Vinyl vs. Laminate Flooring: What’s the Difference (2024)

By Amanda Lutz Updated February 7, 2024

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Vinyl and laminate flooring are two trending floor designs that are among the most popular for homeowners. Read our guide below in case you’re struggling to select between them. We’ll sort through differences in flooring installation, cost, maintenance, longevity, resale value, and more when it comes to laminate versus vinyl.


What Is Vinyl Flooring?

Vinyl is a 100% synthetic flooring material made mostly of polyvinyl chloride plastic, typically found in kitchens and bathrooms. Vinyl flooring has multiple layers, such as the wear layer, printed or decorative layer, an inner core that consists of a foam and vinyl layer, and a backing.

The types of vinyl flooring are luxury vinyl plank flooring, luxury vinyl tile, wood plastic composite, stone plastic composite, and sheet vinyl. Vinyl mimics the look and feel of ceramic, stone, or real wood, but its synthetic materials are more affordable. Depending on what fits your space and design scheme best, you can cut vinyl into planks, sheets, or tiles.


What Is Laminate Flooring?

Laminate flooring is a multilayer synthetic alternative to natural wood floor options and can also mimic the look of stone and tiles. According to HomeDepot.com inventory, laminate planks are between 6 and 12 millimeters (mm) thick, and thicker boards are more impact-resistant and easier to install. Laminate offers a more cushioned feel than vinyl and is best in high-traffic areas, such as living rooms and hallways.


What Is a Floating Floor?

A floating floor is an installation through which boards and tiles lock together as if they’re puzzle pieces. Floating floors rest on the subfloor, and consist of multiple flooring layers, including a protective base layer and a top layer. Most laminate floors and some luxury vinyl planks are floating floors.


Differences Between Vinyl and Laminate Flooring

Vinyl and laminate are similar, but there are also stark differences between them. Below are some direct comparisons to help you determine which is right for your home. 

Appearance

Both vinyl and laminate flooring mimic the appearance of tile, stone, or wood, but laminate flooring is often higher quality. Laminate is frequently thicker, too: It’s usually between 6 and 12 mm, while vinyl is about 5 mm thick. While manufacturers emboss vinyl sheets with designs, laminate finishes usually include a resin seal.

Care and cleaning

Vinyl and laminate flooring are easy to clean and require basic care. The World Floor Covering Association recommends sweeping or vacuuming vinyl flooring frequently. If that doesn’t remove dirt, mop the floor with clean, warm water, or use cleaning products recommended by the manufacturer. Avoid using detergents, abrasive cleaners, or mop and shine products, as these can damage your flooring.

Regularly sweep, dust, mop, or vacuum laminate flooring to remove dirt and grime. You can use a wet mop on laminate, but avoid using too much water, and be sure to wipe the floor dry. Place doormats in your mudroom and at entryways to collect moisture and dirt so that they don’t track across your floors or damage laminate. 

Cost

Vinyl and laminate flooring are both cost-effective alternatives to wood or tile, but vinyl is the less expensive option between the two. Vinyl can cost between $1 and $5 per square foot, while luxury vinyl flooring can cost between $7 and $12 per square foot.* Variables such as scratch-resistant coatings and a material’s thickness will change the price of any flooring. 

*Cost data via Angi

Durability and Maintenance

Both vinyl and laminate flooring can be low-maintenance and long-lasting. Printed vinyl flooring is one of the least durable options, whereas heavier inlaid vinyl is very durable—even in high-traffic areas. Laminate is resistant to scratches and stains, but it’s susceptible to water damage, impossible to refinish, and can fade in direct sunlight.

Installation

You can install both vinyl and laminates over most existing flooring or subflooring. Homeowners can install vinyl with a number of different techniques, such as stick-on vinyl, glued-down vinyl, interlocking vinyl, and grouted vinyl. Laminate typically employs click-and-lock installation, and you can install laminate over radiant heating systems.

Longevity

Flooring life depends on how well you maintain your floors and the floor’s foot traffic levels, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. Vinyl flooring can last around 25 years, while laminate flooring can last 15 to 25 years.

Resale

Vinyl and laminate flooring don’t add much resale value to homes, as most buyers prefer the look of natural hardwood flooring. You’ll likely see a higher return on investment if you’re ripping out old laminate or vinyl and replacing it with new flooring, though.

Water Resistance

Vinyl flooring is more water-resistant than laminate flooring, which is why homeowners typically install vinyl in kitchens and bathrooms. Bear in mind that either flooring can swell and warp if moisture seeps into the seams between planks.


Benefits and Drawbacks

Vinyl BenefitsVinyl Drawbacks
Moisture resistantCan lose its wear layer over time
One of the easiest types of floors to maintainHeavy appliances can dent flooring
Typically lasts up to 25 years Not biodegradable
Laminate BenefitsLaminate Drawbacks
More comfortable to walk onCan’t be refinished
You can install over radiant heating systemsCan fade in direct sunlight
Scratch- and stain-resistantNot waterproof

Our Recommendation

Vinyl and laminate have many of the same appeals, but they have key differences, too. Vinyl flooring is best in rooms with higher humidity levels, such as the kitchen, bathroom, laundry rooms, or basement, while laminate is better in areas with more foot traffic. Be sure to clean and maintain your flooring properly to extend its life span, and consider professional installation if you don’t have flooring experience.

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Vinyl vs. Laminate Flooring FAQ

Can I install vinyl or laminate flooring myself?

You can install vinyl or laminate flooring yourself with a DIY approach. Many types of vinyl and laminate flooring are floating floors, so there’s no need to glue or nail them to the subfloor. You can also install vinyl and laminate flooring over your existing floors.

Should I install laminate or vinyl plank?

You can install either laminate or vinyl plank, depending on what’s best for your space. Laminate is best in areas where there’s more foot traffic, such as living rooms and hallways. Vinyl is a better option in areas with high moisture levels.

Do you need underlayment for vinyl plank flooring?

You won’t need underlayment for vinyl plank flooring if there’s underlayment already installed. The manufacturer may include instructions on how to add an extra layer of underlayment, which can help to level the floor, mitigate sound, and make your floors more comfortable to walk on, though.