Engineered Wood Floors vs. Laminate Floors: What’s the Difference?

By HomeAdvisor

Updated December 19, 2022

Left: © bradleyhebdon / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty images.
Right: © Tuomas Lehtinen / Moment / Getty images.

The biggest difference between engineered hardwood versus laminate floors is the materials they’re made of. Engineered hardwood floors have a top veneer made of real hardwood, so it looks like solid wood flooring. On the other hand, laminate floors have a top layer with a printed image, often of the wood grain. Itt has a manufactured appearance, but it’s much more affordable than engineered flooring and available in a broader range of colors and prints.

On This Page:

  1. What Are Engineered Wood Floors?
  2. What Are Laminate Floors?
  3. Appearance
  4. Cost
  5. Upkeep
  6. Durability
  7. Installation
  8. Life Span
  9. Environmental Impact
  10. Resale Value
  11. Are Engineered Hardwood Floors or Laminate Floors Better for Your Home?
  12. Engineered Hardwood and Laminate Flooring vs. Other Options

What Are Engineered Wood Floors?

Engineered hardwood floors have a hardwood veneer on top that’s sealed with a clear coating. The base layers are high-density fiberboard, plywood, or unfinished hardwood. It isn’t as prone to warping or moisture damage as solid wood. And unlike laminate floors, homeowners can refinish engineered wood several times.

What Are Laminate Floors?

Laminate flooring consists of a moisture-resistant, stabilizing base layer and a core of compressed layers of high-density fiberboard, often set in resin. A photographic layer sits on the top, and the planks receive a final coat of resin for added durability. The printed layer can look like wood, stone, tiles, pebbles, or virtually anything else.


When choosing your flooring, its appearance is a huge deciding factor. Regardless of what you’re looking for, you’ll likely find a good fit between all the available engineered hardwood and laminate flooring options.

Engineered Hardwood Floors Laminate Floors
Almost impossible to tell apart from hardwood

Mimics hardwood but looks manufactured

Available in most wood types

Can look like wood, stone, ceramic, and more

More affordable than solid hardwood

More affordable than engineered hardwood

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Engineered Hardwood Floors

Because engineered hardwood flooring has a top layer of real hardwood, it’s hard for people to know if it’s solid or engineered. You can get engineered flooring in relatively any wood type you could get solid flooring for, including the best types of hardwood flooring like hickory, ash, and maple.

Opting for the engineered option is also a great way to get the exotic wood species of your dreams, like tigerwood, Brazilian walnut, Santos Mahogany, and more, at a more affordable price.

Laminate Floors

There are more color and design options available for laminate floors. In addition to laminate that looks like wood, you can also choose laminate that mimics ceramic, porcelain, and even stones. This flooring comes in smooth or textured versions and usually has a glossy sheen. Because all the patterns are printed on top, it’ll have a manufactured look rather than a natural one.


Besides the initial up-front costs, you should also consider the long-term costs. Laminate is less expensive per square foot initially, but if planks get worn or damaged, you have to replace them. On the other hand, engineered flooring can withstand several rounds of refinishing, so in the long-term, they’re likely to be a better value.

Engineered Hardwood Floors Laminate Floors
$3 – $25 per sq. ft., installed

$3 – $8 per sq. ft., installed

Price varies by wood type and flooring thickness

The better the print layer, the higher the cost

Engineered Hardwood Floors

Engineered hardwood costs around $3 to $25per square foot, installed. The higher the quality of wood, the higher the price. And generally speaking, the thicker the top veneer and core layers, the more expensive it is.

For example, basic engineered hardwood flooring costs approximately $3 to $9 per square foot and has a 1/16- to 1/12-inch veneer with three core layers beneath. Mid-grade costs around $6 to $12 per square foot with a 1/12- to 1/8-inch veneer on top of five core layers. And the higher-end options cost about $9 to $25 per square foot and have a 1/6-inch veneer with seven or more core layers.

Laminate Floors

Laminate flooring installation costs around $3 to $8 per square foot. Flooring options made with specialized materials and add-ons like scratch resistance cost more. If you’re looking for a good, economical option, consider floors from Pergo. Pergo laminate floors cost approximately $1.50 to $6 per square foot.


Both engineered hardwood and laminate floors are fairly easy to clean and maintain, especially when compared to solid hardwood. This makes these flooring options a great choice for people with kids and pets or those who want something low-maintenance.

Engineered Hardwood Floors

Engineered hardwood floors are easy to clean. You should sweep every day or every other day and mop with a damp mop one to four times a month. Make sure to dry the floor thoroughly to avoid water damage.

Avoid harsh chemical cleaners with ammonia, wax, or oil. And use soft cleaning tools like mops or microfiber cloths. Maintaining your floors helps to install rugs in the most high-traffic areas and under furniture.

