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Replacing Your Floor: Laminate vs. Hardwood

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Johnny in Louisiana has a question about flooring. How can we help you with your project?

    JOHNNY: Yes, Leslie. I’m considering laminate flooring or hardwood flooring to replace carpet in my home.

    LESLIE: OK.

    JOHNNY: And I want to know the upsides to each and the downsides to each. What would you recommend?

    LESLIE: Well, where is the carpeting?

    JOHNNY: In my – well, carpeting is throughout the house. Well, not throughout. Actually I have ceramic tile in the kitchen and the bath area but the carpet is in the bedroom and the living area.

    TOM: Is the floor structure wood or is it on top of a slab?

    JOHNNY: The substructure is on a slab. It’s concrete slab.

    TOM: Oh, it’s a concrete slab. OK, that makes a difference because you can’t put solid hardwood floor on the concrete slab because the slab’s going to be too damp and it’ll cause buckling. But what you can use is a product called engineered hardwood, which is a laminated style of hardwood. It’s kind of like plywood where you have layers of wood that are glued together at opposing angles and the top layer is the hardwood. So your choice is really between laminate and engineered hardwood and both work will work very, very well on a slab. They go down similarly in that they’re not attached to the slab. They float on top …

    JOHNNY: Right.

    TOM: … and there’s usually an underlayment that goes in between the two. So beyond that …

    JOHNNY: Call it free float? (ph)

    TOM: Beyond that, it really comes down to the look and the feel. I mean …

    LESLIE: And your budget.

    TOM: And your budget because the hardwood’s going to be more expensive. So maybe you want to think about doing a combination of both.

    LESLIE: You know, is there one room that you really had the look of hardwood in mind and the engineered hardwood might be a better choice? A good website and a good company for you to consider is Armstrong. They offer both laminate and the engineered hardwood and what Tom and I learned at the International Builders Show in Orlando was that the Armstrong engineered hardwood plant – the facility that actually makes the floor – has been recognized by the Forest Stewardship Council that they’re completely green in the way that they produce the flooring and they’re planting more trees than they’re using. So you can feel good about that choice. And both the engineered hardwood and the laminate are great for moist conditions like being on a slab.

    JOHNNY: Which one is more durable? I guess I’m asking scratch resistant or durability.

    TOM: Well, it’s interesting because both of them are finished with a similar material. It’s called aluminum oxide.

    JOHNNY: OK.

    TOM: And depends on what level of durability, essentially, you order. For example, with an engineered hardwood you can order residential grade or you can order commercial grade. The commercial grade is going to be a lot more durable. It has to do with the results of something called a taber abrasion test, which is basically a disk that they spin and count the revolutions it takes to actually cut through the finished surface. So, if I was putting, for example, either the engineered hardwood or the laminate, say, in a foyer where I know there’s going to be a lot of dirt tracked in …

    JOHNNY: Right.

    TOM: … there’s going to be a lot of abrasion, I would use a really good quality product there. If I was putting a hardwood floor …

    JOHNNY: (overlapping voices) (inaudible)

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) And make everyone take off their shoes.

    TOM: Yeah, and if I was putting the hardwood floor or the laminate in a bedroom, I wouldn’t be so worried about it. By the time you get to the bedroom you usually have dropped all the dirt along the way. (Leslie chuckles)

    JOHNNY: (chuckling) Yeah, right, right.

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