When Choosing Laminate Flooring, should you go with real wood, Engineered or laminated boards?

There are lots of factors to consider when choosing laminate flooring over real wood, other than just the quality or price.

Both laminate and real wood are available in various different forms. Like wide plank flooring and narrow board, for example. Both can also be found with chamfers (v grooves) that highlight individual rows and give laminate a more authentic appearance.

When I'm quoting to lay a floor clients after having chosen the colour and type of wood often ask for my advice about which 'type' to go for.

Real wood tongue and groove floors have their benefits and their drawbacks. It can be much more time consuming to lay For example, and real wood can suffer from the same problems as any timber such as bowing and cupping. Problems like this make installation much more difficult and time consuming. On top of that, real wood flooring can be much more prone to shrinking and expanding with differing levels of room humidity. Whilst I personally like the natural appearance of knots in real wood floors many people don't, and want their floor to have a clean uninterrupted look, like that which laminates provide.

A benefit of installing Real wood floors is they can also be sanded down and refinished many times, whilst laminate floors when damaged are both awkward and difficult and sometimes even impossible to repair making real wood floors a much better investment in the long term.

Choosing laminate flooring over real wood is fine, it has lots of benefits. It is practical, low cost, low maintenance and will look great if it's laid properly. 

Because laminates are man made they don't suffer from the imperfections of real wood floors such as knots, warping/bowing and don't expand or contract as much as real wood floors can.It's not all positive though, the cheapest available can look artificial and fake as the pattern in the grain is often repeated over the floor.

And because it's very difficult if not impossible to repair one accident can ruin and waste the entire floor. Only lifting lots of it up to replace the damaged board will solve the problem, and that could mean removing the skirting and having to redecorate when you refit it later.

On the plus side laminate floors are relatively inexpensive. Because of their 'click' together tongue and groove systems manufacturers have made Installing laminate flooring very quick and therefore labour is reduced, making the overall project much less expensive in the short term. Cost is often the main factor when clients are choosing laminate flooring over real wood and it is especially popular with landlords who want a quick and tidy solution that is easier to maintain than carpet.

Engineered hardwood flooring

Engineered hardwood flooring provides the best of both worlds. Engineered flooring consists of a layer of real wood on top of an engineered/man made layer that has a click together tongue and groove system, much the same as Lamintate floors.

This means you get real authentic wood with plenty of natural charm, that can be sanded down and refinished. And you also get the benefits of a glueless click together tongue and groove system which is quick to install like laminates. Engineered flooring;

  • Doesn't suffer from warping/bowing like real wood
  • Can be sanded down and refinished a couple of times meaning its repairable and long lasting
  • Quick 'Click' together tongue and groove system makes installation quick and easy
  • Available in wide plank flooring as well as narrow 3 strip boards and with 'v' groove for example, all the popular types

Which is the best type of flooring?

When choosing between laminate and real wood flooring you can be forgiven for wishing you could have the best of both worlds. Engineered hardwood flooring provides just that. I always recommend this to clients instead of choosing laminate flooring or real wood because it offers all the individual benefits of each type without all the drawbacks.

I've always found it a pleasure to lay compared to the other two and have installed engineered oak flooring in my study and bathroom at home. The extra cost compared to real wood can be offset by the time saved in labour laying it and the longer lifespan compared to laminate.

Use the comments box below if you look for something in particular when choosing laminate flooring?