Hardwood is undeniably one of the most beautiful and classic flooring options. However, it’s expensive and difficult to maintain.
For those who love the look of hardwood but need something more affordable and easier to maintain, vinyl and laminate are the most popular choices. Although initially considered somewhat similar, they’ve emerged as completely different materials with their own characteristics. It’s important to understand these differences in order to make an informed choice about your home’s flooring.
But before we discuss their characteristics, let’s take a quick look at what vinyl and laminate flooring are.
Vinyl and Laminate Flooring – An Overview
Learn the difference between vinyl and laminate flooring to make an informed decision for your home.
What Is Vinyl Flooring?
Vinyl has come a long way since its invention in the 1930s and is now available in different forms, including Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP) and Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT). Both are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and have multiple layers. The base one consists of a backing material that makes the floor strong and durable; the top clear urethane layer features 3D images that make it look like any kind of material. Both LVP and LVT can be floated, glued down or snapped together for easier installation.
If you’re looking for luxury vinyl flooring in Toronto, you can choose from a range of designs that mimic the look and texture of stone, glazed tile or even hardwood. Visit a renowned flooring company like AA Floors for all types of vinyl flooring installation.
What Is Laminate Flooring?
First introduced in the ’70s, laminate is one of the strongest and most durable flooring alternatives to natural wood. It’s a synthetic material made of multiple layers of rigid, high-density fiberboards glued together into planks. Its strength comes from its core layer of high-density fiberboard, made with wood fibers. There’s also a clear protective layer that prevents staining and fading, and a design layer that gives laminate flooring its wood-like look.
Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring – A Comparison
Laminate flooring is made of 99% recycled hardwood. It has a more natural look and is comfortable to walk on thanks to its six to 12 millimeters of thickness. The design layer beneath the plank’s top resin layer features a 3D image of a natural material such as stone or wood.
Vinyl is made of 100% plastic or PVC, mixed with other compounds that provide its colour, hardness, texture, finish and flexibility. It’s available in sheets, planks, and tiles.
Like laminate, vinyl mimics the look of different natural materials like wood and stone. A thin vinyl coating over the core plastic layer holds the printed decorative pattern.
Before the advent of luxury vinyl, it was easy to distinguish between laminate and vinyl flooring. Vinyl was available in sheets and printed patterns that mimicked ceramic tiles, while laminate tiles had a plastic feel and looked like wood.
Today, with 3D printing technology, both laminate and vinyl can look realistically similar to wood, ceramic, stone, glazed tiles and a range of other materials. Whether you need brick-style vinyl flooring for your outdoor patio or antique-style wood laminate for your bedroom, you can get it customized to your preference. When it comes to designs for both laminate and vinyl floors, you have many options.
Durability & Stability
Before we compare the durability and stability of vinyl and laminate, it’s important to know what these terms mean.
- Durability refers to the ability of the flooring to withstand a large amount of weight. The harder a floor’s topmost wear layer, the more durable it is.
- Stability refers to the composition and structure, which determine the quality of the flooring material. A stable flooring material can retain its shape and size against heat and moisture changes.
While both laminate and vinyl are similarly constructed, with a backing system, a wear layer and photographic image, their composition differs. Since laminate consists of recycled hardwood, it’s susceptible to damage (like cupping and warping) from high moisture or humidity. Vinyl (particularly Parterre vinyl) is a hard, closed cell material that can withstand heat and moisture. Although a sealant isn’t usually required for vinyl, it is recommended for highly damp areas for an added layer of protection. So, when it comes to stability, vinyl is a better option than laminate.
Although both vinyl and laminate are fairly durable and can withstand a considerable amount of traffic, they do differ. Unlike luxury vinyl, where you can extend its lifespan with additional layers of urethane on the wear layer, laminate doesn’t take on extra protective coatings to its original top coat. Hence, vinyl is generally more durable than laminate.
When it comes to water resistance, luxury vinyl is the better choice.
Since laminate is made of wood byproducts, constant exposure to water can cause it to soften and swell, leading to cracking and warping. That’s why it’s not recommended for bathrooms, kitchens and basements.
Luxury vinyl, on the other hand, is made of 100% plastic or synthetic, which makes it resistant to water. Although water-resistant laminate is available, the core layer still contains wood which means it’s not waterproof.
Both vinyl and laminate are easy to clean and maintain. Regular sweeping is enough to remove dirt and debris from your floor. Since laminate flooring is vulnerable to moisture damage, you should never wipe it with a wet mop. Use only laminate-specific cleaning products to clean your laminate floors. Vinyl flooring can be steam or wet mopped as needed since it’s waterproof.
Laminate is thicker than vinyl, and its wood composition makes it warmer and easier to walk on than vinyl, which feels cold and hard when glued down directly on a concrete subfloor. It also feels more comfortable when installed above a foam underlayment. However, both materials can be installed over radiant heating as they’re great at conducting warmth.
To summarize, both laminate and vinyl are attractive, budget-friendly alternatives to natural flooring materials like stone and wood. However, they differ in terms of composition, water resistance and durability. stability, water-resistance, maintenance and comfort. Knowing their characteristics and usage, you can understand which one meets your needs better.