Wooden Flooring Dilemma – Laminated vs. Engineered vs. Hardwood
Choosing the right material for your flooring is quite important and the decision becomes all the more difficult when it comes to wooden flooring. The choice of flooring comes with an array of variants to choose from vis-à-vis Laminated flooring, engineered wood flooring and hardwood flooring. One is often struck by the question – which is the ideal variant to choose. The following article discusses the variants under the different head, to inform the user about the characteristics and attached aspects of the variants. This will help in making an informed decision when one is going in for wooden flooring for their space.
Features at a glance - Laminate vs. Engineered vs. Hardwood
1. Basic Anatomy - Wood Flooring Composition–:
Laminate flooring is composed of laminates which are multi-layer synthetic materials. These imitate the appearance of actual wood. This is made of thin, pressed fiberboard and melamine resin; with the top layer hosting the textured imprint of wood.
Engineered wood flooring is composed of several layers of plywood. The bottom and middle layers are made out of either cross-laid solid wood or plywood planks or a composition of both. The top layer is made by putting up a veneer of hardwood, which is often stained or prefinished in the factories to resemble actual wood.
Hardwood flooring is composed of a single homogenous piece of wood. Therefore, one has the flexibility to choose from various types and qualities of woods available.
2. Appearance and Aesthetics –:
Since laminate wood flooring has the wood texture imprinted on it, therefore, there is a possibility that there is a repetition of the pattern on sequential boards. This makes the presence of a laminate flooring obvious for the people who have an eye for it. High-quality laminate floors may appear like real wood but, repetition in subsequent planks is unavoidable. The uniqueness of authentic wood is hard to replicate.
Engineered wood, has wooden lamella as its top layer, therefore, the appearance is as good as that of the real wood. The grains are non-repetitive and random.
Hardwood floors have the characteristic wood grains; one can identify the hardwood floor by just looking at the tremendous texture variations of its grains.
No two planks of hardwood and engineered flooring would exactly be the same.
3. Durability - Wood Flooring Material–:
Laminate floors have melamine resins and aluminum oxide bound together at high temperature and pressure. This process makes the surface harder as compared to natural wood. Therefore, most laminate floors are resistant to damage from moisture and scratches. The compound coating even makes the floor fade proof. Hence making the laminate floorings highly durable. However, once damaged, the laminated floor emphasizes it.
Engineered wood floors are vulnerable when it comes to scratching or denting, but the extent largely depends on the finishes and the regular upkeep. Thus making it durable but with terms and conditions. That being said, it has a higher level of resistance towards damage by moisture or temperature changes, as compared to hardwood floors.
When it comes to hardwood floors for durability factors, it varies depending on the factors such as – finish, quality, manufacturer, care and upkeep. The surface is softer than the composite planks; therefore, these are susceptible to denting and damage from moisture (if neglected). However, the advantage with these floors is that any minor scratches or dents seamlessly blend with the surface of the wood, merging in with the beauty of the natural grains impeccably.
Tip – The aspect of durability depends on foot traffic to a large extent. Apart from it, care should be taken to adhere to manufacturer recommendations concerning – installation, care and maintenance of the floor.
4. Methods of Installation –:
Laminate floors are easy to install; some compare the installation similar to that of vinyl tile flooring. These generally come with a tongue and groove system; this implies that one can simply install the floor without the requirement of adhesive. The mechanism is called a floating system. Apart from this method, one can glue down the individual laminate planks to the subfloor.
Both Engineered and hardwood floors follow easy processes of installation. Apart from the floating and glue down method of installation. Both the types can be Nailed or stapled to the subfloor to keep the planks intact.
The method of installation depends on the quality and type of material in question.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
5. Level of Ease of Repair –:
Repairing a laminate flooring is not an easy task. If the flooring has been installed by the floating method, then, it is possible to remove the planks and replace the damaged ones. However, if it has been installed using the glue-down method then it becomes difficult to repair. Even if the planks are replaced, there is a huge probability that the new planks don’t match the existing floor, making the repaired or replaced portion explicit.
