Well, friend, worry not—we’ve got all the answers you’re looking for. In this article, we’re going to take you on a deep dive into all the pros and the cons of laminate flooring so you can determine whether it’s right for you!
It’s been around for a few decades, and the technology keeps improving—so the waterproof laminate flooring of today is lightyears ahead of the old-fashioned plastic-looking laminate of the 1980s.
Laminate Flooring is Made of Multiple Layers
Laminate’s multi-layer construction makes it both attractive and super durable. Every product brings something new to the table, but generally, all laminate is made of (more or less) the following layers.
A core layer made out of plywood or high-density fiberboard. This gives the material strength and durability.
A photo-realistic, high-resolution image layer. This layer gives the product its look. You can find an endless variety of wood floor colors here, and even some products that resemble different types of tile.
There are some brands that have an added layer of underlayment or backing. This can add some additional soundproofing or moisture resistance, but it depends on the brand. We will get into those more later on.
An AC Rating Measures Laminate’s Scratch-Resistance
When shopping for laminate, look for AC or abrasion class ratings. These range on a scale from 1 to 5, with AC5 being the most durable.
Most super-scratch-resistant laminate flooring brands will come with an AC4 rating, which is rated for light commercial use.
The Pros of Laminate Flooring
To the main event: our laminate flooring pros and cons! Let’s start with the benefits of laminate and what you can expect from this product.
Laminate Flooring is an Extremely Durable Option
Durability is important for many homeowners. You want something that is going to last, especially in high traffic areas. Laminate is up there with EVP flooring and porcelain tile when it comes to scratch resistance.
Why does this matter? So many beautiful wood floors, like pine flooring and Douglas fir flooring, are beautiful—but they scratch super easily! Laminate is a great option since it gives you that wood look, but without having to worry about dog paws or kids’ toys scratching it.
If your house sees a fair amount of activity, durability is crucial to keeping those floors looking new and lasting longer. This material does really well in this department and chalks up wins when you’re comparing laminate vs. carpet, hardwood, or just about anything else. That’s why it makes almost every list of the best flooring for dogs and other pets!
There Are So Many Styles of Laminate to Choose From
Thanks to laminate’s photo-realistic image layer, the product can look like just about anything. If you love the look of ebony flooring, there’s a laminate version available. Essentially, you can find laminate that looks like just about every hardwood species under the sun.
You Also Get a Great Selection of Designs
Laminate’s variety doesn’t end with colors. Maybe you want the unique look of hickory but have been turned off by the (somewhat significant) disadvantages of hickory flooring. Well, you can find a laminate with that same design!
Laminate comes in all sorts of styles and realistic textures to help it look just like the real thing. You can find it in thin or wide plank wood flooring; you can find it in styles that look like stone and ceramic tile; you can find it in classic wood floor patterns like herringbone parquet. If it exists, there’s a laminate version!
Laminate Flooring is Way Cheaper Than Hardwood
There are both pros and cons of laminate flooring—but anything price-related is firmly in the pro category.
Simply put, laminate is a much more budget-friendly option than hardwood. Laminate flooring generally costs between $2 and $8 per square foot. Hardwood starts around $8 per square foot and the best hardwood flooring brands can cost up to $15 per square foot or more. Like we said: this is one of the biggest pros in any list of laminate flooring pros and cons. The cost to install laminate flooring is usually cheaper, too, because it takes less time and effort.
Many people who suffer from allergies have to choose between carpet vs. hardwood, laminate, or other hard surfaces. While carpet is comfy, carpet fibers trap allergens like pet dander—making it hard to keep your space clear of those irritants.
With laminate, you’re getting flooring that is easy to keep allergy-friendly.
It’s Low Maintenance and Easy to Clean
Many flooring types require regular maintenance. For example, one of the disadvantages of cork flooring is that it needs to be sealed every year. Laminate is easy to clean and doesn’t require any consistent maintenance to keep it looking good.
