Debbie Gartner of Floor Coverings International has granted permission for this informative post to be re-blogged. If you are wondering about the difference in flooring materials, the pros and cons to each, and when and where it’s appropriate to use each, read on:
First, let me state for the record I prefer hardwood. Second, let me clarify definitions. Often my customers get laminate, engineered hardwood and vinyl confused. It’s not their job to know which is which…this is my job.
• Laminate – This is fake. It usually looks like hardwood (but some are made to look like tile). These floors click into place and are usually floated. Often, they can be placed on top of an existing floor without needing to remove it. These are made with recycled wood that is left over in the manufacturing process
• Vinyl – There are many forms of vinyl, but the most common types are sheets (12 ft wide) and vinyl tiles. Vinyl is usually either waterproof or highly water resistant, pending on the type and quality. For high quality and stylish vinyl see my recent post on Luxury vinyl – is it an oxymoron?
• Engineered hardwood – is real hardwood constructed in layers. The term sounds fake, but I’s not. There are many benefits and reasons to use these wood. For more info see my post on Engineered hardwoods.
Okay, so now that we are straight on definitions when does it make sense to use a laminate (vs. a hardwood)?
1. If you need something more scratch resistant vs. hardwood. I love hardwood, but it definitely can scratch. So, if you are concerned about this for any of the following reasons – kids, pets, heavy traffic – laminates are often a safer bet.
2. If budget is the main consideration – In general most laminates are less expensive than hardwoods. As with any product, there is a range of quality, but if money is the key consideration, laminate is usually a better choice.
3. If staging/selling a home – If the client needs to/wants to save money (which is often a key consideration when staging (i.e. how can we improve the look/quality without spending too much so the investment is worth it). This is often a super option for a kitchen that has vinyl. The laminate looks much nicer than vinyl and can usually be floated on top of the existing vinyl. And, it’s usually LESS expensive vs. replacing vinyl due to lower floor prep.
4. If you are renting and constantly replacing the carpet for every tenant – In general, carpet is the least expensive surface – at least short-term. But, it gets dirty and wears down easily. So, if you have tenants moving in and out every 2-3 yrs and keep replacing the carpet, it will actually cost you much less in the long run to trade up to laminate flooring. It will cost more initially, but it can easily last 15-25 yrs. In addition, it makes your unit more appealing which means you can either charge more rent or find a tenant faster or both. All you need is a potential renter to have 1 person in the family with either asthma or allergies and then a carpeted area won’t work for them. So next time consider trading up to laminate flooring.
When to avoid using laminate flooring
1. If moisture is an issue, do not use laminate flooring. Laminate flooring uses leftover hardwood shavings (extras from the manufacturing of hardwood). It is not waterproof. It is just like hardwood – water is its enemy.
2. If floor isn’t level. If your floors are uneven, it’s hard to install any type of hard surface (except vinyl which is flexible). With a laminate floor (which is floating), if it’s uneven it will make noise and shift/move when you walk on it. If floors are very uneven, it’s even possible for the floor to crack. It’s always best to level out the floor before installing any hard surface. But, sometimes, this can be cost prohibitive.
Debbie Gartner, Floor Coverings International in Westchester/Western Fairfield
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