What is laminate flooring?


By Christopher Dean

Laminate flooring has redefined flooring for both home and business owners. It can mimic wood and other materials, making laminate an inexpensive alternative that has increasingly developed over decades to create a vivid, high-resolution floor covering. Through deep texturing, micro bevels and exciting graphics, laminate flooring is now closer in reputation and appearance to solid hardwood and engineered wood flooring. 

If you’re thinking about replacing the floors in your home and are considering laminate as a viable option, keep reading. We’ll explain everything you need to know about laminate flooring so you can make an informed decision. 

What is laminate flooring?

Laminate floors consist of particleboard wood fused in a lamination process. The ease associated with cleaning laminate floors coupled with their scratch-resistant feature has made their popularity rise significantly. Most homeowners are resorting to laminate flooring due to its affordability because it’s relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of other floor coverings, like hardwood and natural stone. 

Installing a laminate floors can be an easier project than installing other materials (like carpet). Laminate is a floating floor, which means it doesn't require nails or glue to install. Instead, it has a click-lock installation system that's DIY-friendly.

Laminate floors are suitable for bedrooms, hallways, dining rooms, living areas, kitchens and other areas that are not moist. This type of flooring is not waterproof, so avoid installing it in bathrooms and laundry rooms (opt for tile or vinyl in these rooms instead).

Laminate flooring pros and cons:



  • Affordable
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Low-maintenance
  • Resists discoloration from sunlight
  • Can mimic wood, stone, etc.
  • Easy to install
  • Can appear “fake” up close
  • Not waterproof & can swell when wet
  • Requires replacement when damaged

Where to install laminate floors:


Can you install laminate floors?







Dining room








Living room


Laminate vs. other flooring materials.

Laminate flooring has distinct features that make it stand out among other flooring materials such as vinyl, hardwood, carpet and tile. Here’s a look at how laminate flooring stacks up against other flooring types you might be considering.

Laminate flooring vs. vinyl.

Laminate flooring is a wood product fused with resins. This flooring surface has a hard top surface with a thickness ranging from 7 mm to 12 mm. Vinyl flooring, on the other hand, is made from a synthetic material whose base layer is fiberglass with PVC coating. 

Affordability: Tie

Both laminate floors and vinyl are comparatively similar in cost. The two flooring styles are also less expensive when comparing their installation cost to that of other flooring options. However, homeowners who opt for vinyl flooring may need to explore more luxurious options, which may result in a higher installation cost. This renders laminate flooring a more affordable option compared to vinyl.

Durability & longevity: Vinyl

Characteristically, laminate flooring requires minimal maintenance and is very durable. Over time, laminate flooring gradually becomes delaminated. However, you can enhance its durability by ensuring it isn't exposed to moist conditions. Vinyl flooring may delaminate over time since it gradually loosens, especially if it is low in quality, thereby compromising its durability.

Cleaning & maintenance: Vinyl

Laminate floors are easy to clean with dry methods, such as a dry mop or a broom that doesn’t make the floor moist. Alternatively, you can clean laminate floors using a damp mop that quickly dries up to avoid delamination. However, you can’t use too much water or else you risk damaging your floors. For this reason, vinyl is easier to clean and maintain. 

Laminate flooring vs. hardwood.

At a glance, laminate flooring looks like natural wood. However, closer inspection proves otherwise. High-quality laminate flooring portrays a design pattern that is randomly repeated to improve its aesthetic quality. In addition, it integrates a texture of surface grain that makes the floor more realistic.

Affordability: Laminate

The materials used for laminate flooring are cheaper, and so is the installation cost. Hardwood floor installation prices vary based on the size and species of wood that you decide to use. The rarer and more exotic the hardwood, the higher the cost.

Durability & longevity: Hardwood

Compared to hardwood flooring, laminate flooring is better at resisting heat. When it comes to moisture and humidity, both materials don’t do well. However, laminate is more water-resistant than hardwood. 

Hardwood flooring will last longer than laminate floors. In fact, hardwood can last 100 years, while laminate only lasts 15 to 25. And unlike laminate flooring, you’re able to refinish hardwood flooring. So if you damage your laminate floors, you’ll likely need to replace them completely.

Cleaning & maintenance: Laminate

Laminate floors are pretty easy to clean and only require the use of a broom or a vacuum. When mopping laminate floors, use a laminate floor cleaner to moisten the mop and don’t leave pools of water on the floor. Standing water may damage laminate floors, but they’re better at resisting water than hardwood. Cleaning hardwood floors often requires a special wood cleaner to facilitate damp mopping. 

Laminate flooring vs. carpet.

Unlike laminate floors, carpets not only tend to carry loads of dirt, but it’s also hard to spot the dirt. This hygienic and hypoallergenic feature of laminate flooring sets it apart from carpets. A carpet may harbor dust, stain and pollen, resulting in mold and mildew if exposed to moist conditions. 

Affordability: Laminate

Though laminate floors and carpets have almost similar prices, high-density carpets are likely to cost more than high-quality laminate flooring. Laminate flooring possesses tongue-and-groove planks that make it relatively easier and cheaper to install. This feature makes laminate flooring comparatively affordable. 

Durability & longevity: Laminate

Laminate flooring is more durable due to its scratch resistance and ease of cleaning. They can last for up to 25 years, whereas carpets can last for only up to 10 years. 

