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Laminate and vinyl floors are both great options for homeowners looking for a stylish and affordable flooring alternative to luxurious and highly sought-after floor types like hardwood and natural stone. Their costs are roughly the same per square foot, both are easy to install, and they even have a similar appearance at first glance or from a distance.
On This Page:
- What Is Laminate Flooring?
- What Is Vinyl Flooring?
- Life Span
- Environmental Impact
- Resale Value
- Is Laminate Flooring or Vinyl Flooring Better for Your Home?
- Laminate and Vinyl Plank vs. Other Materials
What Is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring is a multilayer type of floor in which the layers are fused or laminated together. There are usually four layers in total.
- The top is a transparent, protective wear layer that protects the floor from scratching, staining, and scuffing.
- Below this is a plastic, photographic image that can mimic or simulate different materials, mainly wood, natural stone, and ceramic.
- The third layer is the core, typically made of high-density fiberboard tightly bonded with resin, that provides impact resistance, stability, and durability to the floor.
- The bottom is the backing layer, made of melamine plastic and provides additional structural stability and moisture resistance.
Laminate flooring is generally easy to install. Most come either in long planks or square tiles, which you can easily snap together into place on top of a subfloor without the need for glue or nails. Some premium laminate products also come with an underlayment already adhered to the underside of the flooring, saving you the time and cost of installing a separate underlayment.
What Is Vinyl Flooring?
While laminate flooring uses high-density fiberboard as the main ingredient for its core, vinyl flooring uses polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Vinyl flooring comes in several forms, including vinyl sheet, luxury vinyl tile, and luxury vinyl plank.
The floor has a tough urethane topcoat that acts as a wear layer. It also has a photographic image layer, just like laminate flooring, which can be designed to mimic a variety of other flooring materials like stone and ceramic. When it comes to installation, vinyl offers multiple options, including snap-and-click, peel-and-stick, and glue-down.Have questions about laminate or vinyl flooring?
Homeowners can customize the top layer of both laminate and vinyl flooring to mimic the appearance of other flooring materials like hardwood, ceramic, and tile. However, because the two floors have different compositions, they differ in terms of achieving a realistic look for different types of materials.
For example, if you want a floor that accurately mimics hardwood, the top option is laminate flooring, followed by luxury vinyl plank. If you want a floor that closely mimics stone or ceramic tiles, the top option is luxury vinyl tile.
|Mainly intended to mimic wood
|More range of styles, including hardwood, natural stone, and ceramic
|More realistic wood feel and appearance
|Less realistic wood feel and appearance, especially for lower-quality options
Laminate has a wood composite core that gives it a more realistic wood texture and feel than standard vinyl flooring. If you want a floor that most closely mimics wood without the actual cost of hardwood floors, go for laminate.
Standard vinyl is primarily intended to mimic the appearance of stone and ceramic. Wood-inspired options are available, but the thin nature of the flooring material and the simulated cracks can make the appearance look unconvincing and not real.
On the other hand, luxury vinyl planks (LVP) are made specifically to simulate the look of wood and are thus able to achieve a more realistic appearance. Still, when comparing LVP to laminate in terms of achieving a realistic wood-like appearance, laminate comes out on top. Meanwhile, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is accurate at mimicking ceramic or natural stone because of its limestone core and textured feel.
Laminate and vinyl flooring cost roughly the same per square foot. In general, both floor options are less expensive than natural floor materials like hardwood.
For laminate flooring, the cost varies depending on the design as well as the thickness of the flooring material. For vinyl, the cost can vary depending on whether you go for vinyl sheets, LVP, or LVT. The material costs for LVP and LVT are typically higher than for vinyl sheets, but vinyl sheets cost more to install.
|$0.70 – $2 per sq. ft. for materials
|$1 – $5 per sq. ft. for materials
|$2 – $8 per sq. ft. for labor
|$1 – $5 per sq. ft. for labor
Laminate flooring costs between $0.70 and $2 per square foot on average for materials. Labor costs between $2 and $8 per square foot. In total, budget between $3 and $10 per square foot for laminate flooring materials and installation.
The price of vinyl flooring material ranges between $1 and $5 per square foot, with labor costs also falling in the same range. The total cost of vinyl plank materials plus hiring a pro to do the installation ranges between $2 and $10 per square foot, which is comparable to the cost of laminate flooring.
Both laminate and vinyl flooring are fairly low-maintenance. Vinyl flooring is one of the most low-maintenance floor options available. You can use a wide range of cleaning methods on this type of floor. While laminate flooring is also low-maintenance, it’s a bit more delicate, and its cleaning options are consequently more limited.
Although laminate flooring is a relatively low-maintenance option, its sensitivity to moisture requires a little more care when it comes to maintaining or cleaning it. Manufacturers typically recommend sticking to dry cleaning methods, such as a broom or dry mop. Avoid wet mopping if you want to preserve the structural integrity and longevity of your laminate flooring.
Vinyl flooring offers more cleaning options. You can use dry cleaning methods, a wet mop, or even deeply scrub to remove more stubborn messes using manufacturer-recommended products without worrying about damaging the floor.Need help deciding from a flooring pro?
Both laminate and vinyl flooring are fairly durable. Vinyl is the more durable of the two due to its waterproof nature and superior stain resistance. Overall, both are less durable than hardwood and natural stone floors.
Laminate is a quite durable flooring material that can withstand medium to heavy traffic. However, this material is susceptible to water damage. Humidity or moisture can cause laminate flooring to expand and buckle. High and constant temperature fluctuations can also cause the floor to expand and contract. Furthermore, you can’t repair scratched or scraped laminate flooring. Instead, you’ll need to replace the damaged planks.
