Picture of kitchen with wood-like flooring option

For the past years, flooring manufacturers pushed for continuous innovations and upgrades of materials for their products. While companies differ in process and methods, they all have one goal in mind — to create the best options for homeowners. Laminate and vinyl were born from these so-called innovations.

Laminate and vinyl are ideal options if you’re looking for affordable and durable flooring. It often leads to a well-known dilemma in the flooring industry — deciding which flooring is best suited for your home.

These floorings have been constantly pitted against each other. While they have a lot in common, there are still noticeable contrasts between them. Learn more about the differences between laminate flooring and vinyl flooring, as well as their pros and cons!

 

Getting To Know: Laminate and Vinyl

If you are familiar with the flooring industry, you probably have heard of the still ongoing debate about the laminate vs vinyl showdown. These floorings are the new-gen of wood-look options that are tricky and often misunderstood by most.

Due to their likeness, they are always compared and matched against each other. Bring up one in conversation, and you can expect the other to be brought up not long after.

Before dwelling deeper into this rivalry, it probably is best to know more about the main characters!

 

What Is Laminate Flooring?

Laminate flooring was first created in the 1970s. This flooring makes it one of the first hand-made flooring alternatives for hardwood.

Laminate is a go-to choice for most homeowners who wish for a wood-like appearance but are tight on funds. It has a thick composition that is comfortable to walk on, making it ideal for hallways and living areas.

This flooring uses synthetic materials to resemble the look of genuine hardwood. Laminate has a water-resistance base and a multi-layer core made of fiberboard.

The core of the flooring is typically synthetic, though there are instances that part of it is wood waste, which helps minimize its environmental impact. There are two types of core for laminate flooring — it is either an HDF (High-density fiberboard) or an MDF (medium-density floorboard).

Of course, higher-quality laminate products come with HDF cores. This type is usually moisture resistant, which offers you more options with less fuss than actual hardwood.

The photographic print is next, usually coming with various styles and designs. Some fiberboards inside water-resistant laminate floors feature more resin on top of the decorative print. This makes it less susceptible and vulnerable to water.

There are various ways to install laminate flooring. You can nail it, float it, or glue it down to the subfloor.

It’s no exaggeration to say that laminate became somewhat of a pioneer in creating wood-like replicates. It quickly caught attention and fame. Other floorings soon followed and released their attempt at realistic wood looks.

 

Pros

  • Realistic wood appearance
  • More sustainable
  • Various DIY Installation methods
  • Stain-resistant
  • Affordable
  • Comfortable to walk on

 

Cons

  • Unrepairable once damaged
  • Needs special maintenance and care
  • Not all laminate types are water or moisture-resistant
  • Need to replace within ten years

What Is Vinyl?

Vinyl flooring might closely resemble laminate, but it is an entirely different species with more variety! Many consider vinyl a dark horse in the flooring industry. It is mostly due to its big turnaround upon releasing luxury vinyl planks despite its bad rap for several years.

This flooring has several layers of 100% synthetic material. This specific feature is what makes it a waterproof and durable floor. It has a solid vinyl core that is topped with a wear layer and a printed vinyl layer.

The wear layer serves as a sort of bodyguard that helps protect your floors from scratches and dents. The print vinyl layer is where you get stunning photo imagery nearly identical to natural materials.

As of now, vinyl technology is continually expanding and improving. There is much more variety now in design and style. You can find vinyl that looks like pebbles, leather, and chevron!

The use of synthetic materials enhances vinyl’s moisture resistance. It is why vinyl can withstand water for long periods without lasting damage. You can even use it on areas or spaces with high moisture!

There used to be a limit to vinyl design choices. Over time though, vinyl is upgraded to a wider variety of patterns and styles. Vinyl can now offer modern and aesthetic looks. It also can provide designs with sleek and minimalistic vibes.

Vinyl now offers more options in design than laminate flooring! Wood is not the only pattern it can replicate. Vinyl can resemble ceramic and stone floors as well!

 

Pros

  • Moisture-resistant
  • Repairable
  • Extremely durable
  • Low maintenance
  • Has options for luxury designs
  • Stain-resistant
  • Affordable

 

Cons

  • Cold to the touch and not as comfortable
  • Harder to install
  • Less sustainable
  • Luxury vinyl planks can be expensive

 

How Are They Alike?

Before jumping to the awaited laminate vs vinyl flooring showdown, it is beneficial to tackle the similarities first! Honestly, it is hard to tell these floorings apart.

Unless you are an expert in flooring or bought it yourself, it is downright hard to tell — especially at first glance. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. The installation methods of both floorings are similar.
  2. Vinyl and laminate planks feature realistic replications of stone, wood, and other natural materials. These depictions are convincing.
  3. Both are low-maintenance and stain-resistant flooring options. They only require occasional vacuuming and cleaning.
  4. They have almost the same lifespans. They can last for as long as 10-25 years.
  5. Vinyl and laminate fall around the same price range. It can cost as low as $1 per square foot for standard products and about $6 per square foot for higher quality materials. The typical average cost of these floorings is $3 per square foot.
  6. These floorings conduct heat well. You can use them for radiant floors.
  7. Top-quality vinyl and laminate can increase the resale value of a home. Unfortunately, one cannot say the same for lower or inferior products.

