Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring: Pros, Cons & Differences

By HomeAdvisor

Updated August 24, 2021

Left/Top: © Jena Ardell/ Moment /Getty Images.

Right/Bottom: © SMedia / iStock / Getty Images Plus /Getty Images.

Laminate and vinyl flooring are budget-friendly choices for any remodeling project. People often confuse these similar products, but they do have some important differences. Luxury vinyl products are waterproof and reasonably tough, while laminate planks are slightly cheaper and easier to care for. In many other respects, these wood flooring options are evenly matched.

On This Page

  1. What’s the Difference Between Laminate and Vinyl Flooring?
    1. Laminate
    2. Vinyl
  2. Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring: Which is Better?
    1. Appearance
    2. Cost
    3. Care
    4. Durability
    5. Installation/DIY
    6. Moisture
    7. Repair
    8. Environmental Impact
    9. Pets
    10. Radiant Heating
    11. Resale Value
  3. Which is Best for Your Home?
    1. Bathroom Flooring
    2. Kitchen Flooring
    3. Living Room Flooring
    4. High Traffic Areas
  4. Laminate vs. Vinyl vs. Other Materials
    1. Linoleum
    2. Hardwood and Engineered Wood
  5. Top Engineered Hardwood and Laminate Flooring Brands

What’s the Difference Between Laminate and Vinyl Flooring?

Both vinyl and laminate are manufactured composites that share many attributes. However, laminate utilizes more natural products than vinyl.

Laminate

Laminate flooring consists of a water-resistant base layer that stabilizes the plank. Above sits a multi-layer core of high-density fiberboard. Sometimes the core is entirely synthetic, but sometimes it consists, at least in part, of wood waste, helping to reduce its environmental impact. The next layer is a photographic print that mimics whatever material you’ve chosen. It’s often wood-look but can also resemble stone or tile. A coat of resin tops the print.

The photographic layer is thin and isn’t suitable for refinishing. Additionally, once the resin wears off, you can’t reseal the floor.

You can glue laminate to a subfloor, float it, or nail or glue it down.

Vinyl

Luxury vinyl is entirely synthetic, consisting of multiple layers of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. It has a tough urethane topcoat that acts as a wear layer. Vinyl is suitable for snap-and-click, peel-and-stick, glue-down and floating installations.

LVP

Luxury Vinyl Plank, or LVP, is the material of choice for those wanting to mimic real wood floors on a tight budget. They’re available in smooth or textured options to look more realistic.

LVT

Luxury Vinyl Tile, or LVT, does a better job of resembling a wider range of materials, particularly natural stones and concrete. The tiles come in a greater selection of widths and sizes, so joins are less frequent and not so obvious.

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Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring: Which is Better?

These two budget flooring options are a close match in many ways, including installation method, appearance and radiant heating. They’re both solid choices for affordable flooring throughout the home.

Laminate is Better for… Luxury Vinyl is Better for…
Cost Cutters Pets
The Environment Repairs/Maintenance

Durability

Water/Moisture
Care
Resale Value

Appearance

The Best in Looks: Tie!

Even when you’re on a tight budget, you want to achieve the best possible finished look.

Laminate

Pros

  • Top layer can depict any wood type
  • Different textures are available to provide traction and a more natural-looking finish

Cons

  • Still looks synthetic due to the unnatural shine and photographic print




Vinyl Flooring

Pros

  • A variety of textures available
  • Can mimic any material, including wood and stone

Cons

  • Even with improved textures and printing, still looks synthetic


Cost

The Most Affordable: Laminate

Aside from the cost of initial outlay, think about the cost of upkeep, repair, maintenance and replacement.

Laminate:

  • Laminate flooring costs $1-$5 per square foot, without installation
  • Pricing depends on quality

Vinyl Flooring

  • Vinyl flooring costs $3-$7 per square foot, without installation
  • Pricing depends on thickness and quality

Care

The Easiest to Care for: Laminate

Quick, easy floor cleaning is essential in busy households. Ideally, you won’t need special cleaners and products to keep your floor germ-free and looking good.

Laminate

Pros

  • Easy to clean
  • Doesn’t trap dust and dirt
  • General daily cleaning with a broom or vacuum is fast and easy
  • Commercial cleaning sprays let you do an easy deep clean

Cons

  • Textured laminate flooring is more difficult to clean
  • Excess moisture can seep between cracks and cause damage underneath




Vinyl Flooring

Pros

  • Smooth and easy to clean
  • Only requires sweeping and vacuuming for general tidiness
  • Easy to deep clean with a cleaning spray

Cons

  • Dust and dirt is more difficult to remove from textured vinyl


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Durability

The Winner for Easiest to Lay Down: Tie!

Durability is essential. Even when using low-cost materials, your floor should withstand the rigors of your home and lifestyle for years to come.

Laminate:

  • Many different options available
  • Can last up to 20 years
  • Can’t refinish or reseal laminate—must be replaced

Vinyl Flooring

  • Usually comes with a 15+ year warranty
  • You can add extra layers of urethane to extend the life of vinyl

Durable Laminate Floor
© Marc_Osborne / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty images.

