So, you are ready to give your old carpets or floors a makeover, and you are wondering what material will work best for the job? Vinyl flooring and laminate flooring are certainly comparable flooring options and popular choices in many residential and commercial settings. Since they can look similar, people sometimes assume that they are the same thing. However, it’s essential to understand their differences before opting for a flooring solution. Both materials can be fantastic in homes and offices alike, but each has its strengths and works better in different rooms.

Understanding the materials and their unique advantages and disadvantages will help you choose a floor that suits your style preferences, lifestyle, and budget. If you are looking for affordable and stylish flooring, both options undoubtedly have their perks.

If you are ready to change the floors in your home and have been contemplating vinyl vs. laminate flooring, then this guide is for you!

What Is Vinyl Flooring?

Vinyl flooring is made from entirely synthetic materials, including polyvinyl chloride and several other components. Manufacturers make vinyl sheets, tiles, or premium planks, and thus it is a versatile material with various applications.

The sheet or tile option uses a standard sheet of vinyl with a fiberglass base and is then coated with a particular plasticizer. Various components are added to produce color and sheen, and it’s finally then embossed with a stylized surface print.

The plank options use a thicker type of vinyl, and this is often utilized for luxury flooring. These planks connect via an interlocking system and can effectively create a stylish floating floor. Planks can be up to 5mm thick, and tiles are usually around 1.5 mm thick.

Vinyl Flooring

Pros of vinyl floors

Vinyl floors are certainly a popular choice in many homes and offices. Pros of this material include:

  • The cost factor: Vinyl flooring is an affordable option if you want to upgrade your home without the hefty price tag associated with solid wood floors. Thanks to the affordability of vinyl flooring, it’s a great choice if you want to cover large areas of the floor.
  • Durability and water-resistance: This is one of the most significant advantages of opting for vinyl flooring. Since it is 100 % water-resistant, it can handle spills and splashes. This makes it a popular choice in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. It’s also a great choice if you have small children or pets.
  • Easy to clean: Vinyl tiles or planks are easy to clean and relatively low maintenance. Simply give them a regular sweep and mop weekly with a damp cloth and a neutral detergent, and your floors will look as good as new.
  • Easy DIY installation: Vinyl tiles and planks are an excellent choice when people want to embark on DIY flooring projects as it is easy to install. Since the material can be installed on various subfloors (such as granite, cement, laminate, or any flat floor), it works well in most environments. A few installation methods exist depending on which vinyl you purchase, including click lock, glue down options, and lose lay.

Cons of Vinyl Flooring

However, like all materials, there are some cons too. These include:

  • Difficult to remove once glued down: Once glued down, vinyl flooring can be tough to remove. While this makes it a durable option, it is best to avoid gluing the planks or tiles down if you’ll be using it temporarily. 
  • Easily punctured: Although durable, vinyl is vulnerable to punctures due to its softer nature. Sharp items, like the leg of a chair or a kitchen knife, might puncture the floor. Additionally, vinyl tiles that are not reinforced with a ridged core might be prone to denting when heavy objects like ovens or dishwashers are placed on them. Opt for specially engineered rigid core designs in kitchens and lounges for added durability.
  • UV-fading: Unfortunately, the topcoats of vinyl flooring are not resistant to UV rays. As such, they can fade over time if they are exposed to a lot of sun. If you’ll be installing them in a conservatory or a room that gets a lot of sunshine, it’s best to limit the levels of sunlight when you’re not using the space.

What Is Laminate Flooring?

Laminate flooring has a similar aesthetic to that of luxury vinyl planks. However, rather than being made with purely synthetic, human-made materials, laminate flooring contains by-products of wood, sealed with a special resin. Thanks to the wooden core, we can see wood grains on laminate floors. The grain is protected via a plastic seal, and this type of flooring is often sold in the form of planks.

Laminate Flooring

Pros of Laminate Flooring

  • Affordability: Much like vinyl flooring, laminate flooring also has the price factor on its side. Both options are much more affordable than hardwood floors.
  • Durability: Laminate flooring is durable, thanks to its plastic steal. This makes it resistant to scratches and general wear and tear. They are also UV-resistant and won’t discolor over time. This makes them ideal for places with heavy foot traffic, high sunshine levels, or lots of children and pets.
  • Quality design: Many opt for laminate flooring options if they want to replicate the wood look. While nothing looks exactly like solid, natural wood, technicians can effectively reproduce the look of several materials, including stone, wood, or natural materials.
  • Environmentally slightly more friendly: While not entirely environmentally friendly since plastic is used, laminate floors are certainly greener than vinyl options, thanks to their partially natural content. Some manufacturers also used recycled content, making it a great choice for anyone who wants to lessen their environmental footprint without forking out on natural hardwood. If you’re looking to go greener, choose brands with a certified recycled status.

Cons of Laminate Flooring

When it comes to laminate flooring, cons include:

  • Moisture damage: Since laminate tiles and planks are not 100 % water-resistant, they can be prone to water damage. For this reason, they’re not the best option in bathrooms, mudrooms, or areas that are prone to water splashes. If you use laminate flooring in your kitchen, be sure to mop up spills fast.
  • Can’t be refinished like wood: One of the amazing benefits of real wood floors is that they can be sanded and varnished when needed. This can make them look as good as new in an instant. Unfortunately, laminate floors cannot be refinished as the plastic layer cannot be sanded away.

