Laminate Flooring vs. Hardwood – What’s the Difference & Which is Better?

If your remodeling project or new construction calls for the look and feel of traditional hardwoods, then your three main flooring options will be laminate, hardwood, and engineered wood floors. Let’s explore the differences between laminate and hardwood floors.

ON THIS PAGE

  1. LAMINATE VS. HARDWOOD

    1. Appearance

    2. Cost

    3. Care

    4. Installation

    5. Durability

    6. Moisture Resistance

    7. Repair/Maintenance

    8. Environmentally Friendly

    9. Pets

    10. Radiant Heating

    11. Resale Value

SHOULD YOU CHOOSE LAMINATE OR HARDWOOD?

Laminate floors are made of several layers of durable materials. The bottom layer is called the stabilizing layer which is designed to resist moisture. This layer is then topped with synthetic fiberboards for strength. A photographic layer goes above the fiberboards, creating the design. Everything is then topped with a clear finish of melamine resin.

Hardwood floors are harvested from trees, formed into planks, and then sanded down to become smooth. They are also available in a variety of cuts and sizes and come from countless wood species. This flooring option is known for its organic grains and natural tones that can range from a pale beige to a deep bronze.

What is Laminate and Hardwood Floor Best For?

Laminate is best for…

Kitchens - Bathrooms - Cost Cutters - DIYers - Older Homes - Dog/ Cat Owners - Those seeking more style choices

Hardwood is best for…

Gorgeous Living Rooms - Colonial Style Homes - Longevity - Radiant Systems - The Environment -Resale Value - Repairs & Maintenance

Appearance

When it comes to looks, which material takes home the crown?

Laminate

 PROS

  • Synthetic materials continue to improve in quality, making these floors look good.

  • Look even closer to hardwoods compared to their past versions.

  • There are countless imitation possibilities since the photographic layer can replicate other materials like stone, fabric, bamboo, and cork.

 CONS

  • When copying wood, this floor can still look not as genuine due to the regularity of the “wood grains” in the photographic layer.

  • The glossy texture of the top layer can also look different from traditional hardwoods.

Hardwood

 PROS

  • They have a timeless appeal, unique organic grains, unexpected knots, and a natural texture that’s hard for laminate floors to fully copy.

  • They can also take on different stains, finishes, and be coated with wax for an extra shine.

  • If you choose a lighter species like white oak, you can also add some more interesting stains like red, blue, and even purple!

 CONS

  • They’re more easily scratched than laminate, therefore their beauty can be affected when not properly maintained.

  • Some species are also more vulnerable to discoloration when exposed to the sun for long periods of time.

 THE BEST MATERIAL IN LOOKS: HARDWOOD

Cost

Your budget decides much about your design project. Which material is more affordable?

LAMINATE

  • The more you spend, the better-quality floors you’ll install.

  • Low-end laminate installation can cost an easy $550, while high-end laminate floors can climb up to $7,000.

  • However, the national average for laminate installation is reasonable at about $3,000.

HARDWOOD

  • Overall, this floor is more expensive to buy and install.

  • The stronger the wood, the more it will cost.

  • Exotic woods also cost more than domestic woods.

  • There are also added costs to finish, treat, and wax the floor as well.

  • The average cost of installing hardwoods in a 1,000 square foot home is around $8,000.

 THE BEST MATERIAL FOR YOUR WALLET: LAMINATE

Care

When it comes to household chores, which floor is easier to care for?

Laminate

 PROS

  • It’s easy to keep these floors clean with a light vacuum since they don’t trap dust and allergens like carpets do.

  • Water-resistant, so it’s okay to mop them with water.

  • Less likely to fade or change their color from excessive sunlight.

 CONS

  • They don’t do well when standing water is left on their surface.

  • If they’re damaged, they can’t be sanded or refinished and must be replaced.


Hardwood

 PROS

 CONS

  • Can’t be mopped with just water due to their higher sensitivity to moisture, but instead must only be cleaned with specified products.