Vinyl is completely waterproof, which gives it an edge over laminate flooring when it comes to durability. It’s also more resistant to temperature fluctuations than laminate flooring. With vinyl, you can also add extra layers of urethane to it to extend its life.
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Laminate and vinyl floors are among the easiest to install. If you’re a handy DIY-er, you can DIY install laminate planks, vinyl planks, and even vinyl tiles quite easily. Vinyl sheets typically require professional installation.
Laminate is relatively simple to install. In most cases, laminate floors use a floating installation method. This means that the floors come in planks or tiles with tongue-and-groove edges that snap together into place without the need for glue. If you’re a moderately handy person, you can easily and confidently handle the job yourself.
Vinyl floors offer several installation methods, including snap-and-click and glue-down. While a snap-and-click vinyl floor is relatively easy to install DIY, a glue-down option, like sheet vinyl, is a little more complex since it involves adhesives and requires precise cutting. If you’re going with the glue-down vinyl sheet option, hiring a vinyl floor installer near you is best to ensure the job is done right.
The life expectancy of each can vary depending on the quality of material you choose, whether you installed it properly, and the amount of traffic that the floor sees. Proper care and maintenance can also positively contribute to the life span of your flooring.
Laminate flooring has a life span of between 15 and 25 years, so hire a local laminate floor installer to ensure your laminate floors can last a long time in your home.
Vinyl flooring has a life span of between 10 and 20 years.
From an environmental impact standpoint, both laminate and vinyl flooring have their disadvantages. Overall, laminate has the edge as it has a core made of wood by-products, unlike vinyl, which is entirely made of synthetic materials. This means that vinyl isn’t recyclable and won’t decompose naturally.
The core material for laminate is wood-based, so the flooring is considered more sustainable. This flooring will decompose naturally after use and could even be recycled. But because it’s still partly made from synthetic materials, one of the environmental downsides of laminate flooring is that it can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can lead to indoor air pollution by drifting out of the flooring and into the air.
Since it’s made completely of synthetic materials, vinyl flooring is unrecyclable. It also won’t decompose naturally in landfills. Since it’s made completely from synthetic materials, it’ll emit harmful VOCs after installation at a higher rate than laminate floors and contribute to indoor air pollution.
Both laminate flooring can increase the resale value of your home. However, the actual effect is negligible, especially when compared with other materials like hardwood and natural stone. If you’re considering upgrading your home’s flooring to one that’ll increase its resale value the most, you might be better off going with solid hardwood floors, which are the most popular flooring option among homeowners.
Laminate flooring has a much superior ability to replicate the look of natural wood, meaning that it’ll generally command a higher resale value than vinyl.
While premium options like LVP can add some resale value to your home, lower-quality options will only do a little to boost your home’s resale value.
Is Laminate Flooring or Vinyl Flooring Better for Your Home?
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When it comes to vinyl versus laminate flooring, there are key differences that can help you narrow down the best option for you. The main difference between the two is that vinyl is completely waterproof, making it ideal for high-moisture areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. While not waterproof, laminate flooring is thicker and feels warmer and softer underfoot.
|More realistic wood look
|More styles, including stone and tile, but less realistic wood look
|$3 – $10 per sq. ft.
|$2 – $10 per sq. ft.
|Requires dry cleaning methods
|Works with a broader range of cleaning methods
|Prone to moisture damage and can’t be repaired for large scratches and stains
|Completely waterproof and can repair stains and scratches without replacing the floor
|Floating installation method that’s DIY-friendly
|Several installation methods with varying difficulties
|15 – 25 years
|10 – 20 years
|Recyclable and more biodegradable, but emits VOCs
|Not recyclable, not biodegradable, and emits VOCs
|Can increase the resale value of a home by a small amount
|Only high-premium options can increase the resale value of a home
There’s no clear winner when it comes to laminate flooring versus vinyl flooring. Depending on the space, area, or room in your home where you want to install the floor, one or the other may be a better option. Below are various types of rooms in a home and the type of flooring that may be most suitable for each.
Vinyl is a great option for your bathroom since it’s waterproof and slip-resistant.
Vinyl flooring is also good for kitchen flooring. Moisture and water resistance are key factors in the kitchen too, so when it comes to laminate or vinyl, vinyl wins for the best kitchen floor material.
Bedrooms and Living Rooms
Laminate is the clear winner when it comes to bedrooms and living rooms. It feels softer underfoot, and in these two rooms where comfort is key, it’s consequently the superior material option.
Laminate and Vinyl Plank vs. Other Materials
Laminate and vinyl are both popular, affordable flooring products, but there are other types of flooring material you should consider. Other popular options include linoleum and wood. Here’s how each compares to laminate and flooring.
Although it’s often confused with vinyl, linoleum is actually a natural composite made from linseed oil, sawdust, cork powder, and ground stone. It’s recyclable and often contains recycled materials, so it’s a reliable, affordable, and environmentally friendly option. It’s similarly priced to vinyl and laminate and has a high tolerance for moisture, so it’s a great choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. It works well in high-traffic areas and homes with pets and kids, requires minimal maintenance, and is easy to clean.
Hardwood and engineered wood floors are more expensive than laminate and vinyl, but they have a much longer life span and aesthetic appeal. You can refinish these floors multiple times, and wood floors typically give a home a higher resale value than both laminate and vinyl floors.