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FAF Blog

Hardwood Flooring vs. Laminate Floors Revisited

By FAF Staff Writer, (975 words) Posted in Hardwood Flooring on July 25, 2009
There are (36) comments permalink

A lot has been written about hardwood flooring versus laminate floors. You probably found this blog and many other hardwood and laminate flooring blogs or articles by searching online. Because of the constant questions that we receive, we are going to revisit the topic of how hardwood and laminate floors differ as well as how these two types of floors share similarities.

Each person reading this blog may have a different reason for wanting to know differences between hardwood and laminate flooring. Some of you might have been told they are the same, or wonder if laminate floors are more scratch resistant then hardwood. Below we are going to try and answer the most popular hardwood flooring vs. laminate floor questions. If you don’t get your floor question answered here, feel free to post a reply to this flooring blog and this social floor community will do its best to assist you.

First, let’s start by making sure that everyone reading this floor blog understands the definitions of hardwood and laminate flooring. Hardwood floors are natural products that can be either solid construction or engineered. Popular types (called species) of hardwood floors are red oak, maple, hickory, Brazilian cherry, teak and walnut. Laminate flooring is made with a solid fiber board core with a photograph of wood on the surface protected by a laminated surface.

The most popular hardwood versus laminate floor question is related to the visual appearance and everything related such as scratch, wear, and moisture resistance. Years ago a person in or out of the floor industry could easily tell the difference between laminate and hardwood floors. One easy way was just looking at them. Hardwood floors seemed natural, because it is, and laminate flooring looked like a photograph laminated like a driver's license. In addition, walking on the floors would prove just as telling as hardwood sounded denser which laminate felt and sounded thin and like walking on thick plastic. Sure, some of these differences remain today, but laminate flooring has become much more advanced and even flooring professionals can't tell the difference between hardwood and laminate by just the mere appearance. Of course, the more expensive the laminate becomes, the more "real" it appears. If you are thinking you can find a .89 cent laminate floor at a discount floor store or online through a flooring e–tailer that will fool your friends and family, think again.

When it comes to scratch resistance, laminate floors are the king. Although some hardwood flooring manufacturers have invented great finishes that protect hardwood floors from scratches, laminate floors are typically more resistant and show minor scratches to the surfaces less. Now, what if either type of flooring gets a scratch, this is where hardwood flooring shines over laminate floors. Hardwood can be repaired by either using a scratch repair kit or by having the floors refinished. Laminate is difficult if not impossible to repair. We have seen repairs made to laminate floors, and you can always seem to tell where as hardwood looks new again or is at least a lot less noticeable.

long with scratches, many floor consumers are concerned with denting or impact resistance. Hardwood floors vary in density and hardness is measured using the Janka Hardness Test. Even the hardest woods such as Ipe (Brazilian Walnut) and Cumaru, can dent. This is not to say that laminate floors will not dent, because they will, but do to the fact that they are made from fiberboard, they are a lot denser, therefore resisting dents.

One area where both types of flooring are susceptible to damage is from moisture. Hardwoods are natural and therefore changes in the humidity may affect they appearance do the expansion and contraction of the cellular construction. Laminate flooring is made from fiberboard, and although many companies have made moisture resistant fiberboard, most laminate is still vulnerable to wet areas such as bathrooms and kitchens. The difference between hardwood and laminate flooring regarding moisture is that hardwood can typically be repaired by drying out and being sanded and refinished. Laminate floors on the other hand typically have to be replaced if they suffer any moisture damage. This is because laminate flooring cannot be sanded and refinished. I typically tell people that laminate is like cardboard when it gets wet. Even when the cardboard dries it is never back to its new condition and always has some distortion left from the wet and dry process. The best thing for both hardwood and laminate floors are to keep moisture away from them.

In today's economic climate, FindAnyFloor.com gets a lot of flooring questions from consumers regarding the ease of Do It Yourself floor installation. More importantly we are asked if they can install hardwood flooring just as easy as laminate. The answers typically revolve around a person's knowledge and skill level with home improvement products. The easiest answer is this; if you want to install hardwood flooring yourself as a DIY project, you should consider click lock engineered hardwood flooring. The locking mechanism is different from traditional tongue and groove and engineered floors install much like their laminate flooring counterparts. In addition, most engineered hardwood flooring doesn't have to be glued or nailed down, making the installation much easier as a DIY (Do It Yourself) project. In any event, we always recommend that consumers consult a flooring installation professional before beginning a floor project.

The last point we will make about hardwood vs. laminate flooring is the life expectancy. Many people will assume that since laminate doesn't scratch as easily, that it will last longer or look better long term. This is really not the case. Hardwood flooring should last much longer than laminate flooring since hardwood floors can be refinished to look as good as new. This depends a lot on the thickness of the hardwood floor, especially if it is engineered. The thickness of the face of the hardwood floor above the tongue and groove or click system determines the amount of time that it can be sanded, repaired and refinished. The thicker the top layer the longer the hardwood floor will typically last.

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Comments (36)

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arizona hardwood flooring posted on: March 3, 2010

The thing to remember, is wood and water are not friends. For the most part, simply clean it with a dry mop. There are wood laminate cleaners you can buy for occasional use. The thing is to apply this sparingly, and dry it immediately.

Swifter makes a good product. You squeeze the handle, apply the cleaner, and mop it dry all in one motion.

Laminate is made from wood, but pressed wood. The pattern you see in laminate is actually a photograph. The cleaning method is the same.

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Heated timber floors posted on: August 23, 2011

Engineered hardwood flooring is usually more expensive than laminate flooring. But while laminate flooring mimics a specific type of natural hardwood, it isn’t actually that wood. Engineered is made much like how laminate flooring is but has one significant difference. The top layer of laminate flooring is made from a photographic layer of whatever surface it is mimicking such as natural wood or stone tile. The top layer of engineered hardwood flooring is the actual wood. This gives the home the authentic feel of having real hardwood floors installed.

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