Vinyl vs. Laminate Flooring: Which Is Best for Your Home?
Vinyl flooring and laminate flooring are both affordable, durable, and customizable. However, they also have many differences. Discover which is best for your next flooring project.
Over the years, flooring manufacturers have innovated and upgraded the materials they use to create great options for homeowners. Laminate and vinyl flooring are both ideal if you’re looking for durable and affordable flooring. They also both come in a variety of styles to mimic authentic wood, tile, and stone. So how do you decide which is best for your home?
While vinyl and laminate flooring have a lot in common, there are a handful of important contrasts. When you’re deciding which to install in your home, it’s best to consider the needs of your home and the room you’re renovating. Qualities like being waterproof or comfortable to stand on can make or break your decision.
Learn about the differences between vinyl flooring and laminate flooring, as well as the pros and cons of each.
What Is Vinyl Flooring?
Vinyl flooring is made of a number of layers that build a durable and waterproof floor. Its solid vinyl core is topped with a printed vinyl layer and a wear layer. These synthetic materials work to enhance your floor’s moisture resistance, as water can sit for long periods of time without causing damage. Homeowners can choose from many types of vinyl flooring like vinyl planks, WPC vinyl, and Rigid Core vinyl flooring.
Vinyl flooring used to be limited in design choices, but vinyl has been upgraded to a variety of styles and patterns for a more modern and attractive look. Compared to laminate flooring, vinyl offers a little more variety in design, too; vinyl floors can resemble not only wood, but stone and ceramic floors, as well.
Here are some pros and cons of vinyl flooring:
What Is Laminate Flooring?
First manufactured in the 1970s, laminate flooring was one of the first man-made alternatives to hardwood floors. It’s a great choice for homeowners who like the appearance of hardwood floors but don’t want to spend a large amount of money on flooring materials. Its thick composition makes it pretty comfortable to walk on, so it can work well in living areas and hallways.
Like vinyl, laminate is also made of synthetic materials that resemble the look of authentic hardwood. Laminate layers are similar to vinyl flooring but made of different types of materials. Laminate flooring has an inner core board, which is layered with a decorative photo image and topped with the wear layer or “overlay” to protect your floors.
Unfortunately, laminate flooring does not stand up against moisture as well as vinyl. These are water-resistant products, which means they can become damaged over long periods of water exposure.
Check out some pros and cons of installing laminate flooring:
Comparing Vinyl vs. Laminate Flooring
Vinyl and laminate flooring share many common qualities, like being affordable and pretty easy to install on your own. These synthetic flooring materials both come in a variety of colors, patterns, and designs to match your home’s existing decor. Although the two flooring types are very similar, they each have a few clear differences. Check them out:
Appearance and Design
When it comes to appearance and style, laminate flooring tends to be just a bit higher quality. It comes with more realistic embossing that is closer to the appearance of hand-scraped hardwood. Vinyl can look like wood with its embossing techniques, but it looks the best and most realistic on thicker core vinyl flooring.
Vinyl and laminate flooring differ in the materials they’re made of. Vinyl is manufactured with synthetic materials. Most of the time, the base layer of vinyl sheets are made of fiberglass and coated with PVC vinyl and a plasticizer. Then, it’s embossed with a design and finished with layers of wear protection like no-wax polyurethane.
Laminate, on the other hand, has a core made of wood byproducts. It’s then sealed with a resin. The top layer, which is the surface you walk on, is a transparent plastic layer to protect against wear. It’s placed over the design layer with your color and pattern of choice. Laminate tends to be a little thicker than vinyl flooring, which leads to more warmth and softness when standing or walking on it.
The major difference between laminate and vinyl flooring is water resistance, with vinyl as the big winner here. Most modern vinyl floors are made of 100% polymer materials, which means they can withstand heavy amounts of water. It can be immersed in water, dried out, and reused as normal. Also, vinyl sheets allow you to install a single sheet for a whole room, which means no seams for water to seep through.
