Hardwood flooring has appealing charm and style that many homeowners are drawn to. However, its drawbacks may make you think twice about installing it in your home. The cost and the impact on sound in the home are some of these drawbacks. If you are looking for a smart alternative to hardwood, your attention may easily turn to vinyl plank and laminate flooring. These materials seem similar at first glance, but their unique properties should be explored so that you can make the right flooring decision between laminate vs vinyl for your home.
Durability and Resistance to Damage
If you are looking for a durable flooring option, you cannot go wrong with either laminate flooring or vinyl plank. Laminate vs vinyl flooring are both selected as durable alternatives to wood, but they can still be damaged by different types of forces. Understanding their weaknesses may help you to determine which type of flooring is most suitable for your home.
Vinyl planks are comprised entirely of a PVC material, which is synthetic and will not damage when extreme pressure is applied to it, such as from dropping a heavy object on it. This material is ideal in homes with pets and children because damage from heavy foot traffic and scratching is rare. Nonetheless, vinyl plank floors have weaknesses. For example, the material can rip if very heavy furniture is dragged across it. The use of sliding furniture pads can minimize the risk of this type of damage. In addition, if heavy furniture sits on the vinyl planks for an extended period of time, indentions can appear.
In comparison, laminate floors are comprised mostly out of pressed layers of wood materials. The top and bottom layers are protective. This type of flooring is designed to endure heavy foot traffic, and it is also well-suited for homes with children and pets. However, it may be more likely to show wear and scratches than vinyl. Do-it-yourself repair kits make it easy to conceal these types of damages. In addition, laminate is less likely to fade when exposed to daily sunlight than the alternative.
Water Resistance Laminate vs Vinyl
A primary concern that homeowners have when considering hardwood floors is the potential for water damage. Hardwood is not suitable for use in kitchens and bathrooms where the risk of exposure to water is high, so it is rarely installed in these areas. While less common, water damage to hardwood floors can occur in living rooms, hallways and more as well. Vinyl and laminate both offer superior water resistance, and this makes them both more suitable for use in all areas of the home.
Vinyl plank floors are virtually waterproof when they are installed using proper techniques. Because this is a plastic material, you do not need to worry about vinyl flooring absorbing water when you have an accidental spill. Vinyl plank floors must be properly installed to enjoy this benefit.
Laminate floors are more resistant to water damage than wood floors, but they are not entirely waterproof. When water stands on the material for an extended period of time or when the laminate flooring is exposed to high humidity levels on an ongoing basis, issues with separation, gaping and more can occur. However, a spill on laminate flooring that is wiped up quickly is unlikely to damage laminate.
Vinyl vs Laminate Flooring Installation Process
The installation cost for any type of flooring should be considered as you prepare to select new flooring for your home. Some materials are easy enough for relatively unskilled homeowners to install on their own with minimal or moderate effort. Other materials require exceptional training and expert-level skills in order to produce quality results from installation work.
Vinyl planks are available in two primary types, and these types impact the installation method. Floating vinyl plank flooring is easy to install because two planks simply click and lock together. This creates a tight seal between the planks. The other type of vinyl plank floor is self-adhesive. You simply peel away a backing paper and apply the vinyl planks directly to a subflooring material. Both of these vinyl plank flooring styles are relatively easy to install because they can be cut down to size as needed with a utility knife.
Laminate floors require more effort to install, but the process is still relatively easy. Because laminate flooring is comprised of compressed wood layers, the pieces must be cut to size as needed with a circular or hand saw. Before the laminate can be installed in a kitchen or another potentially moist area like basement for example, a vapor barrier or underlayment should be installed. If the laminate floors that you select have a built-in underlayment, a vapor barrier may still be needed. The actual installation process for laminate flooring typically has an interlocking process with a tongue-and-groove design. Glue and nails are typically not needed for vinyl or laminate floors
While you could install vinyl plank or laminate floors yourself, professional installation may still be beneficial. With professional installation, you can feel confident that your new flooring will look amazing. The ease of installation for these flooring materials makes professional installation more affordable per square foot than for materials with more labor-intensive installation processes.
Care and Cleaning
Both vinyl plank and laminate flooring have easy care requirements, which makes them practical for use in busy households. Unlike with hardwood flooring, laminate and vinyl plank flooring never need to be refinished.
