This is an article that discusses the differences between real
wood flooring and plastic laminate flooring.
First, it's important that you understand the difference between
real wood flooring, be it engineered or solid, and plastic
laminate flooring. It can be very confusing because prior the
introduction of plastic laminate flooring into the U.S., a lot
of flooring dealers referred to engineered wood flooring as a
wood "laminate" flooring. First let me tell you about wood
flooring. There are a few different types of wood flooring
available to you. The first and perhaps the oldest in existence
is the "solid wood floor".
These floors are generally 3/4" thick
and can be purchased raw or pre-finished. The other style of
wood flooring which is actually now becoming much more popular
is the "engineered wood floor". Engineered wood flooring is the
type of floor that is most commonly confused with plastic
laminate flooring. This is a wood floor which has a top wear
layer, usually 1/8" thick on better products, and than has one
or more layers or "plies". The top layer is generally made out
of oak, maple, cherry, etc. These engineered wood floors are
gaining in popularity because in a lot of applications they will
be more stable than the solid wood floor, cost less than the
solid wood floor, and can be refinished like a solid wood floor.
Engineered wood floors are also able to be installed using
methods not available with solid wood floors. They come in
styles that can be glued down, free floated, or stapled.
talk about what is now referred to as "laminate" flooring. These
days when we say laminate flooring, we're talking about "plastic
laminate" flooring. A lot of consumers don't even refer to it
this way, they simply say "Pergo" flooring. The reason for this
is that Pergo, a brand name, was one of the first to introduce
their product in the U.S. We have a page dedicated to our
manufacturers' section. We've heard that as of about six months
ago there are now close to one hundred different brands of
laminate flooring on the market worldwide. The easiest way to
describe laminate flooring would be to say that it is similar to
your mica countertop only much stronger. The surface is actually
a plastic type composition applied to the core using heat and
pressure, the core is usually made of high density fiber or
particle board, and the backing can be a paper or another layer
of laminate. Plastic laminate floors are extremely durable
however they cannot ever be refinished or recoated once they are
scratched or worn. That is generally the main difference between
plastic laminate floors and real wood floors. Another down side
to the laminate flooring is that the pattern is printed and many
of the boards, in some cases all of the boards are identical in
now that you have a general idea of the differences in these
types of flooring, let's discuss which is better for you. You
need to evaluate your individual situation to make an educated
decision. Let's see if we can help you make this determination.
Listed below are a few questions you may want to ask yourself
that will narrow down your choice.
style house do I have and which floor will be better suited
to that style? (I.E. Does the price level home you have
warrant the expense of good quality real wood flooring?)
are my long term goals with regard to a new floor?
(Basically, how long do you plan on being in the house?)
established a budget and if so, do I intend to exceed that
type of traffic do you have in the house and how much abuse
will the floor have to endure?
resale value have any relevance in my decision? (Am I
looking for a floor that will be an investment and increase
the value of my home?)
answers to these questions will ultimately dictate your choice.
Allow me to give you some hypothetical situations that may
pertain to your position.
Regarding question number 1, let's say that you paid $100,000.
for your home and that's about the maximum priced home in the
neighborhood. It really won't make much difference whether you
go with real wood or the laminate. Unless you plan on being in
the home beyond seven to ten years, you may want to consider
staying with the laminate flooring. Chances are if you go
through the expense of installing a good quality wood floor, you
won't realize any type of gain when you sell the home. On the
other hand, if you paid $200,000. or more for your home, and the
houses in your neighborhood fluctuate in price depending on the
upgrades, then the real wood flooring may be a benefit whether
you're in the home for one year or ten years.
Regarding question number 2, whether your in a $100,000. home,
or a $500,000. home, if you're planning on being in that home
beyond seven to ten years, and don't want to replace the floors
again for the duration of your stay, than there is no doubt that
a good quality real wood floor would be the better choice. The
main reason for this being that you will be able to resurface
the real wood floor when it shows signs of wear and tare,
whereas you will have to replace the plastic laminate floor
Regarding question number 3, if you have established a budget of
let's say $3.50 per square foot or less for material, and don't
plan on exceeding that budget, then the plastic laminates should
absolutely be your choice. I say this because although you can
get real wood flooring for $3.50 per square foot or less, but
the type of the real wood flooring available to you at this
price level will not give you the same performance you can
expect out of plastic laminate floors at this price or less. To
get a real wood floor with a good quality finish that will have
a durability level close to that of the plastic laminate
flooring, you should expect to pay somewhere between $3.75 to in
some cases over $7.00 per square foot. An average price range
for what we consider to be a good quality wood floor is $4.00 to
$5.00 per square foot. As an added note, we are basing these
unit prices on the prices that we sell wood flooring for.
Regarding question number 4, the level of traffic and/or abuse
in your home will also play an important role in your decision.
Let's say you have a normal happy family with three kids, two
dogs, plenty of relatives that visit often, and a lot of friends
that take advantage of your big screen television and endless
supply of free beer. If this is your home, than you better make
sure that you either go with a plastic laminate or a "very good"
quality wood floor! If you have heavy traffic such as this in
your home, a low quality wood floor will be a mistake. It will
not hold up to your expectations whatsoever. As an added note,
although the plastic laminate floors may be more resistant than
inexpensive wood floors, there are also lower quality laminate
floors that will not hold up well under high traffic either.
Regarding question number 5, if resale and the value of your
home is a concern, than you definitely want to consider good
quality real wood flooring. If you speak with any realtor that
knows their business, they should advise you that real wood
flooring is considered an upgrade to your home and increases the
value, while plastic laminate flooring does not. Real wood
flooring is truly an investment into your home. The plastic
laminate flooring, while holding up well during your stay in the
home, really does nothing for the resale value. Considering
plastic laminate cannot be resurfaced, it is considered
temporary. Anyone buying a house where laminate flooring is
installed knows that it will need to be replaced most likely
during the period of time that they will be living there.
Please understand that while I've listed these questions and
situations as a way to help you make an educated decision, you
will need to consider all these factors combined. In some cases,
your individual situation may differ from these examples. For
instance, if you don't have heavy traffic in your home, and you
like the look of real wood, than there's nothing wrong with
using an inexpensive real wood floor. This also holds true if
you only plan on being in your home for a short period of time
and want to increase the value for resale. Another case where
inexpensive real wood might be a good choice is if you are
buying and remodeling a home strictly for the purpose of
reselling it for a profit.
I'm sure that there still may be some of you that would like to
ask, "okay, so I've read all of this and want to know what you
personally think"? My own personal feeling on this subject is
that if you can afford the real wood flooring, go for it! In the
long term, good quality wood flooring ends up being not only an
investment, but also a better buy since it can be resurfaced.
Additionally, nothing beats the look and feel of real wood. On
the other hand, if your kids, pets, friends, and/or family are
just plain nuts and love to treat your house like a war zone,
and you don't want to put a lot of money into your home, but
also don't want the hassle associated with carpet and/or tile,
than go with the laminate