Installation

The Winner for Easiest to Lay Down: Tie!

Both laminate and vinyl flooring is suitable for DIY installation. However, unless you have adequate experience and knowledge, it’s always advisable to use a flooring professional for the best possible results.

Laminate:

  • Can lay over an existing floor
  • Use foam underlayment to add insulation and control noise
  • Laminate tiles stick directly onto a smooth surface

Vinyl Flooring

  • Can float over an existing floor without nails and glue
  • Can apply vinyl tiles directly on smooth surface
  • Can glue vinyl tiles and planks directly to a subfloor

Moisture Resistance

Best Floor for Your Bathrooms and Kitchen: Vinyl

The flooring in any room, but especially kitchens and bathrooms, is susceptible to moisture damage. Learn the best choices to keep water damage at bay.

Laminate:

  • Can offer moderate moisture resistance with proper installation and a vapor barrier

Vinyl Flooring

  • 100% waterproof
  • Still safe and usable if submerged

Repair

Most Convenient to Repair: Tie!

No matter how careful you are, your floors take a lot from the wear and tear of daily life, so you need to know how easy it is to make repairs before you decide on a product.

Laminate:

  • Fast and fairly easy to remove for replacement
  • Cannot be repaired; whole planks must be replaced

Vinyl Flooring

  • Extend its life by applying extra layers of urethane
  • Cannot sand or refinish; excessive damage requires replacement

Environmental Impact

Best for the Environment: Laminate

Environmental and personal health impacts are increasingly important considerations for homeowners and may influence your purchasing choice.

Laminate:

  • Re uses some wood byproducts
  • Some brands, such as Mohawk®, use recycled materials
  • Laminate emits VOCs (volatile organic compounds)

Vinyl Flooring

  • Does not emit VOCs
  • Lasts for many years, meaning less waste
  • Though plastic is recyclable, few facilities recycle this type of plastic safely

Pets

The Best Choice for Your Furry Friends: Vinyl

Dogs and cats can scratch floors, knock over a water bowl, or have a little bathroom accident before they’re fully trained, so if you have or plan to get a four-legged companion, factor this into your flooring choice.

Laminate

Pros

  • Water and scratch-resistant
  • Dander and pet hair is easy to sweep

Cons

  • Not completely waterproof
  • If unsealed, pet urine can seep into cracks



Vinyl Flooring

Pros

  • 100% waterproof: Makes house-training accidents easier to clean up
  • Scratch-resistant surface
  • Pet hair swept away easily

Cons

  • Vinyl can hold odor: Clean bathroom accidents quickly


Sleeping Dog on Laminate Floor
© Catherine Falls Commercial / Moment / Getty images.

Radiant Heating

Best for Radiant Heat: Vinyl

When you pair it with the right flooring, radiant heating efficiently warms your home, but not all types of floor work well with this system.

Laminate:

  • Only specialized laminate is suitable for use with radiant heat systems
  • Laminate is not an effective conductor
  • Gapping occurs as planks expand and contract with temperature fluctuations

Vinyl Flooring

  • Efficiently conducts heat
  • Not all vinyl is compatible
  • Pair vinyl with self-leveling underlayment to further improve heating efficiency

Resale Value

Best for Resale Value: Vinyl

Laminate:

  • High-quality versions can increase property value slightly
  • Laminate does not have a particularly good reputation, unlike hardwood or stone

Vinyl Flooring

  • Low quality vinyl flooring can lower the value of a home
  • Although vinyl flooring has improved in recent years, it still doesn’t have a good reputation

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Which Is Best for Your Home?

Laminate and luxury vinyl are similar in most respects, so the final choice depends on your budget, the best choice for the room you’re remodeling and the look you want.

Bathroom Flooring

The best bathroom flooring is waterproof and slip-resistant, so high-quality, textured luxury vinyl is the better option here. It’s 100% plastic so it doesn’t incur water damage and it’s easy to keep clean and hygienic.

Kitchen Flooring

Moisture resistance is a key factor in the kitchen too, so when it comes to laminate vs. vinyl for the best kitchen floor material, luxury vinyl wins.

Living Room Flooring

Luxury vinyl looks slightly less synthetic than laminate, so it’s a strong contender as an affordable living room floor.

High-Traffic Areas

In high-traffic areas, vinyl lasts longer, particularly if you add extra urethane layers, which you can’t do with laminate.

Laminate vs. Vinyl vs. Other Materials

Laminate and vinyl are both popular, affordable flooring products, but they’re far from your only options. Take a look at how they compare to other budget-friendly materials.

Vs. Linoleum

Linoleum is often confused with vinyl, but linoleum is a natural composite product that’s been in use for roughly 150 years. It’s made from linseed oil, sawdust, cork powder and ground stone. It’s also recyclable and often contains recycled materials, so it’s a reliable, affordable, 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.

Vs. Hardwood and Engineered Wood

Hardwood and engineered wood floors are more expensive than laminate and vinyl, but have a much longer lifespan. They can be refinished multiple times. Both of these options give a home a higher resale value and a beautiful, natural appearance.

