Vinyl vs. Laminate Flooring Comparison Guide

Learn the key differences

Vinyl and laminate flooring

Margot Cavin / The Spruce

When you want a durable, economical, attractive floor covering for your home that you can install by yourself, you may find yourself gravitating toward either vinyl flooring or laminate flooring. Both floors hit those key points. But between the two, which flooring is a better choice for your home?

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Watch Now: 7 Things You Should Know About Vinyl and Laminate Flooring

Vinyl vs. Laminate Flooring: Major Differences

Vinyl flooring is a 100-percent synthetic material. In standard sheet vinyl and vinyl tiles, the base layer is usually fiberglass which is then coated in PVC vinyl and a plasticizer. The resulting sheet is printed and embossed with a surface print layer. Over this, multiple wear layers are applied, along with a layer of no-wax polyurethane. With vinyl plank flooring, the core layer is a thicker, multi-layer PVC vinyl. Luxury vinyl flooring comes in planks or tiles that fit side-to-side to form a floating floor. The overall thickness for vinyl flooring ranges from 1.5 mm for sheet vinyl to 5 mm for luxury vinyl planks.

Chart comparing vinyl to laminate flooring
The Spruce / Catherine Song

Laminate flooring is similar to luxury vinyl planks in its look and method of installation. But the critical difference is that its core is made from wood byproducts bonded with resins. The top surface is a hard, transparent plastic wear layer that covers the printed design layer. The overall thickness for laminate flooring planks ranges from 6 mm to 12 mm.

The ability of each flooring to effectively stand up against moisture hinges on its materials. Moisture resistance dictates selective areas where laminate flooring may or may not be installed. By contrast, vinyl flooring may be installed anywhere within the home.

Recommended Installation Areas
  Laminate Floor Vinyl Floor
Bathroom, Full or Partial No Yes
Powder Room Maybe Yes
Kitchen Maybe Yes
Dining Room Yes Yes
Living Room Yes Yes
Bedroom Yes Yes
Home Office Yes Yes
Mudroom No Yes

Appearance

Laminate Flooring

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 Flooring

Many types of vinyl flooring can look realistic, especially luxury vinyl plank flooring. Thicker solid core vinyl flooring will look more like wood since deeper embossing is possible.

Best for Appearance: Laminate Flooring

While laminate flooring and luxury vinyl flooring are generally comparable in appearance, laminate flooring generally will more closely mimic hand-scraped hardwood, stone, ceramics, and other materials.

Laminate floor plank
Margot Cavin / The Spruce

Water and Heat Resistance

Laminate Flooring

Virtually all laminate flooring uses a fiberboard core. Because this core is a wood product, it will soften and swell if it is exposed to water. The fiberboard core will not resume its original dimensions after it has dried. Additionally, the wear and design layers sometimes peel away after the core has become waterlogged. Severely water-damaged laminate flooring usually needs to be replaced; it cannot be fixed.

Properly installed laminate flooring, with tight seams and good baseboards or moldings, can tolerate pooled water, but only a short period of time. For family bathrooms or other areas where standing water is likely, laminate flooring is a poor choice. If you can reasonably dedicate yourself to cleaning up occasional spills and puddles immediately, then laminate flooring may be used in areas of low moisture.

Vinyl Flooring

Older forms of vinyl flooring may have a fabric or felt backing that is not waterproof. But newer iterations of vinyl flooring are made of 100-percent polymer materials. Luxury vinyl flooring can be fully immersed in water for long periods, dried out, then reused, completely unaffected.

Best for Water and Heat Resistance: Vinyl Flooring

All types of vinyl flooring are not just water-resistant but are waterproof. Sheet vinyl, vinyl tile, and luxury vinyl flooring are usually made with materials that are 100-percent waterproof. In full bathrooms and damp locations such as basements, vinyl flooring materials excel over laminate materials. Sheet vinyl that comes in 12-foot wide rolls often requires no seaming, making it an excellent choice for a truly waterproof floor.

Luxury vinyl plank
Margot Cavin / The Spruce

Care and Cleaning

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is best cleaned first with dry methods, such as with a dry mop or broom. If you need to wet-clean laminate flooring, you should use only a damp mop that feels almost dry to the touch.

Cleaning supplies for laminate floor
Margot Cavin / The Spruce

Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring's strongest feature is that it is so easy to care for and clean. Vinyl flooring in good condition can be wet-mopped and, if necessary, it can be vigorously scrubbed with safe cleaning products.

Best for Care and Cleaning: Vinyl Flooring

While both laminate flooring and vinyl flooring are easy to keep clean, only vinyl flooring allows the entire span of cleaning methods, from sweeping with a dry broom to wet mopping.

