Vinyl vs. Laminate Flooring Comparison Guide: What’s the Difference?

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  Laminate flooring Vinyl floor
Full or partial bathroom No Yup
Powder room Could be Yup
Kitchen Could be Yup
Lunchroom Yup Yup
Living room Yup Yup
bedroom Yup Yup
Home office Yup Yup
Mudroom No Yup

Appearance

Laminate floor

Laminate floors allow for deep and realistic three-dimensional embossing on its surfaces, with accurate images of the material depicted: wood, ceramic or stone.

 

Vinyl floors

Many types of vinyl floors can feel realistic, especially luxury vinyl floors. Thicker solid core vinyl floors look more like wood as deeper embossing is possible.

Ideal for appearance: laminate flooring

While laminate floors and luxury vinyl floors are generally comparable in appearance, laminate floors generally more closely mimic hand-scraped hardwood, stone, ceramic, and other materials.

Resistance to water and heat

Laminate floor

Virtually all laminate floors use a wood fiber core. Since this core is a wood product, it will soften and swell when exposed to water. The wood fiber core will not return to its original size after drying. Additionally, the wear and design layers sometimes peel off after the core becomes waterlogged. Laminate floors badly damaged by water usually need to be replaced; it cannot be repaired.

A properly installed laminate floor, with tight seams and good baseboards or moldings, can tolerate standing water, but only for a short period of time. For family bathrooms or other areas where standing water is likely, laminate flooring is a bad choice. If you can reasonably focus on cleaning up occasional splashes and puddles right away, then laminate flooring can be used in areas of low humidity.

Vinyl floors

Older forms of vinyl flooring may have a fabric or felt backing that is not waterproof. But the newer iterations of vinyl flooring are made with 100% polymer materials. Luxury vinyl floors can be completely immersed in water for long periods, dried, then reused, completely unaltered.

Ideal for water and heat resistance: vinyl flooring

All types of vinyl floors are not only water-resistant but are also waterproof. Vinyl foil, vinyl tile, and luxury vinyl flooring are generally made from 100% waterproof materials. In full bathrooms and humid places like basements, vinyl flooring materials excel over laminate materials. The vinyl sheet that comes in 12 foot wide rolls often requires no seams, making it an excellent choice for a truly waterproof floor.

Care and cleaning

Laminate floor

Laminate flooring is best cleaned with dry methods first, such as with a dry broom or mop. If you need to wet clean your laminate floor, you should only use a damp cloth that is almost dry to the touch.

Vinyl floors

The strongest feature of vinyl flooring is that it is so easy to care for and clean. Vinyl floors that are in good condition can be wet cleaned and, if necessary, can be vigorously scrubbed with safe cleaning products.

Ideal for care and cleaning: vinyl floors

While both laminate and vinyl floors are easy to clean, only vinyl floors allow the full duration of cleaning methods, from sweeping with a dry broom to a wet mop.

Duration and maintenance

Laminate floor

Laminate floors are durable and require little maintenance. However, the many layers of the laminate floor can eventually delaminate over time or if they are exposed to water for too long. Once the top wear layer of the laminate is scratched, it cannot be repaired.

Vinyl floors

Lower quality vinyl floors can delaminate. Additionally, self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles can loosen over time. Overall, however, vinyl flooring is a durable flooring material that will withstand the demands of high traffic.

Ideal for durability and maintenance: vinyl flooring

Vinyl flooring is an extremely durable and low maintenance flooring, hence the term in the industry resilient flooring. Vinyl floors are also used in commercial applications where durability and maintenance are most important.

Installation

Laminate floor

Laminate flooring uses a snap-in installation method, where the tab of one plank is inserted into the groove of an adjacent angled plank. Then the first board is folded until it is level with the other board. This action brings the boards together and closes the seam. A normal circular saw or table saw equipped with a fine-toothed blade, or even a hand saw, is used to cut laminate boards.

Vinyl floors

Vinyl planks also use a snap and lock installation method. Vinyl flooring boards can also be cut with a utility knife. First a signature is made, then the board is folded on itself and a second cut is made from the back. Vinyl sheet can be a difficult material for do-it-yourselfers to install. The material is large, heavy and bulky. Also, it can be difficult to make complicated cutouts from sheets. If you are installing vinyl sheet, professional installation is often your best bet.