When comparing laminate vs. hardwood floors, you have to consider the time, effort, and money it takes to maintain that wood floor—and determine what you have the capacity for.
Laminate Flooring is Easy to Install and DIY-Friendly
Click-lock surfaces are among the easiest floors to install, and many professionals can put down an entire room in just a few hours or so. If you’re interested in a DIY flooring option, this is a good one—just make sure to check if it requires a professional install in order for the warranty to remain intact.
But these days, new technology has changed the game. Totally waterproof laminate flooring products are completely changing the traditional pros and cons of laminate flooring. And we’re here for it!
The Cons of Laminate Flooring
Now that you’ve heard the perks, let’s take a look at the other side of the coin so you know exactly what to expect if you move forward with laminate. We’re here to talk about laminate flooring pros and cons, after all!
Laminate Flooring Cannot Be Refinished
Hardwood floors can last for centuries if homeowners properly care for them (and refinish them when necessary). Laminate may look like hardwood, but it doesn’t have the ability to be refinished. So if you’re looking for something that you can restain or sand down to smooth out scratches, you’ll want to shop for the best hardwood floors instead of the best laminate floors.
Laminate Isn’t Always Eco-Friendly
Manmade floors, like laminate, will almost always have some level of volatile chemicals (known as VOCs) that get released from the product over time. That process is called off-gassing, and it’s been an issue for certain brands in the past. Lumber Liquidators, for example, had to pay millions of dollars in settlement money after their floors made people sick—and Armstrong laminate flooring isn’t even made anymore for the same reason.
It Might Look Like Hardwood, but It’s Not Real Wood (And Home Buyers Know It)
We’ve covered the fact that laminate requires less maintenance than hardwood, but at the end of the day, it’s still fake wood flooring. To return to our earlier example: you might read through some hickory flooring pros and cons and realize that the pros outweigh the cons—and you’re willing to put the work into the maintenance because you want the real deal.
Why does this matter? Because home buyers generally want the real thing. To that end, laminate won’t increase your home’s resale value as much as real wood—regardless of how much better laminate may perform.
Waterproof Laminate and Water-Resistant Laminate are Very Different
It’s important to be super familiar with laminate flooring pros and cons before you make your purchase. And when it comes to waterproofing, those pros and cons are significant.
As is the case with hardwood, there’s a huge difference between waterproof and water-resistant laminate. Water-resistant wood flooring can’t stand up to water the same waywaterproof hardwood flooring can—and laminate is no different. If you get a laminate floor that isn’t suited for the amount of moisture it’s going to see, your floor may fall apart before you know it.
Laminate Flooring Isn’t Always the Most Comfortable Under Your Feet
Laminate flooring falls in the middle of the road for comfort. If you use high-quality underlayment, it won’t cause issues and it will be a bit more comfortable. Choices like carpet will obviously be soft underfoot. If you’re familiar with the pros and cons of cork flooring, you probably already know that it’s nice and comfortable to stand and walk on.
No list of laminate flooring pros and cons is complete without a reminder that non-waterproof laminate products hate water. As in, you can not put them anywhere they’ll get wet.
We’re not just talking about outdoor flooring options here, either. Laminate is just not meant to stand up to any situations where it’ll encounter water or even excessive moisture.
The Most Popular Laminate Brands
Now that you’ve read through the main laminate flooring pros and cons, we want to introduce you to a few of the best laminate flooring brands around. This isn’t a full list, but it does feature some of the most popular options on the market today.
All Shaw laminate flooring is American-made, which we think is fantastic. The Shaw Repel line has its own OptiCore technology that it uses in place of high-density fiberboard as a core layer, helping with water resistance and stability. As such, Shaw laminate comes with an excellent warranty—but a bit of a higher price tag, too.
