As a homeowner deciding between vinyl and laminate flooring for your home, I know you want a floor that will look great, be durable, and also fit your budget. I’m here to walk you through the pros and cons of vinyl and laminate based on my own experience.
Both flooring options have compelling advantages. Vinyl offers waterproof durability and affordability, while laminate provides a more natural, wood-like look and feel.
Ultimately the right choice depends on your lifestyle, budget, and design priorities.
After reading this guide, you’ll feel confident picking the perfect new floors for your home that you’ll love for years to come.
what is the difference between laminate and vinyl flooring
The main difference between vinyl and laminate flooring comes down to water resistance. Vinyl is waterproof, laminate is not.
Vinyl flooring is made from resilient PVC plastic. It can handle spills and moisture thanks to its waterproof construction. Laminate on the other hand is made from fiberboard with a laminate photographic layer on top. Water can seep into the core and cause warping and damage.
Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between vinyl and laminate flooring:
|Material||100% synthetic||Fiberboard core with a wood-like finish|
|Durability||More durable||Less durable|
|Style||Less variety||Wider variety|
|Cost||Can be pricier||Less expensive|
|Installation||Easier to install||More difficult to install|
|Maintenance||Easier to maintain||More difficult to maintain|
For kitchens, baths, basements and other areas prone to spills or high moisture, vinyl is the better choice. Laminate works well for bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms. While laminate offers a more realistic wood look, vinyl comes in stone, wood, and tile designs too. Both are budget-friendly options that hold up well to foot traffic.
Vinyl flooring is a popular, affordable, and versatile flooring option for homes. Made primarily from PVC resins, vinyl floors stand up well to moisture, pets, and heavy traffic. Let’s take a closer look at what vinyl flooring is, the types of vinyl floors, as well as the pros and cons of installing vinyl floors in your home.
What is Vinyl Flooring?
Vinyl flooring is composed of PVC resins, plasticizers, and stabilizing additives. An image layer is fused or printed on top to give vinyl the look of materials like wood, tile, or stone.
Vinyl floors come in either sheets or interlocking tiles. The sheets can be cut to size and have heat-welded seams for a continuous floor surface. The tiles connect together using a click-and-lock system.
Vinyl flooring often has a printed design layer meant to mimic stone, hardwood, or ceramic tile. Cutting edge printing technologies allow vinyl floors to replicate the look of natural materials very closely.
Types of Vinyl Flooring
There are a few main types of vinyl flooring to consider:
Luxury Vinyl Plank
Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) is the most popular type of vinyl flooring. LVP mimics hardwood with its long, narrow plank shape. The photographic layer gives each plank a unique wood look with natural grain variations.
LVP is extremely durable and scratch-resistant. The urethane wear layer protects the vinyl flooring from scuffs, dents, pet claws, and more. LVP has a foam underlayment attached which makes it comfortable underfoot.
Installing LVP is easy with its click-and-lock or glueless systems. Planks can go over existing flooring in some cases. LVP is affordable, costing $2-5 per square foot installed.
With such a wide variety of wood looks available, LVP offers homeowners great design flexibility. You can find planks resembling oak, hickory, maple, exotic woods, and more.
Vinyl tile remains a popular choice for bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens. The classic square or rectangular tile modules create a timeless, versatile look.
As one of the most affordable flooring options, vinyl tile starts under $1 per square foot. The tiles are easy for DIY-ers to cut and install. If a tile becomes damaged, you can pop it out and insert a new one seamlessly.
However, the grout between vinyl tiles can become stained and require replacement. Tiles also limit the variety of looks versus plank floors. But for an easy-care tile look on a budget, vinyl tile fits the bill.
Vinyl sheet flooring offers a seamless, uniform look since it comes in a roll versus tiles. The soft, cushiony feel underfoot makes it very comfortable to stand on for long periods.
Unfortunately, tears and gouges in sheet vinyl are difficult to repair. Once the moisture barrier is compromised, replacing the entire floor may be required. Sheet vinyl is prone to bubbling if the subfloor is not perfectly level.
The designs of vinyl sheet flooring are more limited than planks or tiles. But it can work well for some basements or laundry rooms requiring a basic one-tone floor surface.
Pros of Vinyl Flooring
There are many great benefits to choosing vinyl flooring in your home:
- Vinyl is waterproof, making it ideal for kitchens, baths, laundry rooms, and basements. The seams can be sealed to prevent moisture from seeping through.
- Extremely durable and scratch-resistant vinyl stands up well to heavy foot traffic from people and pets. The tough wear layer prevents indentations.
- Easy maintenance – sweep and damp mop for cleaning. No waxing is required. Vinyl resists stains, mold, and mildew.
- Vinyl is affordable, starting under $1 per square foot. Luxury vinyl plank provides the look of wood for much less.
- Tons of design options from wood look to tile, stone, and concrete. Vinyl comes in unlimited colours.
- Foam or fiberglass backing makes vinyl soft and comfortable to stand on for long periods of time.
- Insulates against sound travelling between floors and also keeps floors warmer.
Cons of Vinyl Flooring
A few potential disadvantages include:
- Lower-quality vinyl can show indentation or scuff marks over time under heavy objects or traffic.
- Vinyl can tear or curl at the seams if poor quality or installation issues. Moisture leaks can occur.
- Some vinyl may off-gas VOCs initially after installation. Look for non-toxic low-VOC vinyl.
- Not ideal for some moist high-humidity areas like bathrooms. Needs strong ventilation to prevent damage.
Laminate flooring provides the look of real hardwood at an affordable price point. Made from fiberboard with a photographic layer on top, laminate floors are durable, realistic, and easy to install. Let’s explore what laminate flooring is, the types of laminate floors, as well as the pros and cons.
What is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring consists of four layers fused together:
- Bottom moisture-resistant layer
- Inner core of HDF or MDF
- Decorative photographic layer
- Clear top protective layer
The core is made from high-density or medium-density fiberboard. The photographic layer replicates the look of materials like wood, stone, or tile.
Laminate planks lock together without nails or glue. The floor floats over the subfloor for easy installation. Laminate is not attached to the subfloor like real wood flooring.
Types of Laminate Flooring
There are a few main types of laminate flooring:
Standard laminate resists scratches and dents from everyday wear and tear. It provides good durability for active families and pets.
Premium laminate has a thicker construction with higher-density fiberboard. It better resists moisture damage. The thicker top layer better resists scratches, dings, and wear over time.
Premium laminate mimics real wood more closely with deeper wood grain textures. More realistic hand-scraped and wire-brushed looks are available. It costs slightly more than standard laminate but remains budget-friendly.
Water-resistant laminate has special melamine resin coatings to repel water. It can be used in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements vulnerable to spills. The seams are also treated to prevent moisture infiltration.
Glueless or floating laminate systems have pre-attached underlayment that seals the planks together tightly. This allows the laminate to float over the subfloor without adhesive. Installation is cleaner, faster, and easier, ideal for DIY projects.
Pros of Laminate Flooring
Key benefits of choosing laminate flooring include:
- Extremely affordable, costing $1-5 per square foot installed
- Durable, scratch-resistant wear layer resists scuffs and indentation
- Easy click-lock installation for DIY without glue or nails
- Huge variety of realistic wood looks like oak, cherry, exotic woods
- Color and style won’t fade from sun exposure
- Doesn’t harbor allergens like carpet; smooth surface deters dust mites
- Easy maintenance – occasional damp mopping is all that’s needed
Cons of Laminate Flooring
Some potential laminate flooring drawbacks are:
- Not as valuable as real wood if selling home
- Not good with moisture – can swell, chip and warp if excessively wet
- Makes hollow sounds when walking on it
- Can’t refinish or sand laminate like real hardwood
- Prone to chipping along edges
Vinyl vs. Laminate Flooring: which is better
If you’re deciding between vinyl or laminate floors, there are key differences in cost, appearance, durability, water resistance, installation, comfort, sustainability, and resale value to consider.
