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A Comparison Between Vinyl and Laminate Flooring

When you want a durable, economical, attractive floor covering for your home that you can install by yourself, you may find yourself gravitating toward vinyl flooring or laminate flooring. Both floors hit those key points and more. But between the two, which flooring is a better choice for your home?

If you find yourself confused, it’s excusable. From a distance, they look alike. Both are economical. Both are synthetic. Not only that, flooring manufacturers tend to promote both products similarly.

For years, laminate flooring was considered the better of the two: thick, easy to install, rigid, and with realistic graphics and embossing. Then luxury vinyl flooring (LVF) entered the market and challenged laminate flooring with comparable graphics and embossing. When thicker luxury vinyl flooring with pre-attached underlayment came long, even more differences between laminate flooring and vinyl flooring collapsed.


Vinyl Flooring

All types of vinyl flooring are waterproof, not just water-resistant. Sheet vinyl, vinyl tile, and luxury vinyl flooring are usually made with materials that are 100-percent waterproof. In full bathrooms and damp locations such as basements, vinyl flooring materials excel over laminate materials.

Older forms of vinyl flooring may have a fabric or felt backing that is not waterproof. But newer iterations of vinyl flooring are made of 100-percent polymer materials. Luxury vinyl flooring can be fully immersed in water for long periods, dried out, then reused, completely unaffected.

For truly wet locations, water-shedding flooring such as vinyl or ceramic tile is the best option. Sheet vinyl that comes in 12-foot wide rolls often requires no seaming, making it an excellent choice for a waterproof floor.

Laminate Flooring

Virtually all laminate flooring uses a fiberboard core. Because this core is a wood product, it will soften and swell if it is exposed to water. The fiberboard core will not resume its original dimensions after it has dried. Additionally, the wear and design layers sometimes peel away after the core has become waterlogged. Severely water-damaged laminate flooring usually needs to be replaced; it cannot be fixed.

Laminate flooring manufacturers often state that the product is water-resistant. Correctly installed laminate flooring, with tight seams and good baseboards or moldings, can tolerate pooled water, but only a short period of time. For family bathrooms or other areas where standing water is likely, laminate flooring is a poor choice. Some manufacturers stipulate that their laminates should not be installed in basements.

What is less clear is whether laminate flooring can be installed in lower-moisture areas. Some areas of the home might experience moisture: kitchens, powder rooms, guest baths, laundry rooms, mudrooms, and entryways. If you can reasonably dedicate yourself to cleaning up occasional spills and puddles immediately, then laminate flooring may be used in these areas. The danger with laminate flooring is when standing water is left on the floor long enough for it to seep through the seams and down into the fiberboard core. Even good seams will eventually leak water.


Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring is usually 100-percent synthetic material. In standard sheet vinyl and vinyl tiles, the base layer is usually fiberglass which is then coated in PVC vinyl and a plasticizer. The resulting sheet is printed and embossed with a surface print layer. Over this, multiple wear layers are applied, along with a layer of no-wax polyurethane. With vinyl plank flooring, the core layer is a thicker, multi-layer PVC vinyl.

Luxury vinyl flooring comes in planks or tiles that fit side-to-side to form a floating floor. The overall thickness for vinyl flooring ranges from 1.5 mm for sheet vinyl to 5 mm for luxury vinyl planks.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is similar to luxury vinyl planks in its look and installation, but the critical difference is that its core is made from wood byproducts bonded with resins. The top surface is a hard, transparent plastic wear layer that covers the printed design layer. The overall thickness for laminate flooring planks ranges from 6 mm to 12 mm.


Both laminate flooring and luxury vinyl flooring are comparable in appearance. Both types of flooring can look remarkably like wood, stone, ceramics, or just about any material. They may have deep and realistic three-dimensional embossing on the surfaces, with some even resembling hand-scraped hardwood.

To be continued! Read Part 2 of this article here!

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