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Flooring: How Do You Pick Between Wood and Laminate?

Local expert Jim Vonch of Schilling Lumber suggests you dig in to questions about your own lifestyle before you dig into a home improvement flooring project.

Wood or laminate? It’s not Shakespeare—but that is the question many homeowners ask before tackling an indoor home improvement flooring project.

Jim Vonch, a flooring sales rep with Schilling Design Center and Lumber in Mokena, likes to ask customers a few questions before he comes up with his answer.

What area of the home are you interested in doing? What kind of lifestyle do you lead? Do you have pets? Kids?

After Vonch gathers this bit of personal information, then he offers his advice and often makes his recommendations. He starts with this: There are pros and cons to both wood and laminate flooring products.

Hardwood products will scratch and show dents. Most stained wood floors will undergo a change in color over time, albeit even a slight change in some cases. But hardwood floors can be resurfaced.

Laminate flooring does not fade from sunlight, but it can show signs of wear and tear, too. While some companies make touch-up and chip repair kits, laminates cannot be refinished. And most laminates require padding to reduce the floor’s potential for noise.

“As far as hardwood, you’ve got the warmth of the wood,” Vonch said. “Who doesn’t like wood? It’s a beautiful thing. Everyone’s concern is, ‘Will this scratch?’ All wood products are going to scratch no matter how dense and how hard the product is—if it’s soft—they’re both going to scratch equally.

“Some products hide the scratches better than other products. A semi-gloss finish will help. A mate finish will help hid those scratches more. The higher the gloss, the more the scratches show. The texture, too, in the wood helps camouflage surface scratches.”

Vonch said it’s important for homeowners to arrive at a price point: How much do you want to spend on your flooring project? And ask this question, too: Are you going to do it yourself? Or hire a pro to handle the installation?

Low-end hardwood flooring sells for about $2.79 a square foot, he said. High end products sell for $12-$13 a square foot—or more. Laminate products run a similar price range gamut.

Vonch doesn’t like to focus too much on price, though.

“I usually don’t worry about price right off the bat,” he said. “I try to kind of pre-qualify (customers) a little bit. I just don’t come out and ask. I don’t want to insult anybody when it comes to that.

“I start figuring it out. If I shoot them a price and show them a product—that just comes from, ‘How long are you going to be in your home?’ Do you plan on being there a while?’ I start figuring out things through questions like that.

“If you’re not going to be there a while, yeah, you want something that’s going to be nice. Maybe in three years when you sell it, it will still look really nice. But you don’t spend a lot of money and you can get a really nice looking floor.”

COMING SATURDAY: Log on at 6 a.m. Saturday to hear what Schilling Lumber's Jim Vonch has to say about one of the hottest selling hardwood products in his showroom—exotic walnut. Plus, his tips for do-it-yourselfers.

Ron Kremer January 24, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Hi, thanks for the comment. My experience is "cheapest" doesn't always equal the best product or the best service. What's your take?
Bob Laird January 24, 2013 at 04:18 PM
I don't know if it's even available anymore, but when I used laminate in my kitchen I purposely used the glue together type just for the reason you stated, water incursion. We have had very good luck with it so far, it has been many years. I also had a box left over that the store wouldn't take back, so I covered my workbench with it. I takes a beating and still cleans up nice. Pain in the rear to glue and clamp it together, but pays off in the long run.
Jeff Schilling January 24, 2013 at 09:17 PM
No one beats the Schilling price! Come in to our Mokena location at the corner of 191st & LaGrange. We stock a wide selection, but can also order you what you need. We are also a family business (Since 1945).
Landmark Flooring January 24, 2013 at 11:58 PM
I would debate that just a little Jeff. You and I both know how this works. You may get a promo on one thing but i can call the rep and get the same price as you....Let the public decide where they want to spend thier money.I admit your bigger than us but we dont mind being the small fry as long as the playing field is level. Best Regards :)
Phyllis Schwarts December 06, 2013 at 10:19 AM
I personally prefer laminate flooring, if anyone is interested in laminate flooring then be sure to check out <a href="http://www.carpetsuperstores.ca/laminate-m.php">laminate flooring edmonton</a>. Laminate flooring is originally from Europe, and it is an easy, inexpensive way to make your home look elegant.

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