What’s the difference between engineered hardwood vs. laminate? And more importantly, which one is better for your home? 

If you’ve decided that you love the look of wood but aren’t sold on traditional solid hardwood, engineered wood and laminate both offer an amazing alternative. Both of them provide a wood-like look without the higher cost and upkeep of solid hardwood. 

This article will first go through the advantages and disadvantages of engineered hardwood and laminate. We’ll look at their composition, appearance, durability, maintenance, cost, and ideal usage. In the end, we will do a side-by-side comparison of laminate flooring vs engineered hardwood to make it easier for you to give a final verdict.

The Advantages of Engineered Hardwood

We’ll start this article by looking at the advantages of engineered hardwood. 

Engineered Hardwood is Environmentally Friendly

First and foremost, engineered hardwood is an eco-friendly flooring option. It needs less slow-growing hardwood trees such as oak and hickory because its core is made of fast-growing plywood.

Compare this to all the trees that go into creating solid hardwood flooring, and the consequences are pretty undeniable for our ecosystem. Engineered hardwood is the more sustainable wood flooring choice. This is also true when it comes to laminate, but we’ll get into the environmental impacts of engineered wood vs laminate a little further down.

And It Can Go Where Solid Wood Can’t

Unlike solid hardwood, engineered hardwood can stand up to big changes in temperature and humidity. That means you can put it over concrete subflooring, in below-grade rooms, and even in kitchens and half baths. Oh, and if you’re wondering “what is subflooring”, it’s just the surface below your finished floor.

Plus, Engineered Hardwood is Easy to Install 

Ease of installation is one of the greatest perks of engineered hardwood.

One of the main reasons for this is that you can install many of the engineered wood floors as floating floors. These just click together into place over the subfloor below them. They’re quicker, cheaper, and less messy to install. 

Engineered Hardwood Comes in Wide Planks Sizes

Traditionally, wide-plank wood flooring was manufactured from softwoods such as Douglas fir or pine. This is because softwoods, unlike hardwoods, are less prone to warping due to temperature and humidity fluctuations.

Thanks to developments in engineered wood flooring, you may now get broad plank alternatives in a variety of woods. Most leading engineered wood flooring brands offer these very wide plank sizes, making it easy to accomplish this look while still benefiting from engineered wood’s durability and stability.

And It Can Cost Less than Solid Wood

Engineered hardwood can be more affordable than solid wood, especially for certain types of wood. If you’re looking for common domestic hardwoods like oak or ash, the prices for engineered and solid wood options are usually similar.

However, when it comes to more expensive domestic woods like hickory or exotic woods like ebony, engineered hardwood often costs less. This is because engineered products use less of the expensive wood compared to solid planks. It’s important to note that most of the ebony flooring available is not actual ebony, but engineered hardwood provides a similar aesthetic at a more reasonable price.

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The Disadvantages of Engineered Hardwood 

Engineered wood has its advantages, but it’s also important to consider its downsides. Let’s explore some of the key disadvantages of engineered wood to provide a balanced analysis.

Engineered Wood is Not Waterproof

Engineered wood flooring can withstand moisture and humidity better than solid hardwood, but it is not waterproof. This implies it is unsuitable for situations where water is present, such as bathrooms. For such areas, tile is a preferable choice. Tile is waterproof, and you can even purchase wood-look tile that mimics hardwood, providing both functionality and style.

And You Can’t Refinish it Indefinitely

Engineered hardwood, unlike solid hardwood, has a limit to how many times you can refinish it. This limitation is due to the thickness of its top veneer layer. Most engineered wood can only be refinished a few times, if at all.

However, it’s important to note that refinishing is often not necessary with modern prefinished hardwoods. These come with highly durable, UV-cured factory finishes, making refinishing more of a concern for wood floors that are finished on site.

The Advantages of Laminate Flooring

Ok! Now that we’ve gone through the advantages and disadvantages of engineered hardwood, let’s focus on what laminate has to offer

Laminate is Super Affordable 

When we compare engineered hardwood vs. laminate side-by-side below, you’ll see what we mean—but for now, suffice it to say that laminate flooring can be super affordable. In general, laminate can go for around 50% less than the cost of solid hardwood (but prices vary depending on quality, of course). So, if you’re adding up the cost of replacing carpet with hardwood, don’t forget that laminate might be a great alternative.

And it’s Incredibly Durable

Laminate is seriously tough to scratch or dent thanks to its super-fibertough wear layer.

You’ll see what we mean if you look at the differences between linoleum vs. laminate vs. vinyl—three of the most popular resilient floors.

Just remember: if you plan on using laminate as your sunroom flooring, get a product that sports a UV-resistant coating!

Installing Laminate Planks is Easy 

When comparing engineered hardwood and laminate installation methods, there are some similarities. Both can be secured to the subfloor using glue, nails, or staples. They can also be used as floating floors. A floating floor is a type of installation in which the flooring planks click together and rest on the subfloor without being directly attached.

