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What Is the Downside to Laminate Flooring?

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By Donovan Carrington

If you're thinking about laminate flooring, keep in mind it's prone to scratches, wear, moisture-related swelling, and has a limited 10-20 year lifespan. You can't sand or refinish it, and it doesn't resist moisture as well as hardwood. Consider these factors before making your decision.

Quick Overview

  • Prone to scratches and wear, especially in high-traffic areas.
  • Susceptible to swelling and moisture damage, leading to warping.
  • Limited lifespan of 10-20 years, requiring replacement sooner than hardwood.
  • Cannot be sanded or refinished, leading to higher long-term costs.
  • Lower moisture resistance compared to hardwood, necessitating careful maintenance.

Susceptibility to Scratches and Wear

If you're considering laminate flooring, be aware that its susceptibility to scratches and wear is a common concern due to factors like high-traffic areas and furniture movement.

The wear layer on laminate flooring, designed to protect the image layer underneath, may not hold up well against abrasive cleaning methods. This can result in visible scratches and wear over time, especially in areas where there's heavy foot traffic or frequent use.

To combat this issue, regular maintenance and protective measures are key. Simple steps like using furniture pads under heavy items can help minimize scratches caused by furniture movement. Additionally, avoiding harsh chemicals and abrasive cleaning methods will preserve the integrity of the wear layer.

Direct sunlight exposure can also contribute to wear and fading of the image layer, impacting the overall appearance of the laminate flooring. By taking these protective measures, you can prolong the lifespan of your laminate flooring and maintain its aesthetic appeal.

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Prone to Swelling and Moisture Damage

Laminate flooring is particularly susceptible to swelling and moisture damage, especially in areas prone to high humidity or exposure to water. When moisture penetrates the seams between laminate planks, it can lead to swelling, warping, and potential water damage. This not only affects the appearance of the flooring but also creates an environment where mold and mildew can thrive. To mitigate these risks, additional waterproofing measures may be necessary, especially in rooms with elevated humidity levels. However, high humidity can still accelerate the distortion of laminate flooring, impacting its longevity and structural integrity. In such moisture-prone areas, it may be prudent to explore alternative flooring options that are more resistant to water damage.

  • Swelling and warping are common issues with laminate flooring exposed to moisture.
  • Water damage can occur when moisture seeps into the seams between laminate planks.
  • High humidity levels can accelerate the deterioration of laminate flooring.
  • Considering alternative flooring options for rooms with high moisture levels is advisable.

Limited Lifespan of 10-20 Years

Considering the limited lifespan of 10-20 years for laminate flooring, homeowners may find themselves facing more frequent replacements compared to options like solid hardwood floors that can endure a lifetime with proper care. The longevity of laminate flooring is influenced by the quality of the materials used and the maintenance practices employed.

While laminate floors offer an initial affordability advantage over hardwood or tile options, the need for replacing them more often can greatly increase long-term costs. Opting for solid hardwood floors, although requiring higher upfront investment, can prove to be more cost-effective in the long run due to their durability and longevity.

See also  How to Install Waterproof Laminate Flooring

Hence, it's essential to weigh the pros and cons of different flooring options based on your preferences, budget, and long-term maintenance considerations to make an informed decision that aligns with your needs and expectations.

Cannot Be Sanded and Refinished

When attempting to address scratches or wear on laminate flooring, you encounter a significant limitation – the inability to sand and refinish the surface. Unlike hardwood floors, laminate flooring can't be sanded down to eliminate imperfections. The top layer of laminate is a fixed high-resolution image that can't be altered by sanding, limiting your options for enhancing its appearance.

Here are some key points to keep in mind regarding the refinishing limitations of laminate flooring:

  • Laminate flooring can't be sanded to eliminate scratches or wear.
  • The top layer image of laminate flooring can't be restored.
  • Damaged planks in laminate flooring require replacement as they can't be rejuvenated through sanding.
  • The inability to sand and refinish laminate flooring may lead to higher long-term costs due to the need for replacements.

Lower Resistance Compared to Hardwood

Compared to hardwood, laminate flooring exhibits lower resistance to moisture, leaving it vulnerable to swelling and warping. This lack of moisture resistance can be a significant drawback, as it may lead to damage over time.

Hardwood, on the other hand, is known for its durability and ability to withstand moisture better. Unlike hardwood floors that can be sanded and refinished to address issues, laminate flooring doesn't offer the same level of longevity and maintenance options.

Additionally, laminate floors lack the natural warmth and charm that hardwood brings to a space. Over time, laminate flooring may show wear and tear more visibly than hardwood, impacting its overall value.

See also  How to Install Laminate Flooring on Stairs

While laminate flooring is cost-effective initially, the lower resistance to moisture and susceptibility to swelling and warping may result in higher maintenance costs in the long run.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Should You Not Use Laminate Flooring?

In areas prone to moisture like bathrooms, kitchens, or basements, you should avoid using laminate flooring due to susceptibility to water damage. High humidity can cause swelling, warping, and mold, making it unsuitable for those spaces.

What Is a Common Problem With Laminate Flooring?

In high-moisture areas, laminate flooring's vulnerability to water damage becomes a major concern. Seams between planks are prone to letting water in, potentially leading to swelling, warping, and even mold growth.

Does Laminate Flooring Damage Easily?

Laminate flooring can indeed damage easily, especially in high-traffic areas or with heavy furniture. It may swell or warp from moisture exposure, fade in sunlight, and lacks the refinishing option of hardwood floors for repairs.

What Is Better Laminate or Vinyl?

When comparing laminate and vinyl flooring, consider factors like water resistance, scratch resistance, ease of installation, comfort, and realistic wood look. Your choice may depend on your priorities, such as durability, aesthetics, or DIY friendliness.


To sum up, laminate flooring may offer affordability and easy installation, but it comes with downsides such as susceptibility to scratches, moisture damage, and limited lifespan.

Unlike hardwood, laminate can't be sanded and refinished, making it less durable in the long run.

Consider these drawbacks before choosing laminate for your flooring needs.

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Donovan Carrington


Donovan Carrington, a flooring expert with extensive experience of over 25 years, is the driving force behind Flooring Explorer. Initially working as a flooring installer, Donovan gained hands-on experience with different flooring materials such as hardwood, laminate, vinyl, and tile. His profound knowledge and expertise in flooring technologies and installation techniques have established him as a respected authority in the industry.