If you’re in the process of furnishing your home, you might find yourself stuck somewhere between laminates and veneers, unable to make a choice. And unsure, perhaps, of the difference between the two. Often, they look similar, the choices in both can be mind-boggling.
Let’s start with the basics: what is a laminate, and what is a veneer?
Firstly, a laminate is not wood! A laminate is a man-made product that is printed to look like it has wood-grain. Laminates can be created either through printing patterns onto paper or by soaking brown papers in synthetic resins. Pre-laminated boards are laminated in the manufacturing process itself.
Veneers, on the other hand, are made of strips of wood. A thin layer of hardwood, often less than 1/8 inch in thickness, is bonded to a less expensive wood or particle board. Veneers on the surface look like a solid wood piece, but come at a much smaller cost.
Spotting the difference
It’s getting harder to spot the difference between the two, as laminates come in a range of textures and finishes. A matte or textured finish might give you the same sensation as a veneer. In general, laminates tend to feel colder and harder than wood. Unlike wood-grain, you won’t spot any original detailing on laminates.
Why it matters
You might be wondering, why you would care what the difference is. Laminates and veneers can both give you similar looks and finishes, and you might not really be interested in the finer print, so to speak.
- Firstly, there is a difference in cost. Laminates are the cheapest way to get your furniture made, while keeping your notions of style within the frame. Veneers, while not as expensive as solid wood, would come at a slightly higher price.
- Secondly, there’s the re-finishing, re-painting option. Let’s say two years down the line you’re bored with your current look and you want to just change everything. Veneers, being wood, can be stained, sandpapered or painted, as and when you like.
- Laminates, on the other hand, need to be treated a little more delicately. It’s not totally impossible to change the look but you need to go very lightly with the sandpaper. You can paint on laminates, but staining might not produce the effect you want. However, the lower costs might mean that you could just change the boards instead of re-finishing them.
- And then there’s the style quotient. If your tastes run to that classic wood finish, then you can find it in both laminates and veneers, as both can recreate the appearance and texture of solid wood. However, if you like wild colours, a smooth contemporary look, solid shades in your kitchen, then you’ll definitely prefer laminates. While veneers can be painted, you can shave off all that extra work by just choosing a laminate in the colour you want, and you’re sure to find it. The level of choice with laminates is definitely higher. Apart from the glossy and matte options, you can also go for solid colours, floral patterns or replicate the colours and patterns of a variety of woods.
- Finally, there’s maintenance. Laminates can be scratch-resistant and waterproof, but veneers need polishing from time to time, and you need to take better care of them. However, if your veneers are scratched, you can polish or re-finish them. If you do damage your laminates, you’ll probably have to replace the entire sheet.
Where to use them
Both laminates and veneers can be used to make your kitchen shutters, wardrobe shutters, or basically in any part of your home furniture that is visible and contributes to the look and style of your home.
Both give you a wide choice in terms of style, while staying kind to your budget. Remember, there’s no right choice here. When you’re deciding between veneers and laminates, keep in mind the kind of style and aesthetic you want in your home, your budget, and your potential desire to redecorate.