How to Tell the Difference Between Hardwood and Laminate Flooring

Is it hardwood or laminate? You might be surprised at how hard it can be to tell the difference. Today’s laminate can look remarkably like popular hardwoods such as teak, mahogany and oak. Yet, there are a few ways to spot one type of flooring from another, especially if you look closely enough. Here’s how to tell the difference between laminate and hardwood:

1. Hardwood Shows Its Wear and Tear

When hardwood floors age, they can take on variations in color and even texture. These variations can come from many sources, such as sunlight or water that’s been left on the wood too long. Laminate, on the other hand, retains its pristine appearance for much longer because it’s been engineered to withstand normal wear and tear.

2. Hardwood Floors Often Have Scratch Marks

Notice a few scratch marks or even indentations in a floor that looks like wood? It’s probably hardwood rather than laminate. Most wood types used in hardwood flooring are soft by nature. This softness can be attractive, but it makes the wood more susceptible to minor and major damage. In contrast, laminate is constructed to withstand the weight of normal objects being dropped or slid slightly across its surface.

3. Hardwood Patterns Vary

Every hardwood plank offers unique characteristics, which means you shouldn’t see many patterns in true hardwood floors. If you notice a lot of patterning and symmetry, you’re looking at laminate and not hardwood. However, most laminate has been designed to repeat patterns in ways that look authentic rather than systematic.

4. Hardwood Flooring May Have Nail Holes or Staples

Stapling and nailing are two ways craftspeople lay hardwood floors. You may notice these nail holes and staples at the perimeter walls, particularly with hardwood flooring in historic homes. Instead of using staple guns or hammers, laminate is clicked together using tongue-and-groove. This creates a smooth, seamless floor space.

5. Hardwood Will Last a Few Lifetimes

Did you just buy or inherit a new house? Are you trying to figure out the difference between laminate and hardwood in a room or two? See if you can find out when the floor was laid. If it’s older than 20 years and still has a solid look, it’s probably hardwood. A well-maintained, properly installed hardwood floor can stay beautiful for 75 years or longer. Laminates are more affordable to put into your home but will need to be replaced within a couple decades.

Is Hardwood or Laminate the Right Choice for Your Home?

Now that you know a bit more about the difference between laminate and hardwood, you can pick the flooring type that makes the most sense for your lifestyle, decorating preferences and budget. Remember that hardwood will always cost more than laminate. If you’re on a strict budget, you may want to evaluate hardwood versus wood laminate or engineered wood.

Interested in seeing how laminate or hardwood would look in your home? Schedule an appointment with 50 Floor, and we’ll bring a selection of flooring surfaces to your door to help you add a finishing touch to your favorite spaces.

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