I am changing my carpet to laminate/wood flooring. I was told laminate is more durable and better on the budget. I have been in homes and businesses since deciding to do this and when walking on the floors it sounds hollow...I do not want this for my home. Is it like this with all laminate? Can you suggest anything that would be nice, durable and affordable?
First, we should clarify terms. Hardwood is pretty clear...it refers to solid wood that is nailed and/or glued to a subfloor.
Laminate is a it fuzzier. It's sometimes used to refer to Pergo, which is a flooring that has a top surface that is actually printed paper. It's fine, but not as durable as engineered laminates, which are more like plywood...having a solid wood top surface.
For this discussions, we'll omit the Pergo option as that's usually reserved for cheap rentals and the like.
Between engineered laminate and hardwood, it's really impossible to say one is more or less durable than the other, as it will heavily depend on the quality of the manufacturing, the protective finishing and, of course, the actual species of wood being used.
As for the 'hollow' sound, yes, laminates will sound like that because they float on top of of the floor rather than being connected directly to the subfloor. But you can reduce that by choosing a quality underlayment. I've had success personally using cork as an underlayment.
Today, I usually choose engineered flooring because:
- it's cheaper
- quick to installe
- more dimensionally stable in climates where you have swings of high/low humidity
However, hardwood flooring has one huge benefit over laminate:
- it can be refinished.
The latter means a hardwood floor can last many, many decades.
Yes. Laminate is better on the budget. Because it's shreddered waste wood with printed paper on it and covered with transparent plastic.
Durability depends on the specific kind of wood flooring. Since wooden floors are also used in public areas with lots of customers walking on them, there are obvioisly very robust kinds of wooden floorings.
Whether the flooring sounds hollow or not is determined by how the flooring is put on the ground. Laminate flooring usually just lays on the floor while wooden floorings often get glued. A glued flooring won't sound hollow.
The durability of laminate greatly depends on the conditions put against the laminate. Large dogs will typically scratch/dent laminate when they run across it with there claws. Laminate does not do well in wet areas. And things dropped on it will dent it. Also the finish on laminate can develop small scratches if you don't keep the floor clean in high traffic areas. Same goes for under rocking horses/chairs and desk chairs. A lot of this goes for low end engineered floor as well. When choosing between laminate and carpet, take this in mind.
As for the sound. Carpet does a great job at removing echos from a room and damping sound. Laminate or wood, typically will reflect sound causing an echo. But if you have a room with enough furniture and a area rug, this will be enough to dampen the sound in a room. Also a good underlay under the laminate will help remove the noise when it is walked on.
I have laminate in my basement, it feels hollow because it floats and I am fine with it. I don't think I would want it in my living room though. Mainly because of the look. I have also walked on some engineered bamboo hardwood click and lock floating flooring that feels amazingly solid. I think you would be happy with engineered hardwood. You would need to find a real flooring store that has some you can walk on.
All the other answers are great, yet they do not use the definitions I have consistently seen in a lot of literature describing the various options. I am adding an answer which uses the definitions I have seen consistently:
- Wood or Hardwood - This is a floor made of real wood all the way through. The different species of trees that provide the wood will have different characteristics. Generally, the denser the wood, the more durable it is (and often, the more expensive it is).
- Engineered Hardwood - This is a floor with a thin layer (typically 2mm-3mm) of real wood on top and layers of some other material underneath (such as plywood). Engineered hardwoods are often considered as durable as some of the most durable (and expensive) hardwoods and some engineered hardwoods can be as costly as real wood. Engineered hardwoods can hold up to some light sanding--perhaps one or two "refinishes" throughout the life of the floor. As far as the home resale "wow" factor of the floor, engineered hardwoods tend to sit as more of a mid-tier floor between real hardwood (high-end) and laminate (cheap) even if the engineered hardwood floor costs more than a real hardwood floor.
- Laminate - This is a floor made with printed pictures of wood (or other textures) for the top layer. The top layer has been laminated to the lower layers that give the floor its durability (such as plywood or particleboard). This is often considered a very low-end finish, but it is very affordable and generally very durable.
Also, there are a lot of factors that play into the look, durability, and affordability of each type of floor (e.g. broader boards of software real hardwood can be more expensive than thinner strips of a denser hardwood). With the above generalities in hand, I recommend looking through some flooring options and then consulting with a flooring salesperson to see which flooring option might best suited your needs. With a little research beforehand, you can make sure the salesperson isn't just trying to sell you on the most expensive option.
Specifically addressing the "hollow" sound. This is almost always because an underlayment was omitted, or they used a type of flooring with attached underlay, which almost never works as well as an independent layer. Underlay should be used with all "click-lock" or similar floating floors. Glue down or nail down flooring (which includes some varieties of laminate and engineered hardwood) does not require an underlayment.
In terms of underlay, you have almost as many options as the flooring itself. If going over concrete, you need to be sure it's a moisture barrier as well as cushion. Over plywood you can usually skip the moisture barrier, but it can be worth investing in a thicker variety. There are specialized options that tout their "sound dampening" or "confort" features. In general, you won't do a lot better than a simple foam underlay, and get it as thick as your budget allows.