  • To maintain your floor’s look, you’ll need to take extra care by using furniture pads to prevent scratches.

  • Hardwoods also don’t do well with standing water.

  • Certain species are also more likely to change their color after too much sun exposure.


Find more installation and repair prices on our Flooring Cost Guide.

 THE WINNER FOR SIMPLE CARE: LAMINATE

Installation

What does the installation process look like for each material?

Laminate

 PROS

  • It can be installed below grade and can float over existing floors, making it more DIY-friendly.

  • It is easier to install because it’s usually prepared with tongue and grooves that snap together.

  • It also comes prefinished, so there’s no need for a lengthy sanding and finishing process inside your home.

  • Can be glued over wood, concrete or placed over a cork or foam pad.

 CONS

  • After installation, these floors can have a strong smell because their synthetic materials that may emit VOCs, which are also known as Volatile Organic Compounds.

  • If you’re making this a DIY project, make sure you have the know-how and the right tools.

  • Cutting the planks to the right lengths will need precision cutting and measuring to make accurate lengths and edges.


Hardwood

 PROS

  • Can come prefinished to save you time, though the upfront costs will be higher.

  • This kind of floor can also take on custom stains and finishes for some eye-catching looks!

  • For DIY projects, tongue-and-groove hardwood planks make the job easier.

 CONS

  • They are organic, which means they shouldn’t be installed below grade.

  • They’re also not made to float over existing floors.

  • Hardwoods are usually harder to install for both professionals and DIYers, making this a job you should outsource, if possible.

  • When hardwoods don’t come pre-finished, you can expect to take a day or two in a hotel while your contractors sand and finish your floors.

  • The dust and odor of the finish will be strong and not safe to inhale.

THE WINNER FOR EASY DIY INSTALLATION: LAMINATE

Durability

Which flooring can stand the test of time?

Laminate

 PROS

  • The top layer of these floors is resistant to scratches, stains, and dents.

  • This makes laminate ideal for busy lifestyles where there’s going to be heavy traffic and constant messes.

 CONS

  • These floors are not immune to scratches and dents.

  • Unlike hardwoods, whole planks must be uprooted and replaced to restore your floor since they can’t be refinished.

  • With good care, most laminate floors can last for 15-25 years.

  • lower quality brands may need to be replaced sooner.


Hardwood

 PROS

  • They can last at least 20 years with proper maintenance.

  • If they become damaged, they can also be refinished. Harder woods will be tougher and will last longer and softer woods.

  • There are even hardwoods that have survived for over 100 years in historic homes, so the possibility for a long life is great!

 CONS

  • These floors are organic, so they aren’t as resistant to scratches, stains, and dents as their laminate competitors.

  • They can differ in durability depending on the species.

  • Its strength can also increase after more expenses like finishing the wood, waxing, and with good maintenance.

  • Unfinished hardwoods are more prone to moisture damage and warping.


 THE WINNER FOR LONGEVITY: HARDWOOD

Moisture Resistance

When the hygrometer’s needle makes an uptick, which floor is more prone to damage?

Laminate

 PROS

  • The tough top layer can resist moisture well, which makes laminate a good material for rooms where spills are a possibility.

  • Great floor for your kitchen or bathroom.

  • The better the quality materials you buy, the better job your floors will perform in this department.

  • Since laminate floors are synthetic, they’re also less likely to have mold problems from moisture.

 CONS

  • They can still be damaged by standing water, which can make them warp.

  • Proper maintenance and cleaning is a must to make the most of laminate’s moisture-resisting power.


Hardwood

 PROS

  • Some species can tolerate moisture better than others.

  • Generally, the harder the wood, the more water resistant it is.

  • For example, Brazilian Cherry ranks a 2820 on the Janka hardness scale, making it better at resisting moisture than its domestic counterpart, American Cherry, which scores a 950.

  • Regular care, finishing, and waxing can also protect your floors from water damage.