 

Comparing Laminate and Vinyl

Bedroom with dark-colored wood-like flooring option

Now that those are out of the way, it is time to discuss the most pressing matters! Are vinyl floors better than laminate, or is it the other way around? Read on to find out more about the startling contrasts between laminate and vinyl flooring!

 

1. Design and Appearance

In terms of appearance, it’s kind of difficult to differentiate between vinyl and laminate. One reason is that they both rely on high-quality printing techniques to replicate various surfaces. Both floorings have a layer of realistic, 3-dimensional embossing that looks similar to genuine hardwood.

Whether aiming for rustic floorboards, ceramic tiles, or stone paving, you can confidently use either flooring. They pass off as highly-convincing replicas that do not cost as much.

No one can deny that laminate flooring tends to be of higher quality than standard vinyl in terms of style and appearance. They have much more realistic embossing that looks more similar to the natural material.

Luxury vinyl planks (LVP) are a whole new topic, though. This vinyl is intentionally crafted to replicate hardwood floors. LVP retains the same composition and materials as standard vinyl. The difference is that LVP has several wear layers that add to its thickness.

To put it simply, between laminate and standard vinyl, the former is a clear winner. Laminate flooring is something that the industry regards as higher in terms of quality. It is thanks to its intricately embossed pattern and design layers. However, LVP options can now produce almost the same quality results.

 

2. Water Resistance

Amongst the main difference between vinyl and laminate is water resistance. Vinyl is arguably better in waterproofing. Most modern vinyl consists of 100% polymer materials. This product gives vinyl the ability to withstand heavy amounts of water.

You can immerse LVP in water, dry them out, and reuse them again. Also, there is an option of installing a single vinyl sheet in an entire room. There will be no seams or room for water to seep through by doing this.

Laminate flooring, on the other hand, has limited moisture resistance. Most laminate products have a fiberboard core. Since the core is wood, it will eventually swell or soften upon exposure to moisture after some time.

The core will not return to its original dimension even after it dries out. The waterlogged center will undoubtedly peel away the top layers. Severely water-damaged laminate will need replacing as it is unrepairable.

Properly installed laminates can tolerate pooled water for a short amount of time, as long as they have tight seams and good moldings or baseboards.

Laminate is unsuitable for rooms with high moisture levels. That includes laundry rooms and bathrooms.

 

3. Cleaning and Maintenance

Vinyl flooring is easy enough to maintain and clean. You can use a wet mop or rag on these floors. You can also scrub them with safe and mild cleaning products to combat stubborn messes. Vinyl allows you to use various cleaning methods without the need to worry.

Laminate floorings, however, need a more delicate and careful process. It is due to its limited moisture resistance. It would be best to use dry cleaning methods like a vacuum, broom, or dry mop.

Using water or cleaning agents will surely damage your floor. Other than that, laminates are low maintenance in general.

 

4. Price

Laminate and vinyl flooring are roughly the same in terms of price. They are cheaper than other flooring options like porcelain tile and hardwood. Though, vinyl can get more expensive as you explore the luxury options.

The price range for laminate flooring falls around $1-5 per square root. You can find ones sold for less than a dollar at discount flooring stores. Name brand laminate starts around $3 per square root. It can go up to as high as $8 per square foot for high-quality 12-mm thick planks.

Vinyl floorings begin at $1 per square root for standard glue-down sheet vinyl. Prices for luxury vinyl planks can go up to $5 per square root. At this price range, you will get high-end luxury vinyl that has a thicker wear layer and a special waterproof core.

Though, be aware that sheet vinyl requires professional installation. Tile and plank vinyl, on the other hand, have easy-to-install methods you can do yourself!

 

5. Installation

Most vinyl and laminate flooring are pretty easy to install, even by yourself. Though, the ease of installation depends heavily on the type of flooring product you have. Both floorings are great options for people who like to do DIY projects.

Vinyl flooring has more variety and options for installation. There are glue-down, click-and-lock planks, peel-and-stick, and more to choose from.

Sheet vinyl is probably the hardest one to install and manage. It is heavy and needs precise cutting to match the angles and shape of the room. It would be highly ideal to ask for professional help for this type of vinyl.

Laminate flooring usually uses a click-and-lock installation method. It means that the tongue of a laminate plank fits the groove of an adjoining plank. When locked in, the seams will close.

Aside from that, the most-used means of installation for laminate projects is the floating method. You simply install the laminate over your existing flooring. This is opposed to being nailed or glued down. You may use a standard table saw to cut down the pieces to fit your floor better.

 

6. Durability

Vinyl flooring is best known for its durability and resilience. Most would consider it a lower-quality floor option due to its price point, but in reality, vinyl can go toe to toe with high brand floorings! It can withstand high amounts of traffic and has a lifespan of up to 20 years!

