We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
If you’ve ever planned a home renovation that included new flooring, you know that the options available these days are far more extensive than ever, from wood to concrete to tile to carpet to everything in between. But technological advances have created two standout materials in laminate and vinyl flooring, which can now be manufactured to mimic the look and feel of wood, stone, and more without sacrificing durability (or budget!).
Laminate and vinyl flooring are two solid options for homeowners looking to give their homes a style upgrade that suits their lifestyle. Both laminate and vinyl flooring are readily available and affordable, but they have some key differences homeowners should understand before buying. Here, pros break down what you need to know about laminate floors, vinyl floors, and the best applications for both.
All About Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is made from thin, pressed wood board and can deliver the look of real wood, tile, or stone flooring.
Laminate flooring comes in planks. Note that its wood core can make it “more susceptible to gouges, expansion and contractions” than vinyl, says Kat Christie, licensed contractor and DIY Expert, founder of She Fixed That LLC.
Vinyl flooring is made from plastic, usually consisting of acrylic, PVC, and similar polymers. It’s extremely durable, cost-effective, and can mimic the look of wood, stone, or tile, says Matthew Brown, senior merchant of hard flooring at The Home Depot.
Vinyl flooring comes in planks, sheets, or tiles. It is waterproof, scratch- and stain-resistant, and offers commercial-grade durability. “Vinyl flooring is a budget-friendly option for homeowners looking for luxurious style and durability, without the high price point,” Brown says.
When shopping for vinyl flooring, you might see the terms “LVP” (“luxury vinyl plank”) or “LVT” (“luxury vinyl tile”). Those are used to describe high-end vinyl offerings that have the look of wood or tile.
What are the cost comparisons of laminate vs. vinyl floors?
One of the most important factors in choosing flooring for most people is budget. And depending on the room and size, both types of flooring are cost-effective, says Brown.
“Vinyl flooring costs a fraction of the price of hardwood, making it a great option for beginner home-improvers,” he says. “However, while most people choose traditional vinyl or tile, bathroom laminate flooring is an option that can be more budget-friendly.”
Which is more durable, laminate or vinyl?
Especially for families or homes with pets, durability is something to consider when choosing the right flooring for your home. You don’t want it to fall apart after a couple of years, you need something that lasts.
Laminate flooring is scratch-resistant, waterproof, noise-resistant and heated options are available in a variety of attractive, easy-to-install styles, according to Brown, and for these reasons, it’s become quite popular to install in many homes.
However, he adds that for busy homes with children and pets, you should consider vinyl flooring since it has greater durability. Vinyl flooring today looks more stylish than ever.
“Vinyl has come a long way over the years,” says Brown. No longer does it have the plasticky look you might remember from decades past. Matte finishes and plank styles can make it look convincingly like wood or other higher-priced materials.
If cared for properly, though, both can last a long time, says Christie.
Which type of flooring is most water-resistant?
Brown says both types of flooring offer waterproof options and can be used in areas that come into contact with water often, such as bathrooms and kitchens. “Vinyl is waterproof across most options while laminate is waterproof in certain HDC and Pergo branded options with some Trafficmaster laminate options being water-resistant,” he says. If you’re planning to install laminate flooring in an area where there might be moisture, make sure to use something that’s specifically water-resistant.
He adds that because laminate floors have a wooden core, you should avoid letting water sit on them for too long and mop up spills to avoid damage.
For areas where you might not be able to clean up water right away, vinyl is your best bet.
Which is most heat-resistant, laminate or vinyl flooring?
Both vinyl and laminate floors can be installed with radiant heat floor systems. “Heated laminate floors provide a superior under-foot feel in bedrooms, dens and living rooms,” Brown says. They’re also ideal for bathroom floors, particularly around bath and shower areas.
As for their suitability for large temperature changes, vinyl is probably a better option than wood-core laminate, since it will be less likely to expand and contract in response to temperature changes.
Is laminate or vinyl flooring easier to clean?
For those with kids or pets (or both!), it’s especially important to make sure you pick the flooring that is easiest to clean — this goes along with the durability factor. For cleanability, vinyl is the way to go, as it’s the most stain-resistant option, Brown says.
Which is most comfortable, laminate or vinyl flooring?
Comfort is obviously an important component of flooring choice. Most people don’t walk around their homes with shoes on — at least not all the time — and you don’t want to have back aches or sore feet just from walking around your own home. Luckily, Brown says both types of flooring options come in a variety of options to ensure they’re smooth and comfortable under your feet.
Vinyl has the added benefit over laminate of being superior for sound-dampening, which can contribute to your overall comfort at home.
What brands are recommended for laminate or vinyl floors?
Both materials are offered in a wide range of qualities, from budget to luxury brands.
For laminate floors, try one of these brands:
For vinyl floors, try one of these brands: