Are you stuck between choosing laminate and vinyl as a flooring option? Both are beautiful flooring options that come in a variety, are affordable, and are easy to install. They share similar characteristics, but to what extent? How does one know what flooring is better for them?
In the U.S., vinyl flooring is more popular than laminate flooring, according to CatalinaResearch. Based on the chart, the amount of vinyl flooring used is almost twice the amount of laminate flooring.
However, both of them are getting popular day by day.
It depends on your personal taste and the qualities you look for in flooring. Some may prefer cheaper maintenance, and some may like exotic looks. In the end, it boils down to comfort, ambiance, environment, and affordability.
In this article, we will be discussing the key differences and comparisons between vinyl and laminate flooring. Before we get into the specifics, let’s learn some more about the two flooring options.
- 1 What Is Laminate Flooring?
- 2 What Is Vinyl Flooring?
- 3 3 Major Difference Between Vinyl Flooring and Laminate Flooring
- 4 What Areas Should Laminate and Vinyl Flooring Be Installed In?
- 5 Quick Overview
- 6 Vinyl vs Laminate Flooring – In-depth Analysis
- 7 Conclusion
What Is Laminate Flooring?
In simple words, laminate flooring is a low-cost alternative to wood flooring. Wood flooring is expensive and has drawbacks, such as being weak moisture resistance and insect damage. Laminate flooring eliminates those drawbacks while being cost considerate.
Did you know that laminate flooring started gaining popularity back in the 1970s due to its wood-like looks and affordability? Wooden floorings were very common back then, and people needed a cheaper alternative.
The laminate flooring’s top surface, or the laminate flooring, or the wear layer of the laminate flooring, is a hard and transparent layer of plastic. The thickness of a general laminate floor can be around 6mm to 12mm.
To learn a bit more about laminate flooring, it is a composite artificial material made to resemble wood. It is made by compressing thin layers of flat paper and plastic resin. The mixture of plastic resin and flat paper makes it very durable, but the durability of laminate flooring does not end there.
Laminate plank has four different layers, each specializing in its roles of the laminate.
Layers of Laminate
Backing Layer/ Stabilizing Layer
The backing layer is at the bottom of the laminate. It provides the entire laminate flooring stability. It helps prevent moisture and water from entering from below the laminate.
Substrate Layer/ Core Layer
The substrate layer is also known as the core-board. It is responsible for providing firm stability to the entire laminate. It makes the laminate flooring very durable, as it comprises compressed wood fiber (HDF or MDF). This layer makes the laminate plank water-resistant.
HDF: High-density Fiberboard
MDF: Medium-density Fiberboard
A higher-quality laminate has a denser core layer.
The pattern layer of the laminate is the third layer overall. It is the layer that designs are printed on. The pattern layer can very closely mimic the visual looks of wood, ceramic, and stones, thanks to the latest printing technology.
The final layer of the laminate is known as the wear layer. It sits on top of the pattern layer and at the very top of the entire laminate. It is responsible for protecting the pattern layer from moisture damage, scratches, dents, and wear.
The wear layer is made of aluminum oxide, which has incredible strength.
Aluminum oxide has a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale (nearly as hard as diamond). As a result, you can imagine how much strength it provides to the laminate flooring.
Now that we know practically everything we need about the material, how well does vinyl flooring compare against it?
Pros of Laminate
Laminate floors come with locking mechanisms, such a groove-ends that make snapping two planks together easy. Installation can be done as a good DIY project saving you the cost of getting it professionally installed. Additionally, they provide more strength to the laminate flooring.
Laminate flooring is popular due to its durability. It ranks second in terms of durability after ceramic tiles. Your floor will be free from kids’ and pets’ scratch marks. Additionally, it’s a great choice for areas with high traffic.
The cost of laminate flooring generally goes around $1 to $3 per square foot, but it can go up to $10 to $12 per square foot if you want designer laminate flooring. The differences in the pricing are influenced by the thickness of the laminate flooring and the quality of the print layer.
Even if you include the cost of professional installation with average quality laminate flooring, you could end up paying just $5 per square foot.
The main benefit of laminate flooring is its printing layer. Laminate comes in many different designs of different flooring materials without you having to pay for the actual material. In terms of looks and embossment, laminate flooring is the best to date.
Pattern repetition is no longer an issue with digital printing.
Laminate flooring comes in planks, which means they can easily be replaced at a low cost in the case of any sort of damage. The planks are also easy to maintain compared to other flooring materials.
In the case of damage, laminate repair kits are available, though you may not need them due to the durability of the wear layer on top of the laminate. The wear layer will prevent most damages to the laminate flooring.
While laminate flooring is resistant to moisture to an extent, it is not entirely waterproof. This means the laminate is bad for placing in high moisture areas like the kitchen or the washroom.
Water sitting on the laminate floor for an extended time can stain it and weaken the laminate’s core. All these waterproof laminate advertisements are just marketing gimmicks.
A laminate floor is not made of wood that is capable of being refinished. In the case of damage, you have no option but to use a repair kit or replace the plank. However, both vinyl and laminate flooring are easier to replace and costs lesser than other flooring types.
