Laminate vs Engineered Hardwood

Laminate vs Engineered Hardwood Flooring

When comparing laminate vs. engineered hardwood, which is the superior flooring? Both are popular alternatives to traditional hardwoods, but when compared side-by-side, which is better?

Before purchasing flooring, there are a few factors to consider. For instance, does the home have kids or pets that may put more wear and tear on the floor? Is the homeowner willing to put in the work themselves to install the flooring, or do they want to pay a professional if the price is right?

New flooring is a big investment, so it’s important to put in the time to research all available options before making that purchase. Laminate and engineered hardwood are very similar, but each offer their own benefits, as well as drawbacks that could potentially be deal-breakers.

We’ll explore the pros and cons of each type of flooring, providing the important data needed to make an informed purchase decision. In this guide, we’ll compare the features of laminate and engineered hardwood, including:

Side-by-Side Comparison

 LaminateEngineered Hardwood
DurabilityExtremely durable. Resistant to scratches and dents but may chip. Prone to the same type of damage as solid hardwoods, including scratches, dents, and dings
WaterproofNoNo, but more resistant to water than solid hardwoods
CleaningDaily cleaning with broom, dust mop, or vacuum. Can be cleaned with dry mop and cleaners made for laminate. Should not be wet mopped. Daily cleaning with broom, dust mop, or vacuum. Can be cleaned with dry mop and cleaners made for engineered hardwood. Should not be wet mopped.
RefinishingNoYes, for some products
Pet-FriendlyYesYes, but claws can cause scratches
PriceAverages between $2 and $4 per square footAverages between $4 and $7 per square foot
InstallationFloating floorFloating, nail-down, glue-down
LifespanBetween 15 and 25 yearsUp to 80 years
Good for Allergy Sufferers YesYes
Professional Installation CostsBetween $2 and $7 per square footBetween $3 and $10 per square foot
Flooring GuideLaminate Flooring GuideEngineered Hardwood Flooring Guide

Price

One of the most important things that many consumers consider before purchasing new flooring is price. How do laminate and engineered hardwood compare to each other in terms of price, and are they more budget-friendly than traditional hardwoods?

Laminate is extremely popular because it is so affordable. It gives the same great look of hardwoods without the expensive costs. Although costs vary by brand, laminate costs between $2 and $4 per square foot.

Compare this pricing to traditional hardwoods, and it’s easy to see that it’s a budget-friendly option for cost-conscious consumers. Low-grade woods may be priced as low as $3 per square foot, while exotic woods may cost as much as $15 per square foot.

Engineered hardwoods, on average, cost between $4 and $7 per square foot. While it is more expensive than laminate, it is still a very affordable alternative to hardwood flooring.

When it comes to pricing, both laminate and engineered hardwood are quite affordable when compared to other flooring types. However, laminate is significantly less expensive than engineered hardwoods.

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Installation

The pricing of the flooring itself isn’t all that a consumer needs to consider when deciding whether to purchase laminate or engineered hardwoods.

The cost of installation is also a factor, which is why so many people opt to just take on the job themselves. When it comes to ease of installation, which is superior: laminate or engineered hardwoods?

Laminate flooring is one of the easiest floors to install, even for someone who has no experience with flooring. People install laminate flooring as a floating floor.

That means you won’t need nails or adhesives. Instead, the flooring clicks together. That keeps it in place.

The installation process for laminate flooring does take time and patience, but it’s very easy to complete. You do not need any expensive professional tools for installation. There are multiple online guides and videos that show exactly how to install this type of flooring.

But what about the consumer that doesn’t want to tackle a do-it-yourself flooring project? How much should they expect to add on top of the costs of the flooring itself?

The cost for professional installation of laminate varies by contractor, but consumers should expect to pay between $2 and $7 per square foot.

There are three different methods for installing engineered hardwood flooring. Like laminate, some engineered hardwoods can be installed as a floating floor. There are also types of engineered hardwood floors that can be glued or nailed down.

A floating floor installation is the easiest way to install this type of flooring. Gluing or nailing down the flooring is more extensive and does require more time and skill.

As with other flooring types, the cost for professional installation of engineered hardwood varies by contractor. On average, though, the pricing is more expensive than laminate installation at $3 to $10 per square foot.

Though it’s a close race in this category, laminate is the winner. It is easy to install, and it is more affordable than engineered hardwood when choosing professional installation.

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Water Resistance

One of the major drawbacks of traditional hardwood flooring is that it can’t get wet. You can’t install it in rooms that are humid or moist, or you will ruin it. Cleaning can be a pain because you can’t clean it with traditional cleaners and wet mops.

So, how does laminate compare when it comes to water resistance? Laminate flooring is more resistant to water than hardwood flooring but only on the top surface. The floor can swell and get ruined if the sides and bottom of the flooring get wet.

If laminate gets wet on the sides or underneath, you can’t refinish it. Instead, you will need to replace the ruined flooring. For this reason, spills should always be wiped up immediately and laminate should never be installed in rooms that are moist or humid, like bathrooms.

