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Hardwood vs. Laminate Flooring – Which is Best for You?

Hardwood vs. Laminate Flooring

The foundation of a home lies in its flooring, which is often the initial design aspect capturing visitors’ attention upon entry. Fortunately, homeowners preparing to upgrade their flooring have many options. Among these, two have gained notable popularity, celebrated for their inviting aesthetics and ability to enhance property value: laminate flooring and authentic hardwood. But the winner when comparing hardwood vs. laminate flooring isn’t always clear-cut. 

While they may share a visual resemblance, each has advantages and drawbacks. Recognized as the genuine article, solid hardwood flooring stands at the pinnacle, while laminate flooring follows closely as a budget-friendly means of emulating the appeal of natural hardwood. Solid hardwood, originating from 3/4-inch-thick boards hewn from trees, undeniably embodies quality. Nonetheless, this doesn’t signify an automatic dismissal of laminate flooring. Solid hardwood and laminate flooring have their rightful places, each offering unique pros and cons.

Hardwood Flooring

The process of creating hardwood begins with harvesting mature trees. These trees are then milled, sanded, and subjected to either staining and finishing at the factory or installation in an unfinished state, followed by staining and sealing. The market offers a variety of popular hardwood flooring types, displaying a spectrum of colors that range from the light, pale blonde of white oak to the rich, deep brown-black hue of ebony.

Additionally, the choice of hardwood floor finishes is available, and this selection can significantly impact the floor’s performance within your home environment. For instance, moisture-cured urethane is a durable option, ideal for households with high activity levels, including pets and children.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring consists of carefully layered synthetic materials. The composition of laminate flooring comprises fiberboard, a printed image layer that emulates wood, and a robust, transparent top wear layer. The layers support a photographic surface, lending the plank its distinct design and color, bolstered by a protective transparent resin layer to enhance durability. Typically measuring 6mm to 12mm in thickness, these flooring boards feature snap-together edges that remove the requirement for nails or glue during installation.


Both hardwood and laminate can look beautiful in a home, but they do have some distinguishing features that might sway buyers. Hardwood comes in a wide variety, but the different colors and types of wood may impact how durable and affordable it is. Laminate designs often look like hardwood, and the technology has improved, though it can still be differentiated. Laminate can also look like stone or other types of flooring. 


Hardwood flooring comes in various differently sized cuts (such as wide planks, parquet, etc.) and is made from solid wood, giving it natural grains and tones, from blonde to neutral grays and rich bronze. It can be stained or left natural, finished, or unfinished. Hardwood flooring has become more popular recently, as it is a healthier option than carpet for allergy sufferers. Oak and maple are the most common hardwoods used in flooring.

The appeal of hardwood flooring’s appearance is far-reaching, so much so that laminate flooring often imitates hardwood’s graining and colors.


Laminate flooring, sometimes known as “floating wood tile” in the U.S., is a synthetic fiberboard product. It is usually made of four layers: a stabilizing layer at the bottom that resists moisture, a layer of treated high-density fiberboard, a photographic pattern layer that provides a surface design, and a transparent melamine resin layer at the top that helps protect the laminate flooring from wear and tear. 

Quality laminate flooring can give the impression of natural wood from a distance. Upon closer examination, it becomes evident that it’s not genuine hardwood. One noticeable difference is that laminate boards repeat patterns, necessitating careful mixing during installation to avoid a repetitive appearance.

However, advancements in newer, high-quality laminates have improved their realism. They now feature a more random repeat pattern and incorporate a surface grain texture, enhancing their resemblance to real wood. Despite these improvements, achieving a perfect wood look remains challenging for laminate flooring.


Laminate, designed as a floating floor, presents straightforward installation, making it accessible even for DIY enthusiasts with basic skills. After laying down a foam underlayment, the planks go on top and interlocked side by side. This type of flooring doesn’t attach to the subfloor. It often comes with a pre-attached underlayment, eliminating the need for a separate layer.

On the contrary, hardwood flooring typically doesn’t work well as a crafty home project. The process involves renting a floor nailer or stapler, requiring a steeper learning curve. Precision is necessary when cutting hardwood flooring using an electric miter saw. If the hardwood is unfinished, sanding and on-site finishing becomes essential.

In the realm of installation, hardwood vs. laminate is an easy competition. Laminate flooring holds a distinct advantage over solid hardwood. It offers a significantly simpler process for DIYers than installing solid hardwood flooring, which can cut costs. Even individuals with limited home-improvement experience can manage a laminate installation. Conversely, solid hardwood demands a more comprehensive toolkit and level of expertise to install successfully.


Standard hardwoods like oak, maple, and ash for solid hardwood flooring carry a price range of $4 to $8 per square foot, while rarer wood species command higher costs. For materials and installation costs together, hardwood flooring costs between $14 and $32 per square foot.

Laminate flooring typically falls in the range of $1 to $3 per square foot. For those seeking a more upscale option, designer laminate flooring reaches prices of $10 to $12 per square foot. Enhanced by thicker wear layers, these pricier options stand out.

Opting for laminate flooring instead of solid hardwood provides a substantial cost-saving advantage. This becomes even more significant if you undertake the installation yourself, particularly when compared to hardwood’s often more complex installation process, which usually benefits from professional handling. However, the cost of hardwood vs. laminate can include additional factors depending on if you want to sell your home after installation or live in it long-term.

