Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring: What’s the Difference?
Tips • August 09, 2021

Laminate vs. Vinyl Flooring: What’s the Difference?

by Floor Authority

If you’re looking for stylish flooring that’s also durable, economical and customizable, both laminate and vinyl flooring stand out. They’re both easy to install, cost about the same and might even look the same from a distance. While you might not be able to spot the difference between vinyl and laminate floors in person, there are a few key differences between them. 

The main difference between laminate and vinyl flooring is that, unlike laminate, most vinyl floors are waterproof or water-resistant. This means that laminate isn’t the best choice for moisture-prone areas like bathrooms or kitchens, whereas vinyl flooring can go just about anywhere. 

In many respects, vinyl and laminate flooring are evenly matched. When deciding which is right for you, it’s best to consider the unique needs of your home and the particular areas you’re renovating. Read on for a deep dive into how laminate and vinyl flooring compare. 

Main Differences Between Laminate and Vinyl

Both laminate and vinyl flooring are great options if you’re looking for flooring that’s durable and stylish. While they have a lot in common, there are a few key differences you’ll want to consider before deciding on the right flooring material for your home. 

Laminate Flooring 

One of the first man-made alternatives to solid wood floors, laminate is a synthetic material many homeowners choose to create the look of real hardwood flooring. Its base layer is made of high density core board and it’s topped with a melamine wear layer to protect from scratches. While the melamine wear layer offers a tough finish that can handle everyday wear and tear, it doesn’t perform well when it comes to moisture.

Laminate Vinyl Winner
Appearance More realistic wood and stone looks Wider range of styles and finishes Vinyl
Water Resistance Less moisture resistant than vinyl Superior water resistance, 100% waterproof Vinyl
Cleaning and Maintenance Requires dry mopping/sweeping Works with any cleaning method Vinyl
Durability Prone to moisture damage and scratching Extremely durable and long lasting Vinyl
Cost Most affordable alternative to hardwood ($1–6+/sq. ft.) High-end vinyl options can be pricey ($2–10+/sq. ft.) Laminate
Ease of Installation Floating click-and-lock method (DIY-friendly) Multiple installation methods at varying difficulties Laminate
Environmental Impact Some non-toxic options available Fewer non-toxic options available Laminate
Resale Value Unlikely to impact resale value High-quality versions can raise resale value Vinyl

Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl is a synthetic material that can be used to imitate the look of natural wood, stone or tile floors. Once only available in a glue-down form placed directly on the sub-floor, today’s vinyl variations allow for floating installation — instead of directly attaching to the subfloor beneath it, it uses a click-and-lock installation method that allows it to “float” on top of the subfloor. 

Because it’s made out of 100 percent plastic, vinyl offers superior resistance to moisture, making it an ultra durable and long-lasting flooring material.

Because it’s made out of 100 percent plastic, vinyl offers superior resistance to moisture, making it an ultra durable and long-lasting flooring material.


Appearance and Design

While laminate flooring and vinyl or luxury vinyl flooring are comparably similar in appearance, laminate flooring can more closely resemble hand-scraped hardwood, ceramics, stone and other materials. 


While both laminate and vinyl flooring come in a wide range of styles, colors and patterns, the finished look of laminate tends to more closely mimic the look of high quality materials like wood, ceramic or stone. Thanks to today’s imagery technology, the three-dimensional embossing on laminate surfaces allows for highly realistic representations of natural materials for a fraction of the cost. 


Vinyl has come a long way when it comes to style choices and can be made to resemble materials like stone, tile and wood. As flooring technology has continued to advance, more interesting and realistic visual designs have become available for vinyl flooring.

Water Resistance

The biggest difference you’ll find between laminate and vinyl flooring is how well they can withstand moisture, with vinyl coming out on top. While luxury vinyl tile, sheet vinyl and other luxury vinyl floor types are typically made with 100% waterproof materials, laminate flooring has wood byproducts that can’t handle moisture as well.



