Laminate Flooring. When does it make sense?

Home Builder with The Flooring Girl

First, let me state for the record I prefer hardwood.  Second, let me clarify definitions.  Often my customers get laminate, engineered hardwood and vinyl confused.   It's not their job to know which is which...this is my job.

Laminate - This is fake.  It usually looks like hardwood (but some are made to look like tile).  These floors click into place and are usually floated.  Often, they can be placed on top of an existing floor without needing to remove it.  These are made with recycled wood that is left over in the manufacturing process

Vinyl - There are many forms of vinyl, but the most common types are sheets (12 ft wide) and vinyl tiles.  Vinyl is usually either waterproof or highly water resistant, pending on the type and quality.  For high quality and stylish vinyl see my recent post on Luxury vinyl - is it an oxymoron?

• Engineered hardwood - is real hardwood constructed in layers.  The term sounds fake, but I's not.  There are many benefits and reasons to use these wood.  For more info see my post on Engineered hardwoods.

Okay, so now that we are straight on definitions when does it make sense to use a laminate (vs. a hardwood)?

1.  If you need something more scratch resistant vs. hardwood.  I love hardwood, but it definitely can scratch.  So, if you are concerned about this for any of the following reasons - kids, pets, heavy traffic - laminates are often a safer bet.

2.  If budget is the main consideration - In general most laminates are less expensive than hardwoods.  As with any product, there is a range of quality, but if money is the key consideration, laminate is usually a better choice. 

3.  If staging/selling  a home - If the client needs to/wants to save money (which is often a key consideration when staging (i.e. how can we improve the look/quality without spending too much so the investment is worth it).  This is often a super option for a kitchen that has vinyl.  The laminate looks much nicer than vinyl and can usually be floated on top of the existing vinyl.  And, it's usually LESS expensive vs. replacing vinyl due to lower floor prep.

4.  If you are renting and constantly replacing the carpet for every tenant - In general, carpet is the least expensive surface - at least short-term.  But, it gets dirty and wears down easily.  So, if you have tenants moving in and out every 2-3 yrs and keep replacing the carpet, it will actually cost you much less in the long run to trade up to laminate flooring.  It will cost more initially, but it can easily last 15-25 yrs.  In addition, it makes your unit more appealing which means you can either charge more rent or find a tenant faster or both.  All you need is a potential renter to have 1 person in the family with either asthma or allergies and then a carpeted area won't work for them.  So next time consider trading up to laminate flooring.

When to avoid using laminate flooring

1. If moisture is an issue, do not use laminate flooring.  Laminate flooring uses leftover hardwood shavings (extras from the manufacturing of hardwood).  It is not waterproof.  It is just like hardwood - water is its enemy. 

2.  If floor isn't level.  If your floors are uneven, it's hard to install any type of hard surface (except vinyl which is flexible).  With a laminate floor (which is floating), if it's uneven it will make noise and shift/move when you walk on it.  If floors are very uneven, it's even possible for the floor to crack.  It's always best to level out the floor before installing any hard surface.  But, sometimes, this can be cost prohibitive. 

For more info on laminate or flooring in general, you can visit our website.  Or, check out our new flooring selector - see samples of carpet, hardwood, tile, laminate - 2,000 choices.

Comments (14)

Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

Good information for home owners. Thanks for sharing.

 Blooming for home buyers this weekend.

Jul 24, 2010 11:48 PM
Diane Williams
Pell City, AL

Interesting information on flooring and some good tips. Thanks for sharing.

Jul 24, 2010 11:56 PM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Roy - Thank you and you're welcome

Diane - Dito

All - I'm tyring to add photos but having connection challenges today.  Sorry abt that.

Jul 25, 2010 12:06 AM
David Okada
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY
Service-Beyond Your Expectations

Thanks for the education Debbie. I do have one question though with regard to laminates. I understand if there is damage to the laminate and it requires sanding that it is difficult, since their is plywood underneath that may show in that area. Is this a true and if so it a disadvantage.

Jul 25, 2010 12:14 AM
Don Spera
CR Property Group, LLC - East York, PA
Serving York and Adams County, PA

Debbie, thanks for being part of the AR family.  You expertis is a  welcome addition as it does relate to our field.  Great post!

Jul 25, 2010 02:39 AM
Sam DeBord -Coldwell Banker Danforth - Seattle, WA
Seattle Real Estate Broker

Laminate is a great price-point alternative, but it also has a louder "tapping" noise when it's walked on than real hardwoods.

Jul 25, 2010 03:09 AM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

David - Yes, it is true that you can't refinish laminate floors so that definitely is a down-side.  However, it doesn't scratch very easily and most come w/ warranties that are good for 15-25 yrs.  However, what I think you are referring to is engineered hardwood - some can be refinished; others can't.  YOu can read about it in this post.

Don - Thank you so much.  Glad to be here, and learning a lot so far.

Sam - Yes, not crazy about the tapping sound - that 's another reason why I prefer real hardwood.  The "tapping" is because the floor is floating and not directly attached to the floor.  Hardwood is definitely prefered; but laminate is a good price alternative (or an upgrade vs. carpet or vinyl).

Jul 25, 2010 05:21 AM
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

my dogs toenails on laminate drive me nuts... absolutely nuts.  Thanks for the good info for consumers.  Thanks for allowing the Re-Blog. 

Jul 25, 2010 02:43 PM
Ginny Gorman
RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate - North Kingstown, RI
Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond

Debbie, thanks for the pros & cons to share with clients...good information for all...i too prefer hardwoods & it is worth the cost for longevity & look purposes too.

Jul 26, 2010 12:03 AM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Maureen - sorry to hear that.  Maybe it would help if you trim the nails or if you put area rug on top.

Ginny - You're welcome.  And, thank you so much for reblogging.  That is such an honor.

Jul 26, 2010 12:46 AM
Ritu Desai 703-625-4949
Samson Properties - Chantilly, VA
Northern Virginia,Washington DC & Maryland Realtor

Debbie, I did replace flooring in our investment property to laminate, it looks clean and easy to maintain for a tenant. I like the pros and cons.

Jul 26, 2010 01:44 AM
Mary Kay Hopkins
Mary Kay Hopkins, LLC e-PRO, GRI, CRS, CRB - Lake Charles, LA

Debbie, noticed your post due to a reblog.  Thanks for an informative and well done post.

Jul 26, 2010 02:44 AM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Ritu - Thx for your comment and thx for your reblog.

Mary Kay - Thx for stopping by and for the nice compliment.

Jul 26, 2010 02:48 AM
Phyllis Lerner call 914.438.7556
Corcoran Legends Realty - Tarrytown, NY
Corcoran Legends Realty

...good to know ... thanks Debbie...

Jul 29, 2010 05:33 PM