Both vinyl and laminate provide affordable, attractive, durable flooring options. But each has pros and cons to weigh for your needs. Let’s compare vinyl versus laminate flooring.
Vinyl is generally slightly cheaper than laminate. Basic vinyl tile can start as low as $0.50 per square foot. Laminate flooring starts around $1 per square foot and goes up from there.
Laminate pricing depends heavily on the thickness and quality. Thicker flooring with denser fiberboard cores or attached underlayment costs more but provides greater durability.
Luxury vinyl plank matches premium laminate on price, ranging $3-5 per square foot installed. But standard vinyl usually costs a bit less than regular laminate. Either can work with most budgets.
Laminate excels at realistically replicating wood looks like oak, mahogany, and exotic species. The photographic layer captures details like knots, grains, and staining.
Vinyl has more options beyond just wood visuals. Stone, tile, and abstract looks are available. But vinyl wood options fall slightly short of laminate in replicating a true wood aesthetic.
Both laminate and luxury vinyl qualify as extremely durable flooring able to withstand heavy foot traffic for 15-25 years.
Laminate may have a slightly longer lifespan than vinyl if comparing premium products. The thicker wear layer better resists scratches and dents before the image layer is compromised.
That said, scratches are less visible on vinyl. The solid vinyl wear layer allows for micro scratch repairs and uniform fading over time. Laminate scratches cannot be fixed as easily.
Vinyl is 100% waterproof thanks to its impervious vinyl wear layer. Laminate on the other hand is only water-resistant. Excessive water can lead to swelling, warping, or hump formation in laminate flooring.
For kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and basements prone to spills, vinyl is the clear winner. Laminate needs to be kept very dry.
Both float over the subfloor for DIY-friendly installation. Vinyl’s click-lock planks go together slightly faster and easier than laminate.
Laminate requires a perfectly flat, smooth subfloor. Any uneven spots will eventually telegraph through the floor over time. Vinyl is more forgiving if the subfloor has minor imperfections.
Vinyl offers cushioned softness thanks to its foam or fiberglass underlayment layer. This makes it more comfortable for standing or walking for long periods.
Laminate feels harder underfoot and can produce hollow, clicking sounds when walked on. Adding extra underlayment can help but vinyl has cushioning built-in.
Vinyl is made from PVC, which raises some environmental concerns about plastic pollution and PVC manufacturing byproducts.
Laminate utilizes wood fibers, a renewable resource. However, laminate does not utilize recycled content.
Both floors can be recycled but limited infrastructure exists currently to do so. Most used flooring winds up in landfills.
Neither vinyl nor laminate adds significant value to home sales. They are considered lower-end flooring types.
Laminate may slightly better hold its value long-term compared to vinyl. But laminate shows wear and damage more over time as well.
Vinyl’s lower upfront cost means changing it out down the road costs less if the buyer dislikes your style. Laminate has a higher replacement cost.
Ideal Uses for Vinyl vs. Laminate Flooring
When choosing new floors, two top contenders are vinyl and laminate. But should you use vinyl or laminate in specific rooms based on their unique pros and cons?
Certain characteristics make vinyl ideal for bathrooms, kitchens, basements and homes with pets. Meanwhile, laminate excels in living spaces, upper levels, and for DIY installation. Let’s compare the best uses for vinyl versus laminate flooring.
Vinyl Ideal For:
Bathrooms and Laundry Rooms
Vinyl is waterproof, making it the best flooring for bathrooms and laundries prone to splashing and spills. Laminate swells and warps when saturated with water.
Vinyl resists mold and mildew growth. Chlorine bleach and other chemicals won’t stain its durable surface. With kids brushing their teeth or doing laundry, vinyl stands up to excess moisture.
