Pros and Cons of Laminate Flooring vs Hardwood, Vinyl & Other Flooring

One of the questions we get asked here at Home Flooring Pros is ‘where is the best place to install laminate flooring?’ It seems from the sales blurb that laminate is the right choice for every room, but is this really the case? In this flooring guide we’re going to re-examine the main advantages of laminate floors and take a look at the pros and cons of installing laminate instead of solid wood or vinyl flooring. This post is meant as a general guide, please consult with a reliable home flooring professional before making a final decision.

Pros and Cons of Laminate Floors

As we make clear in our laminate flooring guides the main benefits of laminate over other types of home flooring, and the reason it is so popular, are affordability, ease of installation and low maintenance.

Laminate is cheap because it’s a largely synthetic flooring that’s easily mass produced using low cost materials. It’s easy to install because most laminate uses click and lock assembly which means no nails or glue and you can float it over most existing sub floors. And finally it’s easy to clean and care for because of the thick and clear wear layer that covers the surface of the flooring.

So why not just lay laminate floor throughout your home? Well many people do, but in certain situations its worth taking a moment to compare laminate flooring advantages with other flooring types. Laminate is a great mid-priced flooring option but there are times when a more expensive hardwood floor or a cheaper vinyl floor could be a better match for your home.

Laminate Vs Hardwood Flooring

Laminate vs wood flooring can be summed up pretty simply in two words… price and style! We think laminate floors look great, there are some exceptional products available, but laminate doesn’t look the same as solid hardwood and that’s a fact. In a dining room or master bedroom where style is your main concern you might want to consider spending a little more on a quality hardwood floor.

Laminate wood flooring is perfect in a functional setting where practicality is your priority. In a child’s playroom, in the family den or parts of the house where you have dogs running around laminate flooring just makes sense. It’s attractive, quickly cleaned and hard wearing too. In these situations solid wood flooring seems rather impractical and expensive. The same is also true when comparing laminate with bamboo flooring.

Also remember that solid hardwood can stain and is vulnerable to strong sunlight. If stains and extreme weather conditions are a part of your day to day life then laminate flooring is the smart choice. When it comes to the pros and cons of laminate flooring there are plenty of reasons to choose laminate over hardwood or bamboo flooring, but its fair to say they are of a practical rather than aesthetic nature.

Laminate Vs Vinyl Flooring

Laminate flooring does a great job of imitating more expensive surfaces like solid wood and natural stone and it’s also got a good long life span, so why would you ever consider vinyl flooring over laminate?

Well, please don’t lose sight of the fact that laminate floors aren’t completely waterproof. They do contain a core layer of dense fiberboard and, despite the plastic top wear layer and further protective melamine resin layer, laminate flooring will react to standing water and strong humidity in the same way as solid wood flooring. So, laminate flooring for kitchens is okay as long as you keep spills to a minimum and/or clean up immediately, but you should think twice about laminate in a damp basement or in a bathroom that regularly experiences standing water. In these instances vinyl flooring would be a much smarter choice, vinyl itself is waterproof and as long as it is installed properly the chance of any water getting through to your subfloor is negligible. Click here to learn more about the best laminate floor cleaners available.

Luxury Vinyl Tile vs Laminate

Furthermore you can now buy luxury vinyl flooring as either planks or tiles. Luxury vinyl flooring is flexible, like normal vinyl, but thicker and more robust matching the durability of laminate. And like laminate it has been manufactured to mimic real wood and stone flooring which is why it comes in planks and tiles. Of course you will need to see luxury vinyl up close and personal before you decide if it’s a good fit for your home aesthetically, but we feel it is a great looking and reasonably priced option.

Laminate vs Engineered Wood Flooring

Comparing engineered wood with laminate is an interesting and worthwhile exercise and you might be surprised by the results. There’s actually not that much between them and most of the pros and cons are the same as comparing laminate vs hardwood.

On the whole a good laminate floor will be more durable than its engineered wood counterpart. Laminates tend to be more scratch and impact resistant, remember that engineered wood durability will depend on the hardness of the species of the wood wear layer (so maple is more dent resistant than pine) and the number of protective finishes. However engineered wood has much greater longevity because a thick wood wear layer allows the floor to be refinished or recoated.

Aesthetically, like solid hardwood, engineered wood beats laminate hands down. Regarding installation, they’re both easy to install and you have a little more versatility with engineered wood as you can glue and nail it down as well as float it.

The really interesting comparison is with price. Solid hardwood and laminate are at opposite ends of the most budgets but laminates and engineered woods have some interesting overlaps. If you’re on a tight budget then you will still want to focus on laminate and top of the line engineered hardwood can often cost as much as a solid hardwood floor. However for those on a middling budget, say $3 to $4 per square foot, you have the option of either going for a high end laminate or a perfectly good mid-range engineered hardwood.

