vinyl plank vs laminate flooring

Vinyl Plank vs Laminate Flooring

Homeowners looking for an affordable option for hardwood flooring may evaluate the pros and cons of Vinyl Plank vs Laminate flooring. Both promise to be durable, affordable, and easier to maintain than hardwoods, but how do they stack up against each other? Does either type compare to more expensive flooring, or do they fall flat?

When choosing new flooring, it’s important to get the best bang for your buck. From ease of installation to care and maintenance for the long term, this guide is designed to cover it all, helping you to discover whether vinyl plank or laminate flooring is better for your home.

Side-by-Side Comparison

 Vinyl PlankLaminate
DurabilityExtremely durable. Heavy furniture can cause denting. Vinyl plank can tear when dragging heavy objects. Extremely durable. It is prone to scratching over time. May also chip at the corners with extensive wear.
WaterproofYesNo
CleaningCan be cleaned using steam mops or wet mops. Non-abrasive, mild cleaners should be used. Can be cleaned with laminate-specific products or a steamp mop. Wet mops should never be used. Acetone can be used to remove difficult stains.
MaintenanceNo wax should ever be used on vinyl. No wax polishes can be used to restore shine. Laminate-specific product can be used to restore shine. Products can be used to repair scratches and chips as needed.
Pet-FriendlyYesYes
StylesAvailable in a variety of wood styles, including oak, mahogany, and cherry. Available in a variety of wood styles, including oak, mahogany, and cherry. Also available in travertine, ceramic, and stone styles.
InstallationFloating or peel-and-stickFloating
Prone to FadingMore prone to fadingLess prone to fading
SizesTypically 4-inches to 8-inches wide. Lengths typically up to 48 inches. Can be cut to size using a utility knife. Widths starting at 4 inches and can reach up to 16 inches. Lengths range from 36 to 48 inches. Can be cut to size using a handsaw or circular saw.
ColorsAvailable in many colors including white, gray, light and dark wood finishes, and blackAvailable in many colors including white, gray, light and dark wood finishes, and black
Flooring GuideVinyl Plank Flooring GuideLaminate Flooring Guide

Durability

Consumers often turn to vinyl plank or laminate flooring to get the look of hardwoods without the risk of scratches, dings, and other flaws that can be time-consuming (and expensive) to repair. One of the primary benefits touted by both vinyl plank and laminate flooring is durability. How do these two types of flooring hold up when put to the test?

Vinyl plank holds up well under pressure. Unlike hardwoods, it isn’t prone to scratching from animal claws or active children running through the house. It’s very durable, even with the heaviest traffic.

However, because vinyl plank is softer than hardwoods or laminate, it isn’t completely immune to damage. There is a risk of ripping the plank. For example, if you’re dragging furniture across the floor, plank can be torn.

Vinyl flooring is prone to damage that harder floors can withstand. It can dent over time, particularly in areas under heavy furniture. While it is quite durable, it’s important for anyone planning to purchase this type of flooring to know it’s not completely immune to damage and is vulnerable to the same flaws as traditional vinyl flooring.

Laminate flooring, like vinyl plank, is also extremely durable and is a good choice for homes with children and pets. It is extremely resistant to damage and will not have to be refinished over time like traditional hardwoods.

However, it is possible to scratch or chip laminate flooring. Very heavy wear over the years can result in minor scratches on the flooring. Luckily, laminate repair kits are available online and at home improvement stores to improve the appearance of chips and scratches.

Laminate flooring is superior in terms of fading. While laminate can fade when exposed to sunlight over long periods of time, it is more resistant than vinyl flooring. With both types of flooring, shades or blinds should be used in rooms with a lot of sunlight, and area rugs can also be used in brighter spots that may be more apt to fade.

While both types of flooring can withstand daily use, kids, pets, and heavy traffic, laminate is superior. Although scratches and chips can occur over time, its high resistance to fading and overall durability makes it the top choice for anyone looking for flooring that can last for years to come.

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Resistance to Water

One of the drawbacks of hardwood is that it can’t get wet or it will be completely ruined. Vinyl plank flooring and laminate both offer the look of hardwood, but how do they compare when exposed to water?

