Difference between Engineered Hardwood and Laminate Flooring

January 14, 2017 by Editorial Team

These two popular flooring materials look so much alike to the untrained eye. It’s understandable because engineered hardwood and laminate flooring are made that way. Let’s highlight the differences between these two and see how they stack up against each other.

Definitions

Clip-on engineered hardwood boards

Engineered hardwood is also known as manufactured board, composite wood, and man-made wood. It includes a wide range of derivative wood products made by fixing and binding together particles, strands, veneers, and boards of wood. Its top layer of veneer is made of real, solid sawn wood, usually pre-finished or stained. The middle and bottom portion of the board are made of plywood planks or cross-laid solid wood. Pressed together using many fixation methods, engineered boards are manufactured in various composite designs. The real wood component in engineered hardwood helps it retain the unique, textured, grain and feel of natural wood.

The structure of engineered wood products allows it to be more resistant to contraction and expansion caused by dramatic changes in room temperature. It can withstand some moisture, but it is not advisable in places where there’s a high level of moisture (e.g. bathrooms). Its top veneer layer can be refinished several times before it wears out. Engineered hardwood may be moderately expensive, but it adds to the home’s resale value.

In terms of installation, engineered hardwood is moderately difficult to install, like solid hardwood. Unless a floating variety is used, engineered hardwood must be glued or stapled to the sub-floor.

Laminate flooring
A laminate flooring installation in progress

Laminate flooring, also known as floating wood tile, is composed of multiple layers of synthetic flooring products bonded and fused together using a lamination process. It can mimic wood and stone flooring. It has become popular through the years probably because laminate flooring has proven to be easier to install and maintain than usual flooring surfaces such as hardwood.

Laminate flooring is extremely durable because of its stain resistant finish. Its high resistance to scratches makes it a good choice in active households with children and pets. However, it is not possible to restore laminate flooring when it starts to wear down through years of use. In addition, laminate flooring is inexpensive in terms of cost and installation. The downside to this is that it does not do much to the home’s resale value.

It’s a common misconception that laminate is made of plastic and thus, is water resistant. Laminate flooring is largely processed wood except for its resin top wear layer. At best, it can only be moderately water resistant when no seams are exposed. Once water seeps through, laminate can swell and will need to be replaced. Laminate flooring is easy to install as no adhesives are needed. The boards easily fold and lock into place, which makes it a very popular flooring choice among DIYers.

Comparison

Engineered hardwood is man-made wood manufactured from strands, particles, and fibers of boards of wood bound together with adhesives. Laminate flooring is a synthetic flooring product made up of multiple layers of wood fibers fused through a lamination process.

In terms of beauty, engineered hardwood has a top layer of real hardwood that gives a genuine look and feel. Advancements in laminate flooring have made it increasingly similar to solid hardwood, but it still cannot hold up to engineered hardwood in this regard.

Engineered hardwood is usually priced higher with an average price of $6 to $10 per square foot. Higher end versions can cost as much as $12 to $15 per square foot. Laminate flooring is one of the least expensive options with an average price of $2 to $3 per square foot.

Comparison Chart

Engineered HardwoodLaminate Flooring
Made of compacted plywood with a hardwood top layerPressed wood fibers with a resin top “wear layer”
Moderately expansiveFairly inexpensive
Can be restored several timesCannot be restored
Moderately difficult to installVery easy to install

Video

For more about engineered hardwood and laminate flooring, watch this YouTube video.