 CONS

  • They are organic, so they can grow mold if exposed to constant moisture.

  • Unfinished wood is more likely to get moisture damage, whereas no hardwoods should be installed in the kitchen or bathroom due to the moisture levels.


 THE BEST FOR KITCHENS AND BATHROOMS: HARDWOOD

Repair & Maintenance

Which floor is the easiest to maintain for busy homeowners?

Laminate

 PROS

  • They’re easy to clean and maintain.

  • They can be mopped with water and generally don’t need any special cleaning solution. Keeping these floors clean will maximize their life.

  • They also don’t need to be sanded, waxed, or refinished.

 CONS

  • These floors can get stained if juice and coffee spills are left on them for too long.

  • If they get damaged, they can’t be refinished and must be fully replaced.


Hardwood

 PROS

  • These floors can be refinished many times during their life.

  • Noticeable scratches and other imperfections can be reversed.

  • There’s also no need to rip out floors and reinstall everything like with laminate floors.

 CONS


 THE REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE WINNER: HARDWOOD

Environmentally-Friendly/Renewable

We need to be conscious about how our choices affect the environment. Which flooring is better for our planet?

LAMINATE

  • Since they’re made with recycled materials, they take some waste out of landfills.

  • Current recycling technology also makes 85% of laminate floors recyclable.

  • At this time, it’s hard to know all the ways synthetic floors can affect the environment.

HARDWOOD

  • Since hardwoods are made of organic materials, they are biodegradable.

  • They rank among the few flooring choices that are environmentally friendly since they come directly from trees.

  • Depending on the species and thickness, they can take years to decompose. For some perspective, a wooden chair can take up to 13 years to rot.

 THE WINNER FOR THE PLANET: HARDWOOD

Pets

Man’s best friends can sometimes mean trouble for floors. If you have a pet, which flooring should you choose?

 

Laminate

 PROS

  • Pet nails are less likely scratch these floors.

  • It’s also easy to clean pet hair from their smooth surface.

  • These floors are more water resistant, so they’re better for puppies and kittens who are learning to be house trained.

 CONS

  • Pet waste can still make them smell, so you need to be mindful to clean up accidents right away.


Hardwood

 PROS

  • Waxed and finished hardwood floors fare well against nail scratches and pet waste.

  • If pets damage them with nails and urine, the floor can be refinished.

  • They are also smooth and easy to keep clean.

 CONS

  • These floors are more prone to damage from pet waste and scratches than laminate.

  • Unfinished hardwood floors are not ideal for pets because they aren’t moisture-resistant and can absorb pet waste.


 THE WINNER FOR PET OWNERS: LAMINATE

Radiant Heating System

A radiant heating system is cozy, especially in colder climates. Which material works better with it?

LAMINATE

  • This material can be used with radiant heating systems, but it must be specially made for radiant systems. Some laminate floors aren’t good conductors, so you need to check with the manufacturer before installation.

HARDWOOD

  • Dense and thin boards are good for radiant heat, just make sure the boards aren’t too soft or thick. Choose wood that can adapt to moisture changes, like kiln-dried wood. As always, check with the product’s manufacturer before installing.

 THE WINNER FOR RADIANT HEAT: HARDWOOD

Resale Value

Which floor will boost your home’s value?

LAMINATE

  • The maximum life is 25 years with the best quality materials and proper care.

  • However, because of its lower cost, it doesn’t do much to add value to your home.

  • Prospective buyers still look to hardwoods as a standard of timeless quality.

HARDWOOD

  • Because hardwood floors can last for generations, they raise your home’s value more than laminate floors.

  • According to Time.com, hardwood floors boost your home’s resale value, referring to a study from that reveals that 54% of homebuyers would invest more in a home that has hardwoods.

 THE WINNER IN RESALE VALUE: HARDWOOD


TILE GUIDE: BENEFITS, IDEAS AND TYPES OF TILE FLOORING

Learn about the benefits of tile flooring such as long-wearing durability, moisture resistance and ease of maintenance, which makes tile ceramic flooring the ideal choice for beauty and wear.

