Luxury Vinyl vs. Laminate: What is the difference?

cherry colored laminate floor in kitchen

Wood floors are a beautiful floor, but are not always the best option for a busy household with children and pets. For families who want floors that look like wood without the worry, luxury vinyl and laminate are the natural choices; however, both flooring options come with the questions: what’s the difference between luxury vinyl and laminate? Is laminate or vinyl better?

The most obvious difference between luxury vinyl and laminate is the construction, as explained in the video below produced by Shaw. Beyond construction, there are some notable differences and similarities that make luxury vinyl or laminate better for a home.

Durability

Luxury vinyl and laminate floors are incredibly durable and able to handle large amounts of foot and paw traffic on a daily basis. These floors are virtually indestructible with only a small risk of scratching. Scratching can be prevented by taking a few steps to protect the floors:

  • Add felt pads to all furniture, such as chairs, tables, couches, and end tables.
  • Taking care when moving furniture.
  • Regularly sweeping or vacuuming to remove pebbles and debris that can scratch floors.
  • Using a vacuum that is designed for hard floors.

Luxury vinyl floors do tend to fade in direct sunlight over time. To keep luxury vinyl floors looking new in rooms with intense light, install blinds and window coverings that can block the light.

Both floors can also damage in extreme temperatures, both freezing and hot. When purchasing a laminate or luxury vinyl product for a room with limited climate control, ask the professionals at a local flooring store for the manufacturer-recommended temperature ranges. This concern should be a consideration in a flooring purchase for sun rooms, mudrooms that are separated from the main home, or an addition.

Water Resistance

When it comes to durability, the main difference between laminate and luxury vinyl floors is the ability to withstand moisture. Laminate floors are more prone to warp or get damaged by standing water spills and moisture. For that reason, laminate floors should not be installed in basements where moisture can seep through a porous slab. Extra care should also be taken when installing laminate floors in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms; these rooms tend to be more humid and prone to water spills. When water is spilled on a laminate floor, the water should be wiped up as soon as possible to prevent any damage.

Luxury vinyl floors are water, mold, and mildew resistant, making them less prone to damage in rooms with high humidity and from spills. These floors are ideal for almost any room in the home, including kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms, foyers, mudrooms, and laundry rooms. Some luxury vinyl floors are even manufactured to be waterproof which is ideal for homes with pets and waterfront homes and cabins.

Maintenance

The best way to protect and keep luxury vinyl and laminate floors clean is to place rugs by all exterior doors. This keeps gravel, dirt, and debris off luxury vinyl and laminate floors. When pets are coming into the home, train them to stop and wait while their paws are wiped off and clean.

Keeping Luxury vinyl and laminate floors clean is easy and fairly simple. Both floors can be maintained with a regular sweep, vacuum, or dry mop. Vacuum cleaners should be carefully selected so they do not scratch the floor. In homes with pets, accidents can easily be cleaned with a damp cloth and manufacturer-recommended cleaner. If there is urine on a laminate floor, clean-up should occur as soon as possible.

For a deep clean, only use manufacturer-approved cleaners so the warranty is not voided. These cleaners—and warranty information—can be found at a local flooring store. If moping is done, homeowners and home cleaners should sweep before moping and should not use excess water (if water is recommended, ask a local flooring expert).

Installation

bedroom with area rug
Courtesy: Armstrong Flooring

Laminate floors are installed as a floating floor, meaning that the floor is installed without an adhesive. For a unique look, laminate floors can also be installed as a feature wall (either on a full wall or as a half wall).

Luxury vinyl plank floors can be installed in the same manner plus with adhesive. Both flooring options can be installed as do-it-yourself project with the right tools. Both floors can be installed over concrete or a wood subfloor; laminate floors are not recommended for basements because the concrete is porous and moisture can seep through (use this list of floors recommended for basements).

Look

Luxury vinyl floors are not the same as sheet vinyl and have evolved recently in terms of aesthetics. Both laminate and luxury vinyl floors closely resemble wood (even to the point where it’s hard to tell the difference!). Modern laminate and luxury vinyl floors come in a variety of styles and colors, taking on the look of almost any wood floor. Both flooring options come in narrow and wide plank varieties, with styles that can fit any room or decor.

Price

Pricing on laminate and luxury vinyl varies depending on the product. In general, laminate flooring tends to be more affordable than luxury vinyl. If budget is a key concern, ask professionals at the local flooring store for tips for an easy do-it-yourself installation. Some stores also offer a discount for purchasing these floors in volume.

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