The Difference Between Hardwood and Laminate

Although the finished product may have a similar look, hardwood and laminate are actually very structurally different. This makes the way that you install, repair and clean them vary. Both have a list of their pro's & con's, so if you are looking to install either of these products in your home, it's important that you understand the differences and benefits to each.

Hardwood flooring is made of 100% wood, whereas laminate is made of fiberboard with a photographic pattern placed on top. The layers are fused together under a clear protective layer that adds durability and moisture protection. For this reason, laminate can sometimes be confused with engineered hardwood, but again, they are two completely different products.

While hardwood flooring is the more authentic choice and has a longer life, laminate flooring is usually the more affordable option. Both are very durable, with laminate being less susceptible to scratches and easier to clean. Hardwood on the other hand can be resurfaced every 10-20 years to remove any dings, scratches or dents on the surface. The life expectancy for laminate is about 20 years, but hardwood can be up to 75 years, depending on its width of it and how many times it's been refinished. Each time hardwood is refinished, it takes a thin layer of the wood off, and most hardwood varieties can be sanded and refinished 3-4 times before it needs to be replaced entirely.

Most hardwood interlocks together, and is best installed by a professional or experienced DIYer. Laminate usually clicks together as well, but for any repairs on damaged laminate though, pieces would need to be completely replaced, whereas hardwood can be fixed by sanding and refinishing. Either way, it's always a good practice to purchase extra flooring for any necessary repairs, especially in the case of laminate. You never know when you'll want to knock out a wall or do other home renovations that may lead to damaged floors!

From our Flooring Product Comparison article:

Laminate

  • Very budget-friendly, with the look of solid hardwood without the hardwood price
  • Great for do-it-yourself projects as pieces simply click into place
  • Does not scratch easily
  • Repairs are easy, you can replace one board if necessary
  • Can be installed over concrete or most other surfaces
  • Allergens can be kept to a minimum

Hardwood

  • Luxurious styles and appearance
  • Available in many exotic woods, stains, grains and patterns
  • Will increase the value of any home
  • Eco-friendly and sustainable bamboo hardwood is now available
  • Engineered hardwood can be installed on concrete
  • Different hardwood species vary in durability and resiliency
  • Oak, maple and hickory are among the most scratch/dent resistant

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