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Hardwood or Laminate: How Do You Decide?

When deciding between hardwood or laminate flooring, consider location, household activity, and budget. Let LL Flooring help you choose between the two options.

1 min read
Published on October 31, 2023

You’ve decided the wood look is exactly what you want for your new flooring. Now what? Should you go for classic hardwood or try laminate? There are a few things you should consider—for one, where you’ll install your flooring—also, the level of activity in your home and your budget. Armed with facts about the difference between hardwood and laminate, you should be better able to decide which of the two flooring types will work best for you.


What Is Hardwood?

With its centuries of history as a quality flooring material, hardwood hardly needs an introduction. But as a refresher, hardwood flooring is just that—wood. You’ll find it as one solid piece, as in solid hardwood, or in layered construction featuring a hardwood veneer on top, as in the case of engineered hardwood.

Many people choose hardwood because it’s natural. One of the other benefits of hardwood is that it can be a good investment, adding value to your property. It also has a higher R-value—thermal insulation—than laminate flooring.

As a natural wood product, hardwood is hygroscopic—meaning it can take in moisture from its environment. That’s why solid hardwood is not recommended for below-grade areas, like basements or areas prone to frequent spills and splashes.

Engineered hardwood can be installed in basements, though. And LL Flooring’s AquaSeal engineered hardwood can even be installed in areas that can get wet, offering water resistance. Its locking technology prevents moisture from seeping between the seams, and the stone-polymer composite layer makes the flooring less reactive to moisture.


What Is Laminate?

Laminate is a wood-based flooring option constructed in layers, each with a particular function. Although you’ll find different categories of laminate, basic features include a clear wear layer that provides abrasion resistance, a décor layer with wood-look graining and texture, an MDF core, and a balance layer for increased dimensional stability.

At LL Flooring, we offer a waterproof laminate for the ultimate in worry-free flooring—great for active households with children and pets. We also have laminate with attached padding to provide thermal and acoustic insulation for your floating floor and streamline the installation process. Hardwood flooring naturally has a higher R-value—thermal insulation—than laminate.


Maintenance and Care

Both hardwood and laminate are easy to maintain—just sweep or vacuum regularly and dry mop with a spray cleaner such as Bellawood Floor Cleaner for a deeper clean. Avoid cleaning agents containing wax, oils, or polish. Clean up spills promptly, especially when it comes to solid hardwood.

Water-resistant hardwood and waterproof laminate options can be damp mopped, but steam mops can only be used on waterproof laminate. To help prevent scratches, place felt floor protectors on the bottom of the furniture.

For more tips on cleaning and maintaining your flooring, check out your product's Warranty, Installation, and Care guide.


Installation and Cost

One of the convenient benefits of laminate flooring is that click installation makes it a DIY-friendly choice. You can find click installation in engineered hardwood products, too. Engineered is also available in tongue and groove, which is what solid hardwood is usually available in. It is either nailed, glued, or nailed with glue assist. This is more often a job for professionals.

As for cost, hardwood flooring will typically be a bigger investment versus laminate because you’re getting a solid piece of wood (or a layer of real hardwood veneer in the case of engineered). Hardwood flooring also brings a better return on your investment.


What’s Best for You—Hardwood or Laminate?

Think about your home’s unique needs when making your flooring decision. Will young children and pets spend much time in the space? If so, you might want to go with laminate flooring or water-resistant engineered hardwood. Are you looking to make a flooring investment that can add value to your home in the long term? Then hardwood may be the best choice. Want the most natural flooring in your home? There’s nothing more natural than hardwood.

Once you’ve made your decision, browse our extensive selection of hardwood or laminate flooring for the style that best suits your décor. Use our Picture It! Floor Visualizer to get a good idea of what a particular grain pattern, color, and size of flooring will look like in your space.

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In this video, installation and flooring expert Mark shows some insider tips for damaged flooring - including careful cuts and detailed Skilsaw adjustments. Remarkable careers lead to remarkable trade skills!

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