Which Is Better, Laminate Or Hardwood?

Are you looking to install a new wood floor but hardwood is just so darn expensive?

When you start to compare prices you'll find that alternatives such as laminate cost 50%-80% less. But is it really worth the cost savings? Let's take a look at the differences between hardwood and laminate to help you decide.


Hardwood flooring comes in two different types, solid and engineered. Both are beautiful, durable, and come in a variety of species and finishes. Engineered hardwood is made of layers of plywood that have been glued together, then topped with a sheet of real wood. Solid wood floors looks very similar, but they are real wood from top to bottom.

Related: Learn more about the difference between hardwood and engineered wood flooring options.

Laminate is similar to engineered in that it is made from layers, but its layers are not made of wood. It’s a composite made up of melamine and fiberboard that has a top layer that looks like real wood. Laminate can have a very realistic wood appearance, but it’s definitely not the same product.

Cost comparison

As you would expect, hardwood flooring is more expensive than laminate. This is because it's made from actual wood, which can vary its cost depending on the species of tree its' made from. Laminate is made from a combination of inexpensive and readily available organic and inorganic compounds.

A solid wood floor can cost anywhere from $8 to $15 per square foot including installation. If you opt for engineered, you can save a little money, spending from $3-$14 per square foot including installation.

Laminate flooring isn’t just cheaper to buy, it's cheaper to install too. In fact, many homeowners choose to install it themsleves because it's so easy to do. Expect to spend between $2-$8 per square foot including installation.

Durability and use

A living room with flooring that looks like real wood.
You can get this look with either real wood or laminates.

Solid wood hardwood floors are susceptible to damage from moisture, so it’s not a great choice for bathrooms, kitchens, or basements where moisture might be an issue. Engineered would be a better choice for these applications. Still, it is a durable flooring option for other rooms, though you must take care to avoid scratches and wear from pets and heavily trafficked areas. It may be able to be stripped and refinished several times, so damage can be repaired, if necessary.

Laminate flooring is also susceptible to damage from moisture. It resists moisture better than solid wood but not as well as an engineered option. It handles foot traffic well, being fairly resistant to scratches and scuffs, but it isn’t as durable. Most laminates will last ten years or more, depending on the quality of the brand and how it's cared for. With care, you can keep it looking good for a long time, but you can’t refinish laminate flooring, so if it gets damaged, it will need to be replaced.

Despite laminate’s susceptibility to moisture damage, it handles prolonged exposure to a low level of moisture and humidity better than hardwood. Laminate doesn’t swell or buckle like wood does under the same conditions. With care, you can use it in kitchens and bathrooms, and it will work well in most rooms of your home.

Pro Tip

One of my favorite benefits of laminates and engineered hardwood floors is that they can be installed directly over lot's of different types of floors without the backbreaking work of having to pull up the old floor. This is never the case with solid wood.

Care and maintenance

Keeping your flooring clean is important for both options because dirt and grime will damage the finish of the floor over time. Regular sweeping or vacuuming is a must.

Related: This is the best way to clean hardwood floors.

There are cleaners designed for use with laminate and hardwood floors that will help keep them clean and maintain their finish. Avoid using too much moisture on either type. A damp mop or cloth is best as it prevents excess moisture from seeping into the joints between the boards.

The type of flooring you choose will depend on your budget and where you plan to install it. If you have the budget and want a floor that can last for decades choose hardwood. If you home have dogs or are installing it in a basement then laminate is a better choice.

Page Last Updated On Oct 03, 2019 by Scott Jenkins