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What’s the Difference between Laminate and Engineered Wood?


Laminate, engineered, unfinished, prefinished…oh my!  With all of the options in hardwood available today, selecting the right wood for your home can be a little overwhelming.  The classics, unfinished and prefinished solid wood, are no longer the only type of flooring that falls under the hardwood umbrella.  Two new players, engineered and laminate floors, have entered the hardwood arena in recent years, giving more homeowners the ability to afford and enjoy the style and sophistication of hardwood floors.  If you’re considering one of these flooring options, but aren’t quite clear on the difference, here’s some information that might help.

Let’s start by giving a brief overview of traditional solid hardwood.  With this flooring, each plank is made from a single piece of wood and is generally ¾” thick.  Solid hardwood floors tend to expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity.  In summer, increased humidity causes the planks to expand and buckle.  While in the winter, when humidity decreases, the planks contract, leavings gaps.  For this reason, solid hardwood is not recommended in basements or on top of concrete floors.  While solid hardwood is the most expensive option, it also adds the most value to your home.  Homes with hardwood sell faster and at higher price points.  Not to mention, it looks beautiful in any room and can be refinished to change the look. Solid hardwood also offers the widest selection, with many different wood species available (ex. bamboo, Brazilian cherry, maple, etc.) and endless color options.

Laminate flooring is produced by attaching a photograph to a high density fiberboard through the use of heat and pressure.  The photograph is covered with a layer of polyurethane to protect the floor from scratches, fading, and wear.  Higher quality laminates use a form of urethane infused with aluminum oxide, which further increases its resistance to scratches.  Laminates are often textured through an embossing process for a more realistic look and feel.  Higher end laminates can also use high definition imaging for more authenticity.  Laminate floors offer several advantages to homeowners.  First, they are extremely versatile and can be installed on virtually any solid surface.  Because of laminate’s construction, the concern of buckling and gapping is nonexistent.  They are also significantly less expensive than solid hardwood.  Laminate floors never have to be refinished (and in fact cannot be refinished).   They are incredibly durable and have a greater scratch resistance than most hardwood and engineered floors.

Engineered flooring refers to multi-layer, cross grain constructed hardwood.  Despite its somewhat misleading name, engineered hardwood is 100% real wood.  It is made by taking multiple layers of hardwood (between 3 and 5 layers, depending on quality) and fusing them together at 90˚ angles to create a strong, durable hardwood.  The top layer of engineered floors is made from the species of wood that defines its look (ex. oak or cherry).  The inside layers are made from hard, but less expensive, species of hardwood.  The advantages of engineered wood are that it is often less expensive and more stable than traditional hardwood.  Because of the multiple layers, it is also less likely to expand and contract with changes in temperature, decreasing the likelihood of it warping or buckling.  This also allows it to be installed on concrete and below grade subfloors.  Engineered wood can be refinished up to 3 times, depending on the quality.

No matter what your flooring needs, a Pizazz design consultant can help you choose the type of hardwood that is perfect for you and your lifestyle.  For more information on laminate, engineered wood, or any other hardwood inquiry, call Pizazz Floors at 678-687-8693.

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