People make the mistake all the time in assuming that Laminate Flooring and Engineered Flooring are the same thing. That’s like saying an apple and an orange are the same thing! Other than both being a type of flooring, that’s where the similarities stop. If you are trying to decide between the two types of flooring, here is a little Flooring 101 for you when it comes to Laminate & Engineered floors.
Engineered flooring is a product made from real natural wood layered and bonded together with a solid wood top layer. The best engineered flooring products are domestically made with a hardwood core whose layers run in alternating directions to minimize movement. Having the same species of wood on the bottom layer as the top also allows the floor to move together rather against itself if there is ever any movement. This simply makes the floor much more stable.
Laminate flooring is a synthetic product that fuses varies layers of man-made material together using a lamination process. An image is placed on the top layer to resemble a real wood floor or any other material the manufacture wants to resemble. An underlayment or padding must be placed under a laminate floor prior to installing the floor.
Cost is certainly an important factor when building or remodeling a home and your flooring choice can have a big impact on the budget. When considering what type flooring to use in your project consider both the cost today but also what your costs may look like over time. While on the surface laminate flooring appears to be much cheaper than engineered flooring, that’s not always the case. True, you can find laminate flooring for a couple of dollars per square foot, however to get that “real wood” look you have to spend at least twice that amount. At those price points, you are in the range of some high quality engineered hardwood flooring. Not to mention you have to factor in the additional cost of the padding when looking at laminate flooring.
Let’s talk longevity as there is a cost associated with this as well. This is one of those long term costs I was referring to just a minute ago. While both laminate flooring and engineered wood flooring will last a long time, the life expectance of a laminate floor is about 20 years with a quality engineered wood floor lasting up to 75 years. Some manufactures of engineered wood floors even offer 50 year warranties. Another thing to consider when thinking about longevity is how the floor will wear. When an engineered wood floor starts to show wear, you can sand down the top layer and re-stain the floor. Depending on the wear layer, you may be able to do this a couple of times. When a laminate floor shows wear, there really isn’t a whole lot you can do about it unfortunately.
Both floors are relatively easy to install. They take about the same amount of time to install and the skill level needed to do the job is comparable. Both floors are easy to clean with a regular light mopping typically all that’s needed on an ongoing basis. With laminate floors, since they aren’t real wood, you can be a bit more liberal with your water use. Other than that the floors are very similar to maintain outside the wear issue mentioned above.
Laminate flooring certainly serves a purpose and has a place in the flooring world. Many times a laminate floor will be exactly what the job and budget calls for and will provide satisfaction and enjoyment for the homeowner. If visually the real wood look is what you are going for plus the real wood feel, value and longevity is important to you, then engineered flooring is the only way to go when considering a laminate floor vs an engineered wood floor.