Engineered Hardwood Flooring vs Laminate

Here we share our guide to the differences between engineered hardwood flooring vs laminate including cost, appearance & installation.
Contemporary living room with engineered wood floors beige wall paint Choosing between laminate flooring and engineered wood flooring could be a big decision. We are here to help make the decision a little easier.

With two different materials such as engineered hard wood flooring and laminate flooring it is good to take all their features into consideration. While cost may seem like the biggest deal now, in the future you may kick yourself for not considering the resale value or length of life.

Appearance may be what you are determined to get, but later you realize that the material you picked is not suitable for the setting. Comparing the features below will help you make the most educated decision for your new flooring.

Difference Between Engineered Hardwood and Laminate

First off, it is important to know what each of the types of flooring that you are comparing are made of, look like and other features they include.

The materials, appearance, install methods, Resale value and even the length of life are all vastly different when it comes to comparing laminate flooring and engineered hard wood flooring.

If anything, these two materials are on opposite sides of the spectrum. A brief description of each is as follows to show the differences.

What is Engineered Hard Wood Flooring?

Living room with engineered wood floors grey couches Materials: Engineered hard wood flooring is a thin layer of real hard wood with an engineered middle to add depth and strength without too large a price increase.

Appearance: The engineered hard wood flooring is the closest one can get to a genuine hard wood flooring due to it containing a bit of the real thing, which gives the appearance that it is real hard wood flooring.

Material: The engineered part in the middle is typically a higher quality substrate plywood. This gives a fantastic dimensional stability, which can sometimes be better for a flooring choice than having hard wood all the way through the planks.

Installation: Engineered hard wood flooring is most typically installed with a nail gun or glue down method. This is a pretty permanent and relatively difficult installation for anyone looking for a new do it yourself project. It is recommended to use a professional for installing engineered hard wood flooring.

Resale Value: Since the surface of engineered hard wood flooring is exactly the same as regular hard wood flooring, it is highly desired. The only difference is the makeup of the flooring, and in real estate people often judge the book by its cover.

The resale value for adding engineered hard wood flooring is pretty high, not as high as the real hard wood flooring, but you will save money on the materials and installation of the engineered wood in the long run.

Length of Life: The life of engineered hard wood flooring is great, again not as great as the true hard wood, but for the price it compares well. Engineered hard wood flooring can last 30 or more years!

Taking care of the flooring can only add to the life. Unlike true hard wood flooring, the engineered hard wood flooring cannot repeatedly be sanded and redone, since there is only a thin layer of the real wood on the planks.

Read more about the types of hardwood floors.

What Is Laminate Flooring?

Living room with grey laminate floors Materials: Laminate flooring is made from all man made material. Laminate has many layers such as fiber board and other fluff, with a photographic layer with whatever image is so desired, and to top it off there is a clear wear layer that protects the pictures printed on. This wear layer can vary in thicknesses based on the type you buy.

Appearance: The appearance of laminate flooring is basically a photograph of whatever you want the flooring to look like. This is commonly wood or stones, as they are meant to be an inexpensive alternative to the true material.

There are opportunities to get very detailed replicas of some woods and stones with simulated textures and grains in the materials to help provide the illusion of woods and stones. Typically the more realistic you get, the higher the price will be.

Installation: The installation of laminate flooring is quite an easy process. This is a common do it yourself project, but if you are not particularly handy, it is an inexpensive project to hire out.

Laminate flooring is most commonly installed with the floating floor method. The floating floor planks have as system to the edges where they lock into each other to create a flooring above the initial subfloor or even another flooring.

This is a flooring that can be installed over another existing flooring as it does not require glue or nails that could ruin the underneath flooring.

Resale Value: Laminate is an inexpensive flooring material to begin with, therefore to earn the money back in the sale of the home is not a great feat.

Although there are many upsides to using laminate flooring, it is not as sought after as wood or stone flooring. This does not mean a house will not sell if it has laminate flooring, just that the flooring is not going to be the most magnificent part as it is an obvious ‘fake’ wood flooring.

Length of life: As with the resale value, the longevity of laminate is not as high as the previously described engineered hard wood flooring.

Overall the general length of life on laminate flooring is about 10 to 20 years if they are properly maintained, which is not bad at all for the inexpensiveness of the materials and install.

Engineered Hardwood vs Laminate Cost

Open concept living room with laminate flooring Engineered Hardwood Flooring Cost

Engineered hard wood flooring is somewhat of a happy medium, it is not quite as expensive as true hard wood flooring, but not quite as inexpensive as a complete fake such as laminate.

Typically engineered hard wood flooring runs from about $5 to $10 per square foot. This price can fluctuate with styles, sizes and woods, but usually fit within that price range.

When it comes to installation though, it bring the price per square foot up almost double with an addition of $5 to $10 per square foot.

That covers the labor and the materials that are needed to glue or nail down the flooring. This is not typically something someone should try themselves, so it really drives the price up when that is something that is highly recommended.

We share more details about the cost of wood flooring here.

Laminate Flooring Cost

Laminate is typically known as one of the most inexpensive flooring materials that can be selected. Typically laminate flooring runs from about $1 to $3 per square foot.

This being said there are a great deal of factors that can raise this price. Wear layers can change the price, as well as the length of life on the laminate product, the thicker the wear layer the more expensive and the longer the life.

Additionally, the cost can rise with the design of the planks themselves. This can include any custom imagery that can be use, or the amount of texture that is added for realism in the wear layer.

It is totally realistic to spend up to $10 to $12 per square foot if you are getting really creative with the laminate choices. This is still a great price compared to some of the other materials, but has the same quality that laminate is known for.

None of this cost includes installation either, luckily laminate is extremely easy to install, and can be done by an amateur or for $1 to $2 extra dollars per square foot.

Hardwood vs Laminate – Which Is Better

Large living room with engineered wood flooring high ceilings fireplace In general one material is not ‘ better’ than another, just better for different areas or situations based on the needs of the buyer. Below are some of the features that each are better for engineered hardwood flooring vs laminate.

Materials (durability, maintenance, etc): Both engineered hardwood and laminate are susceptible to water damage if it gets past the barriers.

Laminate flooring is easier to clean, but if it gets damaged it cannot be fixed, engineered flooring can be redone at least once.

Overall, Engineered flooring is just a little bit more durable than laminate due to the ability to refinish it once, if not twice.

Appearance: In the sense of looking to mimic true hard wood flooring, engineered hard wood flooring wins. With the thin layer of real wood on the top it is hard to beat that with just a photograph.

Installation: Laminate is a great deal easier to install with its floating floor system. Additionally, it does not ruin the subfloor or whatever flooring may be underneath, the is makes it have an easy de installation as well. Engineered flooring requires nails or glue, and professional assistance in most cases.

Resale Value: Engineered wood flooring does a better job at pretending to be hard wood, so it is better for potential buyers when selling a building.

Length of Life: Engineered flooring can last up to 30 years and can be refinished at least once, this definitely outweighs the 10 to 20 year lifespan on the laminate flooring.

Cost: Laminate is by far the less expensive option when comparing it to engineered wood flooring. The price point is one of laminates biggest selling points.

Which is your favorite when it comes to engineered hardwood flooring vs laminate? Let us know in the comments below. To read more related content visit our page on laminate vs solid hardwood flooring.

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Written by Savannah - Interior Designer

Savannah Phillips is an NCIDQ certified Interior Designer with a Bachelors of Science in Interior Design from Illinois State University. She is skilled in Space Planning, Furniture Layouts, Material and Finish Selection and FF&E Procurement.

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