Wood Veneers and Laminates: The Two Most Commonly Used Surfacing Solutions
From cabinetry to furniture, from walls to ceilings, wood veneers and laminates find universal applicability as surfacing solutions. Both veneers and laminates are known for their aesthetic appeal, performance, and affordability. While veneers and laminates enjoy equal popularity and market share, it often becomes a confusing task to pick the better surfacing solution between both. To make an informed decision in this case, one must be aware of the nitty-gritty of both veneers and laminates.
Coming to the composition, wood veneers are simply put, a thin slice of precisely cut wood, taken from a large log; on the other hand, laminates can be described as multi-layered sheets of plastic and paper resins glued together. Though both laminates and veneers are pasted on surfaces of solid wood, composite wood, or medium-density fibreboard (MDF), there are a few key differences that give these surfacing solutions a plethora of features.
Let us first explore wood veneers. As described previously, wood veneers are thin slices of wood taken from large logs of wood. Each tree is unique in nature; as the veneers are directly derived from timber, each sheet of veneer has its own uniqueness and texture, giving it a stunning appeal. The natural patterns of wood veneer make it a more organic as well as exquisite looking surfacing solution. As a matter of fact, several high-end veneers can match the looks and charm of real solid wood, making them a plush-looking surfacing solution.
Much like solid wood, veneer sheets can also be polished, coloured, stained, and textured according to one’s taste. People with a specific design and colour scheme in mind can opt for a veneer sheet and polish it to achieve the hue and grain that goes with the set colour scheme. Moreover, quality workmanship and proper installation can ensure a long lifetime. Generally speaking, wood veneers are known to last for at least 15 years if installed and maintained well.
From sustainability and eco-friendliness standpoint, wood veneers can be considered highly sustainable and environmentally friendly than solid wood and laminates. Wood veneers mimic the appeal and charm of solid wood, thereby decreasing the demand for solid wood furniture, ultimately resulting in less deforestation. As a matter of fact, a single log of timber can produce several pieces of wood veneer, which can in turn be applied over a slew of surfaces made from engineered wood and as a result, eliminating the necessity of solid wood furniture altogether.
Now that we have explored all the features of wood veneers, let us dive into the world of laminates. Laminates, as described previously, are a combination of paper and plastic resins glued as one. While wood veneers are natural products, laminates are man-made factory manufactured products. Moreover, the cost of producing laminates is less as well, making them highly affordable as well as a cheap surfacing solution when compared to veneers. Laminates are pre-printed in nature, meaning that a wide range of natural variations cannot be obtained. However, as laminates are factory-made, they can be found in a plethora of designs, and in bespoke options as well. For example, laminates can be obtained in glossy, rough, wood, stone, marble, and several other textures.
Laminates are a byproduct of two layers compressed together, which ultimately results in great material strength. As a matter of fact, laminates are resistant to heat, moisture, stains, and scratches, unlike veneers. Their high performance nature makes laminates highly suitable to several high-traffic commercial areas prone to moisture, humidity, and frequent usage. Generally speaking, most laminate manufacturers tend to provide a ten-year warranty at least.
By now, it is clear that both veneers and laminates come with exciting offerings. While laminates are highly affordable and sturdy, veneers are elegant, slightly expensive, and aesthetically superior. Continuing on the subject, let us now look into the downsides of both laminates and veneers.
When it comes to veneers, their lack of resistance towards stains and scratches can be a major disadvantage. Veneers are much softer when compared to laminates; once the polished upper layers of the veneer start wearing off, it becomes highly susceptible to scratches and abrasions. Moreover, veneers cannot cope with moisture; excess moisture and humidity result in the formation of bubbles and warping. Due to their poor moisture and abrasion resistance, veneers are not compatible for application in areas such as kitchens and bathrooms.
Coming to laminates, one of the most pronounced downsides is the fact that they cannot be sanded, polished, textured, or stained, limiting the possibilities to alter the looks and up the ante in terms of aesthetics. Moreover, laminates contain plastic, making them a non-renewable and thereby, a less sustainable product. Several laminates contain resins, which are known to release harmful gases in a few cases. Finally, the edges and corners of laminate finished surfaces are highly prone to clipping and breaking. Once broken, laminates have to be replaced entirely, resulting in a painstaking and money-sinking ordeal.
Veneers and laminates, regardless of their downsides are a highly reliable surfacing solution. To make the most out of both these surfacing solutions, one has to emphasize on installing them correctly, and in the right areas. Veneers are more compatible in low-traffic environments where aesthetics are a priority. Laminates, on the other hand are more suitable for high-traffic areas where functionality is prioritized overlooks.