Types of Tiles: Contemporary Ceramic, Porcelain and Stone

With its timeless beauty and long-wearing durability, ceramic, porcelain and stone tile flooring create a unique look that's as practical as it is personal.

It's perfect in kitchens and baths where moisture resistance and easy maintenance are essential. And its impact and scratch-resistant properties make it ideal for family and recreation rooms that get heavy-duty use.

You'll find innovative designs in ceramic, porcelain and stone tile that are as affordable as they are appealing.

Decide Which Tile is Suitable for Your Intended Location

All of our ceramic tiles are clearly labeled for their performance in a variety of conditions and applications. Our Quick-Pick icons indicate if they are suitable for indoor or outdoor use, if they are rated as frost-proof, and whether they are appropriate for residential or commercial settings.

Choose Tiles to Complement Your Decorating Goals

Today's broad selection of ceramic, porcelain and stone tile is suitable for both casual and formal settings. You'll find a stunning array of choices including glazed and unglazed finishes; deco, rustic and contemporary styles; and porcelain, slate and terra cotta tiles. And, you can create endless designs throughout your home with perfectly matched decorative accents and trim pieces.

Understand Shade and Texture Variations

Quick-pick icons help you choose tiles according to their range of shade and texture variations, low, medium or high. These variations are natural effects of the tile manufacturing process and account for the vibrant mix of shades and textures unique to this traditional flooring.

All these elements make a difference in how your floor will look: our Quick-Pick Icons identify those differences so you're sure to get the look you want. Don't forget to check out Installation to learn all about the little details that make a big difference when transitioning from old floors to new.

Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring: Pros, Cons & Differences

If you’re looking for a hardwood alternative that’s easy on your budget but still looks good, then luxury vinyl or laminate are great choices. These two materials are often confused with one another. However, they have some important differences that you should know before making your decision.

ON THIS PAGE:

  1. WHAT IS LAMINATE

  2. WHAT IS LUXURY VINYL

    1. LVP

    2. LVT

  3. WHICH IS BEST?

    1. Comparing Appearance

    2. Cost

    3. Care

    4. Dogs, Cats, & Other Pets

    5. Installation

    6. Durability

    7. Waterproof

    8. Repair & Maintenance

    9. Environmentally Friendly

    10. Radiant Heating

    11. Resale Value

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAMINATE AND VINYL FLOORING?

Laminate is made of 99% wood byproducts. It’s also called composite, Pergo (which is a specific brand of flooring), or floating wood tile. It’s composed of several layers of rigid, high-density fiberboards that are laminated together into planks. The photographic image under the resin layer depicts the material you want, which is usually stone or wood. It often floats, which means it can snap and click over an existing floor without being nailed or glued down. It can also be glued to a subfloor.

Luxury vinyl, which isn’t to be confused with sheet vinyl, is a newer innovation that makes it a far cry from the plastic-like tiles you see in older homes. It’s made of several layers of resilient polyvinyl chloride (PVC) while the top layer is coated with urethane. Luxury vinyl comes in two forms:

  • Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)– These long planks can mimic the look of traditional hardwood floors. They can float, be glued down, or snap together. LVP can also be smooth or textured to mimic different types of materials.

  • Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT)– These attractive tiles come in a greater variety of lengths and widths compared to LVP. Therefore, it’s better suited for imitating materials like stone, granite, and concrete. However, they can also be made into wood-like tiles and rectangles. LVT can float, peel-and-stick, be glued down, or snap together for easy installation.


WHICH FAUX WOOD IS BETTER?

Though they’re similar in appearance, radiant heating, and installation, Luxury Vinyl has a slight advantage in most of the other categories. However, both materials are excellent choices for any homeowner looking for an affordable floor that’s made to handle high traffic and the messes of life.

