You may have heard that a wood look is a good look but knowing which wood-look flooring option is the right one for your home can be tricky. Whether it’s durability, easy maintenance, or aesthetics, you need a flooring type that best matches the needs of your household.
For good reason, laminate and luxury vinyl plank are among the most popular choices for wood-look flooring. But, what’s the difference between these types of floors? Keep reading to help decide which of the two may be best for your next flooring project.
While this blog will mainly focus on the differences between laminate and vinyl plank, the truth is that there are lots of similarities between these two flooring types. Let’s review those first.
Genuine hardwood has a timeless look that can make any home look its best for many years. However, it’s typically more expensive than its wood-look alternatives. Many people opt for either vinyl plank or laminate to get the wood look they want for less money than the real thing. If you want a budget-friendly hardwood that looks and feels like the real thing, these two flooring options are best for you.
Both laminate and vinyl plank flooring are stain and scratch resistant. This means easier cleaning and less stress than genuine hardwood when you drop or spill something on your floors. But, it’s still possible to damage laminate and vinyl plank with very heavy wear, so don’t go trying to see just how indestructible they are and end up with a scratch!
Another splendid thing about vinyl plank and laminate is that they are both available in 100% waterproof options! That’s right! You can have a genuine hardwood look in water-prone areas of your home, such as the bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room. Even if you select an option that isn’t 100% waterproof, most styles today are water-resistant, meaning these floors are less susceptible to damage from water and moisture.
Today, both laminate and vinyl plank floors have evolved to closely mimic the look and feel of genuine hardwood. Most people can’t tell the difference unless they closely examine the flooring. The grains, textures, and looks of laminate flooring and vinyl plank flooring have been designed with incredible detail to give homeowners the real feel for less (money and stress).
Homeowners often turn to vinyl plank flooring and laminate flooring for similar reasons: they want a wood look that’s affordable and more durable than genuine hardwood. Both options offer water resistance, resistance to mold and mildew, scratch resistance, stain resistance, and are durable enough for high traffic areas. Although they may offer similar advantages, they aren’t built out of the same materials.
So how do laminate and vinyl plank differ when it comes to achieving their realistic wood looks? Let’s break down what the two are made of:
Laminate is comprised of a wood composite (also known as hardboard or high-density fiberboard), but features a photographic layer on top to give it the look of solid hardwood. The wood composite core gives laminate a more realistic wood feel and touch than vinyl plank. And, with modern printing techniques, it can look quite realistic and close to the real thing.
Vinyl plank, on the other hand, is made of vinyl, or plastic. Manufacturers can give it a realistic wood look with advanced printing and manufacturing techniques that, like laminate, closely mimics the look and feel of real hardwood.
In the past, laminate was the gold standard of mimicking the genuine looks and textures of hardwood. However, with updated technology, vinyl plank styles now also achieve a look and feel that is very close to real hardwood.
If you have a busy household, or just want floors that will last, durability is an important factor when selecting new floors. Overall, both vinyl plank and laminate flooring are highly durable and built for heavy usage from kids, pets, and foot traffic. However, vinyl plank is slightly more durable than laminate flooring. Therefore, if you want a leg up when it comes to durability, then vinyl plank may be your best option.
Here’s one area where vinyl plank usually shines. While laminate is often water resistant, and there are even some waterproof styles available now, vinyl plank is usually the better option when it comes to water resistance. In fact, humidity and moisture can cause standard laminate to expand and buckle, while vinyl plank is more likely to hold its shape when exposed to moisture.
This means that vinyl plank may be a superior choice for moisture-prone areas, such as humid basements, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchen areas. And if you live in a high-moisture area, like Florida or Texas, vinyl plank may be a better choice, unless you select a waterproof laminate.
Both laminate and vinyl plank are easy to clean. For this reason, homeowners have been opting for these floors more and more over solid or engineered hardwoods.
Since vinyl plank is highly resistant to water, you can use a slightly wetter mop for cleaning—but you still need to be careful not to totally soak the floors. Water may get underneath the planks and deteriorate the adhesives. Not good!
For laminate, you generally must be more mindful of how you clean due to it being less water resistant than vinyl plank. Clean laminate floors with a damp mop and use products that are specifically designed for laminate. It is always recommended to test the cleaner in a small area first to make sure all goes well.
When you do use laminate-friendly cleaning products, don’t let them saturate the floor. In general, it’s a good idea not to let any liquids stand on your flooring, as that can damage laminate. For more flooring care and maintenance tips, see our laminate flooring care page.
For vinyl plank, you don’t really need special cleaners, so this makes vinyl plank slightly easier to maintain. Just remember not to use ammonia, bleach, detergents, or abrasive cleaners, as these may leave a dull film on your flooring. For more vinyl flooring tips, check out our page on vinyl flooring maintenance and care.
Depending on the product you choose, either laminate or vinyl plank floors can be installed in most areas of the home. Both can be installed above or below grade, on top of a concrete slab or over a standard subfloor material. However, some styles that aren’t waterproof may not be the best option for a bathroom, laundry room, or a basement that is prone to moisture and wetness.
We hope this was a helpful deep dive into laminate and vinyl plank flooring options. If you’re looking for a less-expensive wood look that works in most areas of the home, you’re on the right track. And if durability and ease of cleaning and maintenance are important to you, then laminate or vinyl plank may be great choices worth looking into.
Here at Empire, we want you to feel informed and confident when choosing the right flooring product for your next home project. That’s what we’re here for. If you want more 1-on-1 attention and a customized recommendation for your home or flooring project, schedule a free in-home consultation, and a flooring professional will come and talk you through all your options.
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