This is a very general comparison between engineered hardwood flooring and laminate flooing to help you to better understand these floor groups. Please note, hardwood flooring comes in some many different species, finishes and construction types and that it is very difficult to place them all in one general category, so pre-finished engineered hardwood flooring is used for this comparison.
Hardwood FlooringWood floors are a natural, non-allergenic productHardwood floors can add real value to a home2 Basic types of hardwood floor construction:
Unfinished hardwood floors (also called job-site finished).
- Solid Wood Floors (prefinished & unfinished)
- cut from tree as a solid piece of wood
- plank widths vary from 2-1/4" to about 12"
- plank thicknesses vary from 7/16" to about 3/4"
- will react to changes in humidity
- recommended for above grade installations
- nail-down installation to a wood type sub floor
- solid wood needs proper expansion allowances along vertical walls
- Engineered Wood Floors (prefinished & some unfinished)
- 3 to 9 wood plies glued &laminated together
- plank thicknesses vary from 3/8" to about 9/16"
- top finish veneer may be domestic or exotic wood specie
- plank widths vary from 2-1/4" to about 7"
- glue, float, staple, or nail-down on all grade levels
- wood subfloors or dry concrete slabs
- glueless engineered wood floors install similar to laminate floors
- dimensionally stable, most may be net fitted to vertical walls.
- less effected by humidity changes than solid wood floors
Pre-finished hardwood floors (also called factory finished).
- with a job-site finish they sand the floor smooth, less chance for overwood
- custom stained colors, generally 2-3 coats added of finish
- this can be fairly messy, takes several days
Wood accents available to create unique looks and patterned designs.Never clean or wet mop a hardwood floor with water. Water can dull the finish and permanently damage the wood floor.All hardwood floors can be scratched. Scratches in the finish layer are fairly easy to repair.Areas with lots of direct sunlight may effect the wood color over timeMost hardwood floors can be used over radiant heat with some limitationsWood floor finishes can be used to restore the floors original beautyMostly used for: living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, dens, and great rooms.
- usually installs in less than a day
- less messy than job-site finish
- limited to manufacturer's colors
- manufacturers can apply 7-10 coats of finish
- factory finishes are extremely wear resistant
- some manufacturers add aluminum oxide for additional durability
- today's factory finishes are much easier to care for than the old waxed finishes.
- prefinished trims are not an exact match to the floor.
Laminate FlooringLaminate floors are NOT real wood floors Laminate floors are extremely impact, scratch, sunlight fade and stain resistantAlthough laminate floors are extremely tough, they can be scratched by big dogs or dragging heavy objects across the floor.Laminate flooring come in 3 types:
Trims and moldings are available for laminate floors. Moldings are laminated over a fiber core so they match the floor, or the moldings can also be made from real wood and color coordinate with the flooring.Laminate flooring uses the floating installation method, which means:
- Installer has to apply special glue
- Special glue is applied manually to the tongue & grooves of each plank.
- floating floor installation
- Not very common anymore
- Glueless floating laminate floors
- No glue, just click, or snap-fit lock planks together
- Most laminate floors are of this type
- Factory pre-glued, floating laminate floors
- The glue is applied at the factory. Just moisten the plank tongue and insert into adjacent plank.
- Some laminates use this method, not many
Most laminate floors can be used anywhere within the home, including wet area (but may not be warrantied).Laminate floors do not need a wax or polish.Excessive moisture may affect a laminate floor's inner core and overall performanceLaminate planks are not easily repaired. There are touch-up kits and chip repair kits, but difficult to find.Laminate floors require a thin, special padding underneath the planks so they can move freely.Laminate floors can be fairly noisy when walked on. Special underlayment paddings are made to help reduce the noise level.Glueless laminate floors are a very good do-it-yourself productHighly resistant to the effects of sunlightMost laminate floors can be used over radiant heated concrete slabsMostly used for: family rooms, living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms and dens.
- Laminate floors just rest on top of the subfloor. They are never secured or fastened to the substrate below. Instead they just lay on top of the substrate. Specially designed tongue-and-groove interlocking systems to secure planks together.
- Float entire floor over a variety of sub floor materials, such as plywood, OSB, existing vinyl flooring, concrete slabs, etc...
- You never have to glue-down, staple down, or nail-down laminate flooring.
- Even though these floors are floated the sub floor still must be level for locking planks together.