Laminate vs. Veneer – What is the Actual Difference Between Them?

​Whether you are thinking of getting some new flooring done, or trying to decide on your new home or office furniture, a common question that might arise is regarding what material to choose as an alternative to real wood. The two main alternatives that come to mind immediately are laminate and veneer.

Though they might seem quite similar or even exactly alike to some, truth be told, there are quite a few major differences between laminating and veneering.

Using one of these options over the other can create significant differences in both the pricing of your furniture as well as its overall strength and durability.

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In short, “Laminate” is basically a surface that has been printed on, to make it seem like wood or real wood; generally, its base is made out of plastic.

Veneer is actually quite different to laminate in this regard. This is because even though the core material or base could be some cheap material like saw dust wood or even plywood, veneer itself is made of real hardwood.

However, it is usually a very thin layer of hardwood and is attached or applied on top of the cheaper material with glue to make the material sturdier than it originally was.

Laminate

Laminate, a man-made product, is basically manufactured by compression or the pressing thin sheets of flat papers, plastic or other materials together. Once they are forced together, the upper layer of the product is then printed with colors or decorative patterns, usually to make it seem like real wood.

Since laminate is a product of artificial manufacturing, it tends to be quite strong, making the product more durable.

Often times, laminate is scratchproof and heatproof meaning it’s resistant to scratches and heat to an extent, making the flooring or the laminated product easier to take care of. Due to being artificially manufactured, it’s also easier to maintain than real wood or wood veneer, in most cases.

Also, as laminated products are easier to produce and usually made out of plastic base, the prices of the furniture made out of laminated materials are quite cheap and budget friendly.

However, there is a downside to using laminate products. Despite having endless color combination that you can choose for, ultimately being a printed manmade surface, laminate will never achieve the same natural color variations like those of real wood, making it look slightly artificial at times.

Pros

  • Realistic wooden look
  • Not vulnerable to moisture
  • Scratches can be fixed

Cons

  • Prawn to damage
  • Not wood

Wood Veneer

Veneer is, as already mentioned, a very thin and slender sheet of actual hardwood on top of a base made out of a cheaper and weaker base like plywood. However, it is a natural material, and real wood, so hence, upon being applied on top of a plywood base, veneer puts out a much more varied and rich look.

Nevertheless, crafting and making of the veneer sheet or layer is quite difficult and requires a lot of effort, making the prices of the option slightly higher than those of the laminate alternatives.

But, the sheet or layer of real hard wood is usually very thin, as thin as or thinner than 1/8th of an inch, with very cheap material like plywood or particleboards. So, it is still much cheaper than whole solid wood furniture.

Hence, you can choose to design your home or office with beautiful, natural looking furniture with wood veneer at a relatively cheaper cost.

Unfortunately, because veneer is more of a natural product, they are not as strong as the laminate alternatives and hence, they are also more prone to getting dents and scratches on them upon direct impact.

So, if you decide to select furniture made out of veneer, you have to keep in mind that, despite veneer giving more of a premium look to your furniture, it is more delicate than the laminate alternatives and the products are, therefore, harder to protect and care for.

You might even have to get furniture made out of veneer polished every now and then to make sure that their natural rich look is sustained and maintained.

Pros

  • Low price compared to solid wood
  • Heat and water resistant
  • Has a more premium feel

Cons

  • You cannot fix scratches
  • Can get damaged by water

Which Alternative to Choose?

Deciding whether to select veneer or laminate furniture basically comes down to choosing between a more reliable and durable product and one that looks and feels natural, giving out a more solid, premium look.

If you want your furniture to last longer and you can’t take care of it very regularly, then the laminate variations will be the better option for you. But, if you want your office or home furniture to look more natural, wood veneer is definitely the way to go.

It is to be noted that despite laminate being the stronger option, these cheaper alternatives will only last as long as it is the top layer.

Though it will resist to scratches and heat, once you have managed to somehow damage the top layer of laminate furniture, the compressed material inside the base won’t last too long after that.

On the other hand, if you manage to maintain and take care of furniture made out of wood veneer, and polish it in regular intervals, it may even outlast a laminate product.

The choice between veneer and the laminate variation for your furniture can also depend on where you want to use the particular furniture.

As laminate is stronger, resistant to scratch, and most importantly, heatproof, laminate furniture variations would be more appropriate to use in the kitchen or any place that require regular use.

However, in case of furniture that will be used to mainly make visual impacts or make statements, veneer would be a much better and more appropriate option as it gives out a more elegant, aesthetic and rich look.

Conclusion

In conclusion, despite the popular opinion suggesting that you should pick veneer when you have more of a luxurious budget as well as that laminate is the only way to go if you need your furniture to last longer, the truth of the matter is that both of them are much cheaper alternatives to real wood.

Also, you can make your veneer last much longer than your laminate variations if you know how to maintain it. So, both of these wood alternatives should be considered equally heavily the next time you think of getting new furniture for your home or office.

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