Hardwood V. Laminate Floors: Which Type Is Best For Your Budget In The Long Run?

The better the interior of your home looks, the more comfortable it feels, and few things can elevate the aesthetic of a home more than high-quality flooring. Hardwood flooring is the most popular option — according to the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), 66% of Americans say they would choose it for their dream homes. 

There are many reasons hardwood floors are a great choice and a desirable flooring material among homeowners, but laminate flooring is an affordable alternative that can provide a very similar style at a much lower price. However, many people think it's not as visually pleasing as authentic hardwood floors. Although laminate flooring is known as the cheaper option, this is only true to an extent. The initial installation of laminate is very affordable, but hardwood flooring is long-lasting and often offers a better value overall. It has the potential to increase your home's value by as much as 3 to 5 percent. You'll want to consider your options carefully when choosing between these two popular flooring materials to ensure that you'll be happy with your final choice.

Laminate flooring has a low initial cost

While laminate flooring costs between $4 and $14 per square foot, hardwood flooring costs $7 to $25 per square foot, so it's a much more expensive option. The cost of each is influenced by the cost of labor as well as the materials and the way they're manufactured. Keep in mind that you can easily install laminate flooring on your own if you desire to do so, which can reduce your installation costs by quite a bit and is worth considering if you're on a tight budget. Hardwood flooring, on the other hand, generally requires professional installation, and this can make it more costly. The labor required for each material also varies. Even if you do decide to hire contractors to install laminate, the cost is still likely to be lower, because it's quicker and easier to install laminate flooring than hardwood flooring.

Despite this, hardwood floors add significantly more value to a home than laminate floors do. While laminate is clearly the cheaper option for an initial installation, hardwood flooring is actually cheaper than it seems. 80% of the cost is likely to be recouped when installing hardwood floors. Keep this in mind if you're planning to install new floors, particularly if you plan to sell your home later on.

Hardwood floors offer better long-term value

When comparing the cost and value of laminate and hardwood floors, also consider how these two materials perform over time. Hardwood flooring tends to last at least 25 years and may even last more than 100 years, particularly if it's maintained well and you install one of the most long-lasting hardwood floors. Laminate floors typically only last between 15 and 25 years after installation. Based on its longer lifespan, hardwood flooring offers great long-term value and is ideal for a forever home.

Laminate floors are generally very easy to maintain and will resist scratching and staining well. Like hardwood flooring, laminate floors are easy to clean, but if they do get scratched, you'll often need to replace the laminate flooring planks that are affected. When hardwood floors get scratched or damaged, replacements usually won't be necessary since a bit of sanding will usually be all that's needed. If your hardwood ever does require a replacement, it will be costly. 

Also, keep in mind that if your hardwood floors are in bad shape, refinishing them will usually be cheaper than making a hardwood or laminate floor replacement. Refinishing hardwood floors will typically cost $3.25 to $5 per square foot, which is much less than replacing hardwood floors, and it is potentially less than the $4 to $14 per square foot cost of installing laminate flooring.