When it comes to laminate floors and vinyl floors, not only do the two look very similar, but they also do a similar job. Vinyl flooring and laminate flooring offer many of the same benefits: durability, good looks, economy, and easy installation. Plus, they’re the best options for replacing hardwood, stone, and more when these natural materials suit a space.
“In a way, vinyl and laminate flooring are pretty much the same and the choice is subject to change depending on style options, cost and moisture content,” says Meera Pyarelal, founder and interior designer of Temple Town.
Both vinyl and laminate are resilient flooring types and equally suitable for DIY, but although the two overlap in many ways, they have significant differences that make one superior to the other in specific scenarios.
We asked experts to determine what type of flooring works best and when. Here is the truth.
7 Major Differences Between Laminate Flooring and Vinyl Flooring
First of all, what is laminate and vinyl? When you compare the two, you’re probably going to be looking at laminate planks versus luxury vinyl tiles.
These tiles are usually small planks made up of four layers of material. The first is the backing layer, usually cork or foam. This serves as the base for the vinyl flooring, so you often don’t need to install any other base material.
Laminate flooring is also made up of four layers, usually including some sort of fiberboard, all sealed and laminated together.
1. Which is the strongest?
Laminate flooring is generally known to be low maintenance and generally long lasting, however, in high traffic areas or over the years it can delaminate over time. For something like a hallway or kitchen laminate flooring, this leads to scratched or chipped floors. Laminates cannot be repaired and must be changed over time.
Thin plank vinyl flooring does not last as long as expensive, thicker vinyl flooring because it has a built-in underlayment. Compared to laminates, vinyl is a more durable, stronger, low-maintenance and therefore more resistant flooring.
“Laminate floors are intentionally designed to be durable and affordable,” says Noorein Kapoor, founder of NKD Studio. (opens in a new tab). “For flooring, if one has to go for a cheaper solution, vinyl flooring would be ideal as the effects of weathering are low.”
In terms of lifespan, however, vinyl flooring can last up to 25 years, with the lifespan of thinner vinyl flooring being limited to less than 10 years. Laminate, on the other hand, has a lifespan of 15 to 25 years, although a poor quality coating only lasts five years.
2. Which is more resistant to moisture and heat?
“Vinyl flooring is best suited for areas with high humidity and is easy to clean,” says Noorein. ‘This floor covering contains 100% polymers. A damp mop can be used to clean it. When soaked in water, it can be dried and will retain its dimensions and appearance.
Sheet vinyl, vinyl tile, and luxury vinyl flooring are typically made with 100% waterproof materials. Vinyl bathroom flooring more commonly uses LVT for a good quality finish, but sheet vinyl is also an option, which comes in 12-foot-wide rolls that often require no sewing. Spills and splashes won’t warp it, meaning it’s perfect for bathroom and kitchen installations.
Some vinyl products even have 100% waterproof foundations, such as plastic or cork, for added protection against moisture.
When it comes to heat resistance, both flooring options don’t suffer from the same issues as hardwood flooring, for example. Temperature fluctuations do not cause planks to shrink and expand, causing warping and cracking in hardwood floors.
Objectively, both flooring works in city apartments, but if you’re looking for looks, ease of installation, as well as creative flooring options for every room, laminate is a better option.
While laminate flooring uses a snap-in installation method, vinyl is more of a tongue-and-groove system, where a plank is inserted into the groove of an adjacent plank at an angle.
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3. Which has better design options?
Laminate and vinyl both use photographs of textures like wood and stone to create a realistic look, but more luxurious styles recreate the texture of these materials as well.
“I think laminate may have better design choices and will look more realistic as it can be more dimensional in nature, but is not recommended for potentially wet areas like basements,” says Mark Lavender , lead designer of Mr. Lavender Interiors. (opens in a new tab).
“Laminate floors have a more luxurious range of textures in hand-scraped, rustic, reclaimed and paint-washed finishes,” agrees interior designer Meera of Temple Town. (opens in a new tab). Laminate more often has a realistic three-dimensional embossing on its surface that looks more authentic and close to the accuracy of the material depicted. “With the decorative layer (a printed image), laminate flooring can recreate the look of more expensive flooring types like wood, tile or stone,” says Noorein.
4. What is easiest to clean and maintain?
Although laminates look like real wood, they shouldn’t be treated the same way you clean hardwood floors. They are not as moisture resistant and therefore should be mopped or broomed almost dry. When cleaning with water, you should only use a slightly damp mop.
Vinyl flooring is the easiest to maintain as it can be cleaned with water, a damp mop or even scrubbed vigorously with safe cleaning products.
5. Which is cheaper, vinyl or laminate?
When it comes to cost, vinyl and laminates are roughly comparable. While laminate flooring starts at around $1 per square foot for 7mm thick planks to around $5 per square foot for 12mm planks; vinyl can be as cheap as $1 per square foot for thin, bonded vinyl flooring, and $5 per square foot for luxury planks.
“They are both cheaper than other flooring materials like hardwood or porcelain tile,” says Noorein. “However, vinyl can become more expensive as you explore luxury flooring options.”
6. What is the highest resale value for your home?
‘Although the price of both is about the same, the resale of a higher quality laminate is higher. Personally, I would suggest the use of laminate flooring over vinyl,” says Meera.
One thing to keep in mind is that vinyl and laminate flooring are the cheaper and more durable alternatives to high value prestige flooring such as solid hardwood, engineered hardwood, designer ceramic tiles or natural stone floors. And therefore, in comparison, will always have a lower resale value. But if you end up buying a high-quality laminate or vinyl floor, that usually won’t put off potential buyers.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl compared to laminate flooring?
Vinyl and laminate flooring are quite similar in terms of qualities, durability and maintenance. There are only a few differentiating factors between the two. Vinyl is more suitable for high humidity areas like a kitchen or as a bathroom tile.
Vinyl flooring is low maintenance and can be cleaned with a damp mop. laminates can only be cleaned with a dry mop or vacuum cleaner. No sealer is needed for vinyl flooring, but vinyl must be sealed. In terms of cost, both are cheap options, but vinyl has more economical varieties.