Ireland was once covered, like much of Europe, in swathes of ancient forest. It seems logical then that we have such a fondness for real wood in the construction of our homes. Real hardwood is, however, expensive, un-environmentally friendly, and difficult to maintain.
Thankfully, there are two excellent alternatives to real hardwood flooring available on the Irish market. Tile Merchant stocks a range of laminate and engineered wood flooring options, both of which can give your home the same warmth, style and sophistication of hardwood, but without incurring the same cost.
The question remains, however: what are the differences between laminate wood and engineered wood? Is laminate as good as engineered wood? Which is cheaper? How long does laminate last compared to engineered wood? And, most importantly, where should you buy laminate wood and engineered wood flooring?
We’re here to answer all of your questions in this concise 2022 comparison guide. Read on to find out which hardwood alternative would suit your home renovation or build best!
First things first, what is laminate wood? And what is engineered wood? The difference is stark.
Laminate wood flooring is almost entirely synthetic. Its base layer is made of a composite material, typically fiberboard, on top of which is laid a photo-realistic image layer which mimics the appearance of hardwood. Laminate wood flooring is finished with a final “wear layer” of hyper-durable, transparent material.
On the other hand, engineered wood flooring is made entirely of real wood. It also comprises a composite base layer, except this composite tends to be plywood (a composite made from recycled and by-product wood).
On top of the plywood base, a veneer of real hardwood finishes the material. Whilst for realistic appearance, nothing beats engineered wood flooring, if you’re more concerned with the number of style options available to you, then laminate may be your best bet. Laminate wood flooring tends to come in a much wider variety of colours and textures.
Cared for correctly, engineered wood flooring can easily last Irish homeowners for over 30 years. Laminate flooring has, in contrast, a lifespan of 10-20 years.
Engineered wood can also be “refinished” a few times, too (i.e. sanded and re-varnished to your liking) since it’s veneer is made of genuine hardwood. Laminate flooring cannot be refinished at all.
The one aspect in which laminate trumps engineered wood is when it comes to scratches and scrapes.
A lot of our Irish customers, especially those with young children or dogs, ask: Do engineered wood floors scratch easily? Whilst they are typically protected by a durable varnish atop the veneer, they are still made of wood, which does scratch quite easily. Laminate flooring, on the other hand, is very difficult to scratch, making it a wise choice for those whose homes are often subjected to wear and tear.
So, which is more durable: laminate or engineered hardwood? In terms of lifespan, engineered wood is the answer, but in terms of general wear and tear, we’d have to go with laminate.
The problem with pure hardwood flooring – no matter how beautiful it looks – is that it tends to warp with humidity. Whilst Ireland isn’t an historically humid country, we do have our share of dramatic temperature changes, all of which contribute to stress on natural woods.
Luckily for us, both laminate and engineered wood are designed to be much more resistant to these temperature fluctuations. Due to their composite base layers, they are unlikely to warp in humidity like hardwood. Heat, therefore, is not much of an issue for either laminate or engineered wood flooring. Water, on the other hand, is no friend to either.
If water gets into the base layer of either laminate or engineered wood flooring, the layers will swell and warp, damaging your flooring at a foundational level. As such, we highly recommend considering tiling your floors in rooms exposed to consistently wet conditions, such as the bathroom, or kitchen sink area.
Good to know: Did you know that wood effect porcelain tiles are entirely waterproof? Ideal for those who are looking for a wood floor but need a more practical solution, our wood effect tiles will help you to create an authentic look that captures the essence of real wood.
Having said that, laminate flooring still holds up much better than engineered hardwood does to simple spillages. Thanks to its plastic top layer, which is water-resistant, laminate is much easier to keep dry since a simple wipe will mop up any water from the surface before it has time to penetrate through to the base.
Is laminate waterproof? Not entirely, but it is certainly more resistant to water spillages on the surface than engineered wood is.
Speaking of spillages, one of the questions Tile Merchant customers ask most frequently is: which is easier to maintain, laminate or engineered wood flooring?
The answer is laminate. Laminate is made of synthetic materials which can be cleaned quickly and efficiently with a simple sweep, wipe, and mop.
