Vinyl vs Laminate Flooring

Vinyl vs. Laminate Flooring: Which is best?

 

Over the years, flooring manufacturers have innovated and upgraded the materials they use to create great options for homeowners & commercial spaces. Laminate and vinyl flooring are both ideal if you’re looking for durable and affordable flooring. They also both come in a variety of styles to mimic authentic wood, tile, and stone. So how do you decide which is best for your project?

While vinyl and laminate flooring have a lot in common, there are a handful of important contrasts. Qualities like being waterproof or comfortable to stand on can make or break your decision.

Here, we highlight the differences between vinyl flooring and laminate flooring, as well as the pros and cons of each.

What is Vinyl Flooring?

Vinyl flooring is made of a number of layers that build a durable floor. These synthetic materials work to enhance your floor’s moisture resistance, as water can sit for long periods of time without causing damage compared to wooden flooring. You can choose from many types of vinyl flooring like vinyl planks (LVP), SPC vinyl, WPC vinyl, and Rigid Core (Click vinyl) flooring. The overall thickness for vinyl flooring ranges from 1.5 mm for sheet vinyl to 5 mm for luxury vinyl planks.

 

Here are some pros and cons of vinyl flooring:

 

Pros Cons
Easy DIY installation for most on Rigid Board Some types of vinyl can be difficult to install or require self-levelling
Durable and lasts for decades Heavy appliances can cause dents
Made of water resistant materials Can scratch easily

What is Laminate Flooring?

Laminate flooring was one of the first man-made alternatives to hardwood floors. It’s a great choice for projects where you like the appearance of hardwood floors but don’t want to spend a large amount of money on flooring materials. Its thick composition makes it pretty comfortable to walk on, so it can work especially well in living areas and hallways. The overall thickness for laminate flooring planks ranges from 6 mm to 12 mm.

Like vinyl, laminate is also made of synthetic materials that resemble the look of authentic hardwood. Laminate layers are similar to vinyl flooring but made of different types of materials. Laminate flooring has an inner core board, which is layered with a decorative photo image and topped with the wear layer or “overlay” to protect your floors.

Unfortunately, most laminate flooring does not stand up against moisture as well as vinyl. While some laminate flooring options are water-resistant, they can still become damaged over long periods of water exposure.

 

Check out some pros and cons of installing laminate flooring:

Pros Cons
Affordable Can be nosier than vinyls floors
Comfortable on the feet Not all types are water-resistant
Realistic wood appearance

Comparing Vinyl with Laminate Flooring

Vinyl and laminate flooring share many common qualities, like being affordable and pretty easy to install. These synthetic flooring materials both come in a variety of colours, patterns, and designs. Although the two flooring types are very similar, they each have a few clear differences.

Appearance and Design

When it comes to appearance and style, laminate flooring tends to be just a bit higher quality. Laminate flooring allows for deep, realistic three-dimensional embossing on its surfaces, with accurate images of the material being portrayed—wood, ceramic, or stone. Vinyl can look like wood with its embossing techniques, but it looks the best and most realistic on thicker core vinyl flooring.

Vinyl and laminate flooring differ in the materials they’re made of. Vinyl is manufactured with synthetic materials. Most of the time, the base layer of vinyl sheets are made of fiberglass and coated with PVC vinyl and a plasticizer. Then, it’s embossed with a design and finished with layers of wear protection like no-wax polyurethane.

Laminate, on the other hand, has a core made of wood by-products. It’s then sealed with a resin. The top layer – the surface you walk on – is a transparent plastic layer to protect against wear. It’s placed over the design layer with your colour and pattern of choice. Laminate tends to be a little thicker than vinyl flooring, which leads to more warmth and softness when standing or walking on it.

Water Resistance

The major difference between laminate and vinyl flooring is water resistance, with vinyl as the big winner here. Most modern vinyl floors are made of 100% polymer materials, which means they can withstand heavy amounts of water. It can be immersed in water, dried out, and reused as normal.

Laminate has limited moisture resistance. There’s a fibreboard core in most products, which can swell or soften if it’s exposed to moisture for a prolonged amount of time. This waterlogged centre can eventually cause the top layers to peel away. So, laminate may not be an ideal option for rooms where high moisture is prevalent – areas like laundry rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens.

Installation

Laminate and vinyl flooring installation are pretty easy to install, depending on the type of flooring products you choose. We would still advise that an expert installs it as the correct installation can lead to longevity of the floors

Laminate flooring uses a click-and-lockinstallation. This means the planks are fitted into the groove of adjoining planks, and when they’re locked in, it closes the seam. Most laminate projects are installed as “floating” floors, which means they can be installed over your existing flooring. An ordinary circular saw or table saw equipped with a fine-tooth blade, or even a hand saw, is used to cut laminate planks.

