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20 November 2010

Hardwood v. Laminate I want to order the flooring for my upper and lower hallways and guest room (250 feet total, plus probably another 10% margin for wastage) within the next few days, and am trying to come to a decision about what to order. [More:]The short list of options are:

- laminate that looks just like engineered hardwood for $1.99 a foot
- engineered bamboo for approximately $3.29 a foot
- engineered oak for approximately $4.70 a foot

I actually like the look of the laminate best, but I have a horrible feeling that if I cheap out now I'll wind up regretting it. The bamboo is a nice look at not a bad price, and I keep thinking I bet it's kind to feet. The oak would be the best match to the other wood floors in my house.

Mom-in-law just re-did her house, and was telling me about it as she was mulling over the choices. She said laminate looks fine but wears out a LOT sooner. Bamboo lasts significantly longer than laminate but oak will last forever. I don't know what she eventually decided to get, though.
posted by galadriel 20 November | 14:19
posted by amro 20 November | 14:48
Laminate flooring is susceptible to chips/scratches and pretty much can't be repaired. I'd choose from the other two. My choice would be the bamboo but it's your floor, so...
posted by dg 20 November | 17:30
I would go with the bamboo. I'm under the impression that bamboo is a grass that grows rather quickly, so it's seems more likely to be a sustainable choice than oak, which presumably takes a lot longer to grow. Plus it costs less.

We have new laminate in my kitchen (I rent), and while it looks good now, I wince every time we have to drag some furniture across it, and it just *feels* like it's going to start acquiring a permadirt look to it soon, even with regular cleaning.
posted by aniola 20 November | 17:37
The laminate has a 25 year warranty, so I'm thinking it can't wear out that quickly.
posted by Orange Swan 20 November | 18:05
The quality level of the laminate makes a huge difference, most laminates come in low/medium/high quality range with the pricing & durability to match.

I have very cheap laminate (IKEA Tundra) in my very low-traffic studio and mid-range laminate (Mohawk) in the hallway. The Tundra has been down for about 10 years and has held up well except for where it's gotten wet: even a few droplets of water on a crack and the edge swells slightly leaving it susceptible to chipping, even though I glued the boards together when I did the install. Overall, it still looks good enough and I'm pleased with it as it cost 25 cents/sq' and I installed it as more of a temporary solution that has since far exceeded my expectations & timeline. I wouldn't recommend it, though.

The Tundra has only been down for a year but as it's adjacent to two bathrooms, 4 bedrooms, the foyer and is the main hallway of the house it takes quite a beating. It looks just as it did when it was first installed. We got this brand at Costco: as a pre-installation experiment, I took the sample home and dunked it in a bucket of water with a brick to hold it down. Two weeks later, the sample piece looked unchanged, so I figured it would hold up under use.

If you go with laminate, make sure they glue the boards together even if they are click-lock. It makes it more difficult to replace a board but keeps dirt from collecting in the hair-thin cracks that are otherwise impossible to clean. And buy an extra box to store away in case you do need to replace a section as laminates are printed and the print jobs will not perfectly match from lot to lot.

Engineered flooring is often marketed as refinishable but in practice, depending on the quality/construction, it cannot be refinished. Or it can be, but doing so is such a fussy process that it's very difficult to find a refinisher willing to take on the job. Quick way to check this is to call around to a few local floor refinishers, and ask them if they would refinish whatever brand you're considering.

FWIW, everyone I know that's installed bamboo has had issues with it yellowing in sunlit rooms. That might be more of a sunny California problem, though.
posted by jamaro 20 November | 19:15
My house gets so little sun I can barely keep a few house plants alive. That's why I'm going with light floors throughout my home.
posted by Orange Swan 20 November | 19:41
Oops, I just noticed a big mistake in my post above: the stuff I have in my main hallway is Mohawk.

I have pale maple in both brands of laminate. The Mohawk's color doesn't look too bad, IMO.
posted by jamaro 20 November | 19:58
My mother has laminate in her house and regrets not getting hardwood. Largely because as stated above, the hardwood can be refinished dependably. It wasn't super cheap, she picked one of the more expensive possibilities which had a long warranty and it seems to chip fairly easily and gets scuffed pretty easily as well, although it is a dark laminate and only shows scuffs in bright light. Having seen both I will also say that while hardwood with a few dings and dents can still look good and arguably a little damage just adds character, a chipped laminate just looks bad.

And yeah, bamboo is in a grass family and it grows very fast under good conditions. My 9 year old grove of bamboo that was started from a 3 gallon pot is large enough that thousands of birds can roost in it. I have to go outside nightly to chase off blackbirds in fall/winter. Gets old really fast but I do not want to get rid of it. I also do not want 1000+ nasty birds roosting that close to my house every night. o_O
posted by weretable and the undead chairs 20 November | 20:05
I have engineered wood - which is a fibreboard with a real wood layer, quite a thick one (you can get different levels of thickness). It looks exactly like a solid wood floor. Whether or not you can have real solid hardwood rather than engineered wood depends on what's underneath. If you have concrete sub-floor (as I do), then you have to 'float' real wood, but with engineered wood flooring it can be laid right on top of the underlay.

Before I was flooded out, I had laminate and it was shit. Because the floor was ruined in the flood, I was able to get the whole thing replaced on the insurance and went for the engineered wood, which was way more expensive but much better.

I have had to put felt protectors on my wooden chair feet because, unlike the laminate (which is, after all, really just a plastic photo of wood on top of the board) the wood will scratch. It also needs more care than a laminate floor, so I can't get it wet.

For both types of floors, those steam mops are not recommended because they can warp the engineered wood and will cause the laminate to peel.
posted by Senyar 20 November | 20:24
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