Find out what the difference is between laminate flooring and engineered hardwood flooring. If you are installing a new floor in your kitchen, learn why you might want to consider a commercial rather than residential grade material, and get tips on not installing a thick floor so as not to block your appliances in.
LESLIE: Now we welcome Anthony from Florida to The Money Pit.
ANTHONY: I was calling about the laminate flooring  or pre-engineered flooring; what is the difference between them and the difference in cost and how to repair.
LESLIE: Well, where are you thinking about installing this, Anthony?
ANTHONY: In a kitchen.
LESLIE: In the kitchen. So both are good choices and there is a big difference between the two. An engineered hardwood  is – it’s like a couple of layers, almost like a plywood, with a topping of a real wood veneer so it looks like real hardwood but it can be used in areas that are high in moisture like a kitchen or a basement. And because it has that sort of layering underneath it, it won’t react to any moisture: you won’t have buckling; you won’t have any sort of warping or twisting. So that’s a great option.
Tom, tell him a little bit about the laminate.
TOM: Yeah, laminate floor is kind of like the same kind of laminate that you’ve seen in countertops – sort of that Formica surface – except that the laminate material that’s used on a floor is 20 times tougher than the laminate surface that’s used in a countertop. There is a test, an abrasion test, called the taber abrasion test, that really measures how much abrasion a surface can take. And a laminate floor is designed to be 20 times tougher in that test than a countertop, so it really stands up well.
We have a laminate floor in our kitchen and have had one now for probably almost 10 years and it’s really performed exceptionally well despite the fact that I’ve got kids that really put it to the test every single day. And laminate floor is available in different patterns, different colors; it can look like stone, it can look like hardwood, it can even look like ceramic tile . And what’s neat about the laminate floor that’s available today – and frankly, the engineered wood as well – is that it’s very easy to install. It simply locks together. And so even if you have just basic home improvement skills, you can do either project pretty successfully.
Now since you’re putting this in a kitchen, Anthony, you want to also keep in mind that you can’t go too thick because you could potentially block in your dishwasher which needs a certain amount of room to be able to be removed in the case you ever have to actually replace it. You’re only putting down 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch, you’re probably going to be OK. But if it gets much thicker than that, just be aware that you might have to reset your dishwasher first.
ANTHONY: Is there any more reading material that you can get?
TOM: Oh gosh, there’s tons of stuff out there about it. I would recommend that you might want to start with Armstrong. They make both laminate floors and hardwood floors and engineered hardwood floors. They’ve got a lot of good stuff on their website at Armstrong.com .
ANTHONY: I read your article. I didn’t know whether you have anymore information to …
TOM: We do have information on our website at MoneyPit.com  on laminate floor because I’ve written about it many times. I’m a big fan of it. I just think it’s really incredibly durable stuff. I wasn’t originally – I wasn’t, except for of late, a fan of prefinished hardwood flooring, but now – the reason I didn’t like it was because the finish was soft but now it’s completely reformulated so that there’s a very abrasion-resistant surface made out of aluminum oxide on prefinished floor right now, so now I kind of like both of them equally well.
ANTHONY: Would the laminate floor top surface in thickness and the pre-engineered top surface be about the same thickness or different thickness?
TOM: They would be about the same thickness.
LESLIE: Unless you choose a laminate flooring that has a very different sort of profile to it, then you might find a different height in that.
TOM: And the other thing about engineered is remember that you can buy different durability levels with that. And so you can buy a commercial grade that could be like 10 times more durable than a residential grade but maybe you want something – spend a little bit more money, get a little bit better surface out of it. With laminate floor, you usually don’t have that kind of a choice. It’s all pretty much the same.
ANTHONY: Yes. Well that’s wonderful. You’ve given me a lot of help. I really appreciate your advice and your consultation.
TOM: Well, you’re very welcome, Anthony. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.