What Is Vinyl Flooring?
Vinyl flooring is an excellent option if you are looking for durability, ease of installation, and affordability. Like laminate flooring, it can also provide you with visuals of wood flooring. The difference between them is in their build.
Vinyl flooring is a product composed of many different layers of several materials merged to form a whole. It comes in several different types: luxury vinyl plank, luxury vinyl tile, and sheet vinyl.
Vinyl flooring is a very synthetic material. It comes in different types with differences in layers. The base layer of standard sheet vinyl and vinyl tiles is fiberglass coated in PVC vinyl and a plasticizer.
On top of the vinyl is a printed sheet embossed with texture, covered by multiple wear layers for protection. A layer of no-wax polyurethane is also applied. The thickness of a general vinyl flooring can be around 1.5mm to 5mm.
Vinyl flooring is also constructed in layers.
Layers of Vinyl
The base layer of the vinyl plank is responsible for providing stability to all the layers above. This layer consists of cork or foam. It protects from heat.
The fiberglass layer of vinyl is responsible for keeping the vinyl sheet flat and suitable for placement. Because this fiberboard core, vinyl plank is waterproof. Also, the core prevents the plank from getting wet.
The cushion layer of vinyl is responsible for cushioning against footsteps and other forces on the vinyl floor. Basically, it prevents the noise.
Like laminate flooring, vinyl flooring comes with a pattern layer printed in design with the latest printing technology.
The wear layer protects the pattern layer and provides the entire vinyl with a sleek finish.
There may be some differences in the layers when you compare them with different types of vinyl. Some vinyl types will have a high-density core layer, whereas the others may lack a cushion layer.
If you notice, both vinyl and laminate flooring are very similar in their printing, core, and ease of installation. What about their pros and cons? Are both the floorings waterproof?
The installation of vinyl flooring is similar to that of laminate flooring. It comes in different mechanisms that a layperson can adequately execute. However, you will have to ensure that the layer you lay your vinyl on is entirely flat. Additionally, add an underlayment if the laminate plank doesn’t have foram backing.
Vinyl flooring is 100% waterproof. This opens up different ways to clean and maintain your floor. Other flooring materials will not survive against different solutions or moisture in general, but vinyl flooring will.
As mentioned earlier, vinyl flooring is 100% waterproof. This opens up the possibility of having vinyl flooring in your bathrooms, basements, and kitchens with no fear of it being damaged.
While we can agree that laminate flooring wins the battle of appearance, we cannot ignore that vinyl flooring has been progressing at a very high rate. These days, any laminate design can also be replicated on vinyl.
Vinyl floors are very durable. A properly cared vinyl floor will last you upwards of 15 years, provided it is of good quality and was well manufactured.
Cons of Vinyl
Vinyl flooring is durable but still susceptible to damage. Furniture ends, and other sharp materials can damage the vinyl. These can often be fixed with a vinyl flooring repair kit, but it is still an expenditure.
Vinyl flooring can fade under sunlight. If you place them in the living room, the sunlight and UV rays may start making the design and color fade away. Vinyl floors should be placed considerately in proper positioning.
- Not Eco-friendly
As it is a 100% synthetic material, vinyl floors are non-biodegradable. It will take a long duration of time to break down once it has been disposed of. They emit VOC, which can cause respiratory diseases.
Since we’re done with both the floorings’ pros and cons, let’s learn about their similarities and differences.
3 Major Difference Between Vinyl Flooring and Laminate Flooring
The need for a subfloor is among the most important reasons to choose laminate flooring over vinyl flooring. A subfloor also means spending more money. With the same money, you can purchase higher-quality laminate planks. Installing laminate planks on an existing floor is easy.
Another major reason is water resistance. Laminate planks are not water-resistant or repairable after damage. Vinyl flooring materials like WPC and SPC, on the other hand, are waterproof and durable. In any case, laminate should not be your choice if water damage is possible.
Finally, cores of laminate floors are composites made with wood byproducts and resins. However, the vinyl plank has a composite plastic core. The wood core of laminate floors gives them more strength.
What Areas Should Laminate and Vinyl Flooring Be Installed In?
The right flooring for the right areas is a significant factor to consider when installing new flooring. Vinyl flooring is completely waterproof; hence it can be installed in basements, kitchens, and bathrooms. Is it the same for laminate flooring?
Below is a table that will help you determine which flooring can effectively work in different areas.
As you can see from the table above, vinyl flooring can be installed in most areas with no issues, whereas laminate just is not fit for areas with moisture. Any type of flooring, when properly maintained with care can survive through the ordeals of different areas.