Over time, you can refinish your engineered wood to make it look as good as new. You can usually refinish engineered floors three times. For comparison’s sake, you can refinish hardwood floors four to six times.

Laminate Floors

Laminate flooring is easier to clean than engineered hardwood. You should sweep and mop regularly, but when you mop, use a well-wrung or microfiber mop. Avoid hot steam mops to avoid damaging the top layer, which can bubble or distort if cleaned improperly.

Avoid cleaning products that aren’t specifically for laminate flooring. For example, oil-based cleaners can leave streaks or strip the top protective layer of your floor.

A downside to laminate floors is you can’t refinish them. So if an area is damaged, you’ll need to replace the planks. The cost to repair laminate flooring is $700 on average. It can be as little as $1 to $3 per square foot to remove wet or damaged laminate floors and around $300 or more to replace planks.


Both engineered hardwood and laminate floors are durable and can work in many different areas of your home. The biggest issues you might face are scratches and water damage.

Engineered Hardwood Floors

Generally speaking, engineered hardwood floors are highly durable and can work in many areas of your home, even the high-traffic ones. The only things to look out for are scratches and water damage. Like with solid hardwood, the veneer layer of the engineered floor can be easily scratched or dented.

Moreover, be careful not to cause water damage, which can lead to the wood rotting and growing mold. Clean up spills immediately, and don’t use too much water when mopping.

Laminate Floors

The good thing about laminate floors is that they’re scratch-resistant, although they’re not totally scratchproof. And as long as you take care not to mop the floor with a dripping mop, you won’t have to worry about mold or rot as you would with wood flooring. The best way to avoid water damage between the laminate, subfloor, and exposed seams is to install it properly.

You can also choose laminate floors that have special coatings. Some options include waterproof, water-resistant, scratch-resistant, and antimicrobial.

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If you’re an experienced DIY-er, you may be able to tackle both engineered hardwood and laminate flooring installations. But as in the case of any major DIY project, make sure you know what you’re doing. Otherwise, you’re better off hiring a floor installer near you. Here are some engineered wood floors versus laminate installation details to consider.

Engineered Hardwood Floors

Different types of engineered hardwood flooring are available, but if you’re planning on doing a DIY job, choosing click-and-snap planks will make your job much easier. The other installation methods are nail-down or adhesive, typically more labor-intensive.

Click-and-snap planks allow you to float the floor on top of the subfloor. The floor stays put simply because of the weight of the planks. On the other hand, when you nail down floors or use adhesive, the installation is likely to be more solid. The planks are less likely to shift or creak. However, the adhesive option is especially tricky if you don’t have experience.

Also, you should consider installing an underlayment even though it’s not required. The underlayment adds another layer of protection between the flooring and subfloor, as well as adding a layer of insulation.

Laminate Floors

The main installation options are the same for laminate flooring as for engineered hardwood. The main difference is that while underlayment is optional for hardwood flooring, it’s required for laminate floors. And if you’re installing the flooring over concrete slabs, you’ll need to add a vapor barrier.

Although the click-and-snap planks tend to make for easier installs, it still takes skill and know-how. For example, knowing how to cut laminate flooring is important, no matter which installation method you choose. This might mean using table and circular saws, a miter, or a jigsaw.

And once you have the pieces you need for installation, you need to know how to install or lay laminate flooring. There are many steps in the process, from measuring the space, buying the correct materials, removing the old flooring, and installing the underlayment.

Life Span

The life span of laminate versus engineered wood floors is an important point to consider when deciding. The life span of engineered hardwood floors is typically longer than laminate. However, actual longevity will depend largely on the quality of the flooring and its proper installation.

Engineered Hardwood Floors

Although engineered hardwood isn’t going to have the incredible life span of solid hardwood flooring—which is 100 years—it still boasts a long life span of around 20 to 50 years. This long life span is largely due to your ability to refinish it.

Laminate Floors

Laminate floors last about 10 to 30 years. Since refinishing isn’t an option, you’ll need to replace them once they’ve reached the end of their life span. Flooring in the low- to mid-range price points can last 10 to 15 years, while higher-quality flooring materials can last 20 to 30 years. So whenever possible, it’s a good idea to invest more when you’re thinking about doing a new installation.

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of engineered wood flooring versus laminate is similar. However, laminate tends to be a better option for the environmentally conscious consumer.

Engineered Hardwood Floors

Engineered hardwood floors are made with natural materials, which sometimes include recycled materials. The top veneer is made from solid hardwood, while the lower layers are made from natural wood products, whether plywood or fiberboard. Sometimes, these lower layers are made with recycled wood materials.

Since trees are carbon-neutral, if you can find a manufacturer that takes care of the environment, this building material can be very environmentally friendly. For example, some companies source trees from sustainable, responsible sources that plant new trees when they cut them down.