Engineered hardwood is more resistant to water than traditional hardwoods. Due to the construction, it will not expand or contract in humid rooms, making it ideal for installation in below-grade rooms where hardwoods cannot be installed.

Even though it is more resistant to water, it is not completely immune to damage. Spills should always be cleaned immediately and a wet mop should never be used to clean engineered hardwoods.

If water damage does occur, some brands of engineered flooring can be sanded, refinished, and restored without having to replace the entire floor. Because of this, engineered hardwood outperforms laminate when it comes to water exposure.

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Durability

Hardwood floors are beautiful. However, it is easy to scratch them, and they can dull over time. That results in the need for time-consuming waxing and expensive refinishing.

For households with children, pets, or heavy traffic, does laminate or engineered hardwood offer the beauty of hardwood with added durability?

Laminate flooring looks just like real wood, but surprisingly, it’s a synthetic wood flooring with a photo printed on top. This flooring has the classic beauty of hardwoods but with one big advantage: it is extremely durable.

Laminate is a top flooring choice for households with children or pets, or any household that wants a low-maintenance flooring that’s resistant to damage. It is much harder to scratch and will not dent like hardwood flooring.

Laminate flooring does not fade, and it is resistant to stains. Over time, laminate can chip, and when this occurs, you can’t refinish the flooring and will need to replace it.

The top layer of engineered flooring is made of solid wood. So this flooring faces the same risk of damage as solid hardwoods. This includes scratches, dents, and dings.

When hardwood flooring has damage, people can refinish it multiple times. With engineered hardwoods, many products can only be refinished once. Other products you can’t refinish at all. You will need to replace those.

Because it is so resistant to scratching and other damage, laminate is the best choice in flooring when it comes to durability.

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Colors & Styles

Every home is unique and has its own style, from traditional to modern. Homeowners want choices when it comes to how they style their home, whether it’s choosing the furniture, the paint, and, of course, the flooring.

Laminate manufacturers use advanced printing processes to create flooring that looks and feels just like solid hardwood. These processes allow manufacturers to replicate many of the most popular species of wood, including oak, pecan, and walnut, in a variety of colors from whitewashed to ebony.

Engineered hardwoods have an upper layer that is made of real wood. Many of the same species in traditional hardwoods are in the construction of engineered hardwoods. This includes traditional species like maple and pine, as well as exotic species like mahogany, Brazilian cherry, and acacia.

Engineered hardwoods are available in many shades from light to dark, as well as different styles including classic, modern, and rustic.

Even though both types of flooring come in a variety of styles and colors, engineered hardwoods offer a larger selection to suit any home.

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Care & Maintenance

One of the reasons that so many consumers are purchasing other types of bare flooring is because hardwood flooring is so high-maintenance and you need to take special care to keep it looking its best. When it comes to care and maintenance, which is the top pick: laminate or engineered hardwoods?

Laminate is easier to care for than traditional hardwoods. You can clean laminate on a daily basis with a broom, dust mop, or vacuum cleaner for use on bare floors.

For more extensive cleaning, you can use a dry mop or cloth. You can use those with a cleaning product designed for use on laminate floors. This is important because other cleaners can cause a waxy buildup that is hard to remove and dulls the shine of laminate flooring.

Never use a wet mop, because water can damage laminate flooring. Avoid steam mops, as well. This is because excessive steam can also damage the floors.

Daily cleaning of engineered hardwood flooring is similar to laminate care. You can clean up dirt, dust, and debris using a broom or dust mop. You can also use a hardwood vacuum.

However, it must be appropriate for use on bare floors. Regular vacuums can scratch and damage engineered hardwoods.

A dry microfiber mop with a cleaner appropriate for use on engineered hardwoods is the best way to give this flooring a deeper clean. Avoid wax-based and harsh cleaners.

Avoid wet mops and steam mops as well. This is because excessive moisture can damage floors.

Engineered hardwoods have over one advantage over laminate. That is: you can refinish many brands.

You can’t refinish engineered hardwoods as many times as solid hardwoods. However, you can refinish some products once. This doesn’t apply to all brands. Check manufacturer specifications and instructions before beginning the refinishing process.

Even though both types of flooring are easier to care for than solid hardwoods, the fact that engineered hardwoods can be refinished give it a leg up against laminate in this category.

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Final Verdict

By understanding more about these types of flooring, it’s easier for consumers to choose the best flooring that fits their own personal style and budgets.

Laminate flooring and engineered hardwood are both great choices for anyone considering bare flooring. Laminate has its advantages over engineered flooring, such as lower pricing, easier installation, and is more durable, making it an ideal choice for households with children and pets that want a low-maintenance flooring.

However, engineered hardwoods offer their own benefits, including an amazing selection of styles and colors, easy maintenance, and being more resistant to water. This flooring is ideal for anyone that wants a more affordable and lower maintenance alternative to solid hardwoods.

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Nikki Seppala

About Nikki Seppala

Nikki is an experienced writer and editor and has worked in industries that range from home improvement to entrepreneurship. For over 10 years, she's used her unique talent and love of the written word to uncover the stories that people want to read.

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