Laminate is Better For…

Luxury Vinyl is Better For…

Cost Cutters

Pets

The Environment

Repairs/Maintenance

Durability

Water/Moisture

Care

Resale Value

Appearance

When it comes to looks, which one will suit your needs?

Luxury Vinyl

 PROS

  • The photographic layer can depict many materials.

  • Advances in manufacturing allow more detailed textures besides just smooth and shiny, departing from its “plastic” look of yesteryear.

 CONS

  • It still looks a bit synthetic compared to natural materials.

Laminate

 PROS

  • The photographic layer can depict many materials to suit your room’s design.

  • Manufacturing techniques have advanced for this material as well, allowing more textures besides a smooth laminated top layer.

 CONS

  • Though it comes close to looking like wood, its synthetic nature makes it appear slightly artificial.

Care

Which material is easier to clean?

Luxury Vinyl

 PROS

  • This material is generally smooth and 100% waterproof, making spills easy to clean without giving dust a place to hide.

  • Cleaning them requires a light vacuum, consistent sweeping, and the occasional deep clean with cleaners that can cost around $20 per gallon.

 CONS

  • Homeowners who pick a textured style should expect to have a tougher time getting dust and food particles out of the grooves.

Laminate

 PROS

  • Since it’s smooth on the surface, spills are easy to clean.

  • It also won’t trap dust and dirt easily.

  • Cleanup is easy, requiring regular vacuuming, sweeping, and a little TLC with material-specific cleaners.

  • A typical cleaning product costs around $20 per gallon, or $8 for a 32-oz. spray bottle.

 CONS

  • Homeowners who pick textured styles should expect to put more effort into removing dust and food particles from the grooves.

 THE EASIEST TO CARE FOR: LAMINATE

Dogs, Cats & Other Pets

Which floors are good for our four-legged companions?

Luxury Vinyl

 PROS

  • Since LVP is 100% waterproof, house training puppies or kittens aren’t as stressful.

  • Scratch-resistant surfaces make pet nail damage nothing to worry about.

  • Pet hair and dander can easily be swept or vacuumed away.

 CONS

  • Though it stands up well against pets, urine should still be cleaned up quickly since it isn’t impervious to smells.

Laminate

 PROS

  • The top layer can be water and scratch-resistant when properly installed, making it tough against surface messes and nail scratches.

  • Pet hair and dander is easily cleaned off its smooth surface.

 CONS

  • Since it isn’t waterproof, homeowners should house train their puppies and kittens before installing it.

  • Pet urine can seep into any unsealed cracks and cause a lasting smell or even cause moisture damage to the fiberboard.

 THE BEST CHOICE FOR YOUR FURRY FRIENDS: LUXURY VINYL

YOUR GUIDE TO CARPET

There are plenty of fiber types of carpet and carpet styles to choose from. Learn more about why carpet is a great choice for your home flooring.

  • There are a variety of carpet styles, patterns and colors to choose from to satisfy any personal style and match any décor.

  • Carpet's cushioned surface absorbs sound and is less noisy to walk on than hard surface flooring.

  • When considering affordability, carpet is one of the most economical flooring products to have installed.

  • The insulating properties of carpet provide additional warmth underfoot during cold seasons.

  • Carpet is a non-slip surface that is safe underfoot and provides a cushion to prevent breakage when delicate items are accidentally dropped.

  • Most synthetic carpets are treated with static, stain and soil resistant treatments, making them easy to clean and maintain.

Carpet Fiber Types:

To pick the right carpet fiber, consider how you live in each room. There are four basic types of carpet fiber:

Nylon

Nylon is the most durable and stain resistant carpet fiber available, when treated with stain protection. It is the fiber of choice for homes with pets and children and for those who entertain a lot. Perfect for heavy traffic in hallways and stairs.

Polyester

Polyester is known for its luxurious look, feel and wonderful selection of colors and styles. It's a good value for homes with a normal amount of traffic.

