Obviously, we’re big fans of hardwood flooring here at Dan Higgins Wood Flooring–we’ve been in the hardwood flooring business since 1985. However, we want every customer to have the best flooring solution for their home and budget, so we offer laminate and luxury vinyl tile flooring as alternatives to hardwood flooring. Here’s what you need to know:
What is laminate flooring?
Laminate flooring is a flooring product constructed by layering synthetic products and laminating them together. Laminate flooring contains a moisture-resistant backing layer, a fiberboard inner core, an image design layer, and a top wear layer.
What is luxury vinyl tile?
Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is a flooring product made out a layer of vinyl backing, an image design layer, and a top wear layer. Luxury vinyl tile comes in varieties to imitate hardwood, stone, slate, and ceramic tile. Some luxury vinyl tiles have a rigid core or cork backing. Those products are sometimes called “hybrid laminates.”
Are laminate and LVT the same as engineered wood flooring?
No. Engineered wood flooring is real hardwood, made of layers of hardwood and plywood. Many laminate and LVT flooring products are made to look like wood, but they are made of synthetic materials.
Why would I get laminate or LVT instead of real wood floors?
Laminate and LVT flooring can be a good option for rooms with high or variable moisture. All flooring can be damaged by moisture, but hardwood expands and contracts with moisture more than laminate or LVT. Laminate flooring’s fiberboard core can be damaged by high moisture, like standing water in the bathroom, but LVT can withstand very high moisture and many LVT products are warranted as waterproof.
Laminate and LVT are also generally resistant to wear and tear. Customers with pets in the home sometimes prefer laminate and LVT flooring because they are more scratch-resistant than hardwood floors. Laminate and LVT flooring are also popular in office and industrial spaces.
Because laminate and LVT flooring have a printed design layer, they are produced in a variety of colors and designs. Sometimes it is more affordable to achieve a desired look–exotic wood, stone, etc.–with laminate or LVT than the real thing.
Do they look like real wood?
The image layer and the wear layer both impact how well the flooring is able to “pass” as wood. Technological innovations in printing and production have helped laminate and LVT flooring look more “real” than ever. High-end laminates and LVTs have very high quality photos on the image layer and are “embossed-in-register” so that the look and feel of the wear layer matches the “grain” of the image layer. However, some laminates and LVTs have designs and colors that are hard to achieve with hardwood, making it virtually impossible to match the look with real wood, even with custom staining.
To the extent you can measure how a floor “feels”, laminates and luxury vinyl tiles with a rigid core or cork backing feel more like walking on real wood than LVT with no core or backing. However, they both feel artificial compared to walking on real wood, especially if installed by floating the floor instead of gluing it down.
At the end of the day, laminate and LVT flooring are synthetic and do not look or feel exactly like real hardwood.
Are they safe?
Laminate flooring got a bad reputation in March 2015 when a 60 Minutes investigation found that Lumber Liquidators-brand laminate flooring failed to meet the California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations for formaldehyde levels and was fraudulently labeled. However, laminate and LVT flooring from trusted brands that are independently certified to follow the CARB standards are safe for the home. Just make sure you’re not looking for the cheapest floor, but for brands that have a good reputation and follow government regulations.
Which costs more?
Laminate and LVT gained popularity as the cheaper alternatives to hardwood and ceramic flooring. However, like all flooring products, they vary in price and quality. Some higher-end laminate and LVT flooring products cost more than mid-range hardwood flooring. While laminate and LVT flooring provide more options for the price-conscious consumer, you don’t need to limit your search to laminate and LVT to find affordable options.
How are they installed? Can I do it myself?
If you’re an experienced home improvement DIYer, laminate and LVT installations are both relatively easy DIY projects. Laminate and some LVT flooring are produced as click-lock planks that can be clicked together and floated over the subfloor. Some LVTs require adhesives, and many of those comes with adhesive already on the product. If the product requires you to supply and apply adhesive separately, the installation gets trickier. When installing flooring, it’s imperative to follow the manufacturer’s instructions so that the flooring will be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. If you don’t have much experience with DIY home improvements, it’s better to get an expert installation.
Which flooring is the best for my home?
The best floor for your home depends on so many factors, it’s best to consult an expert to help you evaluate your project and find the best product.