Are you in the middle of renovating your house and suddenly feeling like it could use a new, aesthetically pleasing floor?
But between the most prominent two options: vinyl and laminate, which flooring should you go for?
The key difference between vinyl and laminate flooring is vinyl flooring is made of 100% synthetic polymer, while laminate flooring contains an actual wood fiberboard core.
So, get your reader glasses on, as we are going to solve the vinyl vs laminate flooring dilemma once and for all in this article.
Vinyl Vs Laminate Flooring
Before we jump into the details, here’s a quick overview of the differences and similarities between vinyl and laminate flooring.
|Comparison Factors||Vinyl Flooring||Laminate Flooring|
|Material||100% synthetic polymer||Wood fiberboard core|
|Layers||UV Acrylic Coating, Wear Layer, Print Layer, PVC Layer, Core, Built-in Underlayment||Wear Layer, Print Layer, Core, Built-in Underlayment|
|Types||LVP, LVT, Sheet Vinyl||Planks with Click-and-Lock Setup|
|Durability||Resilient and used in commercial spaces||Sturdy, can separate over time|
|Water Resistance||Water resistant||Can swell with water exposure|
|Heat Resistance||Sensitive to extreme heat||Sensitive to extreme heat|
|Stain Resistance||Stain resistant||Stain resistant|
|Installation||Click-and-lock, various options||Click-and-lock, similar to vinyl|
|Cost||$0.60 – $5.00 per sq. ft.||$0.50 – $8.00 per sq. ft.|
|Cleaning & Maintenance||Easy to clean, resistant to water||Dry methods, not great with moisture|
|Comfort||Can feel cold or hard||Hollow sound when walking|
|Environmental Impact||Synthetic, limited recycling||Contains wood, limited eco-friendliness|
|Resale Value||Can add value, varies with quality||Holds better resale value than most vinyl|
Comparison Factor 1: Material
The most significant difference between vinyl and laminate flooring is their materials.
Vinyl flooring is created with several layers, but they are mostly synthetic materials.
Laminate flooring is also made of multiple layers, but it includes a wood fiberboard core.
Vinyl has a set of layers that perform different tasks:
- UV Acrylic Coating: This layer keeps your floor safe by protecting it from sun damage.
- Wear Layer: This layer prevents scratches, making sure your floor stays polished.
- Print or Image Layer: This layer gives your floor its unique appearance.
- PVC Layer: This layer brings stability and support to your flooring.
- Core: This is the main body of vinyl flooring, and it is made from sturdy PVC.
- Built-in Underlayment: This is the soft cushion that evens out uneven surfaces.
Vinyl flooring comes in various forms: Luxury Vinyl Planks (LVP), Luxury Vinyl Tiles (LVT), and Sheet Vinyl.
Vinyl flooring is 100% synthetic.
The bottom layer usually starts with fiberglass, which gets covered in PVC and a plasticizer.
The result is a sheet that gets printed and stamped with a design.
Multiple layers for durability and a no-wax polyurethane finish complete the picture.
Not all vinyl planks have a built-in underlayment, but it’s becoming more popular.
The core, made of thicker multi-layer PVC, is the filling.
Luxury vinyl flooring is created with tiles or planks that lock together side by side.
When it comes to size, vinyl flooring ranges from super slim (1.5 mm) for sheet vinyl to a bit thicker (5 mm) for luxury vinyl planks.
Now, let’s meet the laminate flooring layers:
- Wear Layer: The clear aluminum oxide layer protects against scratches, keeping your floor looking new.
- Print Layer: This layer creates the floor’s visual style.
- Core Layer: This is a sturdy core made from pressed wood fibers.
- Built-in Underlayment: This layer evens out any uneven spots in the flooring.
Laminate flooring and vinyl planks look similar and are installed in a similar way.
But the big difference is in their cores.
The laminate flooring’s core is made from bits of wood mixed with special glues.
