Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring
Are you in the market for durable new flooring that is beautiful without going over budget? Laminate flooring & vinyl flooring are both industry standouts that can be installed as a DIY project. You’ll find styles in both categories that replicate similar looks and sit at about the same price point. Both are advertised as modern, affordable alternatives to hardwood. But how do they compare? Is there any difference between laminate and vinyl flooring? Which one is best for you and your home?
We’ll answer all of these questions for you in our laminate vs. vinyl flooring comparison guide.
What is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate is a multi-layered fiberboard product that, like vinyl, simulates hardwood, stone, and other natural flooring materials with deep, realistic three-dimensional embossing on its surfaces. In other words, it provides the appearance of premium flooring at a fraction of the price. Another similarity to vinyl is laminate’s ability to be installed as a floating floor system rather than being glued or nailed to a subfloor. It tends to feel like soft wood underfoot.
Most laminate flooring is composed of four layers:
- A bottom backing layer that stabilizes the floor and protects it from moisture
- A core layer composed of medium or high-density fiberboard
- A pattern layer with a photographic image of the material being simulated
- A top wear layer that acts as a sealant, protecting your floor from scratches & moisture
What is Vinyl Flooring?
Vinyl flooring is a 100% synthetic material available in sheets, planks or tiles. Like laminate, luxury vinyl tile allows you to mimic the appearance of natural flooring materials. Vinyl used to be inferior to laminate in terms of imaging and textures, but the technology has caught up and, in some cases, surpassed that of its competitor. Most vinyl flooring is installed with an adhesive, but some vinyl plank floors are floating floor systems like laminate. Vinyl tends to feel more like plastic underfoot.
The Differences Between Laminate & Vinyl Flooring
Material, Construction & Water Resistance
For all their similarities, the key difference that sets these two products apart is the material from which they’re made. Unlike the 100% synthetic vinyl, laminate flooring is made from real wood byproducts, bonded with resins. Vinyl usually consists of a base layer of fiberglass coated in PVC with multiple wear layers. The core can be thick, especially in plank or tile formats.
The big difference between laminate and vinyl flooring is that laminate is only water-resistant while vinyl is often considered to be fully waterproof. Laminate’s wear layer may protect it against minor spills, but it will warp and buckle if standing water seeps into its core layer. Vinyl, on the other hand, is completely waterproof. It isn’t a layered, so you don’t have to worry about water damage.
America’s Floor Source recommended installation areas for laminate & vinyl floors
Vinyl is the clear winner when it comes to water resistance.
The Winner? Vinyl.
The difference here will generally depend on the product you choose. While laminate flooring has historically had deeper, more realistic visuals & embossing on its surfaces, certain modern vinyl products do as well. Luxury vinyl plank flooring, with its thicker solid core, tends to look more like wood since deeper embossing is possible on its surface. Sheet vinyl, however, can’t compare to laminate.
The Winner? It’s a draw.
Comfort & Sound
When you’re shopping, looks may be the most obvious feature of a floor – however, once it’s installed, you’ll begin to notice the way it feels and sounds underfoot.
Neither laminate nor vinyl feels quite like real wood. However, laminate tends to feel warmer and softer – especially when paired with the right foam underlayment. Vinyl is a bit more cold and rigid, especially when floated over concrete or tile.
The Winner? Laminate.
Both laminate and vinyl flooring are designed to use a click-and-lock method of installation, making them a good DIY project even for those with limited experience. Laminate plank can be cut using an ordinary circular saw, which vinyl plank can be cut with a utility knife.
The exception is sheet vinyl, which is a large, heavy & unwieldly material to work with. If installing sheet vinyl, professional installation is the way to go.
The Winner? It’s a draw.
Laminate and vinyl are comparable in price. Vinyl tends to be less expensive, but as with appearance, there is wide variance between product types. Sheet vinyl is usually much cheaper than laminate, but high-end vinyl products like luxury vinyl tile are in the same ballpark. One thing is for certain, though—both products are much cheaper than natural flooring materials like hardwood and stone.
The winner? It’s a draw.
Real Estate Resale Value
As long as it is relatively new & in good condition, laminate flooring typically has a higher resale value even though it costs roughly the same as vinyl. Homebuyers tend to view it as a more premium flooring type because it has more advanced features like better imaging, embossment, and better joinery systems. However, as the luxury vinyl tile trend continues to catch on and products become more advanced, vinyl might close the gap in real estate value.
Neither category lends the prestige of solid hardwood floors or designer tile, but neither will put off prospective buyers, either.
The winner? It’s a draw.
Laminate and vinyl flooring are both extremely durable, but they have their weaknesses. Laminate is prone to scratches and chipped corners over time, so vinyl is probably a better choice for your home if you have pets. Vinyl is scratch-resistant, but it’s more vulnerable to denting and tearing since it’s a softer material. If you decide to install vinyl, make sure to carefully shift your furniture around every once in a while. Overall, however, vinyl is a tougher material that is easier to repair if needed.
In terms of lifespan, warranties tend to vary from product to product, but both laminate and luxury vinyl are comparable in this category.
The winner? Vinyl.
Laminate and vinyl are both pretty easy to clean. A weekly vacuum is all you need to make both flooring materials shine. However, we have to give this category to vinyl since it’s waterproof. Vinyl can be wet mopped, while laminate cannot, which has led to its use in commercial settings as well as the home. To achieve a deeper clean for laminate flooring, you’ll need to use a dry mop and a special laminate-specific cleaning product.
The winner? Vinyl.
As you can see, laminate and vinyl are both versatile flooring products with unique advantages and disadvantages. So which flooring should you buy? That depends on your priorities.
Vinyl is typically less expensive and more durable, while laminate has a slightly more premium feel and a higher resale value. Contact America’s Floor Source if you have more specific questions or visit one of our locations in Columbus, Indianapolis, or Louisville to check out our vast selection of laminate and vinyl products. Want to see how laminate or vinyl flooring would look in your home? Schedule a Mobile Floor Source Appointment, and we’ll bring samples right to your home.