Almost all laminate flooring has a fiberboard core made from recycled wood byproducts, which can soften or swell with moisture exposure. If the core becomes waterlogged, it can even cause the surface layers to peel away. 

Because of this, laminate flooring has limited water resistance and isn’t the best choice for areas that tend to get a lot of water like bathrooms, laundry rooms or basements. That said, properly installed laminate flooring can be used in low-moisture areas if you stay on top of cleaning up spills immediately. 


While vinyl flooring materials of decades past were constructed with a felt backing that couldn’t resist moisture, today’s modern vinyl flooring is not only water-resistant but waterproof, too. Because it’s made with 100% plastic, luxury vinyl flooring can withstand heavy amounts of water without any damage, which makes it a great choice for full bathrooms and other moisture-prone areas like laundry rooms, kitchens and basements. 

Best for water resistance: Vinyl 

Cleaning and Maintenance 

Choosing flooring that’s easy to clean and maintain is a priority for most homeowners, especially in busy households with kids and pets. While both laminate and vinyl flooring are fairly low maintenance, vinyl can handle just about any cleaning method — laminate, on the other hand, requires a bit more care. 



Maintaining laminate floors can be a delicate process due to its limited water resistance. It’s best to care for laminate flooring primarily with dry cleaning methods first, like dry mopping or sweeping. When it comes to wet-cleaning with a mop, it’s important to use a damp mop that’s almost dry to the touch. On the upside, laminate is great for those with allergies since dust and allergens can’t penetrate or settle into the surface. 


Thanks to vinyl’s water resistance, keeping vinyl floors clean is a breeze. Day-to-day maintenance only requires sweeping and vacuuming for general tidiness, but it’s fine to use a wet mop for a vigorous deep clean. 

Best for cleaning and maintenance: Vinyl 

Durability and Longevity 

Laminate and vinyl are both durable, long-wearing flooring options with similar base price points. The life expectancy of each will ultimately depend on the quality of material you choose, whether it was installed properly and how much traffic it receives over time.


While laminate is a strong and durable flooring option, it can be seriously damaged with prolonged exposure to moisture or humidity. Laminate floors also can’t be sanded or refinished — so if they do succumb to water damage or become seriously scratched, they can’t be repaired. Most laminate flooring can last for 10 to 20 years, but this depends greatly on how well it’s cared for. Some may find they need to replace laminate flooring by the 10-year mark. 


Many of today’s vinyl flooring options are durable and resilient to everyday wear and tear, and can hold up well to kids, pets and high traffic areas of the home. However, lower quality vinyl may peel delaminate over time. This can be avoided by choosing a high quality vinyl plank with a thick wear layer, which can last up to 25 years with proper maintenance. Because most vinyl flooring options are 100 percent waterproof, it can also stand up to water exposure without any issues. 

Best for durability and longevity: Vinyl 


Laminate and vinyl flooring have similar price points, and both are less expensive than other materials like porcelain tile, marble or hardwood. While the base price for vinyl and laminate flooring is similar, higher end vinyl flooring options can run far more in cost than laminate. 



Laminate flooring typically costs anywhere between $1 and $6 or more per square foot. The price depends on the thickness you choose, with 7mm-thick planks falling in the $1/square foot range and 12mm-thick planks falling closer to $5/square foot. 

While most laminate flooring options are more cost effective than higher end vinyl flooring, the lower upfront cost makes it a good choice if you want to give your floors a refresh for less money. 


Vinyl flooring usually runs anywhere from $2 to $10 or more per square foot, and like laminate, the final price depends on the thickness and quality of vinyl you choose. While vinyl flooring can be more expensive than laminate, it offers a higher return on investment since it can last twice as long thanks to its waterproof core and superior durability. 

