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The Pros and Cons of Engineered Hardwood and Laminate

Dear Bob and Betsy,
What are the pros and cons of engineered hardwood and laminate for rooms on cement slabs? I am looking to refinish my basement.
Sandy W.

Dear Sandy,

You’re making one of the toughest flooring choices homeowners have to make today – deciding between engineered hardwood and laminate flooring.

Engineered hardwood is nice because it has a top layer of real hardwood flooring without the intensive maintenance and tricky care. Laminate is also ideal because it’s so durable and still offers the same aesthetic look as hardwood flooring.

Installing Over a Concrete Slab

Keeping in mind that you’re installing your flooring over a concrete slab, there are a few tips you’ll need to remember.

First, don’t install any type of flooring over the slab until it has cured for at least 60 days. Concrete is mixed with water, which increases its moisture rating. Moisture is damaging to both engineered hardwood and laminate. Letting it cure allows it to come down to the recommended 4.5% moisture reading.

Most warranties require this moisture testing and relative humidity measurement on your concrete before installing laminate and engineered hardwoods. Check with the manufacturer for the precise range, but the relative humidity rating is generally between 35% and 55%.

You’ll also want to make sure the slab is completely level. Don’t try to do this with the naked eye. Use a contractor’s level to test the floor for any humps or dips. If you find any, sand them down or fill them up using flooring material.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Many people like using engineered hardwood flooring when installing over a concrete slab. That’s because you have the option of gluing your floors or floating them over the subfloor. You can do this directly over the concrete. You do not have to buy additional plywood to lay your engineered hardwood flooring. Most engineered hardwoods are safe for below-grade subfloors, but check with the manufacturer before purchasing for a below-grade surface.

If you plan to glue down your engineered hardwood flooring, make sure to use a premium urethane or acrylic wood adhesive. These can be pricey, which is a downside to installing this type of flooring.

If you’re floating your engineered hardwood floors, make sure to add a heavy polyurethane moisture barrier on top of the concrete slab first. To hold the planks together you’ll use adhesive glue.

Laminate Flooring

With laminate, it’s easy to float your floors over the concrete slab. Like engineered hardwood, you’ll need to use a moisture barrier. We recommend the three-in-one moisture barrier for comfort and sound protection too. This will add a little more of a softer feel to your floors, mitigating the cold, hard feel of the concrete.

Because these two floors are so similar, it’s up to you what you prefer to have in your home. Both are easily installed over concrete, but both require special care be taken to moisture levels. If you do that, you’ll have a long-lasting, beautiful floor for years to come.

Still have questions? Visit these articles below, or contact us on the Bestlaminate website!


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