Let’s look into the final overview of vinyl and laminate flooring that will help you decide. Vinyl vs. laminate flooring – side by side.
|Good appearance, diverse in styles.
|Great appearance with greater printing.
|$5 with installation, average quality
|$5 with installation, better quality
|DIY friendly, click and lock
|DIY friendly, click and lock; floating floor
|Slight add to the value
|Slight add to the value
|Very easy to maintain
|Easy to maintain
|It is available in eco-friendly options
|Easy 10+ years when maintained properly
|Around 10 years
Vinyl vs Laminate Flooring – In-depth Analysis
Laminate flooring allows for deep embossing that provides a realistic three-dimensional look and feels on its surface. It has more accurate images printed on it of preferred materials such as wood, stones, and ceramic.
Vinyl flooring provides a fairly realistic look. Luxury vinyl planks can be embossed deeper due to the thickness of the solid core, resulting in a closer look towards the wood.
Well, both of them use printed paper on top to imitate the timber look; hence, high-quality vinyl flooring can look as good as laminate planks.
Homeowners would prefer laminate flooring over vinyl flooring due to its looks in areas such as the living room, halls, and bedrooms.
Verdict: Laminate flooring can more closely mimic the look of different materials.
Most laminate floorings contain fiberboard which is a byproduct of wood, this can cause swelling due to water. If the fiberboard swells, it will not return to the original size of the fiberboard.
Even though the laminate build will provide stability to an extent to prevent that from happening, standing water on the laminate flooring will still be able to penetrate to the core.
Laminate flooring that is installed properly with tight seams and great baseboards can tolerate water; nevertheless, if water gets inside through the groove, it can damage the planks.
On the other hand, Vinyl floorings are entirely waterproof due to being a synthetic material, like polymer materials.
Generally, there are two types of vinyl flooring; WPC and SPC.
Wood-plastic and polymer composite (WPC) flooring is completely waterproof. This is due to its composition of thermoplastics, calcium carbonate, and wood flour. With this huge benefit, WPC can be installed in areas with high moisture, such as washrooms or kitchens.
WPC is not the only type of flooring that is waterproof. Stone plastic composite (SPC) is also waterproof as it is made of natural limestone powder, stabilizer, and polyvinyl chloride. SPC can also be placed as a floating floor, like laminate flooring.
Verdict: Vinyl flooring can be dipped in water for a long time, dried out, and still be reused without any issues.
Laminate floors should be cleaned dry, the best you can do is use a lightly dampened mop. Furthermore, you can use a mop like the Swiffer steam jet to clean.
Vinyl floors are water-resistant, you can clean them wet easily and also scrub if needed.
Verdict: Vinyl floors due to a wider range of cleaning options.
Laminate floors may get damaged due to moisture, but they are durable and low-maintenance at a lower price. If the top wear layer of the laminate flooring is destroyed, you have no choice but to replace the plank.
Vinyl flooring can also be damaged with furniture ends and sharp materials, but it fares very well against high-traffic areas.
Verdict: Vinyl flooring is extremely durable, and is also used in commercial applications due to its strength and low maintenance.
There are four laminate plank ratings: AC1, AC2, AC3, and AC4 based on durability, strength, and quality. Hence, if you insist on using laminate, pick the best one according to the rating.
Laminate flooring offers different types of installation mechanisms, with the most common being click and lock. It is a method where a plank can fit at the groove of the other plank and be locked when it is folded to the same level, thus eliminating the need for gluing or nailing down.
The vinyl floor also offers the click and lock mechanism, but it really depends on what type of vinyl flooring you are working with. Sheet vinyl will be harder to install without professional help due to the width and weight of the material.
Warranty on laminate floors lasts up to 10 to 25 years with rigorous maintenance practice.
Warranty on vinyl floors lasts up to 20 years with normal maintenance and cleaning.
Verdict: Depends on your personal cleaning and maintenance practices.
One of the biggest pros of laminate flooring is comfort. When you step onto a laminate floor, walking feels softer and warmer. That is because laminate floors have a thicker composition of wood content. It can become super comfortable when combined with a premium underlayment. How does this pro compare to vinyl flooring?
Vinyl floors are quite hard and cold to the touch due to being entirely synthetic. That makes vinyl flooring less desirable for places like the hallway, halls, and living rooms. Vinyl flooring will always be cold and hard on the feet, regardless of the quality.
Verdict: Laminate flooring is far more comfortable than vinyl flooring.
Laminate flooring can be qualified for LEED MR4 recycle status products, despite the plastic wear layer on top. The core material of the laminate plank is also created by the use of melamine resins, which are not good for the environment.
Vinyl flooring is also offered in eco-friendly options, but it cannot be disintegrated without releasing toxic gases (VOC) into the environment.
Verdict: Laminate floor wins this one for the simple fact that it contains natural wood content in the fiberboard.
Laminate flooring contains wood and they are close to hardwood to engineered wood. On the other hand, vinyl flooring is made using synthetic products. Thus, laminate floorings have a better resale value than vinyl floors.
Verdict: Laminate flooring wins here.
Both laminate flooring and vinyl flooring have their own advantages and uniqueness. Laminate flooring offers you more designs and better-printed layers whereas vinyl floors are completely waterproof. It all comes down to the areas you want the new floors installed in, and your personal preference.
In terms of maintenance, cleaning, cost, and resale value, both the floorings perform well enough than other flooring options.