Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring Review
Both laminate and vinyl are affordable, easy-to-install options offer that homeowners that gorgeous hardwood appearance. Now that it’s time to decide whether or not you should install laminate vs. vinyl flooring for your home, you should list the pros and cons of both.
Back in the day, vinyl flooring used to be the last resort for any reno. It was affordable and easy to install. Both those things are still true with today’s vinyl, but today’s vinyl is much better-looking and durable. Another option homeowners often gravitate to for affordable flooring is laminate. Laminate has always mimicked the look of hardwood almost perfectly.
Our editors discuss the pros and cons of both these options and will tell you what you should get for your next reno. If you need some extra help, leave us a comment or call one of our partnered flooring experts.
Pros to Vinyl Flooring
Depending on which brand of vinyl flooring you pick, it’ll be made with different materials. Generally, most vinyl plank flooring is composed of the:
- Base Layer, or fiberglass underlayment, which absorbs impact, reduces, noise, and insulates your home.
- Core Layer, which is normally made from PVC or another plasticizer. This makes plank vinyl stronger than regular sheet vinyl.
- Wear Layer made with polyurethane to create style and durability.
Vinyl planks are made with a fiberglass base layer coated in PVC and plasticizer. Over this are multiple layers of no-wax polyurethane. This is what allows the vinyl to be engraved with a realistic wood pattern and color. It also creates a super durable surface layer that can last for years without fading with proper care.
Most vinyl plank flooring has interlocking planks, making it easy to install as a floating floor over your subfloor. Thinner vinyl will be harder to install, as users often find that the cheaply made interlocks can break during installation. Read your warranty before gluing down any planks, as you could end up voiding the warranty.
Many vinyl flooring options come in waterproof options. If this is important to you, pick an option with high WPC (wood plastic and polymer composite). This helps absorb moisture, making it easy for you to install in places like kitchens and laundry rooms. Since vinyl plank flooring is made from plastic, it’s relatively easy to find a good waterproof option.
Since most vinyl is waterproof and easy to clean, it’s fantastic if you have kids or pets. It’s durable enough to resist scratches and stains. With a waterproof option, clean-up is easy, even if you don’t get to mess right away.
Cons to Vinyl Flooring
Opt-out of vinyl flooring altogether if you’re installing in a non-climatized building. Vinyl flooring expands in the heat, meaning your floors could be damaged or come loose when it cools. Vinyl flooring isn’t best for:
- Non-climatized buildings
- Consistent quality across all vinyl brands
- Environmental and safety concerns
There are some brands with sub-par vinyl planks, which may worry potential homebuyers. Be wary of vinyl flooring with wear layers less than 12 mils thick. You may have to replace these floors a lot sooner than other options. Although vinyl flooring is known to be water-resistant, this isn’t true across all brands.
Some buyers know that vinyl flooring is easy to care for and durable. Others may be deterred by synthetic flooring. In other words, it’s made of plastic. This is problematic for two reasons: one, it’s hard to dispose of and recycle because it’s so harsh on the environment; two, certain brands may have questionable health and safety standards. Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of appeal to buying a home completely outfitted with hardwood flooring compared to vinyl plank.
Also Read: Home Depot’s LifeProof Vinyl Floor Review
When buying vinyl plank flooring, look for options with low-VOC (volatile organic compound) concentration. A VOC emits gas from certain solids that can have adverse health effects, according to the EPA. Your vinyl should be certified as low-VOC to avoid health and safety issues.
Pros to Laminate Flooring
Depending on which brand of laminate flooring you pick, it’ll be made with different materials. Generally, most laminate flooring is composed of the:
- Back Layer that holds together the laminate plank.
- Base Layer made with high-density or medium-density fiberboard (HDF, MDF).
- Core Layer made with resin and wood by-products to create a realistic texture.
- Print Layer that is a high-resolution photo of real hardwood.
- Wear Layer which protects the laminate floor.
The biggest difference between laminate and vinyl is that laminate’s core is made with wood by-products. This allows the resin core to bond well with the wood particles to create a realistic texture. With modern printing, manufacturers can then create a photographic layer on top of the core, which gives laminate a more realistic texture.
The biggest selling point for laminate flooring is the look. Laminate can recreate the look of other materials besides hardwood, like ceramic or stone. You can easily install laminate planks similarly to vinyl plank as a floating floor.
Laminate flooring is a little thicker than vinyl, ranging from 6mm to 12mm. The thicker planks are said to make the floor feel slightly warmer and softer. Vinyl flooring on the other hand can be quite hard and cold, which may not make it suitable for large living spaces or bedrooms.
The base layer of laminate flooring is made with MDF to HDF as we’ve discussed. Higher quality products should not only be thicker in overall width but also have a high HDF concentration. This doesn’t just give the floor a more realistic look and feel, it’s also moisture resistant.
Cons of Laminate Flooring
Unfortunately, not all laminate flooring is made the same and some brands aren’t water-resistant. Laminate isn’t suitable for kitchens, mudrooms, bathrooms, or laundry rooms. So although you can find options that are better at retaining moisture, they’ll likely be a little more expensive.
With poor moisture retention, cleaning and upkeeping laminate floors is a little harder than vinyl. You’ll have to figure out a dry cleaning routine or one with low moisture. Laminate floors cannot be refinished either, so if you cause damage to the floors, there’s no saving them.
Despite the wood by-product in laminate flooring, they’re not easily recyclable or biodegradable. Laminate floors are synthetic materials, after all.
Homebuyers often prefer vinyl flooring to laminate. Largely because laminate flooring is known for poor water retention. Some users also claim that vinyl flooring also absorbs more sound than laminate. This may be true, as the base layer of luxury vinyl flooring is often made with cork and other noise-canceling materials rather than laminate’s fiberboard.
Also Read: Hardwood vs. Laminate Review
Should You Buy Laminate or Hardwood Flooring?
You may have already made your mind up, but maybe you should step back and take a minute to ask yourself what you need this floor for. Depending on who you are and what kind of property you want to use your flooring for, both laminate and vinyl have their benefits.
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Buy vinyl flooring if you:
- Have pets or kids.
- Want easy cleanup.
- Need more durable floors.
- Are thinking of selling your home.
- Want to update a rental property.
- Want to update a kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, or mudroom.
Vinyl is cheap, easy to install, and easy to clean up. It can sway potential buyers because of these things. If you have a rental property, you know your floors will last you through the roughest tenants. Most vinyl flooring is waterproof, making it great for any spaces that are likely to get wet. However, because it’s not as comfortable and can cause more noise, it may not be suitable for large spaces or main living areas.
Buy laminate flooring if you:
- Have a preferred look.
- Have a non-climatized house.
- Want to update a vacation home.
- Want to update main living spaces or bedrooms.
Laminate flooring is gorgeous and really looks like true hardwood. This may not sway potential buyers, but it’ll make your vacation home or RV look amazing. Unlike vinyl, laminate can resist heat in non-climatized buildings, which again, is something you’ll want in a vacation home.