If you’re looking for attractive, cost-effective flooring options that will stand the test of time, the two types of flooring that really stand out are vinyl and laminate floors.
Vinyl and laminate flooring actually have a lot in common! Both floor types can be installed yourself, they hold up well, and they even look pretty similar at a glance.
But if you’re stuck on which option is better, knowing the pros and cons of vinyl and laminate floors can help you make an informed decision. Keep reading for a deep dive into differences between vinyl and laminate flooring to help you choose the right floor!
Which is Better: Vinyl or Laminate Flooring?
Inexpensive vinyl and laminate flooring has a come a long way in recent years. And while neither type of flooring is necessarily a “better choice” than the other, your personal lifestyle and preferences could potentially affect whether you should go with vinyl or laminate when deciding which type of flooring to install in your home.
What is Vinyl Flooring?
Vinyl flooring is made from synthetic materials and is composed of four layers. The bottom layer, which is made from foam or cork, can be directly installed without a base material — a super convenient feature for anyone who wants to go the DIY route!
But when shopping for your new floors, there are two types of vinyl flooring to be aware of: luxury vinyl flooring and sheet vinyl.
Of the two varieties, luxury vinyl flooring has a more realistic look. It’s made from a synthetic product to mimic the appearance of natural materials, and is also thicker than sheet vinyl. That makes luxury vinyl flooring a great option if you want to install something that doesn’t look like synthetic flooring but also isn’t as hard on the surface as hardwood floors.
LVP vs Luxury Vinyl Tiles
Luxury vinyl can take on the appearance of several types of flooring and comes as either planks or vinyl tiles. If you want your vinyl floors to have a more realistic look, luxury vinyl planks are the better choice. Luxury vinyl planks are intended to resemble real wood, and are a beautiful, convincing substitute for the real deal.
The other option is luxury vinyl tile, and you can probably guess what the difference is from the name alone! This type of luxury vinyl flooring has the same benefits as planks but it looks like tiles, making it best suited for kitchens, bathrooms, or laundry rooms, where natural stone or ceramic tile is a popular flooring style.
Luxury vinyl tile is also easy to size down for fitting into tight corners. That’s one of the many reasons it’s a popular pick for bathrooms.
Meanwhile, vinyl sheets are an inexpensive alternative to luxury vinyl. Sheet vinyl is a fiberglass cushion-backed flooring known for being one of the most affordable and easiest to install types you can get. And, unlike luxury vinyl planks or tiles, sheet vinyl comes in the form of large, rollable sheets which just about anyone can roll out for an easy DIY installation.
Some vinyl sheets don’t even require the use of adhesives, meaning you can size and place them on your desired floor area without making a permanent commitment. Known as the floating floor method, installing your vinyl floors this way is a huge benefit if you’re working with a larger surface area, which could otherwise require professional installation.
What are the pros of vinyl flooring?
One of the biggest perks of any type of vinyl flooring is that it holds up well against exposure to moisture. Some brands even offer varieties that are completely waterproof!
Vinyl flooring’s water resistance feature makes it a great choice for any type of room with running water, like kitchens, bathrooms, or laundry rooms. It’s also better for people living in humid climates or where flooding is common.
Because luxury vinyl flooring has a strong wear layer, it can handle just about any cleaning routine and is a great choice for the higher-traffic areas of your home. Plus, vinyl flooring’s layered structure means it’s more soundproof than other flooring types, seeing as the bottom layer is ultra absorbent.
If you’re looking for flooring options that are super easy to maintain and will last for a few decades, you should definitely consider luxury vinyl!
What are the disadvantages of vinyl flooring?
While vinyl flooring comes in all different varieties and styles, one of its disadvantages is that it doesn’t always look realistic.
Most of the older, less-expensive types of sheet vinyl are topped off with a plastic wear layer, which might compromise the realistic look people go for when they purchase luxury vinyl flooring.
Another disadvantage of vinyl flooring is that it’s not completely scratch resistant. Even though the top wear layer makes it more durable than other types of flooring, if that layer becomes compromised from too much force, there’s nothing you can do to stop it from damaging the layers underneath.
The price of vinyl flooring isn’t necessarily a drawback, but some people might view the inconsistency as a disadvantage. In other words, there’s a difference in the price of different types of vinyl floors.
Regular sheet vinyl costs anywhere between $0.50 and $2 per square foot, while vinyl planks or tiles range from $2 to $3 per square foot. However, luxury vinyl planks and tiles cost between $2.50 and $5 per square foot, and installation costs will also be added on top of that!
What is Laminate Flooring?
Like vinyl, laminate floors are also an easy-to-install, synthetic alternative to natural flooring.
The base of laminate floors is made from a high-density fiberboard, which is glued onto an image or design layer to mimic natural materials, like real wood or stone. Then, it’s topped with a thin wear layer which protects the surface from any potential damage.
Laminate floors have fewer options than vinyl when it comes to types of flooring, but the image layer gives laminate floors just as much variety in terms of style. In fact, many people use laminate flooring to resemble the same natural materials achieved by vinyl floors!
This makes laminate flooring a great option if you’re going for something like hardwood floors but don’t want to rack in the cost or hassle of professional installation.
What are the pros of laminate flooring?
The floating floor method I mentioned earlier also works for laminate planks. Using this method to install new floors will simplify your DIY flooring project in a huge way, and also bypasses having to call in the professionals.
Plus, laminate floors are scratch resistant. If you have children or pets who expose your flooring to constant wear and tear, you can count on laminate to hold up against that through its lifespan.
Another pro of laminate flooring is that it’s more affordable than most of your other flooring options, with the average price costing between $0.70 and $2.00 per square foot.
Implementing the right maintenance plan and cleaning regime for your laminate floors will allow you to achieve the realistic look of natural wood flooring or other natural materials without the anxiety of spending an arm and a leg!
What are the disadvantages of laminate flooring?
Due to its high-density fiberboard core, laminate flooring isn’t waterproof. Exposure to too much water can result in irreparable damage to your laminate floors, so although they’re water resistant, laminate floors aren’t the best choice for people living in regions with high-humidity levels or in areas prone to flooding.
Additionally, laminate floors require a more specialized cleaning routine which uses less direct water contact, and they can never be refinished. You’ll have to replace your laminate floors if they become worn down or damaged, so that’s something to consider if lifespan is an important factor in your decision.
To sum it up, whether you consider vinyl or laminate floors to be better than the other ultimately comes down to your personal needs.
We chose to DIY install our own laminate flooring and have actually found it superior in durability to a much more expensive engineered version we chose in our last home.
If you live somewhere that floods or can’t stand the noise of people walking around your house, vinyl is hands down the way to go. But if you have your mind set on carrying out an inexpensive DIY flooring installation, laminate floors are probably your best choice!
Either way, both flooring options are fantastic, low-maintenance alternatives to hardwood flooring and other natural materials. Let me know in the comments which type of new flooring you prefer, or if this article changed your opinion on which type is the better option!