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Real Hardwood vs. Laminate: Pros and Cons

Choosing flooring? We have insight. Here are the pros and cons for choosing laminate or hardwood

What you need to know about the hardwood vs. laminate flooring debate

If you follow market trends in home decorating, you’ll have noticed a sharp decline in sales of carpeting in recent years. Homeowners are moving away from wall to wall carpeting in favor of hard surface flooring. While carpeting feels comfortable underfoot, it is much harder to clean, and the look of brand new carpeting does not last long under the constant assault it takes from the average family with active children and pets.

But when it comes to hard flooring for your kitchen or other rooms in the house, what is the best choice? Many families are facing the tough choice between real hardwood floors or laminate flooring. What’s the difference, and which is best suited for active family life?

Laminate Vs. Hardwood. What is the Difference?

Real hardwood flooring is exactly as it sounds. It is measured and sanded planks of real wood from many different kinds of trees, sold either prefinished or unfinished. Laminate flooring, on the other hand looks like real wood, but it is not. Instead, laminate is a layered blend of synthetics designed to give the appearance of real wood. First there is a stabilizing layer that resists moisture. Next is the fiberboard core layer. On top of that is an imprinted textured picture made to look like real wood and then topped with a clear melamine resin finish.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Real Hardwood Flooring

In appearance, the look of genuine hardwood flooring can’t be matched, though high-quality laminate certainly comes close. The fact that wood planks are cut from real trees means that no two planks look exactly the same. Variations of wood grain, color, and knot holes across a floor space is organic, naturally beautiful, and can’t quite be duplicated. Hardwood flooring can take on many different appearances with a number of finish colors and can have a mellow, matte finish or be waxed into a glossy shine.

Hardwood is durable and can last a lifetime. It’s easily repaired by sanding and refinishing, or entire boards can be replaced to repair more serious damage. Hardwood is naturally stain resistant and resilient. It can be sanded and refinished many times over, allowing the floor to last as long as eighty years or more if well-maintained.

Hardwood flooring is also naturally insulating and may save on energy costs. It’s organic and eco-friendly with no off-gassing of the boards themselves.

While beautiful and long lasting, hardwood flooring is also more expensive and more difficult to install than laminates. It can be more easily dented and scratched than laminate flooring and can become discolored if over-exposed to sunlight. The planks are harder to maintain and require special cleaners. It’s usually best to use those recommended by the manufacturer.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is easier to install than real hardwood and requires no special tools. It can usually be snapped together and needs no adhesive. It gives the appearance of real wood, or sometimes of stone or brick, and never needs refinishing. The top layer is bonded under high heat and pressure, resulting in a surface that is harder than real wood. It is resistant to moisture, staining, and fading, and is easily wiped clean with a dry or damp microfiber mop. Most laminate flooring is expected to last about ten years with very little maintenance required. These floors are moisture resistant and work well in kitchens, bathrooms, and even basements.

The newest laminates look even more like real hardwood than the ones of just a few years ago and have made tremendous gains in popularity. They hold up well under the onslaught of children, pets, and busy family lives.

While the newest laminates look convincingly similar to real hardwood, a closer look will allow you to notice repetition of wood grain patterns in laminate flooring, generally around every fifth board. The photographic imaging repeats itself, unlike the unique nature of each real hardwood plank.

Regular cleaning and maintenance is easier on laminate floors, but even the very best quality laminates are made to last only ten to twenty years, as indicated on the warranties. Both minor and major repairs are much more difficult, or even impossible. on laminates that have been damaged, unlike real wood flooring which can be sanded down and refinished. Laminates cannot be sanded or refinished and must be replaced if damaged or discolored.

It’s clear that both types of hard surface flooring have their benefits and disadvantages, so it’s important to consider the pros and cons before deciding on which is right for your family. You can choose real hardwood flooring for its durability and longevity, knowing it may cost more but can be repaired easily and last a lifetime.

Or you can choose a family-friendly laminate for both beauty and ease of cleaning and maintenance to work around your busy family life.

Resources— Home Advisor, The Spruce, Coswick

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