What Does Laminate Flooring Feel Like?
Laminate flooring has been a favorite on the flooring scene for many decades and is the go-to alternative to solid hardwood flooring.
Many homeowners and DIYers flock to it because not only is it more cost-effective, but it is also super easy to install, attractive, durable, and always on-trend.
Since its introduction in the late 1970s, flooring companies have perfected the production of laminate flooring.
The manufacturing technology can now create flooring with sharper high-definition imaging and more detailed embossing that can leave you questioning whether or not you’re looking at a laminate or natural hardwood.
A common question people often have, though, is what laminate flooring feels like, and that’s what we will be looking at in this article.
Laminate flooring comes in many different finishes and textures that impact how it feels. Some laminates feature an embossed or wire-brushed texture that feels like natural hardwood, whereas others feature a smoother, shinier texture and a high-gloss finish that resembles varnished hardwood.
Read on to learn more about what laminate flooring feels like, including whether it’s hard or soft and whether a laminate can be convincing enough to be mistaken for a hardwood floor.
What Does Laminate Flooring Feel Like?
Laminate flooring can come in various textures, colors, effects, and finishes to help you achieve the look you are aiming for.
While some types of laminate flooring have a smooth, high gloss finish, others try to be more authentic with an embossed texture on the top layer, which helps emulate a natural wood feel.
At the cheaper end of the market, laminate flooring tends to feel smoother, whereas if you look at higher-end laminate flooring options, you will find even more choices of finishes and textures available.
Does Laminate Flooring Feel Like Wood?
Laminate flooring can replicate the appearance of natural wood through its meticulously designed photographic layer, which sits on top of the fibreboard layer.
In most cases, laminate flooring can get away with looking like natural hardwood flooring, at least from a distance.
Unlike real hardwood flooring, which has a natural grain that includes various imperfections, knots, and textures, laminate is a manufactured material that can only replicate the look and feel of natural wood to a certain extent.
Having said that, the higher-end and more expensive laminate floors do an excellent job of replicating the feel of natural wood through embossing and wire brushing.
Under the foot, hardwood flooring will feel solid when you walk on it, whereas laminates will often feel lighter or more springy because it has not been nailed or glued down to the subfloor below.
Does Laminate Flooring Have Texture?
Laminate flooring comes in various designs, each of which creates a different texture or aesthetic appearance.
The beauty of laminate flooring is that you can get just about any look or texture you want; whether that is smooth, satin, brushed, oiled, wood grain, or gloss, there will be a laminate floor to suit your taste.
In the early days of its production, laminate flooring had a smoother finish, making it quite slippery and hazardous. Since then, manufacturers have developed a whole host of textured and slip-resistant layers for people to choose from.
If you’re looking for a more authentic and traditional feel, textured laminate could be a good option as this looks more like natural wood and, in many cases, it’s impossible to distinguish from the real thing.
Textured laminate is also available in a stone effect, meaning you can get highly realistic stone tile laminate flooring for a fraction of the cost of solid stone slabs.
Wire brushing or embossing the top layer of laminate flooring gives it a distressed and realistic appearance. The embossed texture should follow the photo pattern or decorative layer underneath, making the finished product look and feel as authentic as possible.
Laminate flooring can also have a smooth or satin finish, more resembling a varnished hardwood flooring. The smoother top surface makes this type of laminate floor easy to clean and maintain, which is a massive plus for many homeowners out there.
High gloss finish laminate flooring is extremely shiny and smooth, so it doesn’t feel textured like authentic hardwood flooring. It also doesn’t show any of the imperfections, indents, or ridges that you’d typically see in a real piece of wooden flooring. Instead, the finish is sleek and modern, though it does require a lot more maintenance to keep it looking clean and streak-free.
Ultimately, the type of texture you choose will most likely depend on how you want it to feel when you walk on it, whether you want it to look authentic and how easy it is to maintain and clean.
Whether you go for a textured, smooth, or gloss finish laminate, each one comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so it’ll be about finding the one that suits your needs best.
Generally speaking, textured laminate tends to be more realistic and will hide dirt, scratches, and small indents better, making it a popular choice among homeowners and DIYers.
Is Laminate Flooring Soft or Hard?
Laminate flooring is made from a blend of natural and artificially engineered materials, making it hard, durable, long-lasting, and practical.
When picking out new flooring, many factors come into play to help you decide what’s right for you.
For example, in a communal room such as the kitchen, you may be looking for more durable and hardwearing flooring that can withstand day-to-day wear.