Vinyl plank has grown in popularity because it is resistant to water. This means it can be installed in bathrooms, kitchens, or other areas where there’s moisture without the worry of warping or buckling. It is completely waterproof and will not succumb to damage, provided you have installed it correctly.

On the other hand, you should not expose laminate to water. Standing water or high moisture levels in a room can lead to buckling, gapping, separating, and warping.

While not a common complaint, some laminate owners have experienced mold and mildew, which was almost always because of exposure to moisture. This is not a concern with vinyl plank unless you installed it in a home that had this problem prior to installation.

Because vinyl is virtually waterproof, it is the clear winner in comparison to laminate in terms of water resistance.

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Ease of Installation

Many homeowners choose to tackle flooring installation themselves in order to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in installation costs. With the right tools and a little know-how, homeowners can install vinyl plank flooring and laminate, but which is easiest?

There are two ways to install vinyl plank flooring, depending on the type that you purchase. Vinyl flooring with a tongue-and-groove design easily clicks together. Because vinyl is a softer material, you can cut and score pieces by simply using a utility knife.

The other type of vinyl plank flooring is peel-and-stick. As the name suggests, this floor has a backing that is peeled off to expose adhesive and each plank is then applied to the prepared subfloor underneath. You can easily cut planks with a utility knife for the perfect fit.

Like vinyl plank, homeowners that like to tackle DIY projects can install laminate flooring. However, the installation of this flooring requires more tools, including a hand saw or circular saw to cut each piece. If you are going to install the laminate If the laminate below-grade, you will also need a vapor barrier to protect against moisture.

Before installing laminate, underlayment will need to be applied over the subfloor. This is a type of padding that is used to not only fix any minor deviations in the subfloor but to also improve acoustics. Some laminate comes with the underlayment already attached.

Similar to vinyl plank flooring, laminate has a tongue-and-groove design so that you can install it as a “floating floor” without the need for glue or nails. Installation can be time-consuming, but most homeowners can tackle a room in just one day.

When comparing vinyl plank to laminate, it’s a close race as to which is easier to install. However, the installation of vinyl plank requires fewer tools and steps, so it’s the superior choice in this category. Installing peel-and-stick vinyl plank flooring is easier than tongue-and-groove flooring, and even beginners can tackle this DIY project.

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Care & Maintenance

Many consumers opt for vinyl or laminate flooring because care and maintenance is so simple. After all, they don’t have to tackle refinishing (which is usually best left to the professionals) or take special precautions when cleaning the floor the way they would with hardwoods or other types of flooring.

Vinyl plank flooring is one of the easiest floors to clean. A wet mop can be used, but it’s important to note that pouring water or otherwise drenching the floor isn’t recommended on peel-and-stick planks because the water can get underneath seams and edges and break down the adhesive.

Harsh cleansers aren’t needed to clean vinyl planks. A mild cleanser will sufficiently clean up even the biggest messes. A traditional mop, dust mop, or steam mop can be used to effectively clean vinyl flooring.

Vinyl floors also don’t require waxing, and using wax will result in a buildup that requires stripping. While regular cleaning will help vinyl flooring retain its shine, you can easily restore floors that appear dull using a polish or product designed for no-wax flooring.

The biggest concern with vinyl flooring is dents caused by heavy furniture. You can purchase Floor protectors online or from a local big box home improvement store to prevent dents and damage to the floor. It’s also important to remember never to drag furniture or appliances, and instead lift when able or use plywood sheeting to prevent scuffs or scratches.

Laminate flooring is also easy to clean and maintain, but there are a few precautions to take to avoid damaging these floors.

For daily cleaning, a broom, dust mop, or vacuum cleaner designed for use on laminate floors can tackle everyday messes. You should always wipe up any water or other spills immediately.

You should never use a wet mop on laminate. Only use soap-free cleansers. In addition, always use products designed for laminate flooring. You can spray these on the surface and wipe them off with a cloth or dry mop. Steam mops are also safe for use on laminate.

You can tackle tough spots like oil, paint, markers, or inks using acetone or nail polish remover. These are generally safe for use on laminate, but consult with the manufacturer if you’re unsure.

Laminate flooring does not require waxing. It generally retains its beauty and shine over time. However, you can restore floors that look dull using products specific to laminate. You can also repair scratches and chips using specialty markers, putties, and other products.