Just remember: one of the disadvantages of floating floors is that, if not installed properly, they can allow water to seep underneath. That’s a huge issue for laminate for reasons we’ll get to in a moment.

Laminate is Easy to Maintain

A little wipe here, a little sweep there, and ta-da! Your floor is clean! There isn’t much else that’s required to keep your floor cared for. There’s no waxing or tough scrubbing that’s needed. The wear layer of the laminate planks makes cleaning a breeze.

Disadvantages of Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring has a reputation for being both affordable and long-lasting, but there are some downsides to consider as well. If you want to know everything there is to know about laminate flooring, let’s look at the cons of it.

Laminate Can’t Handle Water

Laminate flooring is resistant to changes in humidity and temperature, similar to engineered wood, but it also shares the weakness of not being able to handle water well. While there are a few waterproof laminate options available, like Mohawk’s RevWood, they are not common. Water seeping under laminate flooring can cause significant problems.

Therefore, if there’s any chance of water exposure, it’s wise to reconsider your choices. Comparing tile and laminate or opting for waterproof vinyl flooring are good alternatives. Vinyl plank flooring from top brands is completely waterproof, offering a safer option in water-prone areas.

Laminate Can’t be Repaired or Refinished

And here’s when the differences in the laminate vs engineered wood  debate start to come out. While you can refinish engineered hardwood (you can even bleach engineered hardwood floors if you like), you can’t refinish laminate.

If laminate planks get damaged, replacement is the only option. However, matching the pattern of the existing flooring can be challenging, particularly with unique styles like parquet. Additionally, removing a damaged laminate plank without affecting the surrounding ones is also a difficult task.

And it May Contain Toxins

Composite materials, like those used in laminate flooring, can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when installed in a home. Nowadays, there are many low-VOC flooring options available, but finding them may require some research. For the safety of you and your family, it’s important to look for non-toxic laminate flooring before making a decision. There are safe options available, and choosing one can have a positive impact on your health.

Engineered Hardwood vs. Laminate Side-By-Side Comparison

Now that we’ve covered the basics for both these floors, let’s get into the main event and compare engineered hardwood vs. laminate side-by-side.

Cost Comparison

Engineered hardwood is generally more expensive than laminate. Laminate flooring offers a cost-effective option, particularly noticeable with high-end products. Engineered hardwood can reach up to $13/sq. ft., while laminate averages around $5/sq. ft. If cost is a major factor, laminate might be the way to go.

Scratch Resistance 

In terms of scratch resistance, laminate has an advantage due to its strong wear layer. It’s hard to scratch or chip, making it a durable choice, though lower-quality laminate might not last as long.

Additionally, laminate flooring is generally sturdy and can withstand the wear and tear of pets, making it a good choice for pet owners.

Overall Durability 

Engineered hardwood is usually more stable and longer-lasting than laminate, particularly because it often uses plywood in its base, which is more stable than the high-density fiberboard in laminate.

Also, engineered hardwood generally has a longer lifespan. It can be refinished, potentially adding decades to its life. Laminate, once worn, cannot be revived.

Another thing to keep in mind is that laminate cannot be refinished. And while the engineered hardwood can be refinished, it might not be the most budget-friendly option. The cost of refinishing engineered hardwood varies, sometimes even exceeding the cost of the new laminate installation.

Water Resistance 

Neither material is ideal for extremely wet areas, but engineered hardwood is more water-resistant than laminate because plywood in engineered wood products offers more resistance compared to the materials in laminate.

Ease of Installation

Laminate is known for being DIY-friendly and easier to install. It’s lighter and easier to handle. Engineered wood can also be installed similarly, but the installation cost tends to be higher.


Laminate is easier to maintain, requiring just a sweep and spot cleaning. Engineered hardwood needs a bit more care, similar to solid hardwood, to maintain its appearance.

Resale Value 

Engineered hardwood has a higher resale value compared to laminate. If selling your home is in your plans, engineered wood might be a better investment.

Engineered Hardwood vs. Laminate: Which is the Right Choice for You?

Now that you know everything there is to know about the engineered hardwood vs. laminate question, ask yourself: which one is the right choice for you? If you absolutely can’t get past wanting real wood on your floor, then you can embrace engineered wood. Is money the most important factor when shopping for your new floor? No shame there! Go with the choice you are comfortable paying for. 

The point is that there is no one correct answer for everyone. your choice between engineered hardwood and laminate will depend on factors like budget, aesthetics, durability needs, and future plans for your home.

About The Author

Bo Arnold

January 26, 2024

Associate Copywriter at FlooringStores (and its parent company, Broadlume), Bo is an avid traveler, former English teacher, and unashamed extrovert. When he’s not writing, you'll usually find him at a local hardware store looking for his next project.