Helping you plan your home improvement project, from start to finish

Flooring & Tiles

The Hardwood Flooring Dilemma: Laminate, Solid or Engineered

By on Mar 7, 2016
The Hardwood Flooring Dilemma: Laminate, Solid or Engineered

Nearly every new homeowner or remodeler is choosing to go with hardwood floors. They are durable, easy to clean and can match any home style that is on the market. While you may not notice it, there are various kinds of hardwood floors, such as laminate, solid and engineered hardwood. Now that we have gone over the wood flooring types, it’s time to discuss the most prevalent kinds of hardwood.

Laminate Floors

What Is Laminate Flooring?

Laminate flooring is a tongue and groove flooring system with a resin-based surface that is laminated, or bonded, to a wood-based core. The cores range from high-density fiberboard to compressed kraft paper. The bottom side of each laminate flooring piece has a protective backing. The flooring material is usually only one-third of an inch thick and thus can be laid over existing floors without significant transition problems to adjoining rooms. The wear-resistant surface pattern or photograph is usually hardwood, but can also be stone or marble.

Laminate Flooring Benefits

Undoubtedly, the biggest advantage of laminate flooring is the price. On average, the installation cost of laminate floors is 50% less than solid hardwood. Even though all hardwoods are pretty durable, since laminate is pressed wood, it’s even more durable and resistant to scratches and dents. Laminate hardwood is easy to install and some homeowners say their laminate is easier to clean than solid or engineered hardwood.

Laminate Flooring Drawbacks

Laminate floors do not do well when they are exposed to moisture, precisely why they are rarely used in bathrooms, laundry rooms and certain areas of the kitchen. The water could cause the floor to swell and become uneven, perhaps the most unforgiving characteristic of any floor.

Another issue with laminate flooring is peaking, or when two planks get pushed together creating raised joints. If the planks were incorrectly glued to the subfloor or inadequate space between the flooring edge was created, peaking can occur.

Repairs are a given with any flooring option, but laminate flooring severely limits your options. Since the top surface is a photograph, or applied through it, homeowners or professionals can’t sand or refinish the floors. You may be able to replace damaged pieces, but finding laminate with the same patterns is difficult. Most likely, once the floor is worn or damaged, you will have to replace it.

Solid Hardwood Floors

Solid Hardwood Floors

What Is Solid Hardwood Flooring?

Solid hardwood floors are made from one, solid piece of natural wood. The entire plank is made from wood. It’s the only material used, something laminate or engineered hardwood can’t say. Typically, hardwood is three quarters of an inch thick. It must be nailed down to wood subfloors. This will limit many homeowners who live on a slab or under concrete.

Solid Hardwood Benefits

There are some property owners who want the real thing. When it comes to the natural look and scent of hardwood, property owners almost always choose solid hardwood floors. Solid hardwood comes with less of a building process, so families have a variety of options to choose from.

Since solids are made from one wood slab, they are very easy to sand and refinish. As a result, solid hardwood is much more durable than laminate or engineered, offsetting some of the upfront costs. Furthermore, as we noted in Carpet & Hardwood Flooring: How They Compare, hardwood will easily last longer than carpet with proper care and maintenance.

Solid Hardwood Drawbacks

While solids are more durable and easier to repair, they are more susceptible to dents and dings. In fact, even if you drop a heavy object or a small weight, you could easily damage your floor. Additionally, just like laminate, if the floor remains wet for a period of time, it can swell and expand, causing very ugly gaps. As a result, solid hardwood is not recommended for a bathroom, basement or laundry room.

Since the planks are made from 100% wood, solid hardwood is more expensive than the other two options. However, the higher price tag does bring a glossy and beautiful finish.

Engineered Hardwood Floors

What Is Engineered Hardwood Flooring?

Engineered hardwood consists of several layers, with only the top and bottom consisting of real wood. The inner layers are made of plywood, high-density fiberboard or sometimes, actual hardwood. The top layer is usually hardwood veneer, but can also be composed of any hardwood you want, such as cherry, maple or oak. Some engineered hardwood floors have up to nine layers and unlike solid hardwood, engineered can go down on wood or concrete subfloors. Many contractors end up gluing it to concrete subfloors.

Engineered Hardwood Benefits

If you were waiting for a hardwood that can handle moisture, you finally found it. Engineered hardwood is very common for below-grade installations, like basements, because it can stand up to dampness and the heat above radiant heating systems. Since you don’t have to worry about it buckling, engineered hardwood is very stable and versatile, especially compared to laminate flooring.

Overall price, when it comes to installation and upkeep, is another advantage of engineered hardwood. Since engineered hardwood flooring requires only a thin slice of the desired wood as the top layer, the cost is less than solid hardwood.

Finally, if you are looking for a green hardwood flooring option, engineered is your winner. The trees for engineered floors grow much faster than those for solid hardwoods.

Engineered Hardwood Drawbacks

When you rely on others to make your flooring, you always have to worry about the quality of the floor. You don’t have this concern with solids. Also, while engineered is cheaper than solid hardwood, it’s not cheaper than laminate or carpet. According to our friends at HomeAdvisor, some veneers are so thin and poorly made that they can prematurely warp or fade. Some manufacturers try to cut corners by using fiberboard, which could compromise the stability of your floor.

Engineered hardwood floors can get resurfaced, but not as much as solid hardwood.


Hardwood flooring is gaining momentum every day. This hot trend is not going away anytime soon. While solid hardwood floors are ideal for the diehard wood lovers, engineered hardwood is a greener option and laminate is a cheaper one. Which one will you go with?

If you are having trouble deciding, be sure to read our laminate flooring project guide or any of our flooring cost estimators.

Get up to 4 Free Quotes!

Zip Code
comments powered by Disqus
2016 JDR Industry Blogger Award Winner for Best Microblog