When durability is a deciding factor, laminate flooring is often a popular choice because it ticks all of those boxes.
The core of a laminate floorboard consists of a sturdy HDF board (high-density fiberboard), as shown below, which provides stability to make it hard underfoot and even partly water-resistant.
On top of the HDF board is the pattern or design layer, which also has a melamine resin coating applied, making the hard flooring even more resistant to scratches, accidental drops, and dents.
- A transparent protective layer on the top.
- A design layer featuring the laminate floor’s pattern.
- A fiberboard core which gives the floor its rigidity.
- A backing layer at the bottom which provides moisture resistance to the underside of the board.
While solid hardwood flooring is a firm favorite for those who can afford it, laminate flooring is a more affordable and practical alternative if you’re looking for a hard flooring that still very much looks like natural wood.
Some types of laminate flooring can also mimic natural stone tiles, allowing you to achieve another style of hard flooring for a fraction of the cost.
To give you a better idea of how hard laminate flooring is, if you were to compare it with other types of flooring, such as cork, vinyl, or carpet, it would outrank them all in terms of hardness and durability.
Laminate is a brilliant flooring option for many different reasons, so if you’re looking for a durable and hardwearing floor, it is one worth considering.
The Issue of an Overly Soft Laminate Floor
If you have laminate flooring installed somewhere in your house and you’ve noticed it is starting to feel soft or spongy, this is usually the sign it has become damaged.
Generally speaking, there are usually six conditions that could be causing the damage:
- An uneven subfloor.
- An issue with the underlay, for example, using the wrong type.
- An issue with the floor’s expansion gap, for example, it’s too small or hasn’t been included at all.
- Water damage.
- Termite damage.
- Structural problems with the subfloor, for example, damaged joists.
It’s essential to identify the cause of the damage quickly, so you can take action in fixing the problem.
Fortunately, the majority of these issues can be solved quickly and without the need for professional help.
If you’ve found a soft spot in your laminate floor, you could perform a quick repair on it by injecting spray foam using an air infiltration syringe/needle.
In other situations where the damage is more significant, you may need to redo the underlayment, even the subfloor, by using a thin-set mortar or even replace the damaged boards altogether.
Can You Tell the Difference Between Laminate and Hardwood?
When investing in a new floor, homeowners often find themselves trying to decide between hardwood and laminate.
Hardwood is a natural product made from 100% solid wood, whereas laminate consists of several materials fused under a transparent protective layer.
Laminate flooring is often the more popular choice because not only is it the more affordable option of the two, but it’s more practical, easier to install, and, in many cases, it looks very similar to natural hardwood.
As you’d probably expect, the higher quality the laminate is, the harder it will be to tell it apart from natural hardwood flooring.
While cheaper laminate can look authentic from afar, the photographic layer — a pre-designed pattern made to imitate a wooden effect — can look fake upon closer inspection. In most cases, it’s easier to see that the laminate doesn’t have any of the imperfections that natural wood does.
Natural wood is distinguishable by its texture and the variation in the wood grain, as shown below, which is something that cheaper laminate can’t replicate.
Cheap laminate flooring can also sound hollow when you walk in it and, if fitted poorly, the joints between the boards are easy to pick out.
However, it is more challenging to tell the difference between a premium laminate and hardwood flooring. By increasing your budget, you’re more likely to get a more authentic laminate that even a flooring connoisseur would have to closely inspect to determine its authenticity.
Manufacturers of higher quality laminate flooring tend to put more detail in the photograph layer, ensuring it emulates authentic hardwood flooring by showing more detail, imperfections, and texture.
Unlike natural wood, laminate flooring will always have a repeating pattern. While it may not be as apparent on more expensive laminates, if you look hard enough, you will be able to make it out. On the other hand, hardwood flooring is made from solid wood, meaning that each floorboard will be unique.
Another way you could tell the difference between laminate and hardwood flooring is the texture. Real wood will have a more natural texture, whereas many laminates will feel smooth and synthetic.
Certain types of laminate do have a slight texture to them, achieved through techniques such as wire brushing and embossing during the manufacturing process. This method gives the laminate a rougher surface which makes it feel a lot more natural and authentic.
While laminate flooring generally does an excellent job of looking like natural wood from afar, it doesn’t always feel the same to touch.
High gloss or polished laminate flooring tends to feel smooth and untextured, though you could say this is what a varnished hardwood floor also feels like.
You can also get textured laminate flooring, which tends to feel more like natural wood because it mimics the surface of the grain.