Could you, ‘wood’ you use laminate flooring?

DEAR DESIGNER: Thank you for your article in the March 10 edition of the Review-Journal. It confirms our choices of tile size and installation pattern. We are very pleased with the results; the light color makes the rooms feel larger and the diamond installation pattern adds interest to the floor, always making it a conversation piece.

Now we are faced with another set of choices regarding the remainder of our house’s flooring. My wife wants to install “wood” flooring wherever there still is wall-to-wall carpeting — about 1,500 square feet of area involving the living room, dining room, halls, three bedrooms and closets. The choices are wood or laminate, what color and grain. We have high ceilings, lots of windows and slightly larger than average room sizes.

Wood or laminate? Wood costs more and looks like wood; laminate is less expensive, can look woodlike, but can also look more like patterned cardboard. Light wood or laminate makes the room look larger, but a dark color can make the floor “rich looking,” according to my wife. But, the darker the laminate, the less visible the wood-grain pattern. Some laminates have a sheen/gloss that can make them look bright and shiny, but also flat and cardboardy in certain lights and without any grain visibility. What are your views on wood vs. laminate and light vs. dark?

Would a well-selected and installed wood flooring yield a higher appraisal than a laminate equivalent?

Thanks in advance for your reply. – Howard

DEAR HOWARD: Thank you for reading my articles. I’m happy that the article on tile reassured you about your selection.

When having to choose between wood or laminate, most often I choose wood. Laminate flooring is a picture of wood glued onto a base product. It is a floated floor and generally clicks when you walk on it. It can look nice, but most people can tell that it is not real wood. It’s made of a similar material used for Formica countertops. It can be very slick when wet. It doesn’t transition to other surfaces well, like from laminate to tile or on the edge of a step.

The inexpensive price and consistency of pattern are the two positives of laminate flooring. Laminate flooring is like buying cheap furniture. It can look very impressive from a distance, but upon further examination you can tell a vast difference.

Engineered-wood flooring is a great solution to having an affordable wood floor. Real wood veneers (thin slices of wood) are pressed on top of a less expensive, more stable backing. The veneers are thick enough they will last a lifetime. The stability of the backing is a strong positive for engineered-wood planks. To make a bright light even brighter, they are made with wonderful finishes that are easy to care for. Engineered-wood flooring is my favorite floor to specify.

Solid-wood flooring is still used today, but is much pricier. They were used in the past when homes were built on a frame foundation. The solid-wood planks would lay perpendicular to the floor joists for stability. They are used today merely for looks. Not only is the cost of solid-wood flooring prohibitive, the natural tendency of solid wood to expand and contract can be daunting in some installations.

Your home should appraise for more when you use solid wood or engineered wood versus laminate. However, it doesn’t hurt to mention the differences to your real estate agent to be sure they know you have the real thing. I once replaced 1,800 square feet of laminate flooring in a custom home that was sold to the homeowner as a “wood floor.” The laminate floors can trick you at first glance, but if you are unsure, just walk on it. Did it click or sound hollow? If so, it is probably laminate. If it is wood, it will usually be glued or nailed down and have a deep rich tone (if any) when you walk across it.

Light vs dark: It sounds as if your home is large and you mentioned all the windows, so either preference is good. As your wife stated, dark will make it feel rich, but will make it also feel more quaint. Light wood will open up your space and feel vast.

Color choice is more a matter of personal taste. Look around at the other architectural features of your home. If you have heavy elements such as large stonework, I would lean toward the darker floor for balance. If your home is modern, either color will work, but less grain is preferred.

If you want more grain, consider oak. It’s a traditional look, but also timeless. It can be finished in light or dark.

Most hardwood flooring will darken over time, especially in the direct sunlight. Some darken faster than others. Cherry is one that is beautiful but will darken quite quickly. This is a natural effect and can be beautiful if you expect it.

One final note of caution: When you get a flooring bid, be sure your flooring contractor also includes the price of leveling your concrete. Whether you chose wood or laminate flooring, you need a flat surface. Most concrete slabs are not level enough for wood flooring without added work. This can add a large chunk of change to your flooring budget, and it’s wise to ask about the cost before you sign a contract.

Personally, I like woods that are medium to dark in color with a fine grain. They tend to mix well with all styles of furniture.

Thank you for your detailed questions. I hope these nuggets help in your flooring decisions.

Cindy Payne is a certified interior designer with more than 25 years of experience, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, as well as a licensed contractor. Email questions to her at deardesigner@ or send them to her at Project Design Interiors, 2620 S. Maryland Parkway, Suite 189, Las Vegas, NV 89109. She can be reached online at

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