Before you splurge on laminate floors for your home, it's important to know the pros and cons of laminate flooring. Laminate flooring is by far the best hardwood replica you can buy.
If you’re looking for the general appearance of hardwood flooring without the high cost, laminate planks are a wonderful alternative! There are many different types of laminate flooring.
But before you replace all of your home’s floors with laminate, however, it’s important to know that the material comes with a few limitations. Yes, installation costs are lower than those of hardwood.
But laminate floors need to be replaced more frequently and can cost just as much in the long run. Laminate flooring also can’t be installed in moisture-prone areas like bathrooms or porches.
Unsure whether or not laminate is the right investment for you? Here’s everything you need to know about the pros and cons of laminate flooring.
12 Pros and Cons of Laminate Flooring You Need To Know
Pros of Laminate Flooring
Few homeowners would say no to hardwood floors if given the choice. If hardwood is outside of your current home design budget, laminate flooring could be a viable alternative!
Laminate planks are significantly more affordable than both solid and engineered wood flooring. When you account for the fact that many types of laminate flooring can be installed yourself, the savings can really start to add up.
2. Countless Styles Available
Laminate flooring is created by printing an image on each tile or plank. Wood grain is the most common image used but you can also find laminated floors that resemble natural stone or ceramic.
This printing process means that laminate flooring comes in nearly endless patterns, colors, and styles. You can mimic the look of exotic wood species without any additional cost. And you can achieve unique colors without a need for labor-intensive staining and refinishing.
3. Quick and Easy Installation
Nearly all laminate flooring is designed with a tongue-and-groove system that easily snaps together. There’s no need for glue or nails to keep the floor planks in place.
The hardest part of installing a laminate floor is typically cutting the pieces to fit the size of the room. If you can manage that, DIY installation should be a piece of cake!
Plus, laminate flooring can often be installed over an existing floor without the need for removal. This can save time and labor costs that would be spent tearing out the old flooring.
You’ll have a hard time finding flooring that is more durable than laminate. The uppermost layer of this material is specifically designed to withstand all sorts of abuse.
Laminate planks are more resistant to scratches and general wear and tear than hardwood. Laminate flooring is also relatively stain-resistant (though all spills should still be cleaned up promptly!).
5. Easy to Clean
Laminate’s smooth, non-porous surface is incredibly easy to keep clean. Most day-to-day dirt can be swept away with a broom or vacuum.
Wet-mopping is rarely necessary to keep a laminate floor clean and should be avoided as much as possible. Excess water could damage the laminate (more on that below).
6. Not Sensitive to Humidity
Organic materials like hardwood, bamboo, and cork are all prone to expanding and contracting with the air’s humidity levels. While this won’t necessarily damage the floors, it can cause gaps to form between each tile or plank.
Meanwhile, laminate flooring is highly resistant to the effects of humidity. So there’s no need to worry about gaps forming in your floor as the seasons change.
Cons of Laminate Flooring
1. Not Identical to Hardwood
Laminate planks may look like the real deal in photos or from a distance. But there’s just no mistaking even the highest quality laminate for solid hardwood up close.
Many homeowners are fine with this imperfect imitation. After all, laminate flooring still very closely resembles hardwood at a much lower price point.
2. Feels and Sounds Unnatural
High-quality laminate flooring does a great job of looking like hardwood. Unfortunately, it falls short of feeling or sounding like actual wood. Laminate planks often produce a hollow sound when walked on. Some people also notice that the planks feel hollow underfoot.
This has nothing to do with the quality of installation or the material itself. It’s just the reality of laminate flooring. So, if you have your heart set on something that looks and feels like solid wood, there’s a good chance you’ll be dissatisfied with laminate flooring.
3. Cannot be Refinished
One of the biggest benefits of solid hardwood is that it can be refinished many times throughout its lifespan. Laminate flooring cannot be refinished at all.
If your laminate floor becomes scratched or otherwise damaged, there is no practical way to repair the surface. Typically, the only way to repair a damaged laminate floor is to completely replace the affected planks.
The inability to refinish laminate also means that you cannot restain the material a different color at any point in the future. You’re stuck with the finish chosen at installation until it comes time to replace the floor altogether.
4. Prone to Moisture Damage
Don’t mistake laminate’s resistance to humidity as a general ability to withstand water damage! Laminate planks are extremely vulnerable to water damage.
Avoid installing laminate flooring in bathrooms, mudrooms, and other places that tend to collect moisture. Be sure to clean up liquid spills immediately anywhere else in the home. You may be wondering how this is any different than hardwood flooring.
After all, hardwood is highly susceptible to moisture damage as well. The key difference between the two is that hardwood can often be refinished and saved following moisture damage. This isn’t possible with laminate flooring.
5. Contains Synthetic Materials
Many manufacturers point to laminate’s ability to mimic exotic or endangered wood species as proof of sustainability. While this is a key benefit of laminate flooring, it’s far from the whole story.
Laminate flooring is commonly made using a mixture of wood fibers and synthetic adhesives. The adhesives in laminate planks may continue to off-gas even after installation. However, there is no evidence that these emissions are harmful.
There’s also the question of what happens to laminate flooring after it surpasses its life expectancy. Few recycling centers accept laminate planks. Because of the synthetic compounds inside, laminate can’t naturally decompose.
More often than not, old laminate flooring ends up in a landfill.
6. Shorter Lifespan
According to SFGate Home Guides, the average life expectancy of a laminate floor is around 15 to 20 years. A select few last for 30 years or even more. However, some laminate flooring needs to be replaced in as little as 10 years.
Compared to materials like carpet or linoleum, this lifespan isn’t terrible. But when you compare laminate flooring to its biggest competitors — engineered and solid hardwood — its longevity leaves much to be desired!
Love it or hate it, laminate flooring is here to stay. While not perfect, this material is one of the most attractive budget-friendly options currently available to homeowners.
Laminate is also a great option for households with pets or young children who may unwittingly damage real wood. For those in the market for a luxury, long-lasting flooring solution, however, laminate probably isn’t at the top of the list.
If you can afford it, hardwood offers many of the same benefits as laminate flooring (plus a few extra perks of its own).