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Laminate Flooring Pros and Cons: The 2021 Guide

October 6, 2021

So you’re looking into laminate flooring pros and cons—that’s understandable!

Laminate flooring continues to be one of the most popular types of flooring on the market. But what exactly makes it so popular? 

Isn’t it just another type of fake wood flooring? Is the best laminate flooring even really worth buying? And how does it stack up against real hardwood and other hardwood alternatives—especially the best vinyl plank flooring options? 

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! 

We’ll even go over some of the best laminate flooring brands and some other flooring ideas for good measure. 

What are the pros and cons of laminate flooring? Let’s find out!

Table of Contents

First of All, What is Laminate Flooring?

Let’s backtrack for a second here. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of laminate flooring pros and cons, we have to start by answering a basic question—what is laminate flooring

Simply put, laminate is a hardwood floor alternative. It’s extremely popular thanks to its attractive price point and the fact that it can mimic just about every type of wood flooring you can imagine (and some tile and stone looks, too). 

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.

  1. A core layer made out of plywood or high-density fiberboard. This gives the material strength and durability.
  2. 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.
  3. A transparent wear layer protects the surface. This is what helps make laminate one of the most scratch-resistant flooring options available—even when stacked against the most durable wood flooring around.

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.

Cross section of laminate flooring

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. 

Laminate Flooring with realistic embossed texture
Laminate with realistic hand-scraped texturing

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. 

Hardwood does usually last longer, but you also need to figure in the cost to refinish hardwood flooring (which may be prohibitive, especially if you don’t go with prefinished hardwood flooring that has a UV-cured wear layer).

Laminate is Allergy-Friendly 

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

Most laminate options today are installed as click-together or snap-together flooring. These planks lock tightly together at the edges, like puzzle pieces. No need for nails or glue! 

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.

Some Laminate Brands Offer Waterproof Options

In the past, one of the biggest differentiators in the vinyl vs. linoleum vs. laminate debate was the fact that it was easier to find waterproof vinyl flooring than waterproof laminate flooring. This is because non-waterproof laminate does not react well to moisture. 

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. 

If you want low-VOC flooring, natural products like hemp flooring or ash flooring are probably a better bet. That said, non-toxic laminate flooring does exist—just make sure to look for products with a GreenGuard or FloorScore certification!

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 way waterproof 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. 

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find some fake wood options that are quite a bit more uncomfortable. If you compare tile vs. laminate, you’ll see that all sorts of hard surfaces—concrete flooring that looks like wood, wood-look ceramic tile, etc.—are even more rigid and require area rugs or house slippers. So like we said—it’s a middle ground.

There Are More Environmentally Friendly Options

When shopping for an environmentally friendly floor, you’ll want to look for something that is renewable whenever possible. Sustainable wood flooring comes from trees that have quick regrowth. Even the best laminate flooring brands just can’t win in this category.

Once Again: Laminate Flooring Hates Water

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.

Water-damaged laminate planks
Non-waterproof laminate planks with water damage

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.

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.

RevWood by Mohawk

One of the best laminate options on the market is RevWood by Mohawk. The product is offered in three different tiers:

  • RevWood
  • RevWood Select
  • RevWood Plus

Each tier comes with a wide assortment of colors and styles and can handle high-traffic areas. Plus, the Select and Plus tiers are fully waterproof. 

And in case you were wondering, yes—RevWood is the flagship Mohawk laminate flooring product. So if you want Mohawk laminate, RevWood is the way to go (especially vs. the Mohawk-manufactured-yet-lower-quality Costco laminate flooring products you might see at your local wholesaler while you’re shopping for dog food in bulk). 

Pergo

Pergo is a popular flooring company that makes great laminate and vinyl flooring options (seriously, read some Pergo Extreme reviews for info on their LVP). But the company is most famous for laminate because they literally invented it.

Just keep in mind: there are a lot of different Pergo collections offered at a lot of different stores. For example, Pergo TimberCraft is only sold at Lowe’s, while Pergo Outlast is only sold at Home Depot. Pergo TimberCraft reviews are excellent, while Pergo Outlast… well, you get the point.

Shaw Industries

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 Mills

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

Let’s start by comparing vinyl plank vs. laminate. Vinyl plank is a heavy-duty PVC flooring option that’s similarly beautiful (and durable) as laminate. It comes in tons of variations: WPC flooring, SPC flooring, etc. 

The cost to install vinyl plank flooring is usually about the same as it is for laminate because both products can be installed in a similar fashion (though there’s no laminate alternative to loose-lay vinyl plank flooring).

That said, there are some disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring that laminate doesn’t share. For example, laminate is more environmentally friendly than vinyl. And while some of the best vinyl plank flooring brands are fade-resistant, laminate is generally the better sunroom flooring option. 

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

Many people end up comparing engineered hardwood vs. laminate. So what is engineered hardwood? The simple answer: it’s real wood. Just a slightly different version than the solid hardwood of yesteryear.

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.

If you look for engineered wood disadvantages, however, you’ll see that there are some ways that laminate is better. Laminate is more budget-friendly, for example. The cost to install engineered hardwood floors isn’t the issue (well, not entirely the issue)—it’s the product itself that usually costs more. Laminate is also more scratch-resistant and easier to maintain than even the best engineered wood flooring options.

The choice comes down to price and whether or not you’re looking for genuine wood flooring or something that’s a little easier to maintain. 

Solid Hardwood Has Some Additional Maintenance Requirements

Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about a comparison between solid hardwood and laminate. We’ve touched on a few of the points already, so we’ll just quickly review.

Solid hardwood is a gorgeous flooring option that never goes out of style. It does require some maintenance, but you can refinish it indefinitely the same way you’d refinish bamboo flooring.

However: while laminate might be fake wood, it’s also a big money saver. When buying hardwood floors, it will be apparent quickly that any wood flooring cost is much higher than the cost of laminate. So if you’ve started looking at the cost to replace carpet with hardwood, it might be good to include laminate in your search for a more budget-friendly choice.

Laminate Flooring Pros and Cons: The FAQ

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!) 

If you really want a glue-down option, you can glue laminate down just like glue-down vinyl plank flooring

Does Laminate Flooring Damage Easily?

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!

PS: ready to start shopping? Find a flooring store near you to check out some samples and get help from the real authority: actual flooring dealers!

And for more info on all things floors, check out:

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About The Author

Steph Gregerson

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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