Engineered wood flooring, on the other hand, requires a little extra work. Following the obvious hoovering and sweeping, any mopping must be conducted carefully so as not to damage the wood. Approved wood cleaners must be used, and mops should be squeezed out thoroughly before application. Too much water used during cleaning will damage your engineered wood flooring.
Engineered Wood Cleaning Tip #1 – Avoid steamers and wet mops. Never use harsh, ammonia-based cleaning products.
Engineered Wood Pro Cleaning Tip #2 – Instead, use an approved, specially-designed cleaning product for engineered hardwood, such as Tile Merchant’s own hardwood floor cleaner.
let’s take a very quick look at the difference between laminate and engineered flooring when it comes to the size of planks they come in. Here at Tile Merchant, we offer a wide range of both laminate and engineered wood flooring options.
Typically speaking, laminate wood planks are about 19-20cm wide and about 140cm long, with thicknesses between 8-12mm. In contrast, engineered hardwood boards tend to be much thicker, at about 13-21mm, and are available in much wider boards than laminate. Engineered wood planks are sold at Tile Merchant in widths up to 26cm, and lengths between 60-220cm.
Both laminate and engineered wood flooring tend to come in planks with a “click-lock” design – their edges are cut so as to fit together like puzzle pieces; quite literally clicking and locking into place. As such, both types of flooring are fairly easy to install, even by yourself!
The differences in installation between the two materials arise when we start to think about where we want to install them, and what subfloor we intend to use.
If installing directly onto a concrete subfloor, then engineered wood is almost always the preferred option since it can be glued down onto the concrete, whereas laminate cannot. You can also nail down engineered wood planks like you wood hardwood planks, if they don’t come with the click-lock design. Alternatively, you can install engineered wood as a “floating floor” above an underlay by using the click-lock design if available.
Laminate wood flooring, on the other hand, is best installed as a “floating floor” over a soundproof and fireproof underlay.
Whilst engineered wood flooring offers a greater range of installation options, laminate flooring is far easier to install thanks to the fact that it tends to be lighter and thinner, meaning it’s more easily cut to measure, and requires less effort to move into place. Engineered wood flooring can be installed DIY, but it’s probably advisable to seek the help of a professional installer (which will drive up the overall cost of the installation).
When it comes to any Irish home renovation or build, cost is naturally a deciding factor for most people. Simply put, laminate flooring can cost as little as €12.99 per square meter, less than 50% of the starting price for a square meter of engineered wood. Of course, if you’re looking for top-of-the-range laminate, then you may end up paying up to €27.99 per m2, but this is still cheaper than the €37.99 starting price per m2 for engineered wood.
So, is laminate cheaper than engineered hardwood? Most certainly. Whether this factors into your decision or not depends on how important other factors, such as aesthetics, durability, and maintenance are to you
There are countless advantages to both laminate and engineered wood flooring: both can make for a stunning alternative to genuine hardwood floors, neither are particularly expensive, and both are durable, fairly easy to install, and come in a wide range of styles, colours, and sizes.
Where laminate and engineered differ most greatly is in lifespan (engineered wood lasts over 10 years longer), cost (laminate costs less than engineered wood), ease of care (laminate is easier to maintain), and of course authenticity (engineered wood uses a veneer of real hardwood, whilst laminate only mimics the appearance with a photo-image layer).
When deciding which type of flooring is best for your needs, consider whether you plan to install it yourself, or are willing to pay for professional installation; decide how important to you that real wood feel is; and ask yourself whether you want something pet and child-friendly that’s easy to clean, or whether you’re happy to put in a little extra maintenance work.
Take a look through our laminate wood options and engineered wood options online, or come and visit our Dublin showrooms to get a feel for them yourself. Here at Tile Merchant, we’re always happy to help!
We offer extremely competitive pricing on our entire range of tiles and likewise. We stock a huge range of wall and floor tiles and our prices are competitive for retail and trade. Our stock is widely available in our showrooms in Dublin which are open 7 days a week
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to shop our tiles online, we can supply you with samples delivered for free.