Hardwood is a very attractive flooring option: it is both timeless and modern, and provides a beautiful backdrop for virtually any décor. But, as with most things, it isn’t a simple choice to make – not only do you have to decide on the aesthetic properties of your floor, you have to decide on the material!
There are three main types of hardwood to choose from: laminate, engineered hardwood, and solid hardwood. But what are the differences between hardwood vs laminate flooring?
Laminate is a multi-layer synthetic product meant to mimic the appearance of real wood without the hefty price tag. It consist of 4 layers:
- The back layer: a melamine plastic layer that provides stability, and prevents moisture from entering through the sub-floor.
- The core layer: dense particleboard or fiberboard, with additional resin for added moisture resistance.
- The photo layer: a printed rendering of real wood that lends laminate its realistic appearance.
- The protective layer: a durable, resin-based coating to protect the rest of the layers from wear.
The 4 components are layered together in large sheets, then “cooked” under extremely high pressure, and viola: flooring!
Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Engineered hardwood is also layered, but the layers consist entirely of real wood. The wood layers are placed on top of each other in opposite directions, in a “cross-grain” configuration. This configuration helps stop the planks from expanding and contracting in response to humidity. The top layer of wood can be almost any type of wood, including exotic wood like cherry, and can be pre-finished.
Solid Hardwood Flooring
Solid hardwood is exactly that: planks are milled from a single solid piece of wood! Since it is solid wood, it tends to expand and contract with humidity levels, so it must be installed to compensate for that.
One of the most important aspects of any floor is its durability. How does each type of flooring measure up?
Laminate: the protective outer layer of laminate flooring makes it very resistant to moisture, scratches and stains. However, damage that does occur is likely to be noticeable, and cannot be sanded down and re-finished.
Engineered and solid hardwood: the overall durability of engineered or solid hardwood depends on the type of wood and finish. However, both types can be sanded, repaired and refinished with relative ease should damage occur.