There’s no question that vinyl as well as laminate flooring provide budget-conscious choices when it comes to large-scale projects or jobs where cash flow is tight, i.e., a minimalist approach is desired. That said, it’s still important to understand how these two flooring choices produce very different results. However, many folks think that vinyl and laminate floors are pretty much the same thing. This is an incorrect assumption. In fact, they are produced very differently, and the two choices also perform differently as well. Knowing this in advance can help avoid mistakes that a lot of folks don’t figure out until after a choice is made and installed.
Vinyl Flooring Basics
First off, vinyl is the ideal artificial floor material. It is literally made of 100 percent plastic. In this respect, the flooring type is great when one wants to resist moisture penetration. It’s also the number one reason why it has been used for years in bathrooms and kitchens where the moisture content risk is the highest. One can spill water on vinyl and let it sit for hours and there won’t be a problem in most cases unless there is a seam present and in direct contact with the liquid. However, because it is made from plastic it is, fundamentally, a petroleum-based product. Plastics come from oil by-products. So that also makes it vulnerable to liquids that can penetrate plastic such as other oils. This is the number one reason why a food oil spill or grease can eventually discolor the material if it’s not cleaned up quickly. It’s also the reason why it discolors where it is regularly cleaned by alcohol-based cleaners versus areas of the floor where it has no such contact.
Vinyl flooring comes in three general types. There is vinyl plank, which generally operates and installs like wood planks that fit and notch together when laid down. There is also wood plastic and polymer composite (WPC) vinyl, and finally rigid core vinyl which is also known as SPC vinyl.
Appearance-wise, vinyl had a bad rap for a long time due to the kind of floors installed en masse in suburban homes for decades until the 1990s. However, that old version of material is no longer used. In fact, the modern version is extremely robust, far better in manufacturing, and comes with a tremendous number of choices and textures as well. The latest versions of vinyl have been developed so well, they can replicate tile and stone or slate flooring at a distance of a few feet away, not really looking like vinyl until one is close up. There are even wood-grain versions that are just as useful in replicating real wood floors.
In terms of other aspects, vinyl floors tend to last longer than most other types, including laminate. However, it also costs more than laminate as well, particularly if a customer wants to install one of the luxury choices versus a basic level material choices
Laminate Flooring Basics
Like vinyl, laminate flooring also counts as an entirely synthetic choice which can be formed and manufactured to look a lot like natural wood choices as well as standard textures and shapes. This makes it advantageous for folks who are looking for a choice that evokes a natural would appearance but doesn’t come with the related price tag.
The construction of laminate involves a thicker layer within the flooring itself. That can produce an insulation effect that makes it far more comfortable to walk on versus vinyl, particularly in the winter. Where vinyl will simply translate the temperature from a cement foundation underneath, laminate can provide a protective layer that allows a floor to be warmer and easier to walk on when not wearing shoes.
Appearance-wise, laminate tends to win out because it has a stronger aesthetic appeal. In addition, laminate has a wide assortment of colors, textures, patterns, and styles to choose from. The detailing tends to be more distinct versus rounded, which gives laminate an edge on appearance of textures over vinyl.
Laminate flooring works extremely well for high-traffic areas aside from the kitchen and bathroom. No surprise, it’s often used in walkways, entry ways, family rooms with high use and dining rooms as well. Commercially, laminate frequently tends to be chosen for office areas and meeting rooms where there is frequent traffic, outside party entertaining and convention-style meeting functions.
However, laminate has some drawbacks. First off when it comes to moisture resistance this material doesn’t perform as well. While it can provide some version of water-resistance, it is not as reliable as vinyl. In fact, sitting water can penetrate laminate and damage it considerably. As a result, many professionals will advise against laminate being used in kitchens or bathrooms were sitting water can happen repeatedly, even daily.
Second, laminate flooring has a shorter performance lifespan. The typical durability expectation one can get out of laminate, even high-quality choices, tends to be about 10 years. It might last longer if installed in areas with low traffic. However, this shorter life expectation is offset by the fact that laminate is far cheaper to install than almost all other types. That makes it particularly ideal for tight budget projects or where one wants to give a room or home a renovated new look without breaking the bank.
Considering a New Floor
Every situation is somewhat different so it’s very hard to say there is an ideal choice that fits every scenario. If you’re considering a flooring project for either or trying to figure out what you can do with a specific budget, S & R Carpet and Floors can help. We stock both laminate and vinyl choices as well as provide the installation services as well. We can provide a full evaluation of your home or facility and point out the pros and cons for each in your particular situation. Give us a call or email to schedule an appointment and we can walk you through all the details as well as which choices gives you the best value overall for your time and money. After all, your flooring choice is an investment. It should give you the best return possible.