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11 October 2018

Pros and Cons of Solid, Laminate and Engineered Wood Flooring

We love wood. We love flooring. You could say we are a bit obsessed with both so we make it our business to know what’s what when it comes to wood based floors.

Below we unpack the pros and cons of one of our favourite categories: wood based flooring and help you make that all important decision on which floor to choose.

Worth noting is not all flooring is created equal.  We are comparing three different categories of flooring here but we are discussing good quality flooring options in all three.  Flooring that is cheap is just that: cheap! It will likely not perform as well as a good quality floor and won’t last.  Make sure you do your homework on products/brands/manufacturers to ensure you know what you are getting before you make your purchase.

SOLID WOOD FLOORING

Solid English Oak Flooring in Stockholm, image via Living Etc.Solid English Oak Flooring in Stockholm, image via Living Etc.


Solid wood flooring is often something we look for when making a home purchase but this definitely doesn’t come as standard and if your new home does have solid wood floors that doesn’t mean they are in a usable condition.  So, what about those folks that want to install solid wood after purchase? 

Pros of Solid Wood Flooring

Easy maintenance

They require very little maintenance and can last a lifetime.  In old homes, where the old flooring is still in place, they can be beautiful today IF they have been cared for properly.  Care can be as simple as vacuuming/sweeping and using a wood floor cleaner on occasion and the floor can last a lifetime.

Adds Value

Buyer are willing to pay more for homes on the condition that the solid wood floors have been well maintained.

Cons of Solid Wood Flooring

High Cost

Solid wood flooring is expensive.  It can often make you feel a little weak at the knees when you consider the cost of the floor and the installation.  Whichever way you look at it, the cost to install is high, it must be done professionally and it must be installed over a sub floor meaning installation costs are a great deal higher than laminate or engineered flooring alternatives.  It’s also a solid floor, more raw materials used = higher cost.

Needs to be refinished occasionally

In addition to installation costs, wood flooring requires refinishing. More often for softer woods and for hardwoods in high traffic areas, especially where pets or children are concerned. Again, this is a job for a professional and can come at a high cost.

Noisy

Wooden flooring can be noisy when walking across them and can be noisy for your downstairs neighbour if you are living in an apartment.  A way to get around this is with a rug or two which will help reduce noise and add warmth. 

LAMINATE FLOORING

Dark Laminate Flooring, Image via Living EtcDark Laminate Flooring, Image via Living Etc


Laminate flooring may once have held a bit of a stigma in terms of its slightly shaky beginnings as solely a cheap option to cover your floor (one step above linoleum!) with finishes that weren’t realistic and no aesthetic appeal.  Well, I have news for you: laminate is more realistic, more hardwearing and has more good (and green!) features, often outperforming real wood, and is more fashionable than ever before! 

Pros of Laminate Flooring

Super Speedy Installation

Laminate flooring has high speed installation super powers. It is by far the fastest floor to install meaning that you can save on installation costs. It’s pretty simple to install, and with some Youtube guidance the more adventurous and handier humans out there can really do it themselves. Modern laminate flooring relies predominantly on the click/lock or fold/lock systems, with no glue required, that allows planks to fit together like a puzzle.  Planks are also made from HDF (high density fibreboard) which is easy to cut to size making it even easier to lay.  It can be installed over any floor (except carpet) so no need to remove the flooring first and its ideal to install over underfloor heating (unlike solid wood flooring). 

Easy to Clean

Laminate flooring requires very little care in terms of cleaning: just some vacuuming/sweeping and a laminate floor cleaner.  Ensure you avoid leaving water on the floor for too long as it can find its way between the joints and can affect the floor causing minor swelling in parts.

No maintenance

Enough said: there really is no maintenance required for laminate flooring.

Moisture Resistant

While no floor is going to stand up well to excessive amounts of water, laminate flooring can handle its fair share.  It can be installed in semi-moist areas like kitchens as long as the planks are joined correctly and no moisture is allowed to pool on the floor for too long and find its way through the joints.

Highly Durable

Its other super power is that it’s the Hulk Hogan of wood based flooring.  Unlike its real wood counterparts, laminate flooring can’t dent or scratch.  It has a “wear layer” that coats and protects the photographic layer underneath.  This tough outer layer is also stain resistant and easy to clean.  Look out for the AC rating when purchasing laminate flooring as it will describe what level of wear the floor can withstand and usually comes with at least a 10+ year warranty.

