Lets Talk Laminate vs Engineered Wood
Laminate Wood Flooring vs Engineered Wood Flooring. The difference can be confusing. Our companies flooring inspectors, have been trained by the NWFA – National Wood Flooring Association and NALFA – North American Laminate Floor Association. As certified inspectors, we see several hundreds laminate and wood floors each year. As a company, having inspected thousands of failing floors, our company The Weinheimer Group has never been hired because the commissioning party wanted to show us how beautiful the floor and its installation is. Instead, we are hired to determine if and why there is a failure.
We have observed that the homeowners are confused as to what they purchased. They often believe their laminate wood flooring is and engineered wood floor. At time they even believe their laminate floor is solid wood. There is a different between these products even though their are many similarities.
To a flooring expert these differences are easily seen. To the inexperienced sales person and homeowner it is often more difficult. This is especially true when comparing a laminate wood flooring to a less expensive engineered wood flooring that has an HDF core.
Lets Discuss Some Laminate vs Engineered Wood Similarities and Differences
Often Little Differenced in Appearance
- Both laminate wood flooring and engineered wood flooring generally have a natural wood grained appearance.
Both Can Be Installed as a Floating Floor
- Laminate wood flooring is installed as a floating floor.
- Engineered wood flooring is often installed as a floating floor.
Construction Can Be Similar
- Laminate wood flooring is a layered construction that us fused together. With both, The layers are fused using one of the following methods:
- Direct –pressure (DPL). The layers are assembled all at once, then heated and pressed under extreme pressure to form a bond.
- High-pressure (HPL). The top and bottom layers are first treated separately and then fused again to the core layer under extreme pressure.
Both Have Core Layers
- Laminate wood flooring is manufactured with an Inner Core of high-density fiberboard (HDF) made from wood fibers fused with resin.
- Engineered wood flooring is sometimes manufactured with an Inner Core of high-density fiberboard (HDF) made from wood fibers fused with resin. Your better engineered wood flooring products are manufactured with multiple wood layers, giving the appearance of plywood.
Laminate vs Wood Wear layer
- Laminate wood flooring has a clear, top layer (normally melamine plastic) that provides resistance to stains and fading.
- Engineered wood flooring has a clear, top layer (often polyurethane) that provides resistance to stains and fading. This is applied to the surface of the wood veneer which is often called the wear layer. Many engineered wood floors have a factory finish “Aluminum Oxide – Ceramic – Titanium,” particles are mixed with the finish to create a very abrasive and wear resistant finish.
- The backing layer is designed to provide structural integrity to the product and to provide a barrier against moisture.
- Laminate wood flooring, the materials will vary depending on the manufacturer, and range from paper to a thin melamine.
- Engineered wood flooring, the materials will vary depending on the manufacturer, and range from HDF, MDF to natural wood.
There are Real Differences With the Design Layer
- Laminate wood flooring – Paper: The design layer is paper, a high resolution, highly-detailed photographic image similar to wallpaper, that realistically captures the look of genuine wood.
- Engineered wood flooring – Wood: The design layer is wood. It can range in thickness, commonly from 1mm to 4mm depending upon the grade of the flooring product. A natural wood species such as Oak, Hickory, Maple, Walnut etc. The design layer of an engineered wood floor is often referred to as the Wear Layer though it will be finished with a protective coating.
Are You Confused Yet?
As you can see, there are perhaps more similarities than differences when it comes to laminate vs Engineered wood. Perhaps the biggest differences is natural wood with a finish vs. printed paper with a wear layer above.
Is Laminate of Engineered Wood Best
A high quality engineered wood floor the top layer is usually thick enough to where it may be possible to refinish once. A laminate floor cannot be sanded and refinished. An inexpensive engineered wood floor will have a thin veneer and it will rarely be thick enough to refinish.
If you are willing to spend the extra dollars for a quality engineered wood floor with a thick veneer and great core, that would be my first choice. A quality laminate flooring will outperform an inexpensive engineered wood. On a budget or just want a coverup for a few years, it really is a toss up.