Seamless vinyl sheets work great for bathrooms as they prevent water seepage between planks. Loose-lay vinyl plank is also an excellent waterproof choice that clicks together without glue.
Basements and Floors with Moisture Issues
Along with baths, basements benefit from vinyl’s waterproof properties. Being underground, concrete floors are vulnerable to moisture wicking up from below. Laminate would warp quickly under such conditions.
Vinyl performs well on damp basement slabs, locking out moisture. Look for vinyl with pre-attached underlayment to cushion the hard concrete. With kids and pets, vinyl resists stains, scratches and indentation that unfinished concrete would show.
Homes with Pets and Kids
Active kids and furry pets can be tough on floors! Vinyl is extremely scratch and scuff-resistant thanks to its durable wear layer. The surface hides minor scratches well.
Pets won’t damage vinyl floors with their paws or claws. Spilled food, juices and dirt wipe up easily. The dense vinyl surface prevents stains from absorbing. Vinyl also muffles noise from stomping feet or bouncing balls.
Rentals and Landlord Properties
For investment properties you intend to rent out, vinyl makes an ideal indestructible tenant flooring. It provides a nice updated look between occupants. Luxury vinyl plank offers style at an affordable price point.
Renters don’t always treat floors gently. Vinyl withstands scratches, stains, furniture indentation and damage that might come with tenants. Landlords can replace worn planks or tiles easily at move-out.
Laminate Ideal For:
Living Rooms, Bedrooms and Dining Rooms
Laminate excels for dry main living areas like living rooms, bedrooms and dining spaces. Its realistic wood looks and textures fit classic aesthetics. The DFSK durability handles normal foot traffic from families.
Being softer than tile or vinyl, laminate has a warmer, more inviting feel in lounging and dining spaces. Just avoid areas with frequent spills which could seep under the laminate planks.
Laminate works well in home offices due to its noise-reducing qualities. The sound absorption minimizes distracting echoes when conferencing or working.
Office chairs roll smoothly across laminate floors without catching. Unlike carpeting, laminate deters allergy-causing dust. Its hard surface makes it easy to locate dropped pens or paper clips!
Upper Floors and Levels
For upper stories, laminate makes an ideal replacement for heavy timber floors if weight loading is a concern. Laminate is lighter than solid wood, reducing load on structural framing.
Without moisture rising from below, laminate performs reliably on upper levels. Just ensure pipes or appliances over the floor don’t leak to compromise the laminate. Consider water-resistant laminate for added protection.
Laminate wins for ease of DIY installation thanks to its click-locking planks. No glue or nails are involved. Planks go together quickly and simply, ideal for homeowners wanting to tackle the project themselves.
Just ensure the subfloor is properly prepped and smooth. Take time aligning and tightening joints during assembly to prevent gaps or creaks down the road. But laminate has less room for error than vinyl during installation.
Waterproof Laminate vs Luxury Vinyl Plank
Waterproof laminate and luxury vinyl plank (LVP) are two popular water-resistant flooring options. But they differ in their construction, durability, and cost.
- Waterproof laminate has a core of high-density fiberboard (HDF) with melamine layers on top and bottom. The entire plank is made waterproof through a sealing process.
- LVP features a PVC vinyl core layered with a clear PVC wear layer on top. The vinyl construction is inherently waterproof.
- LVP is more durable and scratch-resistant thanks to the thick PVC wear layer that protects the floor.
- Laminate is prone to scratching and chipping. The thin melamine layer lacks LVP’s durability.
- Both floors are waterproof and prevent water from penetrating seams or causing damage.
- LVP maintains its structure better long-term when exposed to moisture. Laminate can swell at the edges over time.
- LVP costs $2-5 more per square foot than laminate on average.
- The vinyl construction is more expensive than the laminate’s fiberboard core.
- Laminate and LVP can both be DIY-friendly floating click-lock floors.