Cleaning supplies for vinyl floor
Margot Cavin / The Spruce

Durability and Maintenance

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is durable and low-maintenance. However, laminate flooring's many layers may eventually delaminate over time or if it is exposed to water for too long. Once laminate's top wear layer is scratched, it cannot be repaired.

Vinyl Flooring

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.

Best for Durability and Maintenance: Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring is a supremely durable, low-maintenance flooring, thus the industry term resilient flooring. Vinyl flooring is even used in commercial applications, where durability and maintenance are most important.

Standard vinyl floor plank
Margot Cavin / The Spruce

Installation

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring uses a click-and-lock installation method, where the tongue of one plank is fitted into the groove of an adjoining plank at an angle. Then the first plank is folded down until it is level with the other plank. This action draws the boards together and closes the seam. 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 Flooring

Vinyl planks also use a click-and-lock method of installation. Vinyl flooring planks can be cut with a utility knife, as well. A score mark is first made, then the plank is bent back on itself and a second cut is made from the rear. Sheet vinyl can be a difficult material for do-it-yourselfers to install. The material is large, heavy, and unwieldy. Plus, it can be hard to make complicated cutouts from sheet goods. If you are installing sheet vinyl, professional installation is often your best bet.

Best for Installation: Tied

Both laminate flooring and vinyl flooring in plank or tile format (not sheet) are comparable in terms of ease of installation.

Cost

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring ranges from about $1.00 per square foot for 7 mm-thick planks to about $5.00 per square foot for 12 mm-thick planks.

Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring can cost as little as $1.00 per square foot for thin, glue-down vinyl flooring. Vinyl costs rise to around $5.00 per square foot for luxury vinyl planks, and premium brands will cost more.

Best for Cost: Tied

Laminate flooring and luxury vinyl flooring are roughly comparable in price, although sheet vinyl does hold a slight edge. Both laminate flooring and vinyl flooring are usually less expensive than natural hardwood, engineered wood, and many types of ceramic or porcelain tile.

Lifespan

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring warranties typically range from 10 to 25 years, but this is dependent on a rigorous maintenance schedule.

Vinyl Flooring

Warranties on luxury vinyl flooring often range up to 20 years.

Best for Lifespan: Tied

As long as laminate flooring is kept reasonably dry and is regularly cleaned, buyers may expect lifespans close to that of vinyl flooring.

Environmental Impact

Laminate Flooring

Some laminate flooring manufacturers offer products that qualify for LEED MR4 (Recycled Content) status. But laminate flooring still uses a plastic surface layer, and the melamine resins used in the creation of the core level are by no means green materials since they may off-gas chemicals.

Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring has improved its green stature in recent years. Some vinyl flooring manufacturers now offer products that achieve a LEED credit EQ4.3 for Low-Emitting Material. Vinyl is a synthetic material that is known to produce toxic chemicals when burned. Vinyl does not decompose in landfills, and recycling it is usually not an option.

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 especially environmentally friendly in the way that natural wood, linoleum, or bamboo floor coverings are.

Stain Resistance

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is pressure-laminated with several layers, the top being a clear aluminum oxide layer that is superior for stain resistance.

Vinyl Flooring

Quality vinyl flooring is coated with a transparent urethane layer that provides excellent stain-resistance.

Best for Stain Resistance: Tied

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

Laminate Flooring

Though laminate flooring does not feel like wood, it does have a warm feeling, especially when coupled with premium-quality underlayment.

Vinyl Flooring

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 somewhat hollow underfoot when 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.

Resale Value

Laminate Flooring

Premium laminate flooring can lend extra resale value to a home, as long as it is relatively new and in good condition.

Vinyl Flooring

Major brand luxury vinyl plank flooring will bring decent resale value to a home. Inferior quality vinyl flooring will often be seen by buyers as a project-in-waiting once the house has closed sale.

Best for Resale Value: Tied

Quality laminate flooring and vinyl flooring lend a comparable amount of value to a home. Neither brings the high-value prestige of solid hardwood, engineered hardwood, or designer ceramic tile or natural stone floors. At the same time, quality laminate or vinyl flooring usually will not put off prospective home buyers.

The Verdict

Laminate flooring and vinyl flooring each bring a unique set of plusses and minuses to the discussion, making them well suited for most homes. It then becomes a room-by-room decision based on the type of room. Vinyl flooring is best for laundry rooms, wet bathrooms, and mudrooms. If you are installing flooring only in those rooms, you will want to choose vinyl flooring.

Top Brands

Vinyl Flooring

Laminate Flooring

  • Pergo
  • QuickStep
  • Dream Home (Lumber Liquidators)