Laminate vs. Engineered Hardwood


High-end laminate flooring can successfully imitate the look of real wood when it is not directly compared to real wood. Engineered wood flooring is harder to judge when compared to real wood, because it is made with wood, and it has more details that mimic real wood features. Choose the flooring that is right for your needs.

Laminate Construction

  • Laminates have a layered construction. The top layer, also called the wear layer, contains an aluminum oxide surface and a variation of polyurethane that keeps laminates stain and wear resistant. The wood pattern that is visible is under the top layer of laminates made to look like wood is actually a high-definition photograph of real wood. The inner core is made of high density fiberboard (HDF) implanted with melamine or other plastic resins that make the HDF stronger and more resistant to moisture. The backing layer is a thin, resin soaked cellulose paper that serves as a moisture barrier.

The Appearance of Laminates

  • Although high-end (more costly) laminated floors do successfully resemble wood, lower-end laminates usually do not resemble wood very much. The amount of light that hits the floor affects how well the pattern and sheen of laminates can be seen. For example, a laminated floor in a closet or in a room that is mostly covered with furniture is more difficult to identify.

Other Types of Laminate Flooring

  • The photography method used to transfer the look of wood grain onto laminated floor panels also works with other materials. Laminated floors can also be created to resemble tile, stone, or marble. Even company logos or school symbols can be projected onto laminated floors.

Engineered Hardwood Construction

  • Engineered hardwood floors are made of multiple wood layers (usually five to seven) pressed together. The top layer includes a coating of aluminum oxide or a similar product to keep the floors from being scratched and stained. If you look at a plank of engineered wood flooring from the side, you will see the stacked thin layers of wood.

The Appearance of Engineered Hardwood

  • The top layer of engineered hardwood, which varies depending on the brand and style selected, has pits and wood swirls that are characteristic of real wood. Engineered hardwood generally has a rich sheen to it.

Cleaning and Maintaining Laminates and Engineered Hardwood

  • All wood--whether laminate, engineered hardwood, or another kind of wood--needs to be dusted frequently because dust shows up easily on wood floors. Dirt that has dried and scuff marks need a bit more elbow work. You should use a mop made specifically for wood floors or a mop that is almost dry to clean the floor. Never use a lot of water on any wood floor because any wood element retains water and can swell. Consult the floor manufacturer's recommendations for best results.

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  • Photo Credit hardwood floor texture image by GoodMood Photo from wood image by Andrii Oleksiienko from floor cleaning #3 image by stassad from
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