The top layer is like a superhero cape – a clear, tough layer that guards the printed design below.
When it comes to size, laminate flooring planks range from slim (6 mm) to strong (12 mm).
Just like vinyl planks, laminate flooring also offers built-in underlayment.
Comparison Factor 2: Durability & Longevity
When it comes to strength, vinyl flooring is more durable than laminate flooring.
In fact, in the construction industry, vinyl flooring is recognized as the ‘resilient flooring.’
Vinyl flooring is commonly used in commercial buildings for their superior durability.
Vinyl flooring is really tough – it can handle lots of people walking on it.
The thin kind of vinyl is actually better than the thick kind.
You see, thin vinyl is like one strong piece, while thick vinyl might have a problem later with its layers coming apart.
But don’t worry about thin vinyl – it’s solid and won’t have that problem.
However, the fancier, thicker vinyl with soft padding underneath could have a weak spot that might cause its layers to separate, which is called delamination.
Even though vinyl flooring is seen as a budget option, it can handle busy homes for around 20 years.
Laminate flooring is strong, too.
However, its many layers could start separating over time, especially if they are in contact with water for a long time.
If the top part of the laminate gets scratched or chipped, you need to replace the laminate flooring piece.
When delamination starts, water can seep in.
Most laminate floors can stick around for 10-25 years, but this depends on how well you care for them.
Comparison Factor 3: Compatibility
When it comes to the areas of your home where you can install vinyl and laminate flooring, it’s important to consider factors like water resistance and durability.
Vinyl flooring comes out on top when it comes to dealing with water and moisture.
This makes it an ideal choice for spaces that are more prone to dampness, spills, and wetness.
Laminate flooring, while durable in its own right, doesn’t quite match up to vinyl in terms of water resistance.
So it’s a no-go for areas like bathrooms where water exposure might be higher.
Partial or Complete Wet Areas
|Area||Vinyl Flooring||Laminate Flooring|
|Area||Vinyl Flooring||Laminate Flooring|
Comparison Factor 4: Appearance
Appearance is a big deal when it comes to flooring.
Let’s explore how vinyl and laminate look, and what makes them different.
Vinyl flooring isn’t exactly famous for looking super real, but there’s a hero in the mix – Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP).
Thicker vinyl floors, especially those with a solid core, come closer to the look of wood.
These better-quality vinyl planks have a special layer underneath the clear top layer.
This special layer shows a detailed image of real wood, like oak or maple, and sometimes even stone.
However, the older or more budget-friendly vinyl floors use a rotogravure process (like a cylindrical printing press) and have a clear protective layer on top.
The laminate flooring beats the vinyl flooring when it comes to looks.
The top layer of laminate is thick and designed to have textures that look and feel real.
Imagine being able to see and touch the patterns of materials like hardwood and stone.
Some laminate floors also have a special layer underneath the clear protective layer.
This layer uses high-definition technology to create the genuine look of wood or stone.
You can find all sorts of wood and stone designs, from rugged and rustic to sleek and modern.
Comparison Factor 5: Water Resistance
When it comes to water resistance, vinyl flooring takes the crown over laminate.
Let’s dive into the details of how each one handles water, heat, and stain.
Modern vinyl flooring is completely water-resistant.
Unlike older versions, today’s vinyl is 100% synthetic polymer and waterproof.
Luxury vinyl floorings can even take a long soak in water, dry out, and still be good to go – no harm done.
Laminate flooring usually has a core made of fiberboard, which is wood-based.
Unfortunately, wood doesn’t get along well with water.
If water gets to the core, the fiberboard swells up and loses its original shape.
Even worse, the layers on top can start peeling off after the core gets soaked.
Tip: If you’re putting laminate flooring over concrete, you should place a vapor barrier to prevent moisture.
Comparison Factor 6: Heat Resistance
Both vinyl and laminate flooring aren’t heat resistant.
