Laminate and Engineered floors are two of the most popular flooring options in the UK, thanks to their beauty and versatility. In this article, we'll explain the differences between the two types of floor to help you decide which is best for you.
|Description||Layers of fibreboard with a photographic layer and melamine wear layer.||Layers of plywood with an oiled or lacquered solid wood wear layer|
|Water resistance||Water resistant but generally not waterproof, except for certain brands||Not considered water resistant|
|Scratch resistance||Certain finishes help reduce scratch incidence||Scratch resistant, but not scratchproof|
|Temperature change||Able to withstand temperature fluctuations||Able to withstand temperature fluctuations|
|Installation||Floating click floor system||Floating click floor system|
|Maintenance||Low. Vacuum or sweep weekly||Low. Vacuum or sweep weekly|
|Appearance||Genuine hardwood surface||Surface simulation|
|Durability||Able to be refinished||Unable to be refinished|
What is Laminate Flooring vs What is Engineered Wood Flooring?
Materials and Design
Engineered wood floors are made from a layer of solid hardwood which is then backed with several layers of softwood or plywood. The multiple supporting layers are hidden and give the boards support and strength, whilst the surface you walk on, known as the wear layer, is natural solid wood. This means that engineered floors look, feel and sound just like solid wood floors, but are a lot more versatile.
Laminate floors are made mostly from High-Density Fibreboard (HDF). The boards are topped with an ultra-realistic photographic layer, which is then coated and sealed in with a tough, scratch-resistant melamine wear layer. The photographic layer is what gives the floors their particular look, so laminate boards can appear to be made from any type of wood or even stone. This is what makes laminate floors incredibly versatile when it comes to design.
Engineered floors have a surface of natural wood which has either been oiled or lacquered. Whilst these treatments help protect the wood against splashes, engineered floors aren't considered water resistant. Because of this, engineered floors aren't built for bathrooms or kitchens, where high humidity and splashes are common.
Laminate floors, meanwhile, are coated in a water-resistant wear layer on top, which makes them suitable for rooms where they might get splashed, like a kitchen. However, the joints in between laminate boards aren't waterproof, so if water is left to sit for a long time it can cause warping. There are, however, some laminate floors which are fully waterproof such as Quickstep Majestic, Quickstep Impressive and Quickstep Eligna making them suitable bathroom laminates, where steam and puddles are to be expected.
Wood is tough and long-lasting, and an oiled or lacquered solid wood wear layer helps protect them. Engineered floors are just as resistant to scratches as any other piece of hardwood. The good news is that if scratches and dents build up over time, the surface can be sanded down and refinished, which will make the floor look as good as new.
The tough wear layer on the surface of laminate floors is designed to resist scratches and dents. Whilst we still wouldn't recommend dragging heavy furniture across them, the boards are certainly well equipped to deal with anything from dragging trainers to birthday party stampedes. Laminate flooring comes with an AC rating which measures its toughness between 1-5, although anything above a 3 is usually for commercial flooring. Unlike Engineered floors, there's no way to renew the surface of a laminate floor, so if a board gets badly damaged it will have to be taken up and replaced.
Installation & Maintenance
Both engineered wood and laminate floors are installed with what's called a 'floating floor' system. This is where the subfloor is covered by an underlay, and then the boards are laid on top, clicking together for a stable, seamless surface. Whilst different floors may have slightly different systems, they all use the same basic design, which makes installation quick and easy. If you're looking for a DIY job, both engineered and laminate floors will make your life easy.
Both our laminate and engineered wood flooring are built to last however, both should be given some TLC to keep them looking good-as-new. Both are relatively low-maintenance meaning they only require a regular sweep or vacuum. However, given both laminate and engineered wood flooring are made using a wooden base, you should avoid the use of steam cleaners, wet mops, bleach and the use of abrasive materials on both.
Engineered wood floors are cleverly designed to allow real wood floors to be installed in areas with dramatic temperature changes. Underfloor heating, conservatories and basements - engineered flooring is suitable for all of them. This is because the layered plywood construction creates an extra strong board that is less liable to warping. Engineered floors are still vulnerable to water though, so caution should be used in kitchens to protect them from scratches and we'd advise against using them in your bathroom, where steam and moisture are unavoidable.
Laminate floors are just as resistant to heat and slightly more water resistant. Kitchens shouldn't be a problem for any of our laminate floors, as long as you make sure not to leave puddles sitting on the surface, which can eventually seep into the gaps between the boards. Laminate boards may be water resistant, but they're not waterproof, so we wouldn't recommend using them in bathrooms. Unless, of course, you use one of Quickstep's waterproof laminate floors, such as the Impressive and Majestic range.
Appearance & Feeling
One of the key differences between engineered wood flooring and laminate flooring is that whilst engineered wood flooring features a genuine layer of hardwood on top, laminate is an image layer designed to resemble wood (or any other surface type). This means engineered wood flooring is almost identical to real hardwood floors. However, recent innovations in laminate flooring have allowed for more realistic texturization and embossing, therefore closing the gap in terms of likeness, especially for the thicker boards.