The Competition: Laminate

A sheet of fiberboard topped with a high-resolution wood-grain image on paper and coated with melamine mimics the look of solid boards but is just 6 to 12 millimeters thick; a surface embossing gives it texture. These DIY-friendly click-and-lock floating planks go everywhere engineered wood can and are a safer bet in bathrooms and laundry rooms, where drips can wreak havoc on real wood. Laminate is about half the price of wood, costing just $1 to $6 per square foot, but you may notice a hollow, clicking sound when you walk on this thin floor. And while the clear top coat resists scratches and stains, this type of floor can't be refinished if damaged.

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