Flooring comes in many styles, and engineered hardwood is a great way to bring the look of solid hardwood into your home without breaking the bank. It’s also often compared to laminate flooring, however as the two materials are both multi-layered products. Our guide will help you determine which style of flooring is the best choice for your home while touching on the key factors that make these materials special.
Construction & Comfort
Multi-layered flooring, firm but forgiving
Layered, firm underfoot
Warranties from 5 to 30 years, handles scratches and dings well
Sturdy and stable but prone to scratches, can be refinished
Easy to clean and maintain, stains and scratches generally aren’t an issue
Easy to clean, but keep claws clipped and be quick to clean up stains
Made to resemble wood, stone, and tile
Veneer can match any species of hardwood along with some uncommon species
Easy to maintain, difficult to repair and replace
General upkeep required, easier than solid hardwood
The Green Factor
Look for certified products, potential for VOCs
Only a portion of the tree is used for the veneer, look for certifications
Not ideal for areas with moisture or high humidity unless “waterproof”
Not ideal for areas with moisture or high humidity, below-grade boards are available
DIY-friendly and very easy to install
DIY-friendly, but mistakes can be pricey
$1.00 to $3.50 per sq. ft.
$2.50 to $89.00 per sq. ft.
Construction & Comfort
Engineered hardwood has a backing layer on the bottom and a core which is followed by a top layer. The core and backing layer provide stability, and the former is usually made from plywood or HDF. The top layer is a slice of wood or a thin veneer which gives planks the appearance of solid hardwood. These planks are very realistic and get additional protection from a layer of finish.
Laminate flooring also has several layers, including a backing layer and core. A similar approach is taken for those layers, and they serve the same purpose as they do with engineered boards. The top two layers are different however as a printed “pattern” layer is on top of the core. That’s followed by a wear layer which protects the image on each plank.
While the biggest similarity between laminate and engineered hardwood flooring is how it’s made. Neither product is solid like traditional hardwood flooring, but both feel sturdy beneath your feet. Engineered flooring is a little more rigid, and neither is exactly comfortable in comparison to carpet or other softer flooring materials.
When we consider the durability between engineered hardwood vs. laminate flooring, we think about things like scratches, dents and the lifespan of your floors. Engineered hardwood is the clear winner when it comes to longevity although laminate planks do not lag far behind. An AC rating is also helpful if you’re concerned about wear and tear on your flooring.
As laminate is a compressed product, it holds up well under heavy foot traffic. That makes it ideal for busy areas in your home, and the wear layer helps prevents light scratches and dings. On the downside, warranties are usually only good for 10 – 25 years, and if they become damaged, it’s difficult to replace or repair. Once your wear layer is gone, so are your floors.
By comparison, engineered flooring can last over 50 years, depending on the thickness and overall quality of the product. They can scratch a little easier or dent depending on hardness of the wood, but engineered flooring is more sound structurally. They can also be sanded and refinished 2 – 3 times in most cases if you choose high-quality planks.
Nails can be an issue with hardwood or engineered flooring. That means you’ll need to keep those nails trimmed, which can be easier said than done depending on the pet. It’s usually not a problem for lightweight animals, but a 70-pound pooch with sharp nails can do some damage to your finish. Considering wood is an organic material, you will want to deal with any accidents in the house quickly as well.
As mentioned, laminate flooring can handle scratches better than wood, even if real damage will do your floors in. It also has excellent stain resistance and can be considered “close” to waterproof when properly installed and sealed. If your pet forgets to use their designated area or go outdoors, you still need to clean up quickly, but laminate flooring gets the edge when it comes to messes. Your pets will also get more traction from laminate planks compared to engineered hardwood flooring.
When it comes to style, realism can be a make or break decision for many consumers looking for new flooring. Well, laminate manufacturers have come a long way, but their boards are not what most would consider realistic. They are made to replicate various species of wood or look like stone and tile, which is where that printed layer comes into play. Just how realistic they actually are depends on the product and techniques used, but there are a lot of options to choose from with laminates.
You’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the best engineered flooring and actual hardwood. Having a measure of actual wood on top helps with realism, and also allows you to choose from dozens of species. Bamboo, oak, maple, hickory, and walnut are all popular options along with several species from South America. If you can find solid hardwood flooring from a particular species of tree, you can probably pick it up in engineered form as well.
