Vinyl Vs. Laminate Flooring

When designers talk about vinyl floors, they're not just referring to vinyl sheeting or vinyl tiles, although these have been the predominant vinyl choices in the past. Luxury Vinyl Tile comes as planks or tiles that snap together in the same way that laminate planks do. Compared to laminates, LVT has a number of pros and cons, but its main advantage over its MDF-based counterpart is its superior moisture resistance.

wooden parquet 2
credit: Pavel Losevsky/Hemera/Getty Images
Laminate and vinyl floors can both bear uncanny resemblance to wood.

Historical Background

In the 1930s, sheet vinyl flooring emerged as an alternative to linoleum, which had been in use since the mid-1800s; vinyl tiles became popular in the 1940s. All of these products are water resistant and rely on strong adhesives to hold them to the subfloor. LVT is modeled after laminate flooring boards, which are themselves inexpensive copies of hardwood boards. Compared to vinyl sheets and tiles, laminate flooring boards are newcomers to the home improvement market, having been introduced in 1989 by Pergo, a Swedish company that got its start in the late 1800s manufacturing vinegar.

Laminate and LVT Basics

Like hardwood flooring boards, laminate planks are essentially a wood product. The base layer is plywood or, more commonly, MDF, a composite material made from wood fibers and adhesive. The top layer can be wood, but less expensive brands often feature imprinted cardboard or paper covered by a layer of durable plastic. LVT is not constructed in layers, but each plank has a thickness that rivals the thickness of a laminate board. It consists of a cushiony foam interior surrounded by an impermeable layer of PVC or vinyl, stamped and colored to resemble wood.

Installation and Durability

You install laminate and LVT flooring in essentially the same way, by snapping planks or tiles together. Laminate installation includes the extra step of laying a foam or plastic underlayment to protect it from moisture; LVT flooring needs no such underlayment. Moreover, laminate flooring tends to be vulnerable to moisture damage; water can swell the MDF core and cause the planks to curl and separate. Although they aren't entirely waterproof, LVT floors are much less vulnerable and are the better choice for areas in which moisture is likely to be present, such as laundry rooms and kitchens.

Glued Vs. Floating Floors

Laminate and LVT floors both differ from traditional vinyl floors in that they float above the subfloor, needing no adhesive to hold them down. They are so easy to install that any homeowner can do it. Despite these advantages, many people choose sheet vinyl or vinyl tiles because they are permanent and more water resistant than any other type of flooring. These qualities make glue-down floors more suitable for high-traffic, high-moisture areas, such as basements and mudrooms. Glue-down floors have one more advantage: Once one wears out, you can cover it with hardwood, laminate or LVT without the need to remove it.

Chris Deziel

Chris Deziel

Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.