Laminate vs Tile Flooring

The biggest difference between laminate flooring and tile or stone flooring is installation. Laminate installation is a breeze compared to the prep, skill and time required to install tile. If you can afford the $4 plus per square foot installation costs then you should probably go with tile flooring.

You can’t beat tile when it comes to durability and longevity. Tile is also the best choice for wet conditions which is why it’s so common in kitchens and bathrooms, if you have any worries about excess water/moisture in your home then tile is a much better choice than laminate. It is worth mentioning that tile is harder and colder than laminate and so many homeowners report that laminate flooring provides more comfort. That’s why it’s fairly common to install tile in the kitchen and bathroom and laminate in other parts of the home.

Both types of flooring are quick and easy to clean, just be aware that if you go with a light/white tile you will find yourself needing to mop far more often than with darker floors, white tile shows up everything and, take it from us, with young children that gets very boring very quickly!

Laminate Vs Carpet

When trying to decide between carpet or laminate your final decision will ultimately come down to comfort and cleanliness factors, for you, your family and your pets.

For price, low to mid-range options are pretty similar, you can buy both carpet and laminate at between $1 and $4 per square foot. Obviously high quality carpet price can go much higher than that. You can save money on laminate if you intend to install it yourself. Carpet really needs professional installation so that cost needs to be factored in.

Of course laminate is a harder, more resilient surface so will last longer than carpet, but only if you purchase a decent product and take good care of it. Carpet can be a pretty long term option if there are just two of you in the house and foot traffic is low.

If you have pets (or toddlers!) then you have an interesting decision to make… carpet is much more forgiving, warm and comfortable for both pets and children, but a nightmare to clean or take care of if your pets or kids are badly behaved. Laminate can be pretty harsh on older animals, but will certainly stand up better to claws and rough play. In fact the number one advantage that laminate has over carpet is ease of cleaning and keeping clean. Even with regular hovering and steam cleaning, carpets can be a haven for dust and dirt; anyone with dust allergies should definitely consider laminate or stay on top of their carpet cleaning. For more information on the best flooring for pets click here.

Finally, carpet is undeniably more comfortable, warm and quiet than laminate. So if you’re trying to choose between the two perhaps think about installing carpet in rooms where comfort is more important (bedrooms/living rooms etc) and laminate where practical, hard wearing cleanliness is more important (hallways/entrance halls, dining rooms, home office etc).

Do you already have experience of installing laminate, vinyl or hardwood in different rooms of your home? Please share your experiences below and help first time homeowners to get it right first time. You can also contact us direct here.

Other Places to Get Laminate Flooring Ideas and Info

  • Precision Flooring – Straight talking video on the differences between laminate and engineered wood.
  • NALFA – The North American Laminate Flooring Association is your number one source for laminate floor information and advice.
  • Kaindl – This Austrian flooring company really gets the best out of laminate. Take a look at their home laminate flooring, very cool.

20 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Laminate Flooring vs Hardwood, Vinyl & Other Flooring

  • January 8, 2015 at 2:29 pm
    Permalink

    Thank you! This was very helpful!

    Reply
  • January 31, 2015 at 9:38 am
    Permalink

    Can laminate flooring be laid over existing laminate flooring?

    Reply
    • February 1, 2015 at 4:39 am
      Permalink

      Hi Jim,

      In theory you can, but I wouldn’t. Its easy to pull up so why bother. Laying laminate over laminate is going to raise the level of the floor and cause you problems with doors and transitions.

      Reply
  • March 10, 2015 at 5:05 pm
    Permalink

    We have had laminate flooring twice in 16 years. It needs replaced yet again and each time has been due to water damage.. We have now replaced EVERYTHING in the house from plumbing to appliances. We are on a concrete slab, did have dogs none currently. I’m so disappointed with the flooring I’ve had that I’m considering the polished concrete. I can’t get definitive answers for the best choice of flooring. I’m a nurse so have also seen the luxury vinyl in action. Didn’t like it. Thinking about engineered hardwood oiled surface or the concrete.
    Thoughts?

    Reply
    • March 13, 2015 at 2:45 am
      Permalink

      Hi Nancey,

      Sorry to hear about your trials. I’m thinking that you might be right about sticking with polished concrete. It’s doubtful that any other type of flooring is going to stand up to serious water damage (vinyl maybe)… I think this is why you’re not getting a definitive answer.

      Reply
  • March 15, 2015 at 5:59 am
    Permalink

    Hi, My husband and I (seniors) have just bought a 260k concrete block home 2 blocks from the ocean near Daytona, FL. We would like to take out the l.r. carpet . Being so close to the ocean, plus humidity,
    What would be the best choice for flooring- laminate, bamboo, or tile or something else. There is currently tile in the foyer, kitchen and bathrooms. Thanks-

    Reply
    • March 15, 2015 at 8:10 am
      Permalink

      With the humidity I would probably and heat I would probably steer away from bamboo or solid hardwood, although engineered hardwood would be fine if you really want a wood finish.

      Of course you can always get a wood look with tile and laminate.

