One of the questions we get asked here at Home Flooring Pros is ‘where is the best place to install laminate flooring?’ It seems from the sales blurb that laminate is the right choice for every room, but is this really the case? In this flooring guide we’re going to re-examine the main advantages of laminate floors and take a look at the pros and cons of installing laminate instead of solid wood or vinyl flooring. This post is meant as a general guide, please consult with a reliable home flooring professional before making a final decision.
Pros and Cons of Laminate Floors
As we make clear in our laminate flooring guides the main benefits of laminate over other types of home flooring, and the reason it is so popular, are affordability, ease of installation and low maintenance.
Laminate is cheap because it’s a largely synthetic flooring that’s easily mass produced using low cost materials. It’s easy to install because most laminate uses click and lock assembly which means no nails or glue and you can float it over most existing sub floors. And finally it’s easy to clean and care for because of the thick and clear wear layer that covers the surface of the flooring.
So why not just lay laminate floor throughout your home? Well many people do, but in certain situations its worth taking a moment to compare laminate flooring advantages with other flooring types. Laminate is a great mid-priced flooring option but there are times when a more expensive hardwood floor or a cheaper vinyl floor could be a better match for your home.
Laminate Vs Hardwood Flooring
Laminate vs wood flooring can be summed up pretty simply in two words… price and style! We think laminate floors look great, there are some exceptional products available, but laminate doesn’t look the same as solid hardwood and that’s a fact. In a dining room or master bedroom where style is your main concern you might want to consider spending a little more on a quality hardwood floor.
Laminate wood flooring is perfect in a functional setting where practicality is your priority. In a child’s playroom, in the family den or parts of the house where you have dogs running around laminate flooring just makes sense. It’s attractive, quickly cleaned and hard wearing too. In these situations solid wood flooring seems rather impractical and expensive. The same is also true when comparing laminate with bamboo flooring.
Also remember that solid hardwood can stain and is vulnerable to strong sunlight. If stains and extreme weather conditions are a part of your day to day life then laminate flooring is the smart choice. When it comes to the pros and cons of laminate flooring there are plenty of reasons to choose laminate over hardwood or bamboo flooring, but its fair to say they are of a practical rather than aesthetic nature.
Laminate Vs Vinyl Flooring
Laminate flooring does a great job of imitating more expensive surfaces like solid wood and natural stone and it’s also got a good long life span, so why would you ever consider vinyl flooring over laminate?
Well, please don’t lose sight of the fact that laminate floors aren’t completely waterproof. They do contain a core layer of dense fiberboard and, despite the plastic top wear layer and further protective melamine resin layer, laminate flooring will react to standing water and strong humidity in the same way as solid wood flooring. So, laminate flooring for kitchens is okay as long as you keep spills to a minimum and/or clean up immediately, but you should think twice about laminate in a damp basement or in a bathroom that regularly experiences standing water. In these instances vinyl flooring would be a much smarter choice, vinyl itself is waterproof and as long as it is installed properly the chance of any water getting through to your subfloor is negligible. Click here to learn more about the best laminate floor cleaners available.
Luxury Vinyl Tile vs Laminate
Furthermore you can now buy luxury vinyl flooring as either planks or tiles. Luxury vinyl flooring is flexible, like normal vinyl, but thicker and more robust matching the durability of laminate. And like laminate it has been manufactured to mimic real wood and stone flooring which is why it comes in planks and tiles. Of course you will need to see luxury vinyl up close and personal before you decide if it’s a good fit for your home aesthetically, but we feel it is a great looking and reasonably priced option. For more vinyl flooring pros and cons click here and if you think this is the flooring for you the read our report on the average cost to install vinyl plank flooring.
Laminate vs Engineered Wood Flooring
Comparing engineered wood with laminate is an interesting and worthwhile exercise and you might be surprised by the results. There’s actually not that much between them and most of the pros and cons are the same as comparing laminate vs hardwood.
On the whole a good laminate floor will be more durable than its engineered wood counterpart. Laminates tend to be more scratch and impact resistant, remember that engineered wood durability will depend on the hardness of the species of the wood wear layer (so maple is more dent resistant than pine) and the number of protective finishes. However engineered wood has much greater longevity because a thick wood wear layer allows the floor to be refinished or recoated.
