Two Styles of Laminate Flooring
There are two types of laminate flooring. Both come in packages of snap-together planks about 1/4 in. thick. But here's the difference: Engineered wood is made from layers of real wood glued together with each layer perpendicular to the one below and above it for better stability. The top layer is a high-quality thin layer of hardwood coated with acrylic finish. Plastic laminate, on the other hand, is completely artificial, with a layer of melamine on the bottom, a resin-saturated fiberboard center, and a woodgrain print on the top that's protected by a layer of clear hard plastic.
Engineered wood is for purists who prefer the look of natural wood. But you pay for reality. On average, it's about double the cost of plastic laminate flooring. Its thin top layer of actual hardwood makes it more susceptible to dents, scratches and staining. But unlike plastic laminate flooring, it can be rejuvenated up to three times with careful sanding and refinishing. Because of that, you can expect it to last longer than plastic laminate—if you locate it away from water-prone and high-wear areas. If you're planning to sell your house in a few years, consider that buyers may appreciate and pay more for the look of real wood.
Plastic laminate is for those who want the look of wood flooring in a place that gets wet or seriously abused. The bulletproof topcoat and plastic internal components make laminate floors extremely durable. They stand up to moisture, pet claws, in-line skates and sand-infested flip-flops much better than engineered wood floors. Manufacturers have come light-years in making the wood-grain print look very realistic. Most people can't even tell it's not real wood.
Don't Forget LV Flooring!
Laminate floors aren't the only option for durability and ease of installation. Next time you're at the home center, take a gander at luxury vinyl (LV) flooring. There's luxury vinyl tile (LVT), which looks like ceramic tile, and luxury vinyl plank (LVP), which mimics wood (shown here). Both types are extremely resilient, about the easiest flooring in the world to install and completely waterproof. Since luxury vinyl is so pliable, it's a great choice over uneven subfloors.