Olefin

Olefin offers good stain and moisture resistance, but scores below nylon and polyester for wearability It is best suited for loop pile construction or high, very dense cut piles.

Wool

Favored for its natural beauty. Wool carpet has natural soil resistance qualities, but is not inherently stain resistant. Wool looks good for a long time and is well constructed.

Carpet Construction

Over 90% of residential carpet is manufactured as tufted carpet. A tufting machine works like an oversized sewing machine with hundreds of needles that insert loops of fiber (tufts or stitches) into the carpet's backing to form the face pile of the carpet.

How long your carpet will last depends on how well it is made. Quality construction will affect the durability, appearance and price of the carpet and is most influenced by the twist of the fibers and the density of the tufts.

Twist

Twist refers to how tightly the fiber (carpet yarn) has been twisted. The tighter the yarn is twisted, the better the carpet will stand up to crushing and matting.This is especially important in cut pile carpet, because the tips are exposed and can easily become untwisted. Frieze carpet has the highest twist level at about 7-9 twists per inch (TPI), whereas most cut pile carpet styles have between 3-6 twists per inch.

Density

Density refers to both the amount, and how tightly packed together the fibers are within the carpet. The closer together the fibers are placed, the denser the carpet will be, and the better it will wear and perform.

Ways to check for carpet density include trying to reach the carpet backing by pressing your fingers on the carpet fibers. The more difficult it is to reach the backing, the denser the carpet. Or with outward facing tufts, bend the carpet into a U-shape and look at how much of the carpet backing is visible. The less backing that shows, the denser the carpet.

Stain Resistant Carpet:

Consider how you live in each room. If you have kids, pets, and high traffic areas or entertain a lot, you will want to choose a carpet with stain resistance. The desire to protect your home with quality stain resistance won't limit your choice of carpet styles and colors.

The primary factor in determining stain resistance is carpet fiber type: nylon, polyester, olefin or wool. Beyond fiber type, most manufacturers apply post-production stain protection treatments to enhance the natural stain resistant properties of any fiber. Ask your Flooring America Sales Professional for assistance in making a flooring choice to suit your lifestyle. And, be sure to reference our Five Star Selection System to help guide you to the right level of warranty protection.

Carpet Textures:

Cut Pile

Cut pile carpet consists of yarns that are cut at the ends. The soft feel of cut pile carpet makes it a perfect choice for the most comfortable areas of your home - bedrooms, living rooms and family rooms.There are five basic styles of cut pile carpet: Velvet, Saxony, Frieze, Shag, and Cable, each provide a different look and texture. The primary difference among these styles is the amount of twist in the yarns that will ultimately influence the carpet's durability.

Loop

Loop carpet has yarns that are looped and uncut on the carpet surface. The pile height can vary from low, tightly constructed to a more luxurious high-level pile. Loop carpet has, strength and soil hiding capabilities. This style is ideal for heavy traffic areas. Berber is the most popular style of loop carpet that can be constructed as a level-loop or multi-loop carpet.

Cut-loop

As the name suggests, this carpet has a combination of high cut tufts and lower loops in a variety of sculptured patterns.

Cut-loop carpets offer good performance but are slightly less durable than loop carpets.

Dye Methods:

There are two popular methods for dying carpet; both methods offer great color.

Solution Dyed

The fiber is dyed before the fiber are woven. This method gives the carpet stronger stain and fade resistance, along with resistance to harsh cleaning agents, such as bleach.

Continuous Dyed

This method is completed during the post-tufting process and most suitable for woven carpet. It is a process that achieves solid colors.

Color Selection:

Think of your floor as the fifth wall that connects all other design elements in the room. Consider the walls, window treatments and other furnishings when choosing a color scheme. Bring fabric and color samples when you visit our store, where our flooring experts will assist you.

All these elements make a difference in how your floor will look. Don't forget to check out Installation to learn all about the little details that make a big difference when transitioning from old floors to new.

Select a Style That Fits Your Lifestyle