Vinyl versus laminate—which is the best floor? If you asked two homeowners this question, you’d probably get two different answers. Both types of flooring are excellent choices with some notable differences that often make one floor “more right” for a home than the other.
The biggest difference is the flooring construction. Vinyl flooring is made of plastic while laminate is mostly wood. Laminate flooring is constructed with a plastic top wear layer that protects several layers of wood. The most important layer is the wood core that stabilizes the flooring.
Vinyl flooring comes in three different types of products: luxury vinyl plank, luxury vinyl tile, and sheet vinyl. Sheet vinyl is harder to install, while the instructions for luxury vinyl plank and tile are fairly easy. Many luxury vinyl floors can be installed as a floating floor (without adhesive). Laminate flooring is also primarily installed as a floating floor—just one of many similarities and differences between the two floors.
In this area, laminate and luxury vinyl floors are fairly equal, especially when comparing high-quality laminate and luxury vinyl flooring.
Both vinyl and laminate flooring are easy-to-clean. Homeowners can keep floors looking clean with a regular vacuuming or sweep to remove debris. These floors can be deep-cleaned with a manufacturer-approved cleaner.
The deep cleaning process is where the first difference arises; when deep cleaning laminate floors, very little water should be used. Because laminate floors are mostly wood, standing puddles need to be dried as soon as possible to prevent permanent damage.
This is the main difference between vinyl and laminate flooring. Vinyl floors are water-resistant while laminate flooring can be damaged by standing water.
Because of this difference, vinyl flooring can be installed in rooms with frequent water spills and high humidity. Vinyl floors can withstand the moisture in a mudroom, bathroom, and laundry room.
Laminate floors are not typically a good match for these rooms, though they can be installed if the homeowner is prepared to clean up water spills immediately. High moisture or standing water can stain or cause cupping and warping (like most wood floors).
Both laminate and vinyl flooring are comparable in looks. Both floors resemble wood and tile, with some high-quality products looking so close it’s hard to tell. Laminate and vinyl both come in colors and styles that match with almost any décor.
Other than water-resistance, vinyl and laminate floors are in a dead heat for the “most durable” title. Both floors can take the wear and tear of a high-traffic area. These floors can be protected by adding felt pads to furniture and regularly sweeping or vacuuming up debris that could scratch.
Because both floors are durable, both floors can withstand the traffic from the most energetic and timid pets. Vinyl and laminate floors are not scratched easily by pet nails. If there is an accident, laminate floors do not be cleaned immediately to prevent damage.
Because both floors can be installed as a floating floors (without adhesive), they are both fairly easy-to-install. Laminate and luxury vinyl plank floors are typically put together like a puzzle. When purchasing either floor, homeowners should purchase extra flooring for installation (talk to a flooring pro about how much additional flooring to purchase).