Both materials are known for their resilience and ability to imitate the look of more expensive surfaces like hardwood, stone, or tile. Vinyl and laminate are also easy to install, easy to maintain, DIY-friendly surfaces.
Although they share many strengths, vinyl and laminate do have certain distinct differences in their construction that shape the amount of moisture resistance, comfort, and resilience that each surface provides.
Understanding these differences will let you pick the best floor for your needs, whether commercial or residential.
Differences in core layer
Vinyl uses plastic for its core layer, with some models having wood plastic or stone plastic composites instead. There is also usually a layer of vinyl sheeting or fibreglass above or below the core.
Laminate floors use cores made from compressed wood pulp almost exclusively and feature a moisture barrier underneath. These differences are behind the various strengths and weaknesses of each product.
Resilience and Comfort
Vinyl and laminate floors are both resistant to scratches and impacts. Vinyl sometimes has trouble under unusually heavy weights, which laminate can withstand if you are using a model with a high enough AC rating. In addition, laminate surfaces will not fade from UV exposure, which may be relevant depending on the conditions of the room.
Due to the way the core is constructed, laminate tiles and planks are thicker than their vinyl counterpart. This thickness translates to improved comfort and better heat retention. Since laminate cores are mostly wood, these surfaces also feel more like genuine hardwood to anyone walking over top.
Vinyl flooring is better at dealing with moisture
Vinyl floors are 100% waterproof and, if installed as a sheet, there will be few seams for water to slip through. This makes vinyl the superior choice for bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, or other areas where flooding or overflow situations are a concern.
To be fair, laminate flooring doesn’t perform badly against moisture and laminate surfaces can withstand water as well as vinyl. The difference is that laminate can swell if moisture infiltrates down to the sides or underlayer. This is avoidable if laminate is installed properly according to manufacturer recommendations but these precautions will not help in cases of flooding where the surface is submerged for four hours or more.
There is no absolute best option
Both surfaces will let you enjoy the look of hardwood or stone at a fraction of the cost, are easy to install, and easy to maintain. In areas where moisture or flooding are a concern, vinyl’s waterproof nature is hard to ignore.
For rooms with lots of sunlight, laminate’s resistance to fading is extremely appealing. If you want to pass off your wood-look floor as the real thing, then laminate’s more realistic feel will be quite valuable. Take the time to evaluate the nature of the room in question and weigh the pros and cons of each material, as well as which one can offer the look that aligns best with your personal vision.