Although both types of flooring are easy to care for, vinyl plank has the edge when it comes to care and maintenance. You don’t need specialty cleaners. You can also wet-mop the floor. That makes it the easiest to care for compared to laminate.

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Sizes & Styles

The great thing about vinyl plank and laminate are that both types of flooring aren’t “one-size-fits-all.” There are a variety of colors, styles, and sizes available for installation. However, there are a few notable differences between the two.

Vinyl plank flooring is available in multiple lengths and widths. Planks are generally 4 to 8 inches wide and between 36 and 48 inches long. Because it is soft vinyl, you can easily cut it into smaller sizes using a utility knife.

In terms of styles and colors, vinyl plank offers something for everyone. From whitewashed oak for the shabby chic interior, cherry or mahogany for a classic look, or even black for modern rooms, there is no shortage of styles and colors.

Laminate offers widths of about 4 inches to 16 inches. Lengths vary from 36 to over 48 inches. Like vinyl plank, you can also cut laminate to size but because it is wood, it is not quite as easy to cut.

Where laminate offers a big advantage over vinyl plank is the styles and colors available. While various colors and types of wood are available, laminate goes beyond just wood. Laminate designed to mimic the look of travertine, ceramic tile, and stone are also options with this type of flooring.

Because there are so many different choices of wood and other materials, laminate offers a more comprehensive selection of styles and colors when compared to vinyl plank.

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Appearance

Consumers that purchase vinyl plank or laminate flooring are looking for a product that’s comparable to hardwood without the hassle. The most important thing to many of these consumers is the appearance of the flooring. Does it mimic the look of wood, or does it fall flat as just a cheap imitation?

Vinyl planks are plastic. The creation of vinyl planks does not involve wood. However, manufacturers have used the latest technology to give a realistic look to vinyl. This includes color variations, textures, and patterns that replicate the appearance of wood at a fraction of the cost and with all of the benefits previously covered.

However, some vinyl planks have few variations and the texture seems a bit off, so it’s easier to distinguish that these planks are not real wood. Anyone considering this type of flooring will need to shop around to ensure they buy a quality product that doesn’t fall flat in terms of appearance.

Laminate is wood but its design is on top of it, on a photographic layer. Most laminate manufacturers utilize modern printing techniques to give their products a more realistic look and texture.

While both types of flooring can come very close to the appearance of wood, laminate is the superior option. Not only do modern printing techniques give a wide range of color variations and textures, but because it is wood and not soft vinyl, it feels more realistic as well. Laminate also contributes to the resale value of a home, whereas vinyl plank likely will not.

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Comfort

Anyone that has stood on bare flooring for hours knows just how tough it can be on the legs, knees, and back. When installing new flooring, it’s important to consider just how comfortable the flooring will be.

Because you install vinyl flooring is directly on a concrete subfloor, it’s often not the most comfortable flooring. It can also feel cold because there is no insulation underneath.

Laminate flooring, on the other hand, is traditionally more comfortable. It is much thicker than vinyl, immediately making it more comfortable. Using a foam underlayment underneath can also add to the comfort level.

All bare flooring can get cold depending on the temperature of the room, but laminate – especially flooring installed with a thick underlayment – is warmer than vinyl. Underfloor heating systems can also be installed for an additional cost to further warm up these floors.

When comparing the two types of flooring, laminate is the winner when it comes to comfort.

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The Verdict

Vinyl planks and laminate each have their benefits and drawbacks. They are both also a cost-efficient alternative to hardwood and other types of flooring.

Laminate has a more realistic appearance. It comes in many styles and colors to perfectly complement any home. It is extremely durable. It will retain its beauty for many years when properly maintained. Overall, consumers will find it’s the superior choice for most rooms.

However, in some cases, vinyl planks may be the best choice. These are best in bathrooms or other rooms where moisture accumulates. Beginners looking to tackle an easy DIY home improvement project will also find that it’s easier to work with vinyl planks.

Overall, though, laminate is the best option between these two for most homeowners. It works for almost any room, has superior durability, and provides a more comfortable and stylish flooring option for any home.

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Nikki Seppala

About Nikki Seppala

Nikki is an experienced writer and editor and has worked in industries that range from home improvement to entrepreneurship. For over 10 years, she's used her unique talent and love of the written word to uncover the stories that people want to read.

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