Maintenance And Upkeep

Generally, caring for hardwood and laminate flooring is relatively simple but requires some attention. Keeping these materials clean and avoiding harsh treatment that could lead to scratches or damage is essential to ensure longevity. Using rugs, especially in moisture-prone areas, and applying felt pads to furniture feet can help protect both types of flooring.

Regular sweeping to remove dirt and debris or vacuuming is essential for hardwood and laminate floors. Wet-mopping hardwood is discouraged, while laminate flooring, being more water-resistant than most hardwood, still requires immediate cleaning of water spills to prevent any potential damage. Allowing water to linger on either type of flooring for extended periods might lead to stains or warping.

Hardwood flooring often involves more regular attention to help it look its best. With hardwood floors, using the right kind of cleaners is crucial. It’s essential to avoid using cleaners designed for linoleum or vinyl floors. They can harm the protective finishes on the hardwood. Following proper care guidelines will help ensure the longevity and beauty of both hardwood and laminate floors.


The durability of hardwood flooring depends on various factors, including whether it’s finished or unfinished, the type of wood used, the room’s conditions, and the floor’s maintenance. Homeowners sometimes skip finishing new hardwood floors to save money, which can reduce durability. Unfinished hardwood floors may swell or warp when exposed to moisture.

While durable hardwood flooring costs more and requires careful upkeep, it can last for decades with occasional repairs and refinishing. However, wood treatments may fade in specific rooms like wet bathrooms or areas with harsh sunlight, demanding extra care.

On the other hand, laminate flooring is less susceptible to some issues that affect hardwood. Its top layer protects against nicks and scratches, and its water resistance makes it suitable for kitchens and bathrooms. Unlike hardwood, laminate won’t fade in sunlight and doesn’t need waxing or polishing.

Using wood veneer instead of traditional photographic design layers, laminate floors have become a popular and more affordable alternative to solid hardwood flooring. However, they won’t last as long as well-maintained hardwood floors, typically requiring replacement after 15-25 years. Lower-quality laminate floors might need replacement even sooner.


Solid hardwood floors can endure for 50 to 100 years with appropriate care and refinishing. Durable hardwood varieties may even surpass this lifespan.

In comparison, laminate flooring has an average lifespan of approximately 15 to 25 years when well-maintained. Laminate floors typically come with limited warranties covering stains, everyday wear, fading, and manufacturing defects, with some warranties extending up to 30 years.

For the lifespan of hardwood vs. laminate, hardwood flooring wins. Laminate floors have a significantly shorter lifespan. Hardwood floors can undergo multiple refinishing processes before needing replacement, lasting four to six times longer than laminate floors when correctly cared for and maintained.

Change Over Time

Something to remember is how these flooring options will look as they age. In contrast to laminate flooring, hardwood is susceptible to the effects of intense sunlight. It is sensitive to high-heeled shoes, pets, kids, and furniture, which can cause dents and scratches on the wood. As time passes, these factors contribute to a rustic appearance that some people admire, while others view it as shabby or worn-out.

Water and Heat

Even though solid hardwood is found in kitchens, it’s not suitable for consistently wet areas or below-grade installations like basements due to its vulnerability to water damage and flooding. While it can be installed over radiant heating systems, be cautious, as heating the wood may cause shrinking and joint openings.

On the other hand, laminate surfaces are highly resistant to water and stains. Although, water infiltration between planks can lead to swelling and chipping of the edges and fiberboard core, making it unsuitable for wet areas like bathrooms. However, laminate flooring can withstand radiant heating systems.

Neither laminate flooring nor solid hardwood flooring work well in truly wet locations. Instead, consider sheet vinyl flooring, ceramic or porcelain tile, or vinyl plank flooring for your bathroom. Laminate flooring might be slightly more suitable for humid locations, such as installation against concrete slabs or areas with easily cleaned spills, like a living room or dining room. Moreover, laminate flooring has some advantages over hardwood regarding heat resistance.

Resale Value

Laminate flooring is commonly perceived to have a lower resale value than hardwood flooring. Opting for laminate flooring can prove advantageous for homes within the mid-range value, mainly when the existing floor is in subpar condition or has a lower value.

Hardwood flooring can yield around 70% to 80% in resale value. Therefore, an investment of $20,000 in hardwood flooring installation could translate into a return of up to $16,000 upon selling the property, giving hardwood a much better resale value.

Hardwood vs. Laminate Flooring To Love 

Laminate flooring is less upfront, and installing it yourself lowers the cost even more. But it doesn’t offer the same resale value and won’t last as long as hardwood flooring, which could easily remain in a house long after selling. Hardwood flooring is easier to damage, but it can add to the character of your home. While laminate is still recognizable as fake wood, the technology keeps getting better to help it resemble real wood. Hardwood vs. laminate flooring will depend on multiple conditions. 

Both laminate and hardwood flooring have pros and cons; the main decision comes down to what you want. The factors include how you want your home to look, which rooms you need new flooring for, how much you want to spend on the floor and time in this home, and what the rooms are used for, among other considerations. 

If you want the input of experts and helpful cost estimates, reach out to LA Carpet today. LA Carpet offers a wide-ranging collection of top-tier materials thoughtfully assembled to accommodate a variety of tastes and aesthetics, ensuring you find the precise flooring choice that harmonizes flawlessly with your vision.

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