You can use both types of flooring over radiant heat flooring as long as you limit it to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Vinyl flooring and heat don’t get along.
If you put something super hot on vinyl, it can get damaged.
But the usual changes in home temperature won’t harm vinyl flooring.
However, extreme heat from the sun can make it expand or melt the sticky part underneath.
Most vinyl floors can handle up to 158 degrees Fahrenheit, what you’d normally have in your daily life.
Laminate flooring is a mix of layers, and its core is not really affected by heat.
But the top layer can have some trouble under really high heat.
It can get bigger or smaller as the temperature goes up and down.
However, that kind of heat is much hotter than what you’d find in a normal home.
So, for regular use, you’re in the clear.
Comparison Factor 7: Stain Resistance
When it comes to keeping stains away, both vinyl and laminate flooring are very effective.
Vinyl flooring is fully stain-resistant.
The luxury vinyl floors have a special layer called transparent urethane that fights off stains.
If you accidentally spill something on a vinyl floor, it’s less likely to leave a stain behind.
Laminate flooring has a special clear aluminum oxide layer on top that’s really good at stopping stains.
Like vinyl flooring, if something spills, you don’t have to worry about it leaving a mark.
Comparison Factor 8: Installation
Both vinyl and laminate floorings are very easy to install. Here’s what you need to know:
Vinyl planks have a click-and-lock setup, but you can also find peel-and-stick or glue-down options.
You can also cut vinyl flooring planks with a simple utility knife.
First, you make a little score mark, then you bend the plank back a bit and make a second cut from the back.
If you’re dealing with sheet vinyl, things can get a bit trickier.
It’s heavier and needs precise cutting, especially around corners and angles.
Installing laminate flooring is like solving a jigsaw puzzle.
You use a method called click and lock, the same as vinyl flooring installation.
Fit one plank’s tongue into the groove of the next plank at an angle.
Then, gently fold the first plank down until it’s locked with the second one, closing the seam.
To cut the planks to size, you can use a circular saw with a fine-tooth blade.
For most laminate projects, you’re creating what’s called a “floating” floor.
This means you can install it right over your current flooring.
Comparison Factor 9: Cost
Both vinyl and laminate flooring come with affordable price tags.
Plus, they’re cheaper than natural hardwood, engineered wood, and many types of ceramic or porcelain tiles.
You can find thin, glue-down vinyl for around $1 per square foot.
If you’re looking for Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP), it might go up to about $5 per square foot.
And if you’re on a tight budget, you can buy sheet vinyl for as low as $0.65 per square foot.
You can also find cheaper vinyl flooring from $0.60 to $4.00 per square foot at discount stores.
You can get 7 mm thick laminate planks for $1.00 per square foot.
Prices for cheaper laminate flooring start around $0.50 per square foot and can go up to $3.00 for discount deals.
If you’re going for popular brands, you’re looking at around $3.00 per square foot to start and up to $5.00 to $8.00 for the 12 mm textured planks.
Comparison Factor 10: Cleaning & Maintenance
Both vinyl and laminate floors prefer a dry cleaning approach.
You can use a vacuum, broom, brush, or dust mop to sweep away dirt.
You don’t have to buy fancy cleaning stuff or equipment to keep your floors nice.
Vinyl floors are super easy to clean.
You can even scrub it with cleaning products and wet mop it to get the stubborn dirt off, as vinyl is resistant to water.
Vinyl flooring is also very easy to maintain as they do not require frequent cleaning.
Laminate floors need a bit more delicate care because they do not work well with moisture.
Stick with dry cleaning methods like sweeping and dusting.
If you have to mop, make sure the mop is barely damp and not wet.
Other than that, laminate floors are pretty low-maintenance.
Comparison Factor 11: Comfort
When it comes to feeling comfy underfoot and keeping things quiet, both vinyl and laminate flooring do a good job.
Vinyl floors can sometimes feel a bit cold or hard under your feet.
