If you’re building or remodeling a home, or even just thinking about it, you’ve probably come across this particular conundrum: Do you pick laminate flooring, or go for real wood? Laminate, which consists of a layer of fiberboard with a photorealistic image of wood (or sometimes stone) applied on top, sometimes gets a bad rap for looking cheap or fake. But many modern laminates are actually quite realistic, and almost indistinguishable from wood. If you’re thinking about laminate, here are a few pros and cons to consider.
It’s cheaper than wood.
The biggest thing laminate flooring has going for it is its price. Of course this will vary depending on the laminate you choose, but generally a laminate floor will cost about half as much as a hardwood one.
It’s easier to install.
Laminate flooring comes in pre-cut planks that neatly lock together, and its softness makes it easier to cut. It’s quick to install and a fairly easy DIY, so you can save even more money by installing it yourself. It can even be installed on top of an existing floor.
It’s very durable.
Since laminate flooring is finished with a tough ‘wear layer’, it’s very scratch-resistant, much more so than wood.
It’s better for pets (in some ways, anyway).
Laminate’s scratch resistance is good news for owners of pets with sharp claws. Laminate also helps to eliminate some of that annoying ‘click-clack’ sound you get from pet nails on wood. One caveat, though, is that the glossy top layer also makes laminate more slippery, which you and your pet may not love.
It can’t be refinished.
Since laminate is just fiberboard with a thin wood-look layer on top, you don’t have the option of refinishing it if you decide you don’t like the color. Once the top layer wears out, the whole floor must be replaced.
It doesn’t last as long as wood.
A typical laminate floor will last about ten years. Wood floors, on the other hand, can last for 25 years or even longer.
It’s not suitable for wet areas.
Laminate’s glossy top layer makes it resistant to spills, but it’s not recommended for wet areas like bathrooms. If water stands on the floor and is able to soak between the planks, it can cause the floor to swell and the layers to peel apart.
Lower resale value
Real estate agents agree that hardwood flooring is the most desirable to potential buyers. So while wood costs significantly more than laminate, you may be able to recoup some of that cost later.
But probably the biggest pro of all, when it comes to laminate flooring, is that, even though you’ll know it’s not the real thing, chances are good that nobody else will be able to tell the difference. Laminate technology has gotten so good in recent years that many laminate floors are almost indistinguishable from wood. Some folks do claim that laminate floors just feel different underfoot, and if that’s something that’s important to you, then you might want to go with wood. But for everyone else, laminate has a whole host of advantages.