How can you tell the difference between laminate flooring and 'real' hardwood floors? And which one is better?
The easiest way to tell the difference is to look for variations in the wood pattern. If it's a laminate floor, you'll see the same knots, grain and other features repeated throughout your floor.
The other major difference is that hardwood floors dent more easily and don't stand up to heavy traffic as well as laminate flooring. That's why people end up re-sanding and re-finishing their floors periodically.
For people who like the "feel" of real wood, and don't mind paying a premium for it, then hardwood is the way to go. Your floor will "weather" with age - but that is often considered one of the nicest features of hardwood floors.
Hardwood floors generally cost 20 to 25% more than a comparable laminate floor. But you might earn that money back in the long run, since hardwood floors often increase the resale value of your home.
However, if you're looking for a floor that's easy to install and easy to care for, and will withstand the heavy traffic of normal family life, laminate flooring is an option that's very hard to beat!