If you install vinyl plank flooring in your home, your regular cleaning activities will include sweeping as well as the use of a damp mop. The mop should not be overly saturated with water, and water should not be permitted to sit on the vinyl plank floors for an extended period of time. This is particularly true if your vinyl flooring was installed with a peel-and-stick method. The excess moisture can cause the vinyl adhesive to lose its grip on the subfloor. For more significant cleaning efforts, vinyl flooring can be cleaned with a steam mop or a mild cleanser and a dry mop. Waxing vinyl flooring is not required or recommended.
Like vinyl plank floors, laminate flooring has straightforward and easy care requirements. Regular cleaning efforts include sweeping laminate flooring to remove particles. Wet or damp mops should be avoided, but you can safely use a steam mop. Soap-free cleaning agents that are specifically designed for use on laminate floors may be safe to use. These should be applied and wiped away using a dry mop or cloth when needed. Consult with the manufacturer for stain removal instructions as needed.
Laminate vs Vinyl Flooring Styles
Similar to hardwood flooring, both vinyl plank and laminate flooring are available in an exceptional range of styles, and this makes them well-suited for almost any décor. When you compare styles and sizes available between laminate and vinyl flooring, however, you may notice a few differences.
These differences begin with dimensions. Vinyl is usually available in planks that are between 4 to 8 inches in width by 36 to 48 inches in length. In comparison, laminate flooring is sold in slats that range from 4 to 16 inches with widths similar to that of vinyl plank flooring.
Vinyl flooring mimics the look of real wood. It is available in a wide range of wood styles, stains finishes and embossed texture. These range from barn-style oak to hand-scraped cherry, bamboo and others. Laminate comes in an extensive range of wood-like finishes and styles. However, laminate is also available in styles that mimic stone, ceramic and other flooring materials. Regardless of the look that you want to achieve in your home, you can likely find an exceptional material that is ideal for your home through laminate or vinyl flooring.
Style and Décor
When selecting a new flooring material for your home, you understandably want it to enhance the décor and add value, so the overall impact on the room’s style and décor must be taken into account. When you purchase a material like vinyl that is made out of a PVC-like material or laminate, you may wonder if the flooring would look like a cheap alternative. The good news is that the manufacturing processes for both of these flooring options have advanced dramatically. Regardless of the style that you select for either of these materials, you can expect to have a realistic or authentic look in your home.
While vinyl plank flooring is comprised of a type of plastic, a quality flooring product is created using superior technologies that flawlessly recreate authentic textures, patterns, striations and colors. Keep in mind, however, that cheap vinyl plank floors do not use the same exceptional technologies.
Laminate is comprised of a protective coating or wear layer over a printed layer, and these sit on top of the compressed wood layers. Because printing techniques have advanced greatly, the look of laminate is amazing. In addition, technology is now so advanced that the striations on the top wear layer can perfectly correspond to the details in the printed layer. In terms of how the flooring feels under your feet, laminate has a more authentic feel because it is actually comprised of wood.
Ambiance and Comfort
The type of flooring selected for your home directly affects ambiance as well as your overall comfort. Consider, for example, that ceramic and stone tiles are known for being cold and hard to the touch. They also permeate sounds and can create a cavernous-like ambiance. Both vinyl plank floors and laminate flooring have a wonderful impact on ambiance and are comfortable to walk on, but they are different in these areas. Vinyl, for example, is usually installed on a concrete subfloor without underlayment or cushioning. Because of this, the issue of echoing is minimized, and the room’s ambiance may be somewhat quieter than with laminate. However, if you select a thinner vinyl plank material, the comfort under your feet may be reduced. Because vinyl plank is installed on top of concrete, the material can often feel cold to the touch.
If you opt for laminate, you may discover that it is more comfortable to walk on because it is thicker than a vinyl plank material in most instances. In addition, laminate is often installed on a more comfortable subfloor material than concrete. You could even install a foam material underneath the laminate for additional cushioning and comfort. Because of the type of subflooring that is typically installed under laminate, the material may be slightly warmer to the touch than vinyl plank materials. However, floating installation for laminate may create more of an echo in the room than vinyl plank floors. Each material has unique properties that will affect noise control, so all options should be explored carefully.
Laminate vs Vinyl Choosing Flooring for Your Home
You can see that both laminate and vinyl plank floors have unique benefits as well as their own drawbacks. When selecting the right flooring material for your home, consider factors related to the likelihood of spills, the preferred installation method, the type of wear or impact that may affect the flooring and your preferred care and maintenance steps. Once you have decided between a vinyl plank or a laminate material, you can then explore the many styles and thicknesses available to find the best flooring material for your home.