      Tile is a great choice but as you already have it in some locations you might want to choose something else for the rest of the house. Laminate and Vinyl would also both be good choices. You have quite a few options and should lean towards the style you prefer.

      Reply
  • March 30, 2015 at 8:12 am
    Permalink

    Looking into flooring for new home, with dogs. Only carpeting the bedrooms, wanted laminate in other areas, with a piece of carpet, set in & beveled in the living area. What would be a good product. We were thinking about Kardean wood look vinyl, but have read so many negative comments about it scratching because of childrens toys etc. Don’t want ceramic (grout lines) too cold. So tired of carpeting in living areas, just have always wanted the look of wood floors. Real hardwood is out of our price range for flooring.

    Reply
  • March 30, 2015 at 3:33 pm
    Permalink

    Thank you for this article! It is very helpful! I think I will go with vinyl planks that look like hardwood. I appreciate you saying that it is best not to lay over existing laminate or vinyl flooring. I just wonder how hard it’ll be to pull up the existing vinyl planks. It is peel n’ stick, I believe….I just bought the house.

    Reply
    • March 31, 2015 at 3:18 am
      Permalink

      If its tricky to get up I’d call in a professional…they’ll have it up in no time so it shouldn’t be expensive.

      Reply
  • April 3, 2015 at 4:04 am
    Permalink

    Interesting post! You provide more information about different kinds floors. Thanks….nice sharing.

    Reply
  • April 5, 2015 at 4:56 pm
    Permalink

    What is a better option for stairs? Laminate or vinyl? I hate my carpet.

    Reply
  • July 5, 2015 at 4:23 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks for the good info. I’ve been struggling with whether to go with laminate vs carpet. I’m in a mobile home that the previous owners put in VERY WELL wearing, but OFF-WHITE carpet (why does anyone do that???!!!) I’ve lived here about 18 years & it is absolutely GROSS—way beyond even professional cleaning. (There are no ‘wear’ paths, only dirt paths!) I swore I’d never have laminate: to me it’s cold, hard, noisy, & kills my bad back! My son can put in the pad-backed floating laminate much cheaper than having carpet installed. I would use area rugs if I got laminate. But I still wonder the best thing to do long term. I’m not worried about re-sale value.
    I like the suggestion of ‘mixing it up’: laminate in just some areas. I guess that is acceptable, huh? I was wondering how the overall look would be…
    I have an L-shaped area to cover totally. The short leg of the L is the dining room & I wouldn’t mind experimenting with laminate in there. Don’t know now the transition would look to the living room/den (the long arm of the ‘L’). I guess it would be OK! We also have 2 cats, one of which is starting to have occasional ‘accidents’. Hmmm: decisions, decisions! I see elsewhere that most people use steam cleaners on their laminate with mostly good results. Is that the best, in your opinion? I know this was rather long, but I’ve been struggling with this for a long time; partly due to very limited finances. 🙁
    Thanks for any & all input!

    Reply
  • August 12, 2015 at 6:29 am
    Permalink

    We just purchased a mobile home to renovate as handicap accessible for my aging parents. We have ripped out all the carpeting and are in a dilema on what type of flooring to put down. Since they are handicapped and one is in a wheelchair… we need something that can tolerate Wheelchair and Walker abuse. Yet… we want one continuous surface throughout the house without any trimor seems that can trip and fall over. My dad loves the wood flooring in his current home but its sooooo expensive and I just can’t see putting that down. Plus… we want the same surface in the kitchen and bathrooms….. what to do? what to do? Are Vinyl Floors with a hardwood theme good to install in a mobile home with plywood flooring? We also need to consider that dad is always dropping, spilling things…… Thank you for your advice.

    Reply
  • January 14, 2016 at 1:30 am
    Permalink

    I want to replace the carpet in my Motorhome. What would you recommend the best for the Motorhome. We live in a climite that is very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer… So was worried about wether to use glue together or snap together vinyl laminate planks or wood laminate.

    Reply
  • March 12, 2016 at 5:55 pm
    Permalink

    Hi I have a mobile home and was wondering if vinyl or laminate which would be better and which will hold up longer

    Reply
  • April 13, 2016 at 6:40 am
    Permalink

    We have a class c motor home (van chassis) that we want to pull up the carpet and put down a laminate type floor. An RV dealer service dept. advised using a material that is more flexible due to chassis movement while driving down the road. We don’t get standing water in the motor home. Is a laminate more giving than hardwood? What do you suggest?

    Reply
    • April 13, 2016 at 1:22 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Jay, Laminate is a bit more flexible than solid hardwood but this is a very specific area that I don’t know much about…so I would reccomend listening to your RV dealer or asking the question on a RV forum.

      Reply
  • August 3, 2016 at 9:01 pm
    Permalink

    We are building a berm home. Since there is are concrete slab would it be best to go with luxury vinyl instead of laminate?

    Reply

We LOVE hearing from you!

Send this to a friend