Best for cost: Laminate 

Ease of Installation

Both laminate and vinyl flooring are fairly easy to install, and can be attractive options for homeowners looking for a DIY flooring project. Both can be installed with click-and-lock installation methods, which can be placed over most types of subfloors or existing flooring. 


Most types of laminate are installed as floating floors using the click-and-lock installation method. This means you won’t need materials like glue or tape during installation, making it a DIY-friendly option if you’re planning on installing laminate floors yourself. Laminate can also be installed over radiant heating systems. 

Due to laminate’s hard and inflexible surface, it’s crucial that your subfloor is smooth and level before installation. If you try to install laminate on a subfloor that’s bumpy or sloped, it can end up cracking or breaking. However, if your subfloor is even and secure, the time and cost of laminate installation will be significantly less. 


While vinyl can be installed as floating floors, it has a wider range of installation methods available than laminate. In addition to the click-and-lock method, there’s also the peel-and-stick method, glue down method or a loose lay method. Each installation type varies in difficulty — for example, the glue down method can be more challenging and may require professional assistance. 

Best for installation: Laminate 

Environmental Impact

Homeowners are increasingly seeking out sustainable, eco-friendly options for the materials they bring into their homes, and floors are no exception. While it’s possible to find laminate and vinyl products that are partly made with recycled materials, neither flooring options are exceptionally environmentally friendly in comparison to materials like solid hardwood or bamboo. 


When it comes to environmental impact, laminate has a slight edge over vinyl thanks to its recycled wood core. However, the melamine wear layer on the surface is still made of plastic, which may off-gas VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that can be harmful to people and pets. 

If you’re searching for a sustainable laminate option, look for laminate that qualifies for LEED MR4 (Recycled Content) status. Generally, you’ll have an easier time finding non-toxic laminate flooring than you would with vinyl. 


Many types of vinyl flooring unfortunately aren’t made with environmental impact in mind, and options for safely recyclable vinyl materials are slim. That said, some manufacturers have developed more sustainable vinyl materials in recent years. If sustainability is a top priority, look for vinyl with a LEED credit EQ4.3 for Low-Emitting material, which reduces the amount of toxic chemicals that are released when burned in a landfill. 

However, since vinyl flooring is highly durable and long lasting, it usually doesn’t need to be replaced as often as laminate flooring, which can result in less waste in the long run.  

Best for environmental impact: Laminate 

Resale Value

Your floors are a significant feature of your home, and choosing the right material can be an investment opportunity to boost your home’s resale value. While proper installation, dedicated maintenance and the quality of material you choose are big factors in whether your floors will add resale value to your home, it ultimately depends on the specific flooring material you choose. 


While higher end types of laminate flooring can increase the value of your home to a degree, the increase will generally be minimal due to the lower price point of laminate. If you want to increase the odds of boosting your property value, laminate flooring should be relatively new and regularly maintained in order to keep it in good condition. 


Vinyl’s ability to replicate the look of natural hardwood and stone makes it possible to create authentic looking floors that feel luxurious and appeal to prospective homeowners. High end luxury vinyl flooring can add decent resale value to a home, but keep in mind that lower quality vinyl floors likely won’t do much for your property value.

Best for resale value: Vinyl 

Laminate vs. Vinyl Floors: Which Is Best for Your Home?

When it comes to deciding between laminate and vinyl flooring, the best choice for you will ultimately depend on your personal preferences and what flooring factors matter most to you. Both types come in a wide range of beautiful finishes and styles, have similar durability and typically fall within the same price range. 

That said, if you're installing new floors in moisture-prone areas like bathrooms, laundry rooms or basements, vinyl flooring will be your best choice thanks to its superior moisture resistance compared to laminate. If appearance is your priority, some types of laminate can provide a more realistic wood or stone look over certain vinyl options. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to flooring, and no flooring type is inherently better or worse than the other. For more in-depth resources on how to choose the right flooring that suits your unique needs, our flooring experts are available to answer any questions you have and offer personalized recommendations to suit your needs.