Hardwood Or Laminate? The new age-old question.
By: Chris McCamy

Coke or Pepsi? McDonalds or Burger King? Ford or Chevy? These are powerful questions that have ended first dates short, divided families, and terrorized taste buds! Your answers to these proverbially "age old questions" help define what type of person you are in this world, and the latest question to add to the list has become "Hardwood or Laminate?"

Much like homemade apple pie on Thanksgiving, there is something warm and inviting about stepping into a room where hardwoods dress the floor. Unique like a snowflake every piece of hardwood floor is 100% original, having color variations and grain differences, which certainly adds to the special feeling of their ownership.

The two main types of hardwood floors are solid or engineered and usually are styled in strips or planks. Though initially the most costly of all floor choices, if a hardwood floor is properly maintained it can last hundreds of years. Like a lottery winners jackpot, the true payoff takes many years to materialize. (Note: Scuff sanding and recoating every 5-10 years are two ways to help guarantee the longevity of your hardwood floors.)

"Do it your selfers" should steer clear of tackling the hardwood on their own. Though tempting from an initial cost saving prospective, installing your hardwood floors by yourself is a recipe for disappointment and frustration. Stain problems, the squeaking of boards, and a peeling finish are some of the most common complaints heard immediately after installation. This type of floor is the last thing you want to go bargain shopping for, so if a company comes in with an estimate much lower than multiple competitors, you can expect them to skip one or more valuable steps for proper installation. The installation of hardwood floors is truly a complex art and if you hire the correct company, you will be pleased with the end result for decades to come.

Laminate floors hit North American shores about ten years ago, and are made of composite wood with a layer of resin on the top. This interesting combination gives you the illusion of real wood. Since making their arrival they have given "vinyl flooring" a good name again, and have created a very cost efficient alternative to the more expensive and labor extensive hardwood floor process. With seemingly as many varieties as choices of a candy at 7-Eleven, laminates have quickly become a force to recon with in the flooring market. With a more user-friendly approach to installation, the "pop and lock" teqnique has become standard with popular companies like Pergo and Ikea. This user-friendly method has all but eliminated the need for messy glue installation, and can be put together in a fairly short amount of time. Contrary to hardwood floors, laminates are much more "do it yourself" friendly, though its still recommended for best results to hire a professional.

The composite wood laminate has a reputation of being very hard, and sometimes a noisy material once installed. The best way to counteract those negative attributes is to use a silent-pad underneath it to soak up the sound and to help soothe the soles of your feet. As with hardwoods, laminates have a weakness when it comes to bathrooms and kitchens, and it is highly recommended if you do install laminates in these areas, that you buy 10% more product per square foot than needed. This might cost more initially, but will be an educated backup plan to combat the inevitable spill that could warp and ruin a portion of your flooring. Basements also are a risky move for laminates because the humidity change on the concrete foundation can often lead to parts of the floor rising up and popping, effectively ruining that portion of the floor. Flooring companies purposefully discontinue designs every year in hopes you will get all new flooring for your room, instead of replacing a miniscule amount of damaged laminate. Though the "floor life" of laminate is much less than that of hardwoods, thankfully they are usually covered under a 10 to 25 year limited warranty.

Give me a quick breakdown!
If properly cared for hardwoods will always have a higher return on investment over time, and will increase the equity in your house, but can cost much more up front and do require slightly more upkeep. Laminates on the other hand while not as long lasting or attractive, are a fraction of the price, come in more choices and installation can usually be handled by a handy weekend warrior.

So, laminates or hardwoods?
For the record, Pepsi is a far superior product better than Coke, if you drive a Ford than you must have been dropped on her head as a small child, and if you take someone on a first date to McDonalds than expect a contrast of options on soft drinks to be the least of your worries!

Laminates, hardwoods, the choice is really up to you, but once you cross to one side, you might have effectively eliminated half of your friends. Remember, this is much more than a flooring decision, your decision becomes a reflection of who you are as a person.

Pepsi anyone?

Chris lives in Frederick, MD with his beautiful wife Sarah and two goldfish; Sunrise, and Panda Baba. Chris is a Manager at K&B Home Improvement, based out of Mount Airy, MD. K&B has been serving the four-country area since 1997 and would be extremely happy to install your new hardwood or laminate floors. Visit their website at to contact Chris, and for more information on how you can hire K&B for your next home improvement project.

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