Comparing Vinyl vs. Laminate Flooring

Appearance and Design

Vinyl 

Since there are so many vinyl floors, the appearance can vary greatly between sheets, tiles, and planks. For example, thicker tiles can create a more wood-like appearance since they can be embossed in greater detail.

Laminate 

Three-dimensional embossing is more effective on laminate floors, and it can mimic natural materials such as hardwood and stone.

Best: Laminate 

While the two are certainly comparable when it comes to appearance, laminate flooring has a slight edge in that it can better mimic materials like stone, wood, and ceramic. However, there are some excellent luxury vinyl planks on the market too.

Water Resistance

Vinyl

Newer vinyl planks and tiles are made of polymer and 100 % water-resistant. This makes them a highly durable choice for bathrooms and mudrooms. In addition, their synthetic nature means that they can be submerged in water for long periods and retain their durability.

Laminate 

Since most laminated flooring has a fibreboard wooden core, it is vulnerable to moisture and can soften and swell if it meets water. Once dry, it won’t resume its original shape or dimensions, and this can cause problems. In such an instance, an entire replacement of the damaged tiles might be needed. Also, in rooms where water splashes are inevitable, like bathrooms, laminate flooring is not the best solution.

Best: Vinyl 

If you are looking for a durable floor that can withstand water, vinyl is the answer! Since it’s waterproof, it’s the perfect choice in any room prone to splashes or dampness.

Installation

Vinyl 

Vinyl tiles and planks also use the click and lock method when it comes to installation, and the planks can be easily cut with a general utility knife. However, if you choose sheet vinyl, it might be best to consult the experts and choose professional installation as this material can be tricky to maneuver.

Laminate 

Laminate flooring is easy to install and uses a click and lock method, whereby the tiles lock into each other. This method works to effectively close the seams between the planks and create a cohesive floor. These planks can be cut with a table saw or a circular saw.

Best: Tied if you’re choosing laminate tiles or planks or vinyl tiles or planks. However, if you are choosing sheet vinyl, laminate is easier.

Care and Cleaning

Vinyl 

Vinyl is durable when it comes to various cleaning methods and can be wet-mopped or scrubbed if needed. Thanks to its waterproof nature, water cleaning won’t be a problem.

Laminate 

Since it is susceptible to water damage, it is best to clean laminate flooring with dry methods such as sweeping. If water or detergent is needed, a mildly damp cloth or mop is best, and the tiles must dry properly.

Best: Vinyl

Vinyl wins this round as it allows for a whole range of cleaning options.

Cost

Vinyl 

Vinyl tiles cost between $2 and $7 per square foot installed; however, this price can vary depending on style and design. Luxury, thicker planks and premium brands are more expensive than tiles and sheets.

Laminate 

Laminate floors can range from £2 to $8, depending on thickness and design.

Best: Tied, luxury vinyl tiles, and laminate flooring are comparable in price. Sheet vinyl has a slight edge in terms of cost factor but is more difficult to install.

Durability and Longevity

Vinyl 

For the most part, vinyl is a durable material and stands up well against water. Once glued into place, it is usually very secure. However, cheaper quality tiles might eventually delaminate with time and self-stick installation methods might come lose eventually. Vinyl flooring can last over 25 years if it is well looked after and quality planks are used.

Laminate 

Laminate flooring is a pretty durable option and does well against scratches and UV damage. However, if it gets wet it can easily be destroyed and if the top protective layer is damaged, it will need replacing. Over the years, the various layers may delaminate depending on the quality of flooring used. Lamiate flooring usually lasts between 10 and 25 years depending on quality of tiles and how well the flooring is maintained.

Best: Vinyl

If you are after durability and resilience, vinyl is the choice. This is why it is used in many commercial settings and applications. Since it is low-maintenance and easy to clean, it works well in buildings with a lot of foot traffic.

Environmental Impact

Vinyl 

Since vinyl is made with synthetic materials, it can be highly toxic when it is burnt. It is also a tricky material to recycle and thus is not brilliant for the environment. While modern-day manufacturers have worked to improve its green status, there is still a long way to go.

Laminate 

Laminate flooring is greener than vinyl flooring, but only slightly because of its wooden core. Some manufacturers work with recycled materials to up the green factor, however it isn’t an environmentally friendly as natural wood or linoleum.

Best: Laminate, by a small margin

Comfort and Sound

Vinyl 

Vinyl tiles can feel cold or hard under feet, especially if they are installed above ceramic tiles or concrete. Luxury planks or tiles, when installed correctly shouldn’t make much noise.

Laminate 

Laminate flooring can feel warmer under the feet and is usually comfortable to walk on, with little sound.

Best: Laminate, because it can be warmer and softer.

Best Flooring by Room

When it comes to deciding on flooring for the following rooms, we suggest these options:

  • Bathroom – Vinyl
  • Kitchen – Vinyl, or laminate if you will diligently clean any spills and splashes
  • Lounge – Both options will work
  • Bedroom – Both options will work
  • Office – Both options will work
  • Mudroom/Porch – Vinyl

Conclusion: Which Floor Should You Buy?

Choosing your flooring is a hugely personal decision and depends largely on your style preference, budget, and the room you are redoing. For dry rooms, like bedrooms, living areas, and offices, you can opt for either of the two materials, and you can base this decision on price, overall look, and durability. However, for spaces prone to moisture, choose vinyl tiles or luxury planks as they are entirely waterproof and thus offer greater durability.

Have you ever installed your own vinyl or laminate flooring? Let us know how it went!