Laminates - The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Is that a hardwood floor I see, or is it laminate?  These days it’s difficult to tell the difference.  New materials and technology are bringing laminates to forefront of household flooring choices.  It no longer has the fake floor look as it once did, and is now considered quite acceptable as a budget flooring option.  What’s the good, the bad and the ugly of laminate ‘wood’ flooring?

The Good

Advantages of laminate floors are starting to outweigh the disadvantages:

  • Newer products give a more realistic look to laminates, particularly in wood.
  • Easier Installation – strips are pieced together on interlocking bases that attach with no glue nor adhesive.
  • Laminates are considered ‘floating’ floors, meaning if you have an old linoleum floor which can be a nightmare to remove – a floating floor can be installed right over it.  If you’ve ever tried to remove old linoleum, this may seal the deal for you!
  • Laminates are now considered more durable than hardwood – especially for homes with pets and children.

The Bad

If you’re a hardwood floor fan, you may notice the following disadvantages of laminates vs. hardwood:

  • Wood floors last longer.  Many Victorian homes still have their original hardwood floors, meaning that the wood flooring has managed to last over 100 years, which is pretty impressive.  Laminates tend to last 15-20 years.
  • Laminates cannot be refinished like hardwood floors.  In fact, they cannot be refinished nor recoated at all. 
  • Laminates don’t bring the added value to your home that hardwood floor does.  You often see “hardwood floors throughout” in home selling brochures.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen “laminates throughout”, it just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!

The Ugly

While laminate ‘wood’ flooring has come a long way, laminates that mimic other flooring materials, such as brick and stone, still have a way to go.  The products currently offered include laminates that mimic:

  • Slate;
  • Brick; and
  • Marble

While traditionally these have not been the most realistic look, we expect that to change as new products come on the market.

Bottom Line

Laminate is usually chosen over hardwood due to pricing.  Installing basic oak strip floor cost from $10 - $14 per square foot.  Laminates reduce the square foot cost to $7 - $11 per square foot.  If you have a 15 x 20 foot kitchen, this is a savings of $900.  The question you need to ask yourself, will that $900 savings cost me with replacing the floor in the 20 years or a lower selling price of my home?