Aesthetically, like solid hardwood, engineered wood beats laminate hands down. Regarding installation, they’re both easy to install and you have a little more versatility with engineered wood as you can glue and nail it down as well as float it.
The really interesting comparison is with price. Solid hardwood and laminate are at opposite ends of the most budgets but laminates and engineered woods have some interesting overlaps. If you’re on a tight budget then you will still want to focus on laminate and top of the line engineered hardwood can often cost as much as a solid hardwood floor. However for those on a middling budget, say $3 to $4 per square foot, you have the option of either going for a high end laminate or a perfectly good mid-range engineered hardwood.
Laminate vs Tile Flooring
The biggest difference between laminate flooring and tile or stone flooring is installation. Laminate installation is a breeze compared to the prep, skill and time required to install tile. If you can afford the $4 plus per square foot installation costs then you should probably go with tile flooring.
You can’t beat tile when it comes to durability and longevity. Tile is also the best choice for wet conditions which is why it’s so common in kitchens and bathrooms, if you have any worries about excess water/moisture in your home then tile is a much better choice than laminate. It is worth mentioning that tile is harder and colder than laminate and so many homeowners report that laminate flooring provides more comfort. That’s why it’s fairly common to install tile in the kitchen and bathroom and laminate in other parts of the home.
Both types of flooring are quick and easy to clean, just be aware that if you go with a light/white tile you will find yourself needing to mop far more often than with darker floors, white tile shows up everything and, take it from us, with young children that gets very boring very quickly!
Laminate Vs Carpet
When trying to decide between carpet or laminate your final decision will ultimately come down to comfort and cleanliness factors, for you, your family and your pets.
For price, low to mid-range options are pretty similar, you can buy both carpet and laminate at between $1 and $4 per square foot. Obviously high quality carpet price can go much higher than that. You can save money on laminate if you intend to install it yourself. Carpet really needs professional installation so that cost needs to be factored in.
Of course laminate is a harder, more resilient surface so will last longer than carpet, but only if you purchase a decent product and take good care of it. Carpet can be a pretty long term option if there are just two of you in the house and foot traffic is low.
If you have pets (or toddlers!) then you have an interesting decision to make… carpet is much more forgiving, warm and comfortable for both pets and children, but a nightmare to clean or take care of if your pets or kids are badly behaved. Laminate can be pretty harsh on older animals, but will certainly stand up better to claws and rough play. In fact the number one advantage that laminate has over carpet is ease of cleaning and keeping clean. Even with regular hovering and steam cleaning, carpets can be a haven for dust and dirt; anyone with dust allergies should definitely consider laminate or stay on top of their carpet cleaning. For more information on the best flooring for pets click here.
Finally, carpet is undeniably more comfortable, warm and quiet than laminate. So if you’re trying to choose between the two perhaps think about installing carpet in rooms where comfort is more important (bedrooms/living rooms etc) and laminate where practical, hard wearing cleanliness is more important (hallways/entrance halls, dining rooms, home office etc).
Do you already have experience of installing laminate, vinyl or hardwood in different rooms of your home? Please share your experiences below and help first time homeowners to get it right first time. You can also contact us direct here.
Other Places to Get Laminate Flooring Ideas and Info
- Precision Flooring – Straight talking video on the differences between laminate and engineered wood.
- NALFA – The North American Laminate Flooring Association is your number one source for laminate floor information and advice.
- Kaindl – This Austrian flooring company really gets the best out of laminate. Take a look at their home laminate flooring, very cool.
About the Author:
Jamie Sandford is the Owner and Chief Editor of Home Flooring Pros (find out more). After 12 years’ experience in screen and stage set construction followed by a further 15 years working in the home renovation/remodeling business he now writes and curates online home improvement advice.
“Buying and installing home flooring should be a fairly straightforward process, but often it isn’t. After more than 15 years’ experience in home flooring and remodeling, I started Home Flooring Pros in 2013 to help homeowners navigate the often-over complicated process of choosing, buying and installing a home floor. The aim is to save you time and money by helping you to make better floor buying decisions.”