The least expensive carpet you can buy is less expensive than the lowest cost laminate flooring. The World Floor Covering Association lists the cost of carpet, as of 2015, at between $2 to $15 per square foot, while laminate costs from $3 to $7. Both prices are for installed flooring. You may want to consider long-term costs, as carpet usually needs to be replaced more frequently and is easier to damage.
Advantages of Carpet
Carpeting adds a softer, warmer feel and look to a room, and it's a popular choice for bedrooms and living rooms for this reason. Carpet comes in a vast variety of materials, patterns and colors, and recent advances in technology have made it more stain-resistant than carpets of the past.
Disadvantages of Carpet
Stain-resistant does not mean stain-proof, and carpet can get destroyed more easily than laminate, especially in high-traffic areas like hallways. It also takes more effort to clean, and ground-in dirt can destroy the fibers. Better quality carpet with stain-resistant treatment will last longer, but will also cost more than a laminate floor.
Like laminate, carpet is made using adhesives and chemicals that people with chemical sensitivities may wish to avoid. Formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and acetone are chemicals that can be found in some carpets. For more information, ask your retailer or the manufacturer for the material safety data sheet (MSDS) available for the product you are installing.
Advantages of Laminate
Laminate flooring is very durable, and is a good choice for hallways and entryways. It's easy to keep clean, and doesn't harbor allergens, odors and pet-borne insects like carpeting can.
Laminate comes in a wide variety of styles, mostly meant to simulate the look of stone or wood; the top layer is a graphic representation of whatever surface the laminate is meant to resemble. If one section of a laminate floor becomes damaged, it's possible to replace damaged sections without redoing the entire floor.
In general, installing laminate flooring is an easier task than installing carpet for the do-it-yourself homeowner. The savings made by installing laminate yourself may reduce the cost of laminate flooring to a comparable level with professionally installed carpet.
Disadvantages of Laminate
The top layer of laminate is easily scratched by furniture or by dust and grime, and may lose its luster if not frequently swept. Laminate is also ruined by excess moisture; any spills or standing water must be promptly cleaned up, and wet mopping is a bad idea. Many types of laminate are made with formaldehyde, and off-gassing of volatile organic compounds may be a problem. Some floors are treated to prevent this, but as with stain-resistant carpet, the price will be higher as a result.