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Veneer vs. Laminate – Which is right for your Cabinetry?

By Kaizad Dinshaw | Jun 2019

Veneer vs. Laminate - Nitido Design Blog

With so many material options out there, it can get confusing.  In this article, we’d like to outline the fundamental differences, applications, and benefits of these two finishes. 

Material Difference

In the interior design industry, decorative laminates are usually made by combining a base layer of resin impregnated paper aggregate with a printed decorative top layer. The two are then bonded together under high pressure among other processes.  This allows laminates to be durable, scratch-resistant, and cost-effective finish for home interior design.

A decorative veneer on the other hand is very thin shaving of real wood, glued to a thin plywood base. The top layer that you see is real wood so it gives a very natural feel. 

Advantages of Wood Veneers

  • Because the top layer of a veneer is natural wood, most decorative veneers can be polished in the same way as natural woods.
  • Veneers are available in a wide range of species and cuts allowing the designer maximum flexibility. Veneers work well for implementing unique home décor ideas.
  • Natural wood veneers are also very convenient to transport and handle making them the top choice for luxury home interior design.
  • Natural wood veneers can be re-polished from time to time. This can help in dealing with minor scratches and to keep a piece looking new.

Drawbacks of Wood Veneers

  • Decorative veneers are by nature more delicate than laminates and are susceptible to dents and scratches. The surface layer and edges of a natural wood veneer are always softer than those of laminates. Thus care must be used in deciding where to use them.
  • Wood veneers almost always require to be polished after installation. This is best done with a sprayer machine using a melamine or polyurethane based polish. This adds to cost and requires more time on site.
  • Wood veneers are very sensitive to water and humidity. This can spoil the polish or even damage the veneer permanently.

Advantages of Laminates

  • Laminates are by design, more resistant to scratching or denting.
  • Laminates are not susceptible to staining or water damage. This makes them suitable for areas such as kitchen and bathroom interior design where the risk of water damage is present.
  • Laminates are easy to transport and are more cost-effective than natural wood veneers.
  • Laminates once installed require no polishing. This makes their use more time saving than veneers.

Drawbacks of Laminates

  • A laminate unlike a veneer does not have any natural wood layer. They are generally considered to be a less premium looking product when compared to a veneer.
  • Once scratched, a decorative laminate cannot be repaired. The only way to deal with the scratch is to remove and replace the laminate. This is a difficult and time-consuming process.

Cost Comparison

Decorative veneers use real wood overlays from many different species of trees from around the world. The procurement, selection, sorting, matching and processing of the same is a complex process comprising of many different steps and sources. This is generally why decorative veneers are more expensive than decorative laminates.

Decorative laminates on the other hand are a factory made product from easily available and mass-produced raw materials. This makes them more cost effective than veneers.

Veneer:

Generic Species: Rs. 60-300 /sq ft
Exotic species:Rs. 300-2000/sq ft

Laminate:

Basic:Rs. 20-40/ sq ft
Designer:Rs. 40-80/ sq ft

Which is right for me?

Eventually this depends upon where you intend to use them in your home interiors and upon budgets. Veneers are better suited to areas where a rich and natural look is desired, such as wall paneling, cabinetry (in dry areas), living room interior design and bedroom furniture. Laminates are better suited to areas where durability and ease of maintenance is an important factor, such as kitchen cabinetry, bathroom, or the interior of wardrobes.

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