Design Ideas

Engineered hardwood v. Laminate floors: Understanding the difference

February 20, 2017
 

Hardwood FloorsIt's no secret that wood floors are some of the best surfaces to use in your home. However, when it comes to two of the most common choices - engineered hardwood and laminate - there is still a lot of confusion. Contrary to popular opinion, they are not the same thing. In fact, there are major differences that distinguish one from the other. While there are pros and cons to both, the one that will offer you the best value depends on your specific needs and requirements.

Let's take a deeper look into what defines each.

"Many people assume engineered and laminate floors are the same."

What is engineered hardwood?
Engineered hardwood is a type of hardwood floor, not to be confused with solid hardwood. Solid, as you may expect, is made from one solid piece of wood from top to bottom. Engineered hardwood, on the other hand, features a prefinished top layer of real wood. The rest is made up of planks of either plywood or high-density fiberboard, giving the wood added strength, durability and stability especially in areas of high humidity. 

What is laminate flooring?
Laminate floors are made using a photographic imaging process where a highly realistic, detailed wood grain image is printed on as a decorative top layer that mimics the appearance of authentic hardwood. Underneath is a core of high density fiberboard. Manufacturers can also make these surfaces to look like materials other than wood, such as concrete.

The use of laminate as a flooring option began in the 1970s and has continued to gain popularity amongst homeowners because of its affordable price tag and design versatility. Laminate floors are generally easy to install and are done through what is called a floating floor– meaning that it can be installed on top of a subfloor via an interlocking system.

"The main difference is that engineered floors contain real wood, and laminate ones do not."

Engineered versus laminate flooring
Obviously, it's easy to see how engineered and laminate wood floors can be mistaken for one another: Both present a wood visual, consist of multiple layers and, in most cases, are less expensive than solid hardwood. Plus, engineered flooring can often be sanded and refinished, but laminate cannot.

Laminate wood flooring can be a great choice for homeowners who favor the appearance of wood floors, but don't have the budget to spring for engineered or solid hardwood. It is important to note, though, that although solid hardwood floors usually come with a bigger price tag, there are many advantages to engineered hardwood floors, since they are built in a way that eliminates many of the issues presented by solid wood, such as expansion due to changes in temperature. Also, engineered hardwood floors can be installed over many types of sub floors including concrete where solid cannot. And because engineered floors use real wood as the top layer, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between them and solid wood floors. With laminates, one of the most affordable wood flooring types, you may be able to tell that it is not authentic hardwood. 

Engineered hardwood versus laminate
Obviously, it's easy to see how engineered and laminate wood floors can be mistaken for one another: Both present a wood visual, consist of multiple layers and, in most cases, are less expensive than solid hardwood. Plus, engineered flooring can be sanded and refinished, but laminate cannot.


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