Vinyl offers more variety for methods of installation. You can also select click-and-lock planks, as well as peel-and-stick or glue down (requires self-levelling screed). Vinyl flooring planks can be cut with a utility knife. A score mark is first made, then the plank is bent back on itself and a second cut is made from the rear. 

Cleaning and Maintenance

Vinyl flooring is easy to clean and maintain. It’s okay to use a wet mop on these floors; you can scrub them with safe cleaning products for stubborn messes. Vinyl allows for a variety of cleaning methods, and it does not need much care besides cleaning.

Caring for and cleaning laminate floors can be a more delicate process because of its limited moisture resistance. Most manufacturers state it’s best to use dry methods like a broom or dry mop. If you need to mop, use a damp mop that is almost dry when touched. Other than that, laminate can be pretty low-maintenance.

Cost

Vinyl and laminate flooring are similar in cost. They’re both less expensive than other flooring materials like hardwood, engineered wood, many types of ceramic- or porcelain tile. The price will depend on the thickness of your flooring materials and the design styles you choose. With both options, you get more for your money, and high-end luxury vinyl comes with some extra features like a special waterproof core and a thicker wear layer. 

Durability and Longevity

Laminate flooring is strong and durable, much more resistant to surface scratches, but it can succumb to water damage. If scratches do appear on the top layer, they often cannot be repaired. Most laminate flooring can last up to 10-25 years, but this is heavily dependent on proper care and maintenance.

Vinyl flooring is also known to be very durable, resilient flooring, but prone to surface scratches. It may be considered lower-quality flooring because of its price point, but vinyl can stand up well against high-traffic areas in both residential and commercial applications – for up to 20 years. Lower quality vinyl flooring may delaminate. Also, self-stick vinyl flooring tiles can loosen over time. On the whole, though, vinyl flooring is a tough flooring material that will stand up to high traffic demands.

Depending on the care and maintenance, some vinyl floors can delaminate over time. 

  • Best for Environmental Impact: Laminate Flooring

If using green building materials is important to you, laminate flooring has a small advantage, thanks to the natural wood content of the fiberboard core. Still, neither of these materials is as environmentally friendly in the way that natural wood, linoleum, or bamboo floor coverings are.

Stain Resistance

Laminate flooring is pressure-laminated with several layers, the top being a clear aluminium oxide layer that is superior for stain resistance. Quality vinyl flooring is coated with a transparent urethane layer that provides excellent stain-resistance. Good quality, modern vinyl flooring and laminate flooring both receive wear layers treated with properties do an excellent job of resisting stains.

Comfort and Sound

Though laminate flooring does not feel like wood, it does have a warm feeling, especially when coupled with premium-quality underlayment. Vinyl floors of all types can feel cold or hard on the feet, especially when they are installed over concrete or existing ceramic tile floors.

  • Best for Comfort and Sound: Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring products can feel hollow underfoot compared to the wood floors they are supposed to mimic. But when combined with either foam or felt underlayment, laminate flooring will be quieter, softer, and more comfortable to walk on.

Best Flooring by Room

So you may still ask: “Which is the best flooring for each room: laminate or vinyl?”

Depending on the function of the room and the traffic it sees, you may need a certain flooring material. Laminate is a good option where there is not a lot of moisture, or where higher temperatures are present (more stable). Vinyl is a better option to stand up to rooms with a lot of spills and splashes.

Room Vinyl or Laminate?
Kitchen Vinyl
Bathrooms (full or partial) Vinyl
Bedrooms Vinyl, Laminate
Dining Room Vinyl, Laminate
Living Room Vinyl, Laminate
Laundry Room Vinyl

If your basement needs flooring, vinyl may also be the top recommendation, as many underground areas can have a lot of moisture.

Conclusion: Which Floor Should You Specify?

Both laminate flooring and vinyl flooring are great options for projects ranging from entry-level residential to high-end commercial as they are both affordable and durable floors.

When you’re looking for new floors, consider your budget, the functionality, and design preferences. South Africans always want cheap, but cheap doesn’t equal durability.

Vinyl stands up the best against excess moisture and spills, and it can be less expensive than laminate. However, laminate gives a more realistic look to enhance the design aesthetic in your project, is more resistant to surface scratches and temperature fluctuations (contraction & expansion).

Ready to make a decision? Shop for your vinyl or laminate flooring from Carpet and Decor today.

Email: zaaker@carpetdecor.co.za for more information