Skip to Content

Hardwood Vs. Laminate Vs. Vinyl Vs. Engineered – Which To Choose?

Selecting the right material for your home's flooring is critical. With a variety of options, you should select the flooring that matches your needs. The common choices are hardwood, laminate, vinyl, or engineered. Based on our research, this post will help you choose which is best for your home. 

Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Hardwood is durable, versatile, and captures nature's beauty. Laminate is an inexpensive flooring that can resemble stone, tile, or wood, while vinyl has a synthetic backing layer and works well in high-moisture areas. Engineered flooring has a water-resistant plywood core.

You should consider several factors, such as cost, maintenance, and quality when deciding on flooring material.

Although each of these materials has its own strengths, you should also know about their disadvantages. Continue reading to know about the flooring options and how to choose what's best for you.

Man chosing the right flooring for his houseappartement- Hardwood Vs. Laminate Vs. Vinyl Vs. Engineered - Which To Choose?

Comparing Types Of Flooring 

Hardwood, laminate, vinyl, and engineered flooring are all common in many households. With advancements in flooring technology, these materials have improved to cater to the needs of homeowners.

Each one has distinct properties that will make it suitable for your home. Read their descriptions below to learn more. 

Hardwood

Hardwood refers to solid wood that includes oak, maple, or cherry. Other species include:

  • Ash
  • Bamboo
  • Mahogany
  • Teak
  • Walnut

If you want a natural feel at home, choose hardwood. Hardwood flooring is durable and long-lasting with proper maintenance. You can install hardwood anywhere at home, but not in areas where humidity is high.

Quality hardwood can be water-resistant and withstand spills, but it is not totally waterproof. You should avoid using this flooring in bathrooms and laundry rooms.

Perspective of Hardwood floor in close up

Hardwood is durable, but it is vulnerable to dents and scratches. Its thickness is around 5/8-3/4 inches or more, and you install it by nailing it to a wooden subfloor. 

You can choose from unfinished or finished wood for your home. Unfinished hardwood allows you to customize the stain of the flooring. You can also buy prefinished hardwood that has already been sanded, stained, and sealed. Refinishing hardwood is also possible and should be done every 10 years.

You should avoid mopping this type of floor because it can cause water damage. Hardwood flooring should be cleaned with the right products. Cleaners that are safe for wood and help maintain its shine are a good option.

Click here to buy this product on Amazon.  

Best Use

If you want durable and elegant flooring that requires less cleaning, select hardwood. You should install hardwood in a living and dining room for the best results.

Laminate

Laminate is an innovative flooring that combines design and durability. It has a high-density fiberboard (HDF) core that uses natural wood materials and mimics wood without bulkiness. A wide range of wood designs, colors, and textures is available. The flooring comes in strips or planks.

A laminate has four layers that with the following purposes:

  1. The lowest layer stabilizes the laminate panel.
  2. The next layer is the core board, which provides density.
  3. The third layer is the décor or printed layer. It can resemble stone, tile, or wood.
  4. The last and topmost layer is the overlay or wear layer. This layer protects the laminate material.

Worker hands installing timber laminate floor. Wooden floors house renovation with measure items.

Unlike hardwood, which rests on the subfloor, you install laminate over a foam or felt underlayment. Some laminates have pre-attached underlayments. In that case, you can easily install the flooring. 

Laminates are not totally water-resistant, unless you cover the gaps. In that case, you shouldn't mop your laminate floor. The flooring can last ten to 20 years, and you don't need to refinish it. If you want to change the design, removal is also easy.

You should make sure the laminate products conform with the EPA safety standards. Not all laminates release formaldehyde, but you should check the label showing that it is TSCA Title VI compliant.

Best Use

Laminate is the best option if you have pets and kids at home.

Vinyl

Another popular flooring material is vinyl. It is similar to laminate. Vinyl also has four layers, but it has a synthetic backing layer made of polymers. It also has a top layer resembling stone or wood. Vinyl can come in sheets or tiles. Both types are easy to work on for DIY installation. 

You can install vinyl over concrete, but it is better to have plywood underneath. Installation kits are available on the market to help you with the installation.

vinyl tiles collection : Luxury Vinyl floor tile or rubber flooring sample stack for interior design idea.

Vinyl is perfect for areas that get a lot of foot traffic. It can help minimize noise. However, be careful not to put weighty or sharp objects on the flooring, because you might puncture it. The flooring can also fade if it's in an area that gets exposure to intense sunlight and temperatures.

Vinyl can last up to 20 years, but once damaged, you cannot repair it.

Click here to get this product on Amazon.

Best Use

Choose vinyl for moisture-prone areas. You can get waterproof vinyl flooring that will withstand water. It will not be a problem if you install it in the bathroom or kitchen.

If you are on a budget, vinyl is the cheapest among the flooring options. 

Engineered

Many people confuse hardwood with engineered wood flooring. Engineered wood is more similar to vinyl and laminate because it imitates wood and has layers. It has both hardwood and plywood layers with a veneer-wear layer. Engineered flooring is between 3/8 to 3/4 inches thick.

In terms of installation, you don't need to nail down engineered flooring. You only have to attach the tongue and groove of the boards. It is easier to install this flooring than hardwood.

Engineered flooring can last more than 30 years and is more water-resistant than hardwood. Hence, you can use a wet mop for cleaning. Unlike hardwood, engineered wood can scratch and dent easily. It is also less durable than hardwood. With several layers, this flooring is more flexible. 

stacked engineered flooring planks.

If you want the best for your family, you should choose engineered flooring that is CARB2 compliant. Chemicals like formaldehyde and VOCs can affect the air quality of your home. It is best to check the label of the engineered flooring product before buying.

Click here to purchase this product on Amazon.

Best Use

Engineered flooring is suitable for moisture-prone areas like basements, bathrooms, and kitchens. This flooring option is great for colder places because you can put it on top of radiant heating.

What To Consider When Choosing Flooring?

Man chosing the right flooring for his house/appartement.

Choosing suitable flooring for your home is critical. The flooring options we've covered have varying characteristics, and you should match them with your family's needs.  

Now that you know more about each flooring option, you can narrow down your choice according to the following factors:

  • Location: You should install the flooring in areas where it will not deteriorate easily. Heavy traffic can scratch and damage flooring. Also, take note of any moisture and water-prone areas in your home.
  • Durability: Flooring is a big investment. You want the material to last for decades, so you don't have to change it frequently, and you don't want to spend a lot of money on repairs.
  • Price: Your budget will have a major influence on the type of flooring materials you buy. The benefits of the flooring should exceed its cost. 
  • Style: Styles and finishes of flooring vary widely. You can show your creativity with the colors and designs you choose for your home. But keep in mind that some flooring types have limited options that might not meet your preferences.

Other factors to consider are the following:

  • Hardness and smoothness
  • Moisture-resistance 
  • Ease of cleaning and maintenance
  • Fire-resistance
  • Thermal and sound insulation
  • Room size

Before making a purchase, you can do more research to check each out option. If you are unsure, you can also ask your home contractor for advice.

In Closing 

Hardwood, laminate, vinyl, and engineered are popular flooring options for your home. You should choose the flooring that will meet all your needs and preferences. 

Hardwood is durable, but it can be expensive, and it isn't water-resistant. Laminate and vinyl are both relatively inexpensive, water-resistant, and easy to install. The difference between the two is the backing layer material. Engineered flooring works well in moisture-prone and colder areas.

You should consider all relevant factors and take time to choose the most suitable flooring for your home.

Learn more about flooring from these posts:

Does Sandless Floor Refinishing Work [& How To]?

How To Seal A Gap Between Wall And Floor