Laminate and Luxury Vinyl deliver many of the same benefits. Both are hardwearing and easy to clean. And both recreate the aesthetic of a more natural type of flooring. But which is best for your home?
The truth is that both types of flooring can be great — as long as they’re made with quality materials and fitted by trained professionals. But there are some clear differences, and knowing what they are should help you to make an informed purchasing decision.
Resources to Help You Decide Between Vinyl and Laminate
- Laminate vs Vinyl
- Vinyl Flooring Guide
- Laminate Flooring Guide
- Differences Between Luxury Vinyl Flooring and Standard Vinyl
- Comparing Vinyl Flooring with Laminate
- Vinyl Planks vs Laminate
- Everything You Need to Know About Household Laminate Flooring
- The Ultimate Guide to Buying Vinyl Flooring for a Kitchen
Making the choice between laminate and vinyl isn’t always straightforward. To help you make the right decision for your home, here are a few resources.
Vinyl flooring is a tough, durable floor covering that’s made with wholly synthetic materials. In most cases, there’s a base layer that is made with fiberglass. Atop this is a layer of PVC vinyl, along with a plasticizer. The sheet is then printed to give it the desired appearance. A high-quality vinyl may also be embossed to give it an authentic texture.
A final layer is applied to provide protection from moisture and general wear. Polyurethane is the most common substance used to create this layer. If you’re buying a high-quality product, there will usually be an additional sub-layer, made with closed-foam for comfort and cushioning.
Laminate is made with a combination of natural and man-made materials. It’s usually bought in planks, rather than sheets. And it’s comprised of plastic compounds and a layer of fiberboard. This core layer is commonly made from a combination of wood by-products and resins. Laminate is also much thicker and more rigid than vinyl, which is perfect if you have floorboards underneath.
Recent advances in the manufacturing techniques used to create laminate and vinyl have created some incredibly realistic finishes. And to most people, differentiating between luxury vinyl and laminate at first glance is difficult. Whichever you go for, you’re likely to be left with something that looks very close to the material you’re trying to emulate — whether it’s hardwood, tile, or stone.
Both laminate and luxury vinyl now features detailed texturing – made to look and feel like the real thing. This means you can create that real wood aesthetic you’ve always wanted at a fraction of the price.
Perhaps the only obvious difference in appearance relates to the way each type of floor ages. If installed incorrectly, laminate planks can curl at the edges, while vinyl can become bubbled or rippled.
Perhaps the biggest way laminate and vinyl differ is the way they’re installed. Sheet vinyl is laid in a way similar to carpet. It comes in large sheets which have to be cut to the exact shape and size of the room. Cutting around obstructions and doorways can be particularly challenging. And the smallest of errors can result in a bad finish.
But vinyl tiles and planks are a little easier to install. They’re often self-adhesive, which means you can lay them directly onto floors — in the same way you’d lay real tiles. Nevertheless, cutting individual vinyl tiles to fit against walls and around doorways is a complex, skilled job that’s usually best left to the professionals.
Laminate flooring planks are relatively easy to install — until you hit walls, baseboards and doorways. Specialist equipment and knowledge are required to create a perfect finish. So, whichever type of flooring you choose, you’ll probably need specialist advice and expertise for fitting.
One of the most significant advantages vinyl has over laminate is its water-resistance. Whether you choose sheeting, planks or tiles, all vinyl floor coverings are waterproof. As long as they’re cut and sealed properly, they’re completely impervious to water — making them perfect for kitchens and bathrooms.
While the upper layer of laminate usually is water-resistant, the core isn’t. If even the tiniest amount of water finds its way into a join between two laminate planks, serious swelling and movement can result. And while you might find moisture-resistant laminate, it won’t offer much protection from standing water — the type of pooling that’s common in bathrooms and around kitchen sinks.
If your kitchen or bathroom gets particularly wet — perhaps if you have young children in the house — vinyl is usually the safest option. But if you are prepared to wipe up spills the moment they happen, and use water for cleaning sparingly, the laminate can work in low-traffic kitchens. As for bathrooms, a quality vinyl floor is always the best choice.
In the past, there’s been a general feeling that laminate delivers more prestige and real estate value than vinyl. After all, it’s thicker, more substantial, and rigid. But times are changing.
The advent of luxury vinyl flooring has narrowed the prestige gap. In a kitchen or bathroom, prospective buyers will accept the presence of modern vinyl flooring, particularly if it’s of the luxury variety. But in a main living area or hallway, the same old preconceptions still apply.