Cost

Laminate floor

Laminate floors range from about $ 1.00 per square foot for 7mm thick planks to about $ 5.00 per square foot for 12mm thick planks.

Vinyl floors

Vinyl floors can cost as little as $ 1.00 per square foot for thin, glued vinyl floors. Vinyl costs go up to around $ 5.00 per square foot for luxury vinyl boards, and premium brands will cost more.

Best for the cost: tied

Laminate floors and luxury vinyl floors are roughly comparable in price, although vinyl sheet has a slight advantage. Both laminate and vinyl floors are usually less expensive than natural wood, engineered wood, and many types of ceramic or porcelain tile.

Duration

Laminate floor

Laminate flooring warranties typically range from 10 to 25 years, but this depends on a rigorous maintenance schedule.

Vinyl floors

Warranties on luxury vinyl floors often range up to 20 years.

Best for the lifespan: tied

As long as the laminate floor is kept reasonably dry and cleaned regularly, buyers can expect a life span close to that of vinyl floors.

Environmental impact

Laminate floor

Some laminate flooring manufacturers offer products that qualify for LEED MR4 (Recycled Content) status. But laminate floors still use a surface layer of plastic, and the melamine resins used in creating the core layer are by no means environmentally friendly materials as they could emit chemical gases.

Vinyl floors

Vinyl flooring has improved its green stature in recent years. Some vinyl flooring manufacturers now offer products that earn a LEED EQ4.3 credit for low-emission material. Vinyl is a synthetic material known to produce toxic chemicals when burned. Vinyl does not decompose in landfills and recycling is usually not an option.

Ideal for environmental impact: laminate flooring

While it is important to you to use environmentally friendly building materials, laminate floors have a small advantage, thanks to the natural wood content of the wood fiber core. However, none of these materials are particularly environmentally friendly as are natural wood, linoleum or bamboo floor coverings.

Stain resistance

Laminate floor

Laminate flooring is pressure laminated with several layers, the top is a clear aluminum oxide layer which is superior in stain resistance.

Vinyl floors

The quality vinyl floor is coated with a clear urethane layer which provides excellent stain resistance.

Ideal for stain resistance: bonded

Good quality, modern vinyl floors and laminate floors both receive treated wear layers with properties that do an excellent job of stain resistance.

Comfort and sound

Laminate floor

While laminate flooring doesn’t have the feel of wood, it does have a warm feel, especially when paired with a high-quality underlay.

Vinyl floors

Vinyl floors of all types can feel cold or hard on the feet, especially when installed on existing concrete or ceramic tile floors.

Ideal for comfort and sound: laminate flooring

Laminate flooring products can feel a little hollow underfoot compared to the hardwood floors they are supposed to mimic. But when combined with a foam or felt underlay, the laminate floor will be quieter, softer and more comfortable to walk on.

Resale value

Laminate floor

High-quality laminate flooring can impart extra resale value to a home, as long as it is relatively new and in good condition.

Vinyl floors

Luxury vinyl floors from major brands will offer decent resale value to a home. Lower quality vinyl flooring will often be seen by buyers as a pending project once the home has closed the sale.

Best for resale value: tied

Quality laminate floors and vinyl floors bring comparable value to a home. Neither carries the high-value prestige of solid wood, engineered hardwood or designer ceramic tiles or natural stone flooring. At the same time, quality laminate or vinyl floors don’t usually deter potential home buyers.

Which floor should you buy?

No floor is universally better or worse than other floors. Vinyl floors are best for laundries, wet and muddy bathrooms. If you are installing flooring in those rooms, you will probably want to choose vinyl flooring simply on the basis of moisture resistance. For dry areas, laminate floors work well. Buyers will usually find more styling options with laminate flooring over vinyl flooring.

Best brands

Vinyl floors

Laminate floor

  • Dream Home (Lumber Liquidators / LL Floors)
  • Pergo
  • Fast pace

 

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