Laminate vs. Hardwood Flooring: Pros and Cons
LESLIE: Mike in South Carolina is calling with the number one question asked here at the Money Pit – flooring. What’s going on at your house?
MIKE: We built our house about 15 years ago and we want to stay in it long term. We – so we’re going to replace the whole bottom floor to start with, with either laminate or hardwood. And every home improvement store that we go to seems to have a different opinion on what would be best for the long term. So we want to get an actual opinion.
TOM: (overlapping voices) OK, so this is the entire first floor of the house?
MIKE: Yes sir, it is.
TOM: Alright. Well laminate is going to probably be a bit less expensive than hardwood but they’re both very attractive. I mean some folks just like the natural look of hardwood and would probably find that to add a bit more value than laminate. But…
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm, and then you get the refinishing ability. You know, you have the option, as wear and tear occurs, to go ahead and refinish; remove the stain; change the color; re-urethane; you know, really make it last, you know, many, many, many years.
MIKE: And that was one of the advantages that we had looked at because it appears to be a lot more flexible as far as – like I say, we want to stay in the house. We’re still relatively house and want to be there for a long time. So we had kind of leaned towards wood but I wanted to actually get an expert opinion.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Well, I think if you’re leaning towards wood then you are probably going to choose wood…
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) You’re not going to be happy with laminate.
TOM: … and you wouldn’t be happy with laminate.
LESLIE: You know, as much as laminate can look like wood, it always, you know, is not real.
TOM: But let me …
LESLIE: I mean the only other option is an engineered hardwood.
MIKE: Right. Well, in your opinion, is the prefinished better than the self-finish or the aftermarket finish? As far as hardwood.
TOM: Well, if you use a prefinished floor you want to make sure that you buy the best quality finish possible. There are different durability levels. You know, there’s residential level; there’s commercial level and, believe me, it makes a big difference. The prefinished floors have actually gotten a lot better over the years. Those finishes are now aluminum oxide-based finishes. That’s the same material sandpaper is made out of. And they’re really, really durable. That being said, there’s nothing better than a brand new, unfinished, built-in, hardwood floor. I mean that’s really a core part of the building…
TOM: … and in terms of refinishabiity, you can’t refinish a prefinished floor.
TOM: Yes, you can only refinish a regular, raw, originally-installed floor. If you try to refinish a prefinished floor, you are going to find that –
TOM: – for example, if you think about the profiles of those boards, Leslie, they’re – the tongues and the grooves are [often veed] (ph) …
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) And you’re always going to end up with that weird section of stain.
TOM: … and you can’t get in there. And I’ve also seen problems with adherence between the old finishes and the field-applied and the factory-applied finishes.
MIKE: Yes. Very.
LESLIE: Now if you put down a raw hardwood floor, is it best to then have a pro come in and finish because of the types of urethane coatings that are available to them?
TOM: Not necessarily. I mean I think you can do it yourself and do a pretty good job and have a floor finish that’s going to last you, you know, five to seven years.
MIKE: And is it obvious that oak would be the best of the flooring materials?
TOM: Not necessarily. I mean what about a product like bamboo? That’s incredibly durable as well.
MIKE: OK. Well, I do appreciate it. I think you’ve pointed us in the right direction now anyway so I’ll let my wife make the – now that I’ve done this I’ll let her do the heavy lifting.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) The executive decisions. (chuckles)
TOM: Yep, you sound like a smart man, Mike.
MIKE: Yeah, I’ve been married 27 years. (Tom laughs) I definitely have learned how to compromise. (Leslie chuckles)
TOM: And now we know why. You’re an inspiration, my friend. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.