Repairs, renewals or refinishes in Engineered and hardwood flooring are easy to seek. This is possible owing to the presence of natural wood, which can be sanded, stained and refinished in case of damage. On these floors, it is possible to repair the entire floor or localized damage. The repairs become easy as the entire plank can be removed and replaced or sanded – stained and finished. The repair, in this case, depends on the finish of the floor in question.
6. Care and Upkeep- Wood Flooring Maintenance –:
Laminate floors are easy to maintain. To care for one's floor, regular sweeping, dry mopping or wiping (with a damp cloth) is all it takes.
Both engineered and hardwood floors require that ‘extra’ dose of care. These should be cleaned with special floor cleaners (advised by the manufacturers), which help in preserving the overall aesthete of the floor. Periodic touch-ups can help in preserving the floor for a longer period and keeping the sheen intact.
Tip – One should refrain from using random detergents, cleaners or furniture polishes. As the non-recommended ones might make your floor look dull or greasy and might even end up ruining the finish of the floor. To maintain and preserve one's floor for eons to come, it is quintessential that the spillage is immediately tended to along with the regular cleaning of the floor.
7. Lifespan- Wood Floor Longevity –:
It is estimated that on average the laminate floors have a life span of not more than twenty years. After this span, the floor finish completely wears off. Since these cannot be sanded or refinished, the floor demands a complete replacement after twenty years of wear and tear.
Engineered and the hardwood floors are estimated to last for a lifetime if maintained properly throughout. This is owing to the fact that, after the wear and tear of the original finish, the surface can be sanded and refinished.
Tip – One should be careful while opting for sanding engineered wooden floor frequently, as it is just a thin sheet like skin, which will wear off if extreme pressure is applied.
8. Moisture Resistance –:
Laminate floors have a high degree of resistance towards moisture and are therefore preferred in wet areas such as kitchen and bathrooms. The resistance is due to the layer of melamine resin that covers the surface of the laminate floors.
Engineered wooden floors are susceptible to damage from moisture. The effect can be reduced if the spillage is tended to immediately or the source of moisture is identified in the early stages.
Hardwood floors use the natural wood as the floor surface, therefore has quite a low resistance towards moisture. These are more likely to host moulds, fungi etc. in the presence of moisture, which makes the floor look ugly.
Tip – Engineered and hardwoods respond to humidity and temperature as these are materials that breathe. Therefore these should not be used in spaces with high humidity levels. One should refrain from using engineered and hardwood floors in wet areas such as the kitchen or bathrooms. Try to choose from these wood upon analyzing the climatic conditions of the area.
9. Cost Affability –:
Laminate floors are installed the most as these come in an array of choices with the initial costs being on the lower side.
Engineered and hardwood floors generally fall heavy on the pocket as these include actual wood and not the imprints of grains. Wood is an expensive but a graceful material, which adds on to the charm of any space. The actual wood definitely casts a different aesthete when compared to its synthetic counterparts.
While making a choice, one can easily find a difference between a laminate or engineered or a hardwood floor, owing to the basic research done. The market is full of choices for all kinds of flooring options. One should be clear on their budget, the kind of usage of the space and the look that has to be achieved for the space. For instance, one should go in for a laminate floor, if the floor is going to face a higher intensity of foot traffic or an enormous amount of sliding of furniture. As this material has a strong top layer, which protects it, from extreme wear and tear and is also a budget-friendly choice. Similarly, engineered wood floors are for those who want the essence of wood with a twist of practicality. Since it is a little more durable as compared to the homogenous hardwood floor. Nevertheless, people with material sensitivity, capacity to spend and long term prospects; generally go in for hardwood flooring. As there is nothing pristine and striking than the pure wood. Therefore, it is essential to revisit your requirements, budget, taste, capacity to maintain and level of experimentation, to derive the perfect material to come up with the perfect wooden flooring for your space.
Lastly, take a read of the What to choose: Vitrified Tiles vs. Marble for Flooring?
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