Laminate Flooring: Pros and Cons That Help You Decide

Living room with laminate flooring
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You are here because you waver on your choice of laminate flooring. You know that it has not been considered the classiest of all floor coverings. You think it tends to look homogeneous and manufactured.

On the other hand, its easy installation and low cost look awfully tempting.

Pro Con
Laminate installs fast and easy. Fast: you can install 300 square feet in one weekend. Older types of laminate flooring required you to glue pieces to each other. Today's types of laminate flooring have a click/lock or fold/lock design that allows planks to fit together like puzzle pieces. Easy: since the planks are constructed of soft particleboard, they can be cut with a hand saw or even a utility knife. While designed to be easy, the click/lock or fold/lock design often does not work as well as it should. Sides of the boards can be especially difficult to join with adjoining sides. Also, if you force boards into place, you risk curling up the top wear layer, compromising the floor's ability to resist moisture.
Pro Con
Easy to clean. Just use a vacuum or broom. Mop with a slightly damp mop or better yet, laminate floor cleaner. No floor waxing is ever necessary. Excessive water can seep into the seams between boards, causing swelling. Thus, you need to use special laminate floor cleaner.
Pro Con
Laminate flooring can be installed in semi-moist areas like powder rooms, kitchens, and other places where you encounter "topical moisture," as flooring manufacturer Mannington calls it. As long as the boards are tight against each other, leaving no avenue for moisture, laminate can resist some water.​ However, laminate will not tolerate standing pools of water--a condition that describes kitchens and bathrooms when there are water leaks. For heavy moisture, you need a very impervious surface like vinyl or porcelain tile.
Durability and Maintenance
Pro Con
Unlike wood, which can dent, laminate flooring is almost impervious to dents and scratches. Laminate flooring has a "wear layer" that protects the photographic layer underneath. Some manufacturers, DuPont in particular, give very generous 10+ year warranties on the wear layer. Laminate flooring's tough surface resists stains. And if you do get a stain, it is easy to clean off. The inability to sand and refinish is one of the biggest disadvantages of laminate flooring. If laminate is heavily worn, deep scratched, or grooved, it cannot be sanded or refinished like solid hardwood: it must be replaced.
Pro Con
While laminate can feel hard underfoot without an underlayment, most installations do include underlayment. This gives the flooring a slightly springy feeling, making it easier to stand on for long periods, such as when standing at a stove or sink. Traditionally, laminate flooring has been very slippery. More currently, though, manufacturers have been developing slip-resistant wear layers. Also, laminate flooring has a tendency to create static electricity, though this can be prevented by keeping the floor clean.
Pro Con
Laminate flooring faithfully reproduces the look of wood, stone, and other natural materials. Unlike real hardwood, which comes with many imperfect pieces that need to be discarded or re-engineered, there are no defects in laminate flooring. Every board is of consistent quality and appearance. This faithfully reproduced appearance disappears when you get too close to the flooring. More at issue is pattern repetition. Only five to ten differently patterned boards will be produced. If the installation is not done correctly, you can end up with two of the same boards next to each other.
Resale Value
Pro Con
Laminate flooring manufacturers have been working hard on improving the product. Micro bevels, deeper texturing, and better graphics reproduction are three ways this product has improved, bringing it closer to the cachet enjoyed by solid hardwood and engineered wood flooring. Laminate flooring has classically been the "death knell" for commanding higher resale value when selling your home. Hardwood and engineered wood give you better value when reselling if you want to get top dollar for your home.