Wood flooring: Laminate Vs Real wood – which is better?

real wood vs laminate flooring

I never ever thought I would see the day that I *preferred* laminate flooring to the real thing. Let me explain...

Since we moved in to our new house at No 42, this is the type of crazy flooring we've been up against.

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Jazzy right? 

Our old flat had the most beautiful original wood floors, stained and varnished and I was a bit heart broken swapping them for this when we moved (See a full tour of my old flat here). 

When we got the keys to No 42, the jazzy carpet house, the first thing I did was rip up the corners of the carpets in every room to inspect what we were working with underneath. 

To our surprise we found old pre-war newspapers under the bedroom flooring, and PERFECTLY preserved pine wood floorboards underneath. 

I leapt for joy a bit! Until I started researching how to finish them...

That's a pic of the living room after picking up carpet & underlay. Sweaty work! I must have hoovered about 23 times before this pic was shot.

Anyway, I found out through researching that pine floorboards are indeed beautiful, but they're soft. I could stick my thumbnail into the wood and it would leave an instant mark, so they're not all that hard wearing in high traffic areas like a living room.

We really deliberated on our options and came up with the pros and cons:

Pros of real wooden floors

  • They look amazing
  • They're easy to sand down if you get any marks or scratches on them in years to come
  • They are much more affordable to lay (i.e no laying costs, only costs are to hire a sander and buy oil/wax to seal them) 

Cons of real wooden floors

  • They aren't as warm. Unless you fiddle around with wooden gap filler throughout the room, they can be draughty. 
  • Our floors in particular were too soft so maintenance would need to be regular, time consuming and costly
  • They're more tricky to clean. I like to mop and/or polish up my floors to keep them free from dirt. As we knew from our last place, if you put a wet mop on a real wooden floor, they'll become prone to swelling, so real wooden floors are higher maintenance.
  • Our floors had the odd cut through them from when we had the heating installed. It adds to the charm but was loose whenever I walked past it and kinda annoyed me looking at it. 

As you can probably imagine, I was pretty sad when I knew we'd have to come up with an alternative solution that could match up to the charm of the real wooden floors in our old flat. 

I kinda knew I had to opt for laminate wood flooring, and couldn't stop visualising the horrible click-in thin plastic planks which come loose after a few months if they aren't laid correctly.

There had to be better options out there. So I went on a mission and...

Then I found a flooring company called Quick-Step. Their laminate floors were so visually wood-like that I kept mistaking which was real (engineered) wood and which was a laminate on their website. 

I requested a mix of engineered wood and laminate samples and I'm not kidding, when they arrived I couldn't tell the difference AT ALL. 

We looked at the price difference between each type – in some cases laminate flooring was 50% cheaper than engineered wood, so that sort of silenced the debate in itself!

Quick-Step laminate flooring had so many pros it was an easy choice:

  • The wood print and texture is almost identical to the real thing
  • The planks come in Ultra Wide versions, with 'V' grooves between them for authenticity
  • They are SUPER hard wearing. I can clomp around in heels wherever I like and they're hard to scratch, perfect for pets.
  • Selected laminates are water resistant, meaning if I spilt a coffee or wanted to mop, it wouldn't harm the floor. I love low maintenance things.
  • It's significantly cheaper than buying engineered wood
  • Easy to lay (we got a pro to do that and he said in all the years he's laid flooring, this had to have been his favourite for the style and ease)
  •  It's compatible with underfloor heating too – a winner for our kitchen diner renovation later this year

We opted for Quick-Step's Eligna Perpective Wide Laminate Flooring – not just for the living room... but the WHOLE ground floor of our house. 

Pic taken straight after it was laid so might have needed a dust

Pic taken straight after it was laid so might have needed a dust

We thought that besides all the pros I've listed above, it would be really cohesive to have the same flooring flow all throughout the ground floor.

We have yet to lay the flooring in our hallway and kitchen-diner as we're due a big renovation/extension happening in April, but I feel so incredibly happy with the finished result in the living room that I have no doubt it'll look amazing and be durable enough to withstand high traffic and food/mopping related areas. I really can't wait. 

Oh – I should mention too, we also used Quick Step Basic Plus underlay, a thin layer which was thermo-insulating, very affordable and great for our floor underneath as it didn't require any levelling. I highly recommend it. 

I hope this has in some way settled your concerns for how 'real' laminate flooring can look in a home. Quick Step seem to have loads of wonderful options online too. I am considering a white-washed plank for when we do our bathroom. 

I think I'm hooked! But once you find a stockist you love, that works for you – it's good to always return to them. 

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Full disclosure: I approached Quick-Step to offer me discount on this review

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