At first glance, luxury vinyl flooring and laminate look identical. It’s only when you walk on the floor that the differences become apparent. And if you’re trying to sell your home, the unexpected softness of a wood-effect vinyl floor could be a deal-breaker.
One of the biggest criticisms aimed at laminate floors is their perceived hollowness. Particularly with the cheaper varieties, you can instantly tell you’re not walking on real wood. This can result in a cold aesthetic that isn’t exactly conducive to cozy nights by the fire.
The hard, hollow nature of laminate flooring can create some serious noise issues. And these issues can be exacerbated if you’re decorating a sparse, vacuous space. There’s no doubt about it: most laminate amplifies the sound of footsteps. This is why some manufacturers have added a foam underlayment to absorb as much of the unwanted noise as possible.
A thick, luxury vinyl floor offers cushioning, which means it’s quieter and more comfortable for sitting on than laminate. Not only that, there’s less chance of dishes and glasses smashing when they’re dropped on cushioned vinyl.
There isn’t all that much difference in price between luxury vinyl and quality laminate. If you’re really watching the pennies, vinyl usually offers the best value for money. You can pick up some reasonable products for around 40c a square foot. However, something nearer $3 a square foot should get you something luxurious and hardwearing.
You will probably struggle to find laminate cheaper than $1 a square foot. But the average for 7mm planks is around $3. Of course, these prices can differ greatly, so it always pays to shop around for the best possible deal.
The differences in price are minimal. Go with what you think is right. Either way, make sure you’re getting value for money by consulting the experts at Express Flooring. They’ll come to your home to assess the space and make some qualified recommendations.
If you want to minimize the impact your flooring has on the environment, laminate is probably the way to go. This is because a greater proportion of the flooring is made from a natural substance – namely wood. However, it might be worth finding out where the wood came from if you’re concerned about deforestation. Look for the LEED MR4 mark, which indicates the laminate was made with recycled wood.
While the production techniques used to create laminate are a little more harmful to the environment, the differences these days are negligible — if you choose the right product. Look for vinyl that complies with LEED guidelines for low-emission materials. Just remember: several potentially harmful substances are used in the manufacturing process. And some of them aren’t biodegradable. When it comes to discarding old vinyl flooring, try to do so responsibly.
A Few Key Questions About Laminate and Vinyl
Weighing up all the pros and cons of both laminate and vinyl should help you to make the right decision. But, in the end, it all comes down to what feels right for space. To help you make this decision, here are a few commonly asked questions consumers have asked in the past.
What is the Difference Between Standard and Luxury Vinyl?
Standard vinyl flooring is great, but it lacks the authenticity of luxury vinyl flooring (LVF). The luxury vinyl flooring available at Express Flooring is made by leading manufacturers such as Shaw, Mohawk, and Armstrong. It’s designed to mimic real, natural materials, such as wood, tile, and stone. Such is the quality of this type of vinyl, it’s hard to tell it from the real thing.
This gives LVF a three-dimensional effect that’s just like the wood, tile, or stone it’s emulating.
What Brand of Vinyl Flooring is Best?
This is a matter of taste, although some manufacturers are more popular and respected than others. At Express Flooring, we pride ourselves on working with only the most reputable vinyl flooring manufacturers.
For recommendations, speak to professional designers and fitters. Talk to people who sell and install vinyl for a living for advice. They’ll be able to tell you which manufacturers create flooring that looks great and stands the test of time. You can also take part in online discussions to get reviews and recommendations from homeowners like you.
Is Luxury Vinyl Better Than Laminate?
This is purely a matter of personal preference. However, in a practical sense, there are places for both in the same home. For example, if there’s always a lot going on in your kitchen, the chances of breakages may be high. A cushioned vinyl floor will minimize such breakages.
In a hallway, laminate usually works best. People tend to like the sound made when shoes hit this type of flooring. Vinyl absorbs the sound — sometimes completely. And this can sound a little strange when it’s trying to recreate the visual effect of real wood.
What is the Most Durable? Vinyl or Laminate
This usually depends on where and how the flooring is going to be used. Vinyl is durable and hard-wearing, but it can fade when exposed to sunlight for long periods. Laminate, for example, can soften with even the slightest amount of moisture. This, in turn, can cause issues such as curling, expansion, and contraction.
When it comes to choosing between laminate and vinyl, there’s very little between them. Your choice might eventually come down to whether or not you want a softer, cushioned surface. Consult Flooring Design Consultants who will bring large samples to you, to help with the decision process.