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

Typical cost range: $1 – $5 per square foot

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Author Icon By Angela Bunt Updated 02/21/2024

Laminate and vinyl are two of the most popular flooring options for homeowners today. Both come in a variety of styles to mimic authentic wood, tile, and stone. Both are durable and affordable. So how do you decide which is best for your home?

While vinyl and laminate flooring have a lot in common, there are a handful of important contrasts. When you’re deciding which to install in your home, it’s best to consider the needs of your home and the room you’re renovating.


What Is Vinyl Flooring?

Vinyl flooring is comprised of a solid vinyl core topped with a printed vinyl layer and a wear layer. These synthetic materials enhance your floor’s moisture resistance, as water can sit for long periods of time without causing damage. Homeowners can choose from many types of vinyl flooring, including vinyl planks, WPC vinyl, and Rigid Core vinyl flooring.

Vinyl flooring used to be limited in design choices, but vinyl has been upgraded to a variety of styles and patterns for a more modern and attractive look. Compared to laminate flooring, vinyl offers a little more variety in design, too; vinyl floors can resemble not only wood, but stone and ceramic floors, as well.

Here are some pros and cons of vinyl flooring:

Easy DIY installation for most homeowners
Durable and lasts for decades
Made of 100% waterproof materials
Some types of vinyl can be difficult to install on your own
Heavy appliances can cause dents
Limited design choices

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What Is Laminate Flooring?

First manufactured in the 1970s, laminate flooring was one of the first artificial alternatives to hardwood floors. It’s a good choice for homeowners who like the appearance of hardwood floors but don’t want to spend a premium on materials. Its thick composition makes it comfortable to walk on, so it works well in living areas and hallways.

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, 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 laminate flooring:

Affordable
Comfortable on the feet
Realistic wood appearance
May need to be replaced within 10 years
Less water-resistant, and some types offer no water resistance
Hardwood Floor Installation

The average cost of hardwood floor installation is $6–$18 per square foot.

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Man installing new carpet
Carpet Installation

New carpet costs an average of $2–$8 per square foot.

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Person laying down laminate flooring
Laminate Floor Installation

The average cost of laminate flooring is $1–$4 per square foot.

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Vinyl and laminate flooring share many common qualities, like affordability and being fairly easy to install on your own. These synthetic flooring materials both come in a variety of colors, patterns, and designs to match your home’s existing decor. Although the two flooring types are very similar, they each have a few clear differences:

Laminate flooring tends to be slightly higher quality than vinyl flooring. It has more realistic embossing that looks closer to hand-scraped hardwood.

Vinyl is manufactured with synthetic materials. Usually, the base layer of vinyl sheets is 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 byproducts. It’s then sealed with a resin. The top layer, which is the surface you walk on, is a transparent plastic layer to protect against wear. It’s placed over the design layer with your color 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.

Advantage: Laminate

The biggest difference between laminate and vinyl flooring is water resistance. Most modern vinyl floors are made of 100% polymer materials, meaning they can withstand heavy amounts of water. It can be immersed in water, dried out, and reused as normal. You can also install a single vinyl sheet in an entire room, meaning there are no seams for water to seep through.

Laminate, however, has limited moisture resistance. There’s a fiberboard core in most products, which can swell or soften if exposed to moisture for a prolonged period of time. A waterlogged center can eventually cause the top layers to peel away. Laminate, therefore, isn’t a good choice for rooms where there’s a lot of moisture, like family bathrooms or laundry rooms.

Advantage: Vinyl

Both laminate and vinyl flooring installation can be pretty easy, depending on the type of flooring products you choose. Both may be good options for DIYers.

Laminate flooring uses a click-and-lock installation. 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. You can use a regular table saw to cut pieces to fit your floor.

Vinyl offers a greater variety of installation methods. You can also select click-and-lock planks, as well as peel-and-stick, glue down, and more. Sheet vinyl is a little more difficult to manage, as it’s heavy and requires precise cutting around the shapes and angles in your room. For that reason, it may require professional installation.

Advantage: Even

Vinyl flooring is easy to clean and maintain. You can use a wet mop on these floors and 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. It’s best to use dry methods like a broom. If you need to mop, use a damp mop that is almost dry when touched. Other than that, laminate is relatively low maintenance.

Advantage: Vinyl

Vinyl and laminate flooring are similar in cost. They’re both less expensive than other flooring materials like hardwood or porcelain tile. However, vinyl can get more expensive as you explore the luxury flooring options.

Most laminate flooring can be purchased for about $1–4 per square foot. The price will depend on the thickness of your flooring materials and the design styles you choose. Laminate installation costs between $4–8 per square foot.

Vinyl floors start at around $1 per square foot for simple glue-down sheet vinyl. Prices can reach up to $5 per square foot for luxury vinyl planks. You get more for your money, however, as high-end luxury vinyl comes with features like a special waterproof core and a thicker wear layer. Vinyl installation costs range from $400–1,400 for a 200-square-foot room if you do it yourself.

Advantage: Even, but vinyl may be more expensive if you choose luxury options

Laminate flooring is strong and durable, but it can succumb to water damage. Also, if scratches 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 very durable and resilient. While it may be considered lower-quality flooring because of its price point, vinyl can stand up well against everyday wear and tear. Depending on the care and maintenance, some vinyl flooring can delaminate over time, but typically they can last for up to 20 years.

Advantage: Vinyl

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Best Flooring by Room

Which is the best flooring for each room: laminate or vinyl? Depending on the function of the room and the traffic it sees, one may be a better choice than the other. Laminate is a good option where there is not a lot of moisture. Vinyl is a better option in rooms with a lot of spills and splashes.

RoomVinyl or Laminate?

Kitchen

Vinyl, laminate

Bathrooms (full or partial)

Vinyl

Bedrooms

Vinyl, laminate

Dining room

Vinyl, laminate

Living room

Vinyl, laminate

Laundry room or mud room

Vinyl

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


Conclusion: Which Floor Should You Buy?

Both laminate flooring and vinyl flooring are great options for people who want a DIY project and are searching for affordable, durable floors. When you’re shopping for new floors, consider your budget, functionality, and design preferences before you buy.

Vinyl stands up the best against excess moisture and spills, and it can be less expensive than laminate. However, laminate gives a more realistic wood look to enhance the design aesthetic in your home.

Free Quote: Get your quote for vinyl or laminate flooring today


Recommended Flooring Expert

When you’re making repairs and renovations around your home, consider LL Flooring for your flooring replacement. With a wide variety of flooring materials and colors, you can remodel your home’s rooms to match your existing decor. The company has been in the industry for over three decades, and its team partners with quality manufacturers to offer the best pricing.


FAQ About Whether Vinyl or Laminate Flooring Is Best for Your Home

Should you get laminate or vinyl flooring?

Vinyl flooring is well-suited to areas prone to moisture, like bathrooms and kitchens, due to its waterproof qualities. Laminate flooring can offer a realistic, wood-like appearance, making it a great choice for living areas where moisture is less of a concern.

What is a negative of vinyl flooring?

While vinyl flooring can be rugged and cost-effective, a negative feature of this option is that it is manufactured using PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and emits VOC (volatile organic compounds) into the air when it’s new. VOC are associated with lower indoor air quality.

Is it cheaper to install laminate or vinyl?

The initial installation costs for laminate flooring are often lower than for vinyl, with labor and materials starting at around $1 per square foot for laminate as compared with $1–4 per square foot for vinyl.

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