Laminate flooring makes for an inexpensive substitute for hardwood. In fact, it’s so versatile that it can stand in for stone, tile, or even metal as well, at a fraction of the cost. So is laminate flooring right for your home? Here are some things to consider.

  • Versatility. Laminate can be made to look like virtually any type of flooring. By printing a high res image onto the laminate material, it can mimic pretty much any color and style of wood you might want, as well as stone, tile, etc. Done well, it looks just like the real thing. Done poorly, it can look fake, like you’ve just got a picture of some wooden planks on your floor. Shop around for good quality laminate that can give your floor a natural look.
  • Installation. Laminate installation used to be a messy and time-consuming process that involved glue. Now, however, sections are designed to snap together without adhesives, allowing for easy DIY installation over just about any existing flooring, except for carpet.
  • Maintenance. Laminate flooring is easy to keep clean, with regular sweeping or vacuuming. Stay away from mopping, though, for reasons we’ll discuss later.
  • Durability. A “wear layer” protects the floor from most ordinary wear and tear and keeps the image intact. Unlike wood, laminate is resistant to scratches and dents. However, if the floor does become damaged, it can’t be sanded or refinished like wood can, but must be replaced.
  • Water damage. Be aware that laminate flooring is water resistant, but not waterproof. This is why sweeping and vacuuming are preferable to mopping (unless it’s a dry mop). The floor can stand up to basic spills, as long as they’re cleaned up quickly. But it will sustain water damage in areas with heavy moisture, such as the bathroom or the laundry room. Installation in the kitchen is usually OK, but be warned that if the pipes under the sink start leaking, it can spell disaster.
  • Environment. Laminate flooring is environmentally friendly. While hardwood carries with it concerns of deforestation, laminate is made from existing scrap materials, such as sawdust and wood chips, making it more sustainable. And now that snap-together installation has replaced traditional adhesives, it’s also chemical-free, eliminating harmful VOCs. Finally, when you do end up replacing the floor, the old material can be recycled or composted, rather than sitting around in a landfill for an eternity.
  • Lifespan. The average laminate floor will last you between 15 and 25 years. Depending on a variety of factors, such as the quality of the laminate, the quality of the installation, and how well you maintain it, that number can end up being as low as 10 years, or as high as 30. While a fairly long time, it’s not as long as real hardwood, which can last 75 years or more.

In the end, the choice between laminate flooring and hardwood comes down to what your priorities are. Laminate is cheap and easy, environmentally friendly, and will last you a couple of decades. Wood is more of an investment. It’s expensive, but also more durable and longer lasting, and will increase your home’s resale value.

If you’re thinking about installing laminate flooring in your home, talk to a flooring expert about your options. They’ll help you determine which rooms would and wouldn’t be a good idea to install it in, and find material that will give you the most natural wood, stone, or tile look. In the end, laminate flooring is a great way to save some money while still adding an air of high class elegance and style to your home décor. And with proper care and maintenance, it will be serve you in good stead for years to come.