If you’re tired of carpeting and ready to upgrade your floors to wood or laminate, a quick trip to the nearest flooring store can leave you confused and discouraged. Here’s a quick guide to the pros and cons of both hardwood and laminate flooring to help you choose the right floor for your home.
Hardwood floors are classic, and because wood is a natural product, no two boards look the same. This means no two floors will look exactly the same, and the variances in grain and color will give your floor a unique appearance. That being said, because the floor is made of wood, it will expand and contract — so over time, you will probably see small gaps between some boards. Note that if you’re buying a home, these gaps are natural and not a defect in the flooring itself.
Laminate, on the other hand, is a man-made material, and each plank is uniform in color and grain. This gives the floor a less unique look since there is no variance in the pattern. Because laminate is made to snap together and seal, it will not gap between planks the way real wood does. Laminate is also available in a wide variety of patterns, including some that mimic tile or stone.
Hardwood and laminate are both long-lasting floors, but hardwood typically scratches more easily than laminate. This means if you have pets running through or kids racing toy cars, you will see the wear-and-tear in the traffic areas. Laminate has a hard coating which can withstand a beating, so you won’t see as much damage from heavy use. On the other hand, hardwood floors may be refinished several times, but if laminate is heavily damaged, the entire plank must be replaced — if you have matching planks.
While cost varies widely by manufacturer and style, hardwood is typically quite a bit more expensive than laminate. If you plan on selling your home in the near future, hardwood flooring is the most coveted by home buyers and is the only flooring that increases a home’s resale value.
Laminate flooring is a perfect project for the experienced do-it-yourself homeowner, as long as the room is fairly square and you’re not resurfacing steps or odd-shaped areas such as a kitchen island. Hardwood, on the other hand, is best left to professionals when it comes to installation, especially when considering the initial investment of materials.
If you’re adding “green” living to the decision process, laminate has a slight edge over hardwood because wood, of course, comes from trees and reduces the forests of the world. Laminate isn’t totally innocent, though, as it is man-made and contains plastic and other ingredients which can be detrimental to our environment.
Better quality laminate flooring can last for decades, while hardwood floors can outlast the life of your home. The key factor in both cases is to check the warranty carefully and to make sure the manufacturer is reputable. A 50-year guarantee means nothing if the company goes out of business in two years, and a great deal on either product doesn’t mean much if the material is flawed or cheaply made.
When you’re looking at new flooring, keep the big picture in mind. Make sure the floor you choose is right for your lifestyle rather than picking the one that looks best in the store or the one the salesperson recommends. Remember, you’re the one who will have to live with your choice!