Of  all the words searched on google related to flooring, the number one  word is Laminate. Why is that? Is that really the most popular flooring  used in America today? It might be, but it might also be that there is a lot of confusion out there about what is actually laminate flooring.  Any kind of floor covering that is not carpet is typically referred to  as a “hard surface”. Hard surfaces include laminate, but also include  wood, tile, resilient flooring (ie. Vinyl), and luxury vinyl tile. And  even the wood category includes solid hardwood and engineered hardwood,  prefinished and sand and finish. With so much confusion about them all,  we have compiled a description of these different types of hard surfaces  so that you can decide which one is best for you.


Laminate flooring has the look and feel of real wood flooring without consisting of any actual “hard” wood.

It is made up generally of four layers. A  backing to protect the product from moisture, a medium or high density  fiberboard that provides the basic structure of the product, the design  layer, which is a picture of the “wood” it is intended to look like, and  a wear layer. It is installed by clicking together the individual  pieces of laminate and is “floated” on the floor, meaning that it is not  glued or stapled to the sub-floor.

The pros to laminate are that it can be incredibly durable and resistant to scratches and scuffs that wood  is often susceptible to. It is also relatively easy to install and can mask some problem areas with a less than perfect subfloor.

It tends to cost less than a hardwood floor. The cons include the sound it can make because it is floating, and it requires more additional “transition” pieces to hide the required gap around the edges of the floor. Depending on the density of the core, it can be more or less susceptible to  moisture.

Engineered Hardwood

Engineered hardwood flooring is a thin layer of hard wood glued on top of several thin layers of a composite wood, usually glued together perpendicular to one another, making engineered wood more stable than a solid hardwood.

Engineered wood comes in every species of wood that you might find a solid hard wood. The pros to engineered wood include the stability which  makes it less likely to show gapping than a solid hard wood, and less susceptible to humidity in a home. It can tend to be less expensive than solid wood, and can be installed in a variety of different ways, lending itself to be installed in locations that solid wood can not.

The cons are that there are so many different levels of quality. The thicker engineered woods can be re-sanded, but the thinner ones can not.  It is more prone to “face checking” or tiny cracks in the face of the  wood, and are susceptible to water. While engineered wood and laminate have many similar features, engineered wood has real wood on top and can  be floated or glued or stapled down.

Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT)

Luxury Vinyl Tile flooring is different from sheet vinyl and can closely  resemble real wood or tile for a fraction of the cost. Like laminate,  LVT consists of 4 layers, the vinyl backing, the vinyl color layer, the picture, and the urethane coating on top (WFCA).

It is different from laminate in that it is glued to the floor. It comes in a wide range of  looks and levels of quality and can be used both in residential and commercial settings. Some of the tile products can even be grouted to  give it more of a “true” tile look.

It’s pros are that it is  inexpensive, relatively easy to install, very water resistant and looks  amazing.

The biggest con is that the subfloor needs to be pretty flat and so underlay or preparing the sub-floor can increase the cost. It  also can have problems with denting or scratching when things are  rolled or dragged across it, but the products that have higher wear  layers can help with this.

Solid Core Vinyl Plank

This  is a relatively new product with the benefits of both laminate and vinyl. It is made of a solid vinyl core that is waterproof and has a locking system much like laminate so it “floats” on the floor.

Pros to this product are that it can be installed without an underlay much like laminate but is extremely water resistant so is great for bathrooms, laundry rooms and kitchens. It has all the best features of  laminate and vinyl.

The main con to this product is that it is a bit more expensive than vinyl, which can often be offset by not needing the underlayment.

A great new up and coming product. Hopefully you now have a better idea of which product is best for you and your  setting. There are so many different products out there and have varying  levels of quality which work in different settings. Call us and we can help you determine the most beneficial product for your individual  needs.