Top Engineered Hardwood and Laminate Flooring Brands

Top Laminate Brands Top Vinyl Flooring Brands
Shaw® Shaw®
Top® Armstrong®
Armstrong® Mannington®
Pergo® Karndean®
Bruce® Lumber Liquidators®
Mohawk® Harbinger®

9 Comments

  1. Hal Braswell, July 23:

    This article is dated. Modin (Flooret) has the best product with a 40 mill wear layer, Best in the industry. Rigid LVP is the wave of the future combining best attributes of both LVP and laminate. Modin Rigid has large planks, clicks together, has a 40 mil wear layer for about $4/SF. Handles like 1/4” plywood.

  2. Darius Zandi, August 27:

    What about noise levels? installing these in a wooden frame appartmenet buiding with some noise issues? which one is easier to insulate against noise? and which one is naturally better at reducing noise?

    Also there are new water proof laminate floording planks being sold that are also AC5. The sales person was telling me that these are as sturdy as Vinyl planks and are also water proof?

  3. irene rogers, August 29:

    Hi
    I am getting estimates from your pros. My question is after I read your very good article I like to know what type of flooring is good for the bedroom with radiant heat. There is an unbelievable variety of floors. I like your opinion.
    Irene Rogers

  4. Pamela Eden, November 20:

    Was advised we cannot use vinyl in non climatized building in AZ. We are snowbirds and do not use AC in summer months. Is this true for all vinyl? Thank you.

  5. Heather, July 18:

    I realize your comment is from a while ago Pamela but in case you haven’t moved here yet and come back to this page I thought I’d answer your question.

    I assume by non climatized you mean you plan to turn your a/c off when you leave for the summer. While vinyl probably wouldn’t be affected the rest of your house would be. The extreme heat in the summer would cause your drywall to warp, ruin your appliances and likely your electrical. My parents snowbird here as well and they leave their house at 82 during the summer. Their foreman said 82 was the absolute highest he’d recommend leaving it at. One of the downsides to being a snowbird is having to pay utilities on two houses year round.

  6. Daniel H, August 31:

    Thanks for the informative post Home Advisor. I’ve honestly never hear about the fading issues that come with vinyl in direct sunlight. A close friend of mine actually just finished building a sun room using LVP, which is also an indoor-outdoor area like you described. I’ll have to let him know it’s something he should watch out for.

    On the other hand though, you can buy LVP that has some really strong mineral compositions in the finish gloss that heavily increases the hardness of your wear layer. An example of this is Aluminum Oxide. It’s about as hard of a mineral you can get apart from diamonds. With this added into you planks’ finish layers, they are almost scratch impervious. This could help against sharp objects. I agree with heavy object line though.

    Just some things to consider when buying LVP.

  7. Geoff Y, October 13:

    As my wife and I have just started looking at possible new flooring materials for our kitchen and family room, this post has been very informative. I do wonder how dated this information might be, now, as we went to Lowe’s yesterday and their flooring sales person strongly recommended a quality laminate over any of the waterproof luxury vinyl she had in the store. We told her it was for our kitchen and family room, and that we had 2 dogs and 2 cats that spend a fair amount of time in both rooms. She told us their Pergo TimberCraft was waterproof and would not get the many small dents that our medium sized dogs(and their claws) could cause on luxury vinyl.
    For those who have experience with luxury vinyl and that have dogs, would you be able to confirm this? Thank you.

  8. Daniel Hartness, January 23:

    Hey Geoff. Sorry to be a bit late in answering your question, but the salesperson was not exactly correct. They probably wanted to push that particular product at that time. Plenty of good options exist for LVP and it’s perfect for the situation that you described. As you already seem to know, it is inherently waterproof, meaning the product itself won’t be damaged by water, however, water can still seep through the slight spaces between boards and get below you’re flooring to cause mold and other damage. A problem that can easily be remedied with a moisture trap installed. So still ideal for kitchen flooring, just make sure you wipe up any water if there’s a lot of it.
    LVP is also perfect for pets. A very strong option exists for LVP nowadays that involves the inclusion of aluminum oxide in the wear layer of the planks. This compound is nearly as hard as diamonds and therefore makes your boards impervious to scratches and scuff marks. Another thing to keep in mind is selecting a lighter color so that scratch marks won’t be too visible on the surface for aesthetics. Don’t worry though, the board itself isn’t getting damaged from them. It’s an option I would highly recommend looking into Geoff and it would be much longer-lasting than any laminate product.

    Hope this helps!

  9. Tresa, February 24:

    Hey there. I was wondering what everyone thinks about different thickness layers. Is there a direct correlation between higher quality LVP boards and the boards getting thicker in mils? I asked this from researching what Daniel mentioned about aluminum oxide. One of the brands that offered it was COREtec and it seemed like it starts being included in their products around the 20 mil mark. I’d be willing to say that aluminum oxide probably adds some mil of thickness. Aluminum oxide is also a compound that makes the boards a lot stronger and therefore higher quality. But, what about just thicker wear layers in general, not just stronger wear layers?

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