Laminate flooring and engineered planks are both easy to clean, and you won’t have any trouble keeping them tidy on a daily basis. That’s ideal if you detest vacuum cleaners as the only thing you will need for these floors is a dust mop, broom, and a few specialized cleaning tools.
The type of solution you can use on each floor varies, but you should always use cleaners made for your flooring. Overall, laminate flooring is easier to maintain as it never needs sanding and you won’t have to deal with stains or other common materials used in repairs. It’s better if you want low-maintenance flooring; just remember it has a limited lifespan.
Engineered flooring isn’t as high-maintenance as solid hardwood floor boards, but these planks do require some extra care. When they become dull or damaged with too many scuffs or scratches, you can lightly sand and refinish your floors. Boards are also fairly easy to replace as long as they aren’t glued down. Engineered boards may require more work, but they will last twice as long.
The Green Factor
You can find eco-friendly flooring made from engineered boards or laminate, but each material has its own drawbacks. Laminate flooring isn’t made from natural materials, so you’ll need to find certified products if VOCs and indoor air quality is a concern. Glue or any adhesives used can be an issue as well. You can’t find sustainable laminate flooring, but you can check to see if it’s CARB complaint if you reside in California or Floorscore certified.
Most high-quality engineered flooring is largely made from natural materials, and wood isn’t something you need to be concerned about. They are still manufactured, but less wood is required as they only need a thin veneer from the tree, not the entire thing. With air quality, the coatings can be troublesome and off-gas, but again, it generally isn’t an issue if you purchase high-quality floors that are certified.
It’s safe to say most flooring doesn’t do well with water, and you definitely don’t want to submerge either of these materials. With that in mind, laminate flooring has the advantage due to the way it’s made.
Some companies like Pergo produce laminate flooring deemed as “waterproof” and even back that up with a guarantee. While you will want to read the fine print before getting too excited, certain styles of laminate boards are extremely resistant to water. That’s only when properly installed, however, and that may require professional installation in some cases if you want the full warranty.
Engineered hardwood flooring doesn’t do nearly as well with water, but it fairs much better than solid hardwood. Moisture and high humidity are still things you’ll want to steer clear of, but some engineered boards are even rated for below-grade rooms. That’s ideal if you want to cover your basement or remodel your Man Cave. The flooring also looks great in a She Shed as long as a good moisture barrier is in place.
When you want something that’s simple to install, you can’t go wrong with laminate flooring. It’s often sold with click-lock edges which makes putting together a floor comparable to working a puzzle. You won’t need to rent any tools or buy anything expensive to work with although you will need underlayment. There are some other styles of laminate flooring available, but click-lock is the most popular and easy to install.
You can also install engineered flooring yourself, so a professional isn’t required unless you have a tricky installation or huge home. Boards can use the same click-lock style system, but glue is also used along with nails on thicker planks. We feel engineered hardwood is just as easy to install as laminate, but a chop saw is highly recommended, and mistakes can be more costly.
Laminate and engineered hardwood flooring can be installed in any room of your home; just check the rating of the product beforehand. Not all engineered flooring is made for below-grade rooms, and not every laminate flooring system is rated as waterproof.
Engineered Hardwood and Laminate Cost
With pricing, laminate flooring is cheaper than engineered flooring. It’s not uncommon to find budget-friendly laminate boards for $1.00 per square foot or even less if there’s a sale or its been discontinued. On the top end, you can expect to pay between $3.50 to $4.00 for the best laminate flooring. You’ll need to pick up underlayment, but it’s still cheaper overall than engineered hardwood.
You can find engineered flooring for as low as $2.00 per square foot, and there are some high-quality options available in the $3.00 to $4.00 range. As you would expect, it all depends on the species and manufacturer as we have seen several styles over $8.00 per square foot. Some can actually be more expensive than hardwood, but more are priced reasonably and cheaper than traditional hardwood flooring. It can also increase the resale value of your home.
Both laminate and engineered hardwood are priced by the square foot and come in varying widths. With that in mind, there is a bit more of a selection with engineered flooring, and the grade can affect its price of those planks as well.
While two completely different materials from a style standpoint, both engineered hardwood and laminate are an excellent choice for your home. As with most flooring types, it comes down to your needs and budget in the end, but we hope our guide helps make your decision clearer.