the material and method of install. Glueing down the floors can be done by yourself, but they can be messy. Floating laminate can also be installed by you with no issues.  Nail-down hardwood is best done by a professional, as the wood can split if you don’t know what you’re doing.

It is also worth considering the environmental impact of your flooring choice. While it may seem kind of silly, this can be an important choice for some consumers. Hardwood floors, are renewable, though many wood species are over-harvested for flooring and other purposes. Laminate flooring is made of recycled wood, but the glues and resins used in its production can be toxic.

Ultimately, your choice should be informed by what you expect from your flooring. Does it need to handle the everyday abuse that comes with having a busy family and active lifestyle like laminate can? Can you handle the touchy maintenance sometimes required by hardwood floors?