Hardwood Vs. Laminate Flooring

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Beautiful wood flooring has become increasingly popular for urban and country homes alike, easily creating an elegant and sleek look in any room. Long lasting and easy to clean, wood floors offer many benefits beyond simply looking sophisticated. As technology has improved and the demand for hardwood flooring has increased, consumers have been given multiple options for the makeup of their wood floors. While traditional, all natural hardwood remains popular, new synthetic options have opened the door to cheaper, easier to install wood floors.

What Is Synthetic Wood Flooring?

Synthetic wood floors are made of either laminate or vinyl, which are manmade materials dyed or designed to look as close as possible to natural wood.

Laminate: Laminates are comprised of several layers of synthetic material, fused together to form planks like real strips of wood. The top layer of synthetic flooring is made of a photographic applique, mirroring the look of varying types of wood, and is covered by a clear, protective sealant. Laminates are easy to install, and can usually be snapped into place with relatively little flooring experience required. Laminate floors should be kept as clean as possible, as dust and dirt can scratch the protective coating, exposing the photographic surface which cannot be refinished.

  • Varying by brand, quality and style, laminate floors typically range in price from $0.59 per square foot to $3 per square foot.

Vinyl: Vinyl wood flooring is similar to laminate, but employs the use of natural pigments, rather than a photographic layer, to replicate the look of natural wood. Some vinyl wood floors even offer acoustical backing, mimicking the sound of walking on a real hardwood floor. Highly durable, moisture resistant and easy to clean without the use of chemicals, vinyl wood floors are extremely cost and maintenance effective.

  • Varying by brand, quality and style, vinyl wood floors typically range in price from $0.79 per square foot to $3 per square foot.
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Natural Hardwood Flooring

One of the most obvious benefits to choosing natural hardwood flooring over synthetic options is the look. While technology has greatly improved the appearance and believability of laminate and vinyl options, real hardwood remains the most aesthetically pleasing option. Further, many home owners prefer the feel and sound of real wood floors, which often give off a louder, more resounding noise when walked on. Because of the wide variety of options, prices for natural wood flooring can vary greatly, and depend on the type of tree the wood is cut from, finishes and the quality of the selected planks. Also, hardwood floors typically require installation by a professional, adding about $2 per square foot to the price. Once installed, wood floors typically last up to 50 years, but require regular, proper maintenance. When care has been taken to repair and maintain the wood from scratches, foot traffic and moisture, some floors have been known to last 100 years or more.

  • Varying by brand, quality and style, natural wood floors typically range in price from $0.89 per square foot to $9 per square foot.

Engineered Wood Flooring

A third option for anyone interested in wood floors for their home is engineered wood. Made of several layers, engineered floors offer the look of natural wood, with the durability and convenience of easy installation, resistant finishes and the ability to place them directly on concrete or radiant heat (where natural wood flooring typically cannot be placed). Engineered floors are comprised of a top, high quality natural wood layer, with several thin, lesser quality wood layers underneath. This forms a thick, durable plank of wood, which often comes prefinished, saving money on installation and costly on-site finishing treatments. Though engineered floors typically cost most, you will save money on finishes, staining and installation.

  • Varying by brand, quality and style, engineered wood floors typically range in price from $2.00 per square foot to $10 per square foot.

Reclaimed Wood Flooring

Another option for anyone interested in natural wood flooring is reclaimed wood. Antique and sometimes historic wood from barns, factories, mills and breweries around the world is found, bought and refurbished for placement in homes. Often rustic and distressed, these floors come with tons of character, and often a story behind their original placement. Various companies specialize in locating the wood in homes, farms and businesses around the world, then restore and redistribute it as home flooring. Due to the discovery and renewal process, reclaimed wood floors are often much more expensive than other varieties of wood flooring.

  • Varying by brand, quality and style, reclaimed wood floors typically range in price from $5.00 per square foot to $10 per square foot.

Depending on the price, quality, style and difficulty of installation, picking the right wood flooring for your home can make all the difference. While synthetic options provide cheaper, easier maintained options, real wood flooring provides any home with an authentic and classic feel, and a 50 year or more lifespan. Engineered styles offer the look of real wood, with the ease of synthetic, and reclaimed floors come at a high cost but provide tons of character. By defining your budget, expectations and maintenance plan, choosing the perfect real or synthetic wood flooring for your home can be easy.

Last Updated: July 23, 2012
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About Alexandra Kerr Through Ideal Home Garden, Alexandra covers topics ranging from interior design to home improvement, gardening and cuisine. Having a passion for cooking and entertaining in her own life, she hopes to communicate her love of home design and decorating with her readers. 

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