- LVP is better for damp areas like basements thanks to its natural waterproofness.
- LVP excels at replicating wood and tile visuals.
- Laminate has a more artificial, printed-on look.
FAQs: vinyl vs laminate flooring
Which is better vinyl or laminate flooring?
Vinyl is better for bathrooms, kitchens, basements and other wet areas since it is 100% waterproof. Laminate can swell and warp if it gets too wet. Laminate looks more realistic like real wood. It works well for living rooms, bedrooms and dining spaces. Ultimately the right choice depends on where you plan to install it and your budget.
Is vinyl cheaper than laminate?
On average, vinyl is slightly cheaper than laminate. Basic vinyl tile can cost as low as $0.50 per square foot installed. Laminate starts at around $1 per square foot. premium laminate with thicker wear layers and attached underlayment can match luxury vinyl plank pricing in the $3-5 per square foot range.
Why laminate is better than vinyl?
Reasons laminate is superior to vinyl:
More realistic wood look and feel
Higher resale value long-term
Renewable and recyclable materials
Performs better in high humidity
Less prone to gouges and tears
What is the disadvantage of vinyl flooring?
Some disadvantages of vinyl flooring include:
Not as realistic looking as laminate for wood visuals
Can indent and scuff more over time
Poor quality vinyl prone to tearing
Off-gassing of VOCs from some vinyl products
Not as high value for resale
What is safer vinyl or laminate?
Vinyl is the safer choice since it is waterproof and slip-resistant. Laminate becomes very slick when wet, causing falls. Vinyl resists mold and mildew growth. It also contains fewer VOCs that laminate can off-gas.
Is vinyl or laminate more affordable?
Vinyl is typically slightly more affordable than laminate flooring. On average, vinyl costs $2-4 per square foot while laminate can range from $3-6 per square foot. Laminate pricing depends more on the thickness and quality, with premium laminates costing more. Overall both vinyl and laminate are budget-friendly flooring options.
Which type of flooring looks more like wood?
When it comes to mimicking the look of real wood floors, laminate is the clear winner. Modern laminates use photographic printing to recreate incredibly realistic wood textures and grains. Vinyl is limited to more basic simulated wood looks and is better suited for stone, tile, and abstract designs.
Which floor can get wet?
Vinyl is 100% waterproof while laminate is only water-resistant. Laminate flooring uses a wood-based core, which can swell and warp if exposed to standing water. Vinyl maintains its integrity even when wet, making it the better choice for basements, bathrooms, kitchens, and other moisture-prone areas.
Which option is better with pets?
For homes with pets, vinyl is the more durable and pet-friendly choice. It is scratch-resistant and easy to clean if accidents happen. Laminate is more prone to scratches, dents, and stains from pets. The seams can also trap pet hair and dander.
Which flooring is softer underfoot?
Vinyl has a more cushioned, softer feel compared to laminate. Vinyl is made in layers that include soft PVC foam underlayment for comfort. Laminate has a hard surface that can feel hollow and echo when walked on. For bedrooms or anywhere you walk barefoot, vinyl provides more softness.
Is vinyl or laminate more environmentally friendly?
Neither vinyl nor laminate are the most eco-friendly options, but laminate is likely the greener choice. Vinyl is made from PVC, which has concerning environmental impacts. Laminate uses wood fibers from renewable sources. But recycling is limited for both floors currently.
After weighing the pros and cons, you’re now equipped to decide between vinyl and laminate flooring for your home renovation project. Both offer affordable, attractive, and durable options that will transform your spaces.
Vinyl excels for wet areas like kitchens and baths, while laminate realistically mimics beautiful wood looks. Consider your lifestyle, budget, and goals when choosing what’s right for each room’s needs.
I hope this guide gave you confidence in picking the perfect flooring to make your decorative vision a reality! Feel free to reach out if you need any final advice before purchasing materials or starting installation.
I’m happy to provide recommendations so you get floors that will withstand your home’s demands for years to come.