Laminate, while durable and strong, can still succumb to water damage. Letting spills stay for long periods can risk permanently damaging your laminate flooring! In addition, once the topmost layer of a laminate floor is scratched, there is no fixing it.

Most laminate products can last up to 10-25 years. The lifespan, however, will depend on how you treat it. Giving it proper care and maintenance will surely make it last for almost or over two decades!

 

7. Resale Value

High-quality laminate floorings rank under engineered wood and solid hardwood for resale value. Premium ones can add extra resale value to your home. It is as long as the flooring is relatively new and in peak condition.

Years ago, vinyl floors used to do poorly in resale value. In recent years though, vinyl’s floor stature continuously increased. Thicker and more realistic vinyl products are released on the market.

Major brand LVP can now bring in a decent resale value. Even so, laminate will still bring in higher resale value than vinyl. Inferior and lower-quality vinyl will surely fall under a buyer’s project-in-waiting list once the house is sold.

 

8. Environmental Impact

Some laminate manufacturers released products that qualify for LEED MR4 (Recycled Content) status. Though, laminate still uses a plastic surface layer — not to mention the melamine resins used for the core level, which are not green materials as they release gas chemicals. Laminate is, however, better than vinyl in this aspect.

Vinyl flooring gradually improved its green stature recently, though. Some vinyl flooring manufacturers now offer products that qualify for an EQ4.3 LEED credit for Low Emitting Material.

Though, be aware that most vinyl is made of 100% synthetic materials — which are non-recyclable and would not decompose in landfills. It also produces toxic chemicals when burned.

Laminate has an advantage over vinyl in terms of having green building materials. It has a natural wood-based core, making it a more sustainable choice. Although, neither flooring is entirely ‘eco-friendly’ in the same way as linoleum, natural wood, or bamboo floors.

 

9. Comfort and Sound

Simply put, neither vinyl nor laminate can accurately replicate the sound and feel of authentic hardwood. Laminate, however, does a pretty great job in mimicking its warmth.

It is especially true if the laminate has a layer of dense foam padding beneath. The underlay not only makes the laminate comfortable to walk on but also reduces the sound of hollowness.

Most vinyl floors can feel hard or cold on your feet. It is uncomfortable when installed over existing ceramic or concrete floors.

 

When Is Laminate The Better Option?

Although plastic, a laminate’s surface looks like genuine wood. It is one of the reasons why it would make a great cheaper alternative for homeowners who wish a wood-look for their homes. Below are points on what circumstances does laminate make a better option for your home:

  • Laminate works best in relatively dry areas. You can use them for living rooms, hallways, and bedrooms.
  • If you wish for a comfortable and quiet floor option, choose laminate flooring. Installing this with suitable underlayment makes it more comfortable to walk on. Not to mention that it can produce a bit of warmth, similar to hardwood. It would be perfect for living rooms and entertainment areas where you often lay or sit on the floor.
  • For eco-conscious homeowners, laminate has an edge against vinyl. Leading brands and manufacturers often produce products with recycled materials. Also, laminate’s wood core base can decompose in landfills. This is opposed to vinyl’s non disposable one.

 

A person standing on laminate flooring

 

When Is Vinyl The Better Option?

On the question “is vinyl flooring as good as laminate”, the answer differs. In some aspects, vinyl can be as good as laminate — it even exceeds it at times. Although, there are circumstances when laminate floors are better.

One notable advantage vinyl has over laminate is durability. Aside from that, there are a couple more instances when vinyl is better suited for your home.

  • If you have a pet at home, vinyl is a much better choice. Pets would find it much easier to navigate on vinyl floors than on laminate ones. Not to mention that it has superior stain and scratch resistance.
  • Vinyl is perfect for those looking for a wide range of designs to choose from. It also is a better option for homeowners who are attempting to match their existing interior decor or want to make a design statement.
  • Unlike laminate floors, which you need to cut with a saw, vinyl can easily be cut using a sharp knife. This makes it convenient for DIYers who plan to install it themselves.
  • You can install vinyl in areas with high moisture levels. The reason is that vinyl exceeds laminate in the moisture resistance department. It can survive water and moisture for long periods without fear of permanent damage. You can use them in bathrooms, basements, laundry rooms, and kitchens.
  • Vinyl is also better suited for homeowners who are looking for low-maintenance flooring. Unlike laminate, vinyl does not need any special care or maintenance. No need to be wary about using water when cleaning it either! You can use both dry and cleaning methods.

 

Conclusion

At some point, most homeowners were probably plagued with the thought of which flooring is superior. The decision on which is better between laminate and vinyl will still fall on you. They have a lot of similarities and distinctions you should consider.

It does not erase the fact that both floorings are durable and cheaper alternatives for natural wood. Make sure to assess their differences thoroughly before deciding.

If you are having trouble, you can reach out to us at SG Good Wood! We can help you decide which would be a better option for your home.

 

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