Laminate has limited moisture resistance. There’s a fiberboard core in most products, which can swell or soften if it’s exposed to moisture for a prolonged amount of time. This waterlogged center can eventually cause the top layers to peel away. So, laminate may not be an ideal option for rooms where high moisture is prevalent, like family bathrooms or laundry rooms.
Laminate and vinyl flooring installation can be pretty easy to install, depending on the type of flooring products you choose. They can each be good options for people who prefer DIY projects.
Laminate flooring uses a click-and-lock installation. This means the planks are fitted into the groove of adjoining planks, and when they’re locked in, it closes the seam. Most laminate projects are installed as “floating” floors, which means they can be installed over your existing flooring. You can use a regular table saw to cut down pieces to fit your floor.
Vinyl offers more variety for methods of installation. You can also select click-and-lock planks, as well as peel-and-stick, glue down, and more. Sheet vinyl is a little more difficult to manage, as it’s heavy and requires precise cutting around the shapes and angles in your room. For that reason, it may require professional installation.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Vinyl flooring is easy to clean and maintain. It’s okay to use a wet mop on these floors; you can scrub them with safe cleaning products for stubborn messes. Vinyl allows for a variety of cleaning methods, and it does not need much care besides cleaning.
Caring for and cleaning laminate floors can be a more delicate process because of its limited moisture resistance. It’s best to use dry methods like a broom or dry mop. If you need to mop, use a damp mop that is almost dry when touched. Other than that, laminate can be pretty low-maintenance.
Vinyl and laminate flooring are similar in cost. They’re both less expensive than other flooring materials like hardwood or porcelain tile. However, vinyl can get more expensive as you explore the luxury flooring options.
Most laminate flooring can be purchased for about $1-5 per square foot. The price will depend on the thickness of your flooring materials and the design styles you choose.
Vinyl floors start at around $1 per square foot for simple glue-down sheet vinyl. Prices can reach up to $5 per square foot for luxury vinyl planks. You get more for your money, however, as high-end luxury vinyl comes with features like a special waterproof core and a thicker wear layer.
Durability and Longevity
Laminate flooring is strong and durable, but it can succumb to water damage. Also, if scratches appear on the top layer, they often cannot be repaired. Most laminate flooring can last up to 10-25 years, but this is heavily dependent on proper care and maintenance.
Vinyl flooring is also known to be very durable, resilient flooring. It may be considered lower-quality flooring because of its price point, but vinyl can stand up well against high-traffic areas in your home—for up to 20 years. Depending on the care and maintenance, some vinyl floors can delaminate over time.
Both of these flooring types come in eco-friendly varieties, so they’re a good option if you’re considering your impact on the environment when choosing flooring materials.
Best Flooring by Room
Which is the best flooring for each room: laminate or vinyl? Depending on the function of the room and the traffic it sees, you may need a certain material of flooring. Laminate is a good option where there is not a lot of moisture. Vinyl is a better option to stand up to rooms with a lot of spills and splashes.
If your basement needs flooring, vinyl may also be the top recommendation, as many underground areas can have a lot of moisture.
Conclusion: Which Floor Should You Buy?
Both laminate flooring and vinyl flooring are great options for people who want a DIY project and are searching for affordable, durable floors. When you’re shopping for new floors, consider your budget, functionality, and design preferences.
Vinyl stands up the best against excess moisture and spills, and it can be less expensive than laminate. However, laminate gives a more realistic wood look to enhance the design aesthetic in your home.
Recommended Flooring Experts
When you’re making repairs and renovations around your home, consider LL Flooring for your flooring replacement. With a wide variety of flooring materials and colors, you can remodel your home’s rooms to match your existing decor. The company has been in the industry for over three decades, and its team partners with quality manufacturers to offer the best pricing.
LL Flooring provides many styles of vinyl, laminate, hardwood, tile, cork flooring, and more. To learn more about the company and start your flooring project, schedule an appointment online. Request a free professional consultation from experts at one of the company’s hundreds of locations around the U.S.