This seems to be one of those things that haunt me on a daily basis. Is laminate better than hardwood? Well… I guess it depends on the look you are going for and your expectations. Is laminate hardwood? No… It’s not. It’s laminate, or a picture of hardwood on a composite backer. It does not perform the same as hardwood and in many instances can be a much larger problem to maintain than hardwood flooring.
Repairing a hardwood floor, although time consuming and difficult, can be addressed on a board by board basis most of the time. Laminate products that require a repair usually have to be torn up to the point of the repair area. In other words, if a laminate floor system needs to be repaired near the wall where the floor was started, guess what… Chances are the entire floor system will have to be torn up to get to it.
Water damage is a big concern when dealing with laminate, as laminate products have a tendency to swell a great deal when moisture is introduced. Typically, a laminate system will swell to the point that the match ends will separate or break when water is introduced. Even with a relatively small amount of moisture. I’m not saying that all laminate is bad… Only that you must be sure that a laminate system is what you want!
Laminate systems CAN NOT be sanded! What you have after install is what you get. Therefore, most laminate systems will only last about a ¼ of the life of a real hardwood floor, assuming proper maintenance. Be sure it is what you want! Here again, realistic expectations of performance are the key to choosing a laminate floor system.
Keep in mind that if you are flipping a house or renovating it for the market, that a laminate system IS NOT hardwood floor. Therefore, you can not promote hardwood floors to aid in the selling process. As hardwood floors will raise the value of your property, there is a developing trend that laminate floors are becoming a deterrent to some prospective buyers.
My only real advice to hardwood or laminate is… If you want a hardwood floor… Buy a hardwood floor… If you want a laminate floor… Buy a laminate floor… Do some research and make an educated decision before you commit. Remember, you get what you pay for! Oh yeah… There are also some really good engineered products out there… But I will leave those to another post.