Mannington’s laminate line, the Restoration Collection, comes in more than 60 different looks and options. You can even find parquet flooring in their collection—it’s that extensive. The product is made with 70% recycled content as well, so it’s one of the better options for those looking for something more environmentally friendly.
AquaGuard by Floor & Decor
AquaGuard flooring is sold exclusively by Floor & Decor and comes in almost 90 different styles—all of which are waterproof! There are two different lines available: a Standard line and a Performance line. The difference: the Performance line can handle heavy commercial use (and its warranty covers an extra 5 years).
TrafficMaster Laminate by Home Depot
TrafficMaster flooring is one of Home Depot’s in-house brands (along with LifeProof flooring). The reviews are pretty good for a super-budget product, so if you’re looking for laminate flooring that performs decently and costs less, this might be the right option for you.
What Are the Alternatives to Laminate Flooring?
OK! Now that we’ve talked all about the pros and cons of laminate flooring (and some of the top brands out there), we have to answer another big question. How does laminate compare to other flooring options? Let’s look at a few competing products to understand the differences.
Luxury Vinyl Plank Has Similarities to Laminate Flooring’s Pros and Cons
That said, luxury vinyl plank is usually the more resilient option. If you’ve been dreaming about a wood floor bathroom, finding a vinyl option that looks like wood might be your best bet. All vinyl flooring is waterproof vinyl flooring, whereas laminate is just starting to roll out waterproof capabilities.
Engineered Hardwood is Closer to the Real Deal Than Laminate
Engineered hardwood is made up of two layers: a core made of high-quality plywood and a thin veneer of actual hardwood.
Obviously, engineered hardwood looks more authentic than laminate because it is authentic. Laminate is just a replica of wood. Those veneers on engineered hardwood are actual natural wood floor designs instead of manmade ones. And since best engineered wood flooring brands are able to be refinished, they last longer than laminate.
Let’s go over a few FAQs that pop up in searches for laminate flooring pros and cons!
Which Type of Laminate Installation is Best?
Different installation types are necessary for different situations. These days, most people install laminate as a floating floor. What is a floating floor you ask? It’s an installation method where the planks float over the subfloor (remember what we were saying before about click-together planks? Yep, same thing!)
The quick answer: no floor is completely scratch-proof. If you’re shopping for a high-traffic area, make sure to find a laminate product with a strong, durable wear layer. We’d recommend at least an AC3 rating.
If you anticipate needing to replace planks often due to damage, check out magnetic flooring—it can make replacements a cinch.
Are Laminate Floors a Good Investment?
Laminate floors can last between 15 to 25 years (or longer, depending on the product). So if you’re looking to make a change in your home, laminate will certainly last a while. The price point is budget-friendly, so it’s a great alternative to hardwood. That said, it won’t increase your home’s value the way hardwood will.
What Rooms Can Laminate Flooring Go In?
Since we’ve covered both the pros and cons of laminate flooring, you’ll know that most options are not the best for extremely wet spaces (mudroom flooring, for example). But it can be a great option for many of your main living spaces. And if you’ve been googling the best wood flooring for dogs, consider this a great alternative.
Conclusion: Laminate Flooring Pros and Cons Demonstrate That It’s a Great Option (but Not Always Perfect for All Areas)
If you want something that’s beautiful, durable, and easy on the wallet, laminate flooring is a great choice. But of course, if you’ve read through all the pros and cons of laminate flooring we’ve outlined above, you’ll know it’s not always suited to all areas and uses. That said, waterproof laminate has really leveled the playing field in a lot of ways—so it comes down to your needs!
We hope this article has been helpful, and thank you so much for reading! Let us know in the comments if you have any questions and, as always, best of luck with your flooring journey!
Steph is a book nerd, rule follower, and pizza lover who can't get enough of playing outside. She was raised on the ice rinks of MN and currently resides in sunny San Diego. As a freelance writer, she loves research, producing content, and organizing information for a wide variety of clients. She currently has at least 10 browser windows open at all times.
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