Its Green

Laminate flooring is the greenest alternative.  It uses far less raw materials to create the look and feel of the real deal.  Through the use of a high-definition photograph you can get the look of your desired wood floor (no matter how scarce or endangered the species) without actually impacting on the environment.  Quality laminate flooring also has limited formaldehyde in it so it’s good for your home and family and there is no glue used in installation.  

Appearance

Quality laminate flooring is so good nowadays that it can be almost impossible to tell the difference between a laminate and the real thing. The patterns on the planks aren’t repeated as often and most floors now come with registered embossing (which means lining up the photographic pattern with a deep embossing) giving them an even more realistic appearance than ever before.

Sound Absorbing

The nature of how laminate flooring is produced, with high density fibreboard, means it is already very good at reducing noise but it can also be installed with a sound reducing underlay which further reduces noise which means it’s great for you and your neighbours downstairs! 

It’ll Suite Every Budget

Laminate flooring may have moved on from the way it looked and performed when it first launched but what hasn’t changed is that it suits every budget and what’s more, if you are on a tight budget and deciding between a low quality engineered or real wood or a good quality laminate its always better to opt for the laminate.  It is streets above any comparable wood based flooring product in the same price range.

Cons of Laminate Flooring

Can’t Be Repaired

If your laminate flooring is subjected to serious damage like deep scratches it can’t be sanded out. The only option is to replace the damaged planks which requires a professional to “unlock” the flooring one plank at a time to fit in the replacement which can be time consuming.

It Can’t Handle Lots of Water

Despite the fact that it is moisture resistant and can be installed in your kitchen it is not waterproof. If you have a leak that is left unchecked or leave water to sit and pool on the floor it will cause irreversible damage and will need to be replaced. This is the case with all wood based floors.

ENGINEERED WOOD FLOORING

Meister's Lindura Engineered Wood FlooringMeister's Lindura Engineered Wood Flooring, available at Lansdowne Boards

Engineered Flooring bridges the gap between Solid Wood and Laminate. It’s the happy medium that is greener than a solid wood floor, easy to lay, hard wearing, beautiful and with a real wood surface finish it’s virtually the same look and feel as solid wood. In fact, those that aren’t in the know when it comes to flooring will likely be unable to tell the difference between a solid wood and an engineered floor. It’s a bit like the best of both worlds but this floor does also come with its set of pros and cons.  

Pros of Engineered Flooring

Greener than Solid Flooring

Modern engineered wood flooring is made of wood, but it’s not made of big chunks of beautiful natural timber that is a limited natural resource.  It is made in a variety of ways but one of the most popular is by using a veneer layer on the top a few millimetres thick (a thin layer of real timber) that is then backed by either layers of plywood or HDF or a combination of both with a water-resistant backing layer.  (It can contain more formaldehyde in the production process to glue the layers together but you can avoid this by ensuring that you look out for E1 certification which indicates limited use of formaldehyde or in the US the EPA certification of A+).  

Easy to Install

Similar to modern laminate flooring, engineered flooring is installed with a click together process (they don’t all use the traditional click lock but are very similar) and its installed floating so can be put on top of existing flooring (less hassle than solid wood).  It’s harder to cut to size so not necessarily an easy DIY job but installation time is almost as fast as laminate.

Highly Durable and Low Maintenance

One of the benefits of engineered flooring is its stability. It can handle moisture and heat without warping like solid wood due to its plywood or HDF construction.  It’s also great for high traffic areas due to its construction and easy to clean.  And in most cases, if it gets dented or scratched, it’s possible to refinish it. But this can only be done a limited amount of times as the veneer layer is only a few millimetres thick.

More Variety of Size

Unlike real wood, engineered can be produced in much larger and wider plank sizes. Giving you a wider range of options to suit your requirements.

It Adds Value

Whether you choose solid or engineered, real wood flooring adds value to your home.  It is an investment whichever you choose.  So, if you are stuck in making your decision due to price, know that real wood has a return on investment and will help sell your home.

Cons of Engineered Flooring

Difficult to Repair

Similar to laminate flooring, it can be a challenge to replace a damaged plank.  It requires lifting a large section of the floor to reach the plank that needs replacing (that is if it’s installed floating). If it’s been installed glued down or nailed down then its’ even trickier to fix the problem and can cause damage to the planks surrounding the damaged one.

So there you have it, a few of the pros and cons of wood based flooring and you will find there are even more benefits to the different flooring options out not listed above that are often specific to each manufacturer. Just make sure to do your homework and look at all the options before making a decision based on your specific requirements. If you require any further information our team are on hand to help! Happy shopping! 

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