What Are Hardwood Floors?

For most of the last century, wood floors were common in homes, as carpet was financially out of reach for most Americans, according to MacDonald Hardwoods. But after World War II, there was an explosion of accessible carpeting and linoleum, and millions of homeowners began covering their hardwood floors with wall-to-wall carpeting. It wasn’t until the 1990s that hardwood floors became back in vogue and many homeowners began tearing up their carpet, often finding lovely, solid-wood floors hiding beneath. 

Today, hardwood is a beautiful type of flooring in both new and old homes. In your decision-making journey between laminate flooring vs hardwood, there are two main types of wood flooring to consider: solid hardwood flooring and engineered hardwood.

Solid hardwood flooring is made from a single piece of natural timber. Though thickness ranges, it’s usually three-quarters of an inch thick. Even after hundreds of years, solid hardwood floors remain the premier flooring choice and are a huge selling point for prospective homebuyers. 

Meanwhile, engineered hardwood is made of several layers, with only the surface and bottom consisting of real wood. The inner core is typically made of plywood. The biggest benefit of engineered hardwood is that it handles moisture well and won’t expand, contract, and warp as easily as solid hardwood. (It can even be installed in bathrooms or basements.) 

While some homeowners say that that engineered hardwood doesn’t feel the same as solid hardwood, it’s a beautiful choice made with real wood, and you probably won’t be able to tell the difference. 

Every type of hardwood has its own distinct vibe. A few options include:

  • Red Oak: With a unique, deep color, Red Oak is a popular choice.
  • Maple: As one of the densest hardwoods, Maple can handle heavy-duty wear and tear. (It’s used for bowling alleys!)
  • Solid oak: As the most common type of wood flooring used in older homes, solid oak will give your home timeless character.
  • Reclaimed Wood: If you’re willing to pay for one-of-a-kind flooring, reclaimed wood has an unparalleled rustic charm. You’ll have to hunt for a reputable seller, though. And you’ll also need to ensure any paint on the wood is lead-free.
  • Bamboo: A great choice for a modern aesthetic, bamboo floors are harder than traditional hardwood, easy to install, and less expensive than many other types of wood.

There are dozens more varieties of hardwood floor options, which all have different price points and hardness.

What Are Laminate Floors?

First growing in popularity in Europe in the 1980s, laminate floors are made of multi-layered, synthetic materials that are fused together in a process called lamination. On the surface, manufacturers print a pattern that replicates the look of hardwood, stone, marble, or tile. Each piece of flooring is also covered with a clear, protective coating of aluminum oxide.

Some manufacturers even texturize laminate floors to mimic wood grain and other organic characteristics, giving the floors richness and character. 

When it comes to laminate flooring vs hardwood cost, laminate floors are more budget-friendly. They’re dramatically easier to install since a professional will likely install a “floating floor,” meaning each board doesn’t have to be nailed down. Or, you can choose to go the DIY route with laminate floors.

Plus, another difference between hardwood and laminate flooring is that professionals can install laminate over concrete, tile, linoleum, or just about any surface. That’s not the case with hardwood, and removing old floors rack up the installation cost even more. 

Laminate Or Hardwood Flooring, Which Is Better?

Although hardwood floors are still considered top-of-the-line flooring material doesn’t mean they’re the right choice for every home.

When deciding between laminate versus hardwood flooring, there are a few things you want to consider. The biggest one is cost. Laminate and hardwood flooring prices vary greatly, and while the cost of raw materials can be somewhat comparable, installation costs are going to be much more for real wood. 

Below are some additional key factors to consider when making your decision.

Hardwood

Laminate

Material Cost

Ranges widely, from about $2/sqft to more than $10/sqft for rarer, more specialty types of wood. Check out our hardwood floor calculator for all cost variables.

Lower-quality laminate starts at about $1/sqft, increasing to to $5/sqft for higher quality. Our flooring installation cost estimator can help you pin down the specifics.

Total Cost

Most homeowners spend $2,952 to $4,646 for professionally installed hardwood/engineered hardwood floors.

Most homeowners spend $1,574 to $2,754 for professionally installed laminate floors.

Longevity

Lasts many decades, and can be refinished many times if scratched or worn (Except for flooding damage.) Engineered hardwood can only be refinished a few times. 

It can last between 10 and 30 years, depending on quality and care. Can’t be refinished if damaged or worn. 

Resale Value

Hardwood and engineered hardwood floors in good condition give your home a resale value boost.

High-quality laminate floors increase the resale value more than some other types of flooring (like carpeting), but less than real wood.

Appearance 

Adds charm, warmth character to a home.

Many styles are available. With many higher quality laminate floors, most people won’t be able to tell a floor isn’t hardwood.

Installation 

Once you choose between hardwood or laminate flooring, there are more things to consider than material alone. You still need to make choices about baseboards, specific quality of material, finishes, installation techniques, and much more. You may also need to remove your furniture while a pro installs your floors. 

If you’re ready to redo your floors, it’s time to find a local flooring contractor. While installing can be a DIY project, this job is usually left to professionals, who can install your new, gorgeous floors perfectly to maximize longevity and style.