This feeling can be strong if you install vinyl flooring on concrete or over existing ceramic tiles.
But when it comes to noise, vinyl flooring performs really well.
It usually stays quiet, even if you’re strutting around in heels.
Laminate floors do not exactly feel like real wood.
So they sound hollow when you walk on them.
If you add insulation or felt underlayment beneath the laminate, it can make a difference.
The flooring becomes softer, more comfortable to walk on, and quieter too.
With the underlayment installed, laminate flooring is a very good option for your living spaces and hallways.
Comparison Factor 12: Environmental Impact
It may come as a surprise that both vinyl and laminate flooring aren’t environment-friendly at all.
Nowadays, some vinyl floorings offer the LEED credit EQ4.3 status for low-emitting material.
However, it’s important to know that vinyl is a synthetic material that emits harmful chemicals if burned.
When it comes to disposal, vinyl doesn’t break down in landfills, and recycling options are usually limited.
If you care about using eco-friendly materials, laminate flooring has a slight edge.
This is because it contains natural wood in its fiberboard core.
Some laminate flooring options even offer the LEED MR4 (Recycled Content) standards.
But laminate still uses plastic and melamine resins, which aren’t exactly environmentally friendly.
Comparison Factor 13: Resale Value
When boosting your home’s value, quality laminate and vinyl flooring can help.
However, they may get you a different resale value than solid hardwood, engineered wood, or natural stone floors.
If you’re using popular luxury vinyl plank brands, you may see a decent rise in your home’s resale value.
However, if you’re using lower-quality vinyl, potential buyers might see it as a future task to tackle.
This will not only bring down the resale value but also take down the house’s overall price.
Although solid hardwood and engineered wood floors take the top spots for resale value, laminate isn’t far behind.
A good quality laminate flooring can get you a great resale value, as long as it’s relatively new and still in great shape.
Laminate flooring generally holds more resale value than most vinyl flooring types.
Vinyl Vs Laminate Flooring: Pros and Cons
Now that you know all the differences and similarities between vinyl and laminate flooring, it’s time to decide which one is right for your renovation project.
Vinyl Flooring Pros and Cons
|Waterproof options due to being made of all synthetic material||Difficult to repair|
|Easy to install||May not always resemble wood|
|Simple to maintain||Click-lock joints may be hard to attach|
|Many options that look just like real wood or stone||Some options look fake and plastic-like|
|Affordable than real and engineered hardwood||May have higher VOCs or an off-gassing odor at first|
|Durable and scratch-resistant||Can be more expensive than laminate|
|Can be longer lasting than laminate|
|Pet-friendly and kid-friendly|
Laminate Flooring Pros and Cons
|Easy DIY installation||Susceptible to moisture|
|Inexpensive||Hard and noisy underfoot|
|Good stain resistance||Some chemicals present|
|Many affordable options and can be more affordable than LVP||The wood composite core of laminate is not waterproof and can swell if exposed|
|Many options that look just like real wood||Some options look more fake|
By understanding the pros and cons of both flooring, you are now equipped with the knowledge to make the right decision!
Understanding the individual characteristics of both vinyl and laminate flooring is very important.
Because if you choose the wrong kind of flooring that is incompatible with your surrounding environment, it will be a waste of everything.
On the other hand, if you choose your flooring wisely, it will serve you as long as you live in that house, even after by grabbing you a hefty resale value.
Which is better laminate or vinyl flooring?
Despite having a similar cost range, vinyl flooring will serve you more than laminate in terms of quality and performance.
Vinyl flooring is sturdy and more durable than laminate. They are also more moisture and climate-resistant than laminate.
Does vinyl flooring scratch easier than laminate?
No. In fact, laminate is more prone to scratches and chipped corners than vinyl flooring.
Which is better waterproof laminate or vinyl?
Vinyl offers more water resistance than laminate.
This is because laminate flooring has a wood fiberboard core, which is more susceptible to moisture.