Laminate vs Hardwood: Choosing Laminate or Hardwood Flooring

Last Updated on December 8, 2021 by Kimberly Crawford

Alternatives to carpet flooring are becoming increasingly popular and adding value to homes, but is laminate or hardwood the right choice for your home?

Discerning buyers and homeowners are increasingly demanding flooring choices other than carpet. There are a multitude of options available including cork, linoleum and tile but the most popular and affordable are coming down to laminate or hardwood, particularly for main living areas.

There are a few key considerations to take into account in deciding whether laminate or hardwood flooring is the best option for you and your home.

Floor Surface Durability

Hardwood flooring
Hardwood Flooring

Laminate is a man-made material with a surface layer made of melamine resin that is extremely durable, waterproof and resistant to wear. However, manufacturers frequently advise against installing laminates in high moisture areas like kitchens and bathrooms because if water does penetrate the floor between the seams, the floor is susceptible to heaving or softening of the fibreboard core of the plank. Better grade laminates will sometimes have wax on the seam edges or instructions for glue to make these floors more water resistant.

Hardwood is a much softer surface and is more susceptible to surface scratching or warping due to water contact. Extreme temperature changes can also cause hardwoods to warp so specific manufacturers directions for installation must be followed carefully to prevent damage from flexing.

Hardwood floors are not recommended for installation below grade (below ground level) while laminate floor can be used both above and below grade.

Colour and Design

Laminate Flooring
Laminate Flooring

Laminate and hardwood floors are both available in a wide variety of colours and even textures. A designer look can be achieved with either material. Laminate is a man-made material so the cheapest ones can tend to look and feel slightly plastic. Hardwood is a softer material and more easily damaged by wear, but can also be sanded and refinished.

When designing your room and choosing the flooring material keep in mind the amount of traffic the room will get and who will be using the room. Additionally consider the lifetime of the house, hardwood is perceived as more valuable to a buyer so could contribute to accelerate the appreciation of your home.

Price Comparison

General perception is that laminate floors are cheaper than hardwood floors and this is true if one compares the cheapest available options in each category.

However, in taking into consideration the other factors above you might not wish to select the most basic option. In comparing a mid-grade laminate to a mid-grade hardwood you will find prices more competitive and may often find that a good hardwood can be purchased for less than the better laminates.

Price of installation should also be factored into the buying decision. Laminate is a floating floor and easily installed by even a Do-It-Yourself beginner over almost any type of existing floor, including those that aren’t quite level. Hardwood generally requires much more prep of the existing floor surface as it must be clear and level. Special tools are required and installation is often better left to the professionals.

The most important consideration in choosing laminate or hardwood floor for your home should be the use of the room. Then buy the best grade in that category that you can afford.

laminate or hardwood flooring