Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring: Pros, Cons & Differences

By HomeAdvisor

Updated December 6, 2021

Dog laying on laminate floorTrain arrival / stock.adobe.com

When choosing affordable and durable countertops, both laminate and vinyl are great choices. However, there are a few key differences between these materials. Luxury vinyl products are waterproof and reasonably tough, while laminate planks are slightly cheaper and easier to care for.

On This Page:

  1. What’s the Difference Between Laminate and Vinyl Flooring?
  2. Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring: Which Is Better?
    1. Appearance
    2. Cost
    3. Care
    4. Durability
    5. Installation
    6. Moisture Resistance
    7. Repair
    8. Environmental Impact
    9. Pets
    10. Radiant Heating
    11. Resale Value
  3. Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring: Which Is Best for Your Home?
  4. Laminate vs. Vinyl vs. Other Materials
  5. Top Engineered Hardwood and Laminate Flooring Brands

What’s the Difference Between Laminate and Vinyl Flooring?

Person installing laminate flooring at homeStockPhotoVideo / stock.adobe.com

Both vinyl and laminate are composites that share many similarities. However, there are a few important differences. Notably, laminate utilizes more natural products than vinyl and tends to be slightly more durable, while laminate is more affordable and easy to maintain.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring consists of a water-resistant base layer and a multi-layer core of high-density fiberboard. The core is often entirely synthetic, but it may also consist, at least in part, of wood waste, helping to reduce its environmental impact. The next layer is a photographic print, with various designs available, including designs that mimic materials like stone, wood and tile. The final layer is a coat of resin on top of the print. To install laminate flooring, you can glue it to a subfloor, float it or nail or glue it down.

Vinyl Flooring

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.

Luxury Vinyl Plank, or LVP, is the material of choice for those wanting to mimic natural wood floors on a tight budget. They’re available in smooth or textured options to look more realistic. 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 joints are less frequent and not as obvious.

Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring: Which Is Better?

Person installing vinyl flooring at homeKadmy / stock.adobe.com

Laminate and vinyl flooring share many similarities, including when it comes to installation method, cost and appearance. They’re both solid choices for affordable flooring throughout your home.

Appearance

Both laminate and vinyl flooring have similar appearances. Homeowners can customize the top layer of laminate flooring to depict any type of material, and there are different textures available to provide traction and a more natural-looking finish. However, laminate flooring often still looks synthetic due to the unnatural shine of the material and the photographic print.

Vinyl flooring also comes in a wide variety of textures and can mimic any material, including wood or stone. Like laminate flooring, vinyl flooring often looks synthetic when compared with more natural materials.

Cost

Laminate flooring costs an average of $1 to $5 per square foot, not including installation, while vinyl flooring costs about $3 to $7 per square foot.

Care

Laminate flooring tends to be slightly easier to clean. It doesn’t trap dust and dirt, and general daily cleaning with a broom or vacuum is fast and easy. Commercial cleaning sprays are a simple solution for deep cleans. However, you should keep in mind that excess moisture can seep between cracks and cause damage underneath.

Vinyl flooring is also pretty easy to clean. It typically only requires sweeping and vacuuming for general tidiness, and is easy to deep clean with a cleaning spray. Unlike laminate flooring, however, vinyl flooring can sometimes trap dust and dirt.

Durability

Both vinyl and laminate flooring are extremely durable. Laminate usually lasts for up to 20 years, while vinyl flooring typically comes with a 15+ year warranty. However, you can’t refinish or reseal laminate, while you can add extra layers of urethane to vinyl flooring to extend its life.

Installation

Laminate and vinyl flooring are both relatively easy to install. However, unless you have adequate experience and knowledge, it’s usually a good idea to use a flooring professional for the best possible results. Laminate flooring can lay over an existing floor and uses a foam underlayment to add insulation and control noise. Vinyl flooring can float over an existing floor without nails and glue or attach directly to a subfloor.

Moisture Resistance

Laminate flooring is the better choice for moisture resistance. This type of flooring is 100% waterproof and is still safe and usable if submerged. Laminate flooring can offer moderate moisture resistance with proper installation and a vapor barrier, but it’s not 100% waterproof.

Repair

Both vinyl and laminate flooring are easy to repair. While laminate flooring is fast and fairly easy to remove for replacement, it’s impossible to repair it. You can extend the life of your vinyl flooring by applying extra layers of urethane, but you can’t sand or refinish this type of flooring.

Environmental Impact

Laminate flooring has the edge when it comes to overall environmental impact. Laminate reuses some wood byproducts, and some brands also use recycled materials. However, laminate flooring does emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds), while vinyl flooring does not.

Pets

Vinyl flooring is a good choice for homes with pets. Vinyl is 100% waterproof, scratch-resistant and easy to clean. That said, laminate isn’t a bad choice for your furry friends. While not completely waterproof, the material is water- and scratch-resistant, and dander and pet hair are easy to sweep.

Radiant Heating

Vinyl flooring is a better choice if you plan to install radiant heat. While not all types of vinyl are compatible, vinyl efficiently conducts heat, which can help to make sure your floor is toasty in the winter. Only specialized laminate is suitable for use with radiant heat systems, and laminate is not an effective conductor.

Resale Value

Laminate and vinyl both have negligible effects on the resale value of your home. High-quality laminate flooring can increase property value slightly, but neither laminate nor vinyl has a particularly good reputation when compared with other materials, like hardwood or stone.

Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring: Which Is Best for Your Home?

Depending on what area you’re considering, vinyl or laminate flooring may be a better choice.

Which Is Best for Bathrooms?

Vinyl is a great option for your bathroom since it’s waterproof and slip-resistant. High-quality, textured luxury vinyl is a good choice. Since it’s 100% plastic, it doesn’t incur water damage and is easy to clean.

Which Is Best for Kitchens?

Vinyl is also good for 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.

Which Is Best for Living Rooms?

Vinyl and laminate are both good choices for living room floors. These materials are cost-effective and come in a wide variety of styles and color options.

Which Is Best for High-Traffic Areas?

Vinyl tends to last longer In high-traffic areas. This is because you can add extra urethane layers to increase durability, 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 not the only types of flooring material you should consider. Other popular options include linoleum and wood.

Linoleum Floors

Linoleum is often confused with vinyl, but linoleum is 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, 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, homes with pets and kids, requires minimal maintenance and is easy to clean.

Wood Floors

Hardwood and engineered wood floors are more expensive than laminate and vinyl, but they have a much longer lifespan and an aesthetic appeal. You can refinish these floors multiple times, and wood floors typically give a home a higher resale value.

Top Engineered Hardwood and Laminate Flooring Brands

Some of the most popular hardwood and laminate flooring brands include:

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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