Additionally, carpets need to be regularly replaced at least every five years (though this depends on how well you maintain them). High-quality laminate flooring offers a better investment as it lasts longer.

Cleaning & maintenance: Laminate

Hygienic and hypoallergenic features are characteristic of laminate flooring. Laminate flooring doesn’t pile up dirt or any foreign substance building up in any crevices as carpet does. On the other hand, carpet can absorb a lot of dust, odors, moisture and other substances, making cleaning quite cumbersome and more expensive. 

Laminate flooring vs. tile.

While laminate flooring can mimic the appearance of tile, the two materials are different. Laminate contains high-density fiberboard and a rigid wear layer, and tiles are made out of clay, water, sand, etc. Ceramic and porcelain tiles are popular options for floorings, as are natural stone tiles such as quartz, marble, granite and slate. 

Affordability: Laminate

Although installing both laminate flooring and ceramic tiles are affordable options, laminate is much less expensive than natural stone tiles. 

Durability & longevity: Tile 

Tile floors are much better at resisting water in wet rooms, such as bathrooms. However, it’s also worth noting that over time, water may seep through the growth and penetrate the concrete, creating moisture underneath the tile and weakening the floor. Still, tile floors have a longer lifespan than laminate floors — they can last up to 100 years compared to laminate’s 25 years.

Ease of cleaning: Laminate

Laminate flooring can be easily cleaned by simply sweeping and mopping, as long as you don't use too much water. Even though a tiled floor is easy to mop, sweep and vacuum, homeowners have often complained that tiles have grout lines that trap dust and grime. Occasionally, you may need to use a small brush to remove dirt from the grout as it piles up.

How much do laminate floors cost?

The cost to install laminate flooring depends on the size of the area you intend to install the floor. Including the cost of labor and materials needed to install laminate flooring, it may cost you between $3-$7 per square foot

While the square footage of the space you need flooring is a major cost factor, there are other considerations that affect the cost of laminate floor installation. Some of these factors include.

  • Who installs the flooring: The cost of installing laminate flooring depends on who does the installation. Is it a DIY job, or will you hire a professional? If you consult a professional, you will need to budget for that cost.
  • The complexity of the job: Is the laminate going up the stairs, around HVAC equipment and plumbing equipment? 
  • The condition of your subfloor: Does your existing flooring need to be disposed of?
  • Underlayment: Other than the cost of laminate flooring, you will need to purchase underlayment. 

Tips on how to maintain laminate flooring. 

Laminate flooring is a worthwhile investment that requires maintenance to retain its allure and longevity. Even though laminate floors have several layers, they are still destructible and need routine cleaning, managing accidents, and knowledge on how to prevent damage. A well-maintained laminate floor offers up to 25 years of use. 

Here are simple ways to keep your laminate floors looking amazing.

  • Keep it cool and dry. Laminate floors don't react well to water. There are new water-resistant laminate flooring options. However, due to its many layers, it is easy for this type of flooring to become warped, swell or buckle, causing irreversible damage. Wipe spills immediately, don't let cleaners sit too long on the floor, and adopt damp mopping. 
  • Prevention is crucial. Use protective products to add a layer of protection over your floors to protect them from nicks, dents or scratches. You can achieve this by using floor covers at entryways, using felt protectors on furniture legs and avoiding exposure to direct sunlight.
  • Clean your floors the right way. Laminate floors are easy to clean. Set up a solid routine that’s easy to follow. Always clean your laminate floors using the recommended cleaners and equipment.
  • When necessary, make repairs. Since laminate wood cannot be sanded or refinished, it needs to be addressed when it rips. Consult a professional on how to handle rips and repair your laminate floors.

How to save money when installing laminate flooring.

Laminate flooring is considered one of the most effective cost-saving flooring options, but there’s always a way to save money. Here's how:

  • Shop online or in bulk stores. Bulk stores offer good prices for laminate flooring. Since most stores stock flooring products seasonally, check for their availability. Online stores also tend to offer discounted flooring compared to local stores. Shopping online allows you to compare prices quickly.
  • Cash in on sales and discounts. If you want to save money on laminate flooring, wait for sales. During certain times of the year, laminate flooring can be highly discounted, thus saving you a lot of money. Once you find the perfect laminate flooring for your space, ask your contractor about discounts and deals.
  • Avoid wastage. It is impossible to eliminate waste completely. However, it is possible to reduce it significantly. Have proper layouts for materials and plan carefully to minimize wastage. 
  • Get multiple cost estimates. If you plan to hire a professional to install your laminate floors, get quotes from at least three professionals. This way, you can compare costs and negotiate for lower (and fairer) prices. Just be wary of price quotes that seem too good to be true.

DIY vs. hiring a pro to install laminate floors.

Decided that laminate floors are for you? Now you need to determine if you should install them yourself or hire a professional to do this project for you. 

First of all, doing it yourself is cheaper. You won’t have to worry about incurring any labor costs. However, it is good to note that installing and fixing any type of flooring requires skill and experience. If you’re not great with a tape measure and would rather not risk getting inaccurate square footage, you should seek a professional’s services. If you incorrectly install your laminate flooring, you could end up paying more to have a contractor fix it and reinstall it the correct way.

Find laminate flooring pros on Thumbtack.

Ready to start planning your project? Now's the time to get a few flooring cost estimates and contact flooring experts. With Thumbtack, you can compare flooring prices and get free quotes from pros near you. Start searching for a local laminate flooring professional today.

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