Whether you’re building a new home or you’ve decided to invest in new flooring for your existing home, choosing the right type of flooring can be overwhelming. One of the most sought-after amenities in a home is wood flooring because of its natural, timeless appearance. It is possible to achieve the look of hardwood flooring in your home without breaking the bank, but which route should you take?
HER spoke to interior designer Ashley Campbell to break down the differences and pros and cons between laminate, engineered hardwood and tile flooring.
Laminate is a multi-layer synthetic flooring product fused together with a lamination process. The bottom layer, or the backing, is designed to resist moisture that could cause boards to warp. The next layer is the inner core, made from high-density fiberboard reinforced with a special resin to further enhance moisture resistance and increase durability. Next is the image design layer. This is where the high-resolution image of wood, stone, metal
or other material appears, giving a stylish design that looks like high-end flooring at an affordable price. The top layer is the wear layer, which protects the design from fading, scratches and damage from everyday wear and tear.
Engineered hardwood is also a multi-layer flooring product. It’s made up of a core consisting of multiple ply layers that are cross-layered, glued and pressed together under extreme heat and pressure. The inner core layers are generally built up with either a hardwood and/or soft plywood material and the thick top hardwood veneer wear layer is then glued and pressed onto the top surface of the core. The top wear layer is typically a high-quality hardwood, giving the illusion of real, solid hardwood boards without the price.
Tile is a manufactured piece of hard-wearing material such as clay, ceramic, stone, metal or glass, generally used for covering roofs, floors, walls, showers or other objects such as tabletops. Advancements in technology and manufacturing processes have created unlimited possibilities with tile. Tile can be made to look like real hardwood flooring, products that look so real that to the naked eye it’s nearly impossible to know that what you’re seeing is not real wood. Tile is no longer limited to the traditional square sizes; it can now be manufactured into planks, or tiles that are long and rectangular in shape.
“On the laminate, some of the benefits are that it’s very pet-friendly. The laminate is your lowest maintenance, very pet-friendly, you can pretty much clean it with anything,” Campbell said. “On the cleaning aspect, of course on hardwood you’re not supposed to wet-mop, you’re not supposed to soak it, but with laminate and tile you can.”
Long gone are the days of laminate, or vinyl, flooring only being available in a sheet roll.
“Back in the day everyone thought laminate flooring was those rolls that would look like tile but it would be the big sheet you would roll out,” Campbell said. “That’s not what it is anymore. It’s so much better looking now and it’s very popular.”
With engineered hardwood, Campbell said the one question she is constantly asked is if it can be sanded down and refinished, if needed, over time.
“With some of the engineered hardwood, say your finish wears off over time or you want to change it. You can have it sanded down and refinished because it’s so thick. But, if you do that two or three times, you might eventually get down to the engineered part of it so you’re limited on the number of times you can do that with the engineered wood versus real wood,” she said. “Or, if it’s real thin — some of these are thinner — you might not be able to do that. So, yes, you can, just not as many times as you can with real wood.
“Real hardwood is just solid, real, hard wood. It can be sanded down and refinished. Engineered hardwood has layers of a plywood or something, and then you see just that top layer, that’s what the real wood is, and then it’s engineered because they take all these layers and compress them together so it looks and feels like hardwood but it’s not 100 percent real wood. It’s less expensive than real wood.”
Campbell said she suggests tile for outdoor flooring.
“Outside decks or patios, if you want your deck to look like hardwood or be a continuation of your house — that’s the new look, where you have hardwood on the floor and you want it to continue to your outside living space — do tile. If you have a deck or a patio, you can’t put real hardwood out there and you can’t put laminate. That stuff can be wet but I don’t think it’s meant for outdoors. Tile can get snowed on and bake in the sun and get rained on,” she said.
Another good aspect of tile is that it is not easily scratched.
“You’re moving in, your mover’s dragging a piece of furniture across your hardwood — it’s scratching,” Campbell said. “Tile isn’t scratching. I guess technically you could scratch it but it’s not going to scratch like hardwood. Again, you’ve got the thickness. This is the only one that can be put outside.”