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.
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.
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


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.

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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 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.

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top


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.

Back to Top


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.

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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.

16 thoughts on “Vinyl Plank vs Laminate Flooring”

  1. Avatar

    Being that this article was written in just a bit over a year ago, I’m disappointed I found a few things not completely accurate about this type of flooring. Both types of flooring have been around for quite some time, so more research should have been done.

    There is a difference between water-resistant and waterproof. Water-resistant is a product that can resist water up to a point before its damaged. Waterproof is a product that can resist water completely and not damage the product. Mfg has both vinyl and laminate flooring that is water-resistant and some that are 100% waterproof out on the market…and have for quite some time. You just have to do research to find out if the flooring you plan to use is waterproof or not. The laminate flooring that I plan to use in my whole house is 100% Waterproof.

    As far as the installation of laminate, you can also use a jigsaw as well as a laminate floor cutter which is actually the easiest. I’ve seen someone use a utility knife, but it’s a little tricker and not worth even trying (even tho the mfg said you can).

    Now the laminate flooring I do plan to purchase, specifically states NOT to use steam on the flooring. I would not use steam on anything except tiles like porcelain or ceramic. But still, check with the mfg on either to be sure. This flooring mfg also says rotating brushes, floor scrubbers, buffers or jet mops are not to be used either. As far as wiping up spills, the article says to wipe up immediately for laminate. Laminate or vinyl that is 100% waterproof does not need to be wiped up immediately. Water-resistant flooring should be wiped up within a certain amount of time. Check with the mfg on that specific time frame.

    Underlayment is per mfg instructions. The flooring I plan to use, states if I get the model that has an attached underlayment I will void the warranty if I add more underlayment. If it doesnt have an attached underlayment, then you need to add it. I am putting this down on concrete flooring and I am a little confused as to if I can put a moisture barrier under the one model that has the attached underlayment. I do believe the wording states for concrete you have to add it, but I will be asking for clarification before installation.

    Although I did find some things not quite right w/this article, I did learn a few things and thats why I read it in the first place…to learn.

  2. Avatar
    Elaine Zenthoefer

    My husband and I recently purchased a new home where laminate in the great room and halls was the only choice. We also have a rental units. In one we put a tile looking laminate product and the other vinyl plank. The laminate is not the best for a rental as tenants don’t always comply with the recommended cleaning products. The other rental with vinyl plank looks great after 6 years. This tenant has cats and dogs.

    The care is certainly easier with vinyl. It also looks like a rich medium stained oak floor. My tenant is extremely happy with this product. Meanwhile 2 month old wood looking laminate has several chips in it which didn’t require much to damage the surface. It is under warranty so we are considering replacement with vinyl plank. I would appreciate other comments on this.

    1. Avatar

      We had vinyl is our first house, which we’ve rented out for the last 5 years. It’s held up amazingly. I loved it so much that we also installed vinyl in our new house. Both have withstood cats and lots of guests as well as furniture dragging, and the vinyl in our current house has held up admirably against our extremely messy toddler. I dropped a burning hookah coal on the laminate in our old house once. It was on the floor for a good 15 seconds and there wasn’t so much as a mark. I’d like to see laminate stand up to that.

      As for the authors opinion on resale value, I disagree. Within the next decade vinyl plank will become ever more popular and I believe it will overtake laminate. Especially for people with children. They’re always spilling something. I’m pretty sure my daughter would have massacred laminate floors if we had them.

      Laminate has a poor reputation for a reason. While it has improved in recent years, if you’re buying a home that had it installed more than 5 years ago you will know because unless it was really high end it will look terrible.

      Personally, I’d recommend just about any flooring over laminate.

    2. Avatar
      Tina Stout Stout

      My in-laws put wood look vinyl in their mobile home over five years ago. When they first got it, I was like yep that’s what we are putting on our floors eventually. It looked good and was waterproof. I have since changed my mind. Not a good product at all. It scratches easily and takes the color right off. The dark vinyl kept having white spots appearing. My FIL kept saying something had spilled on it. Nope, it was the color coming off the planks. Then later when a family member moved in for a while, he had to get around in a rolling office chair. He further scratched the color off the kitchen floor rolling the chair over the floor.

      We also put this same flooring in one of our rental properties. The renters moved out about a month ago and my hubby said we have to have it replaced as the renters didn’t take care of it at all (even though I put in the contract that furniture had to have protectors under it and how to properly clean the floor). It’s now ruined.

      We currently have laminate planks in our house. We put it in 12 years ago. I wouldn’t get this stuff again as it’s not waterproof or scratch resistant. This time we are going with 100% waterproof laminate flooring. People have had this in their house for years w/out any issues with pets and kids.
      This article was written a little over a year ago. This waterproof laminate flooring didn’t just come out last year. The writer didn’t do her homework. I’m making a new post regarding that as well.

  3. Avatar

    Excellent article Nikki! We have had laminate for almost 20 years in our kitchen and it holds up pretty well but has a few chips. Water is not your friend with laminate though… had a sink leak and it did damage the planks. Also, the builder “cleaned” the construction dust off of the floor using a floor polisher… big mistake! Ruined thousands worth of flooring that all had to be redone. Anyway, I’m thinking of going with vinyl planks in a 3rd car garage that we use as an office. Sounds easier for a DIY install with the ability to cut with a utility knife.

  4. Avatar

    Both sound good. Would like to use vinyl but worry about fading in our west facing home. Does the vinyl really fade a lot?

    1. Avatar

      I’d personally read the mfg info about their particular flooring. Many mfg are also active on facebook and can answer questions about the flooring right there.

      I’ve heard the waterproof laminate is fade-resistant, but havent read anything lately on the vinyl flooring. It’s definitely not scratch resistant…at least not the one my in-laws purchased over 12 years ago. Within a few years, the color was coming off and a family member scratched it up even more w/a chair. They may have made the flooring better since then.

  5. Avatar

    The contractor only had a few last planks to cut to complete the install. So disappointing there are several exposed sharp chips that are appearing on the edges of a few of the planks; Some planks have more than one chip. What is happening? We may have gotten a defective box/boxes? A few of the chips are in the middle of my kitchen floor. Please respond ASAP. Thank you.

    1. Avatar

      Great article, thank you. Now I’m sort of torn between the two like reader Shannon mentioned. But wonder living a few blocks from the beach with constant moisture and humidity, plus having a dog that I never know when it will pee on the floor next, I’m thinking Vinyl wins. Am I right in that assumption?

      1. Avatar

        Yes, you are right. As an Interior Designer, I have used many floor products. Vinyl planks are superior in performance and looks in the environment you described. I personally use it in my home because of those wonderful dog companions who accidentally surprise us from time to time. Also had an ice machine malfunction with no permanent damage to the vinyl planks.

  6. Avatar

    Thank you, Ant. I’m torn at the moment between laminate or luxury vinyl on our fixer-upper home but with a budget in mind, two small children, and the amount of floor I have to cover, I really think I’ll be going with vinyl.

  7. Avatar

    I don’t know what vinyl flooring you sampled from. But the ones I purchased from Lumber liquidators “luxury vinyl plank” are much thinker than regular laminates. Also both products require padding underneath when using over concrete.

    1. Avatar

      I agree, but I have seen some vinyl on the market still like my inlaws put in their trailer 12 years ago. It’s very thin and it bends. I think it was peel and stick. The vinyl you’d use now days is about 7mm thick and does require some sort of moisture barrier if being used on concrete.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *