The differences between laminate and vinyl flooring

08 Mar 2022
The differences between laminate and vinyl flooring

Laminate and vinyl are both popular, affordable flooring options that are available in a wide range of designs and suitable for several areas of the home. Here’s our guide to help you choose which material is right for your next flooring project.

What is vinyl flooring?

For many years, vinyl composite tiles (VCT) and sheet vinyl were the only forms of vinyl flooring available. In the 1970s, luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) and luxury vinyl planks (LVP) were introduced.

Sheet vinyl and VCT are generally composed of a vinyl layer and a backing. LVT and LVP are constructed in four layers: 1) a clear performance wear layer covering 2) a vinyl design layer, followed by 3) a core and 4) a backing. Vinyl cores are generally made from foam or plastic. Both offer rigidity and enhanced moisture resistance.

Vinyl flooring can be glued to your subflooring, but some planks and tiles feature a tongue-and-groove feature that allows for installation directly over the subfloor.

What is laminate flooring?

Laminate flooring boards feature four layers: a vinyl backing, a core made from medium density fibreboard (MDF) or high-density fibreboard (HDF) a textured design layer that resembles wood or some other natural material, and a durable, transparent wear layer.

The core in laminate flooring boards is milled with a tongue and groove and is installed similarly to natural wood planks.

How are laminate and vinyl flooring similar?

  • Laminate and vinyl look very similar once installed.
  • Both laminate and vinyl can feature realistic depictions of natural flooring materials.
  • Both are a significantly cheaper alternative to wood, stone or carpet. Vinyl and laminate cost about the same.
  • The tongue and groove installation method for laminate boards and some types of vinyl flooring is the same.
  • Both flooring materials are stain resistant, durable and low maintenance.
  • Vinyl and laminate both have a lifespan of 10-25 years, depending on the quality of the material and frequency of use.
  • While it is almost essential to underlay your carpets, most vinyl and laminate flooring does not require underlay.
  • Both materials are scratch-resistant, especially in comparison to wood flooring.

How are laminate and vinyl flooring different?

  • While vinyl is waterproof, the wood composite cores of laminate boards can be vulnerable to moisture, just like natural wood planks. This makes vinyl better suited for basements, bathrooms and laundry rooms.
  • Laminate flooring has a slight advantage over vinyl for eco-conscious homeowners. Top brands of laminate are often manufactured with recycled materials, and the wood-based core will decompose in landfills.
  • Laminate has to be cut with a saw, while vinyl can be cut with a knife. This can make vinyl easier to install for DIYers.
  • Laminate has the potential to have a textured design effect, so it can more closely resemble the look of natural wood or stone.
  • Vinyl is available in a wider range of patterns and colours, which can be useful for people wanting to make a bold design statement.

Is vinyl or laminate better?

Whether vinyl or laminate is better comes down to which room you are installing the materials in, and your personal design preference. Vinyl is better for areas with moisture, and is the easier option if you are installing flooring yourself. If you want a more authentic wood texture in your kitchen, hallway or dining room, and more insulation, we recommend laminate.

The Harrisons Flooring experts would love to help with your next flooring project. If you are still struggling to decide between vinyl and laminate, we can do a free at-home consultation to understand your needs and talk through your options. Get in touch with us today!

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