Laminate Floors

Laminate floors are more environmentally friendly than engineered hardwood because they’re usually made from waste by-products from manufacturing other wood products. They’re also recyclable and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified.

Resale Value

While neither product will increase the resale value of your home as much as solid hardwood, new flooring can make an impact. When considering how your new flooring can increase your home’s resale value, consider the quality of materials you plan to use and how well it fits your home aesthetically.

Engineered Hardwood Floors

The great thing about engineered hardwood floors is that they closely resemble solid hardwood. Because of its visual impact and beauty, installing engineered hardwood can increase the value of your home. Consider adding hardwood floors to spaces where you want to add a classic touch.

Laminate Floors

New flooring is a plus for any prospective homebuyer. While laminate floors can have that manufactured look, they can also freshen up any space. High-quality laminate can slightly increase your home’s value, but note that poor-quality laminate can bring down a home’s value.

Are Engineered Hardwood Floors or Laminate Floors Better for Your Home?

When comparing engineered hardwood floors versus laminate for your home, there are a few things you need to decide on. If budget isn’t an issue, then engineered hardwood is likely to be a better option for your home because it lasts longer, looks just like solid hardwood, and can increase your home’s value. But if you’d like to stay budget-conscious for your project, laminate flooring can be just as good. There are also more design options, and they have higher durability.

Factors Engineered Hardwood Floors Laminate Floors

Looks just like solid hardwood

Has a manufactured look


$3 – $25 per sq. ft., installed

$3 – $8 per sq. ft., installed


Can be refinished

Can’t be refinished


Can scratch or dent


Life Span

20 – 50 years

10 – 30 years

Environmental Impact

Made with 100% natural materials

Usually made with natural waste by-products

Resale Value

Can increase your home’s resale value

Might increase your home’s resale value

Kitchen Flooring

One of the most popular types of kitchen flooring is hardwood because of its durability and timeless appearance. You can enjoy something similar by opting for engineered wood in the kitchen, which is usually a better option than laminate. Engineered wood has better resistance to humidity changes and is less likely to become damaged by water spills.

Radiant Heating

Radiant heating keeps your flooring incredibly warm to the touch and efficiently heats your home, but it’s only suitable for some flooring types. If you have radiant heating in your home, you may want to use engineered wood floors. This is because most engineered wood is durable enough to withstand temperature change, although you should always check with the manufacturer before purchasing. Keep in mind that thinner planks work better with radiant heat.

With laminate flooring, gapping may occur when the heat is on. Moreover, laminate flooring doesn’t conduct heat efficiently, and only specialized laminate is compatible with radiant heating systems.

Living Room Flooring

Engineered wood mimics hardwood so closely it’s the best choice for your living space. This room is likely the biggest and most used space in your home, so you want a floor that adds beauty and character. If you’re on a budget and want to enhance one room, this is where to put your money.

Engineered Hardwood and Laminate Flooring vs. Other Options

Choose a type of flooring that enhances your home, fits your budget, and is well-suited to your lifestyle and the room you’re remodeling. See how laminate and engineered wood stand up against other popular flooring products.

Vs. Hardwood

Hardwood costs more than laminate but is similar in price to engineered wood. This flooring can be refinished many times and often increases resale value more than laminate or engineered planks. They also have a longer life span if cared for properly.

Vs. Vinyl

Vinyl floors cost less than engineered wood but are on par with laminate. Vinyl, like laminate, can look similar to wood but can also mimic other natural products, ceramic tiles, or have its own unique design. Similar to laminate, vinyl won’t add long-term value to your property, but it’s a good budget-friendly option.

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  1. Sandy Downs, January 29:

    What are the differences between Laminate and vinyl laminate flooring?

  2. Jennifer Margeson, February 6:

    You only use the name brand pergo as alternative name to vinyl and thats misleading and confusing. Pergo does engineered hard wood. I.e. the pergo max line. This misinformes people into believing all pergo in vinyl.

  3. HomeAdvisor, February 6:

    Hi Sandy

    This Guide should provide you with more information on vinyl vs. laminate.

  4. Jacky L, April 20:

    Can you recommend a good cleaner for our hand-chiseled look engineered floor? Currently using the Bona mop and wood cleaner, but I don’t feel it does a good job. Also, it’s hard for me to use pressure pushing a mop with my arthritis. I’m considering the Bissell Crosswave system; any thoughts on this? Will a steam system be a good option? I’m not sure if our flooring is considered “sealed” or not – important to know when looking at cordless floor cleaning systems which I’m considering. Thank you

  5. Richard Reynolds, April 26:

    Should Engineered Hardwood flooring be installed under a toilet. I an putting Engineered Hardwood in a small bathroom, we are replacing the toilet should the flooring go under the toilet?

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