If you wish to achieve the aesthetics and charm of a hardwood floor, then engineered hardwood and laminate are two great choices for you. Each with their independent selling points, they both share many great attributes amongst hard floor coverings. Read on to find out what sets one apart from the other and why one might be better suited to your home.
Before going into the comparatives, it is helpful to understand the makeup of each product, to understand where one stands out from another:
The Make-Up of Laminate Flooring
The composition of laminate flooring is made up of 4 layers. Like the construction of a building, no layer is complete without the next. At the base of a laminate floor is the backing layer with helps to protect from moisture transfer from the sub floor.
Above the backing is an inner core (Usually made from high density fiberboard) which adds structure to the laminate, keeping it flat, rigid, and stable. To create the look of a natural hardwood floor a third ‘Design Layer’ is then added using a high-resolution photographic image. A final transparent wear layer is then added to offer fantastic protection against scratches, dents, and stains.
The Make-Up of Engineered Hardwood Like the structure of laminate, engineered hardwood contains multiple layers to create its rigidity, finish, and performance. At the base of each plank, layered sections of solid wood are bonded together, the grain of each piece running in a different direction to its adjacent layer. This enhances the plank’s strength and reduces the wood’s natural tendency to expand and contract, making it much more durable in even the most challenging of areas. The top layer is a veneer of solid hardwood, usually oak. This offers the same timeless look and feel as a traditional solid hardwood floor. An oil or lacquered finished is usually applied to enhance the grain and offer protection against surface abrasion, dents, and discolouration.
Whilst the cost of laminate and engineered hardwood flooring can vary greatly, laminate is usually the cheaper option of the two. The cost of laminate flooring is usually depicted by the design, technology, moisture protection and texture, whereas engineered hardwoods are influenced by the thickness of the veneer, quality of hardwood and hand finish.
Tolerance to liquid
Whilst the surface of some laminates offer protection against spillages from above, it is important to keep your flooring dry and avoid any standing water by wiping up spills as quickly as possible. If water can penetrate either floor, it can cause the flooring to swell and, in some cases, leave irreversible damage. The base structure of engineered hardwood floors mean that they are less susceptible to expansion and contraction in rooms where there is a high level of humidity but we still do not recommend installation in bathrooms.
Both types of flooring offer a good solution to a well presented, yet hardwearing floor covering. The main difference between the two can be found at the surface. Due to the hard wear layer constructed on top of laminate flooring, they are extremely robust to surface damage and traditionally offer more protection than an engineered wood floor.
Real oak has been used in flooring for centuries and provides a truly natural appearance. The aesthetics and performance can be maintained by periodically re-oiling, or sanding and re-applying a lacquer.
Both types of flooring can expand and contract with heat and moisture so we must allow for a small expansion gap around the perimeter of a room when fitting. This is usually achieved by adding small strips of beading around the edge of the room or removing the skirting boards and refitting them on top of the floor, allowing a small gap at the edge.
In most cases, both floors can be ‘floated’, this means they are not adhered to the sub floor and are instead bonded together and laid on top of a thin underlay.
Engineered parquet floors are ever increasing in popularity due to their style and beauty. These are generally fully adhered to the sub floor, which can often require additional preparation before installing the floor to ensure that the surface is smooth and free of moisture. This would usually involve applying a smoothing compound to an existing concrete sub floor or installing flooring grade plywood on top of an existing timber sub floor. Additional checks are required to ensure that the sub-floor does not contain excessive moisture, if this were the case remedial works would be required to rectify this before installation.
The day-to-day upkeep of the two floors is similar, regular sweeping or vacuuming to remove dust and debris from the floor is important as this can be abrasive on the surface. Regular cleaning with a pH neutral soap will clean and nourish the floor. This is all that is required for laminate flooring.
Periodic maintenance of oiled engineered wood floors is required by the application of a maintenance oil which will restore the finish and bring life back to your floor and is useful for spot treatment of heavy wear areas.
Lacquered engineered wood floors can be re-lacquered if needed, however this is generally a job best left to a professional floor finisher.
In summary, both floor coverings are a great choice if you want a practical, hardwearing floor with the timeless beauty of a solid hardwood. In reality, the best floor for you will be down to your individual home requirements and what you like the look and feel of.