Carpet Vs Laminate: Cost, Pros & Cons, and Installation

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carpet vs laminate

It’s time for new flooring. You know the project will take a few days and you have budgeted for the expenses. Or have you?

Do you know what type of flooring you are choosing?

There are many styles, textures and floor types available. Which one is right for you?

Many homes struggle with this primary decision, and for good reason.

To help, we offer a break down on two of the most common flooring solutions, carpet vs. laminate. Each one has their advantages and disadvantages. This article will cover everything you need to know to make an informed and decisive choice
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Major Decision Factors for Carpet Vs Laminate Flooring

Choosing between carpet and laminate isn’t as easy as it may seem. These are some of the important things you need to consider before you buy.

  • Installation Method. Carpet is generally a professional installation requirement, while laminate can be a DIY project.
  • Overall Cost. Most flooring options have hidden costs, or unexpected costs. Knowing what each will cost you, in total, can make your decision for you.
  • Room Type. Different rooms have different needs, various amounts of traffic and levels of natural light which all need to be considered.
  • Usage. The way you use the floor (decorative, walking, home gym, etc.) will play a big factor in the flooring you choose.

Carpeting Pros and Cons

carpet pros and cons

Carpet is a long-standing favorite in many homes. It has a lot of benefits and comes in a lot of variations. There are, however, some downsides. Let’s take a look at both the good and the bad to get the whole story.

Advantages

Carpet has quite a few good points. The least of which is type selection. You won’t be limited in choice on any category when it comes to carpeting.

You can select your pile height, from low, medium, high or even shag. The higher the pile, the more soft underfoot the carpet will be (in most cases). Once you have a pile type selected, you can then choose from the various carpet fiber types.

Nylon is a popular choice for its resilience and durability. Premium carpets even use wool, cotton and we can’t forget Berber.

Colors and styles are also a benefit. You can easily locate a carpet style in the color you need to match your décor or to hide those pesky paw prints from our pets. Carpets also have design styles, with more exotic rolls coming with woven designs, texture and style.

Care for carpeting once installed is another benefit. You only need a vacuum to properly clean your carpeting. Depending on the type of carpet you choose, your current vacuum may not be best suited (some aren’t great cleaning high pile carpet, for example) for the new carpet type you select.

You also do not have to worry about temperature swings. Unlike some hard flooring solutions, carpet doesn’t get hot in the summer or cold in the winter. Always soft underfoot, you don’t need to worry about wearing socks or shoes to protect your feet, either.

Disadvantages

Carpet isn’t without its downsides, though. As with anything, there is going to be a give and take. The biggest concern is the budget. Carpeting comes in styles and ranges to fit every budget, but that doesn’t mean the style you want is overly affordable.

Carpeting has a vast range of prices and is sold by square foot. The more space you have to cover, the higher the cost. 

Additionally, all carpeting requires a carpet pad and a sound subfloor. We will explore these additional costs further below, but for now, just know that the price listed for the carpet doesn’t include sub floor repairs (or installation) or the carpet padding.

More on the cost is the installation. Carpets other big downfall is that it isn’t simply a DIY project. There is a lot going on to installing a carpet that most homeowners can’t do themselves. Stretching, tacking, measuring and allotting for slope, terrain and coverage areas all takes experience and knowledge.

For this reason it is always recommended to have carpet professionally installed. This raises the overall cost, of course, but the good news is that most installers offer a warranty and will repair, re-stretch or replace tears and holes if they develop.

Installation areas are also a disadvantage to some. Carpets cannot be installed in wet areas like kitchens, bathrooms or laundry areas. If carpet gets wet, it is difficult to dry which can result in mold, mildew or foul odors
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Laminate Pros and Cons

laminate pros cons

Laminate, like carpet, also has pros and cons. While they may be different than those of carpeting, they are still important to make note of. Let’s take a closer look at the good and the bad when it comes to laminate flooring.

Advantages

Laminate is simple to install and that is easily the biggest advantage. With laminate planks the install may take most of a day or two, but it is something you can do yourself with just a few tools and a little patience.

Saving money on installation costs is a huge selling factor. However, there are some hidden expenses that need to be accounted for (we will detail these below).

Another advantage is that laminate planks are water-resistant and can be installed in some wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms. While you still want to avoid wet basements, laundry rooms or areas where flooding is a potential, laminate can be installed in places carpet cannot.

Like carpet, laminate is also easy to care for. A simple sweep and a dry or damp mop is all you need to keep the flooring looking new for years. There are also plenty of cleaning options you can choose from, including robotic cleaners.

Disadvantages

One of the biggest disadvantages of laminate is that it is not as durable as some other options. Laminate can scratch or gouge easily and things like brush rollers on vacuums or pet claws can leave marks behind.

There are durable planks that are pet resistant and won’t show scratches or gouges as easily. However, these planks are more expensive and can easily end up costing more per square foot.

You also need to consider how it is being installed. Most laminate planks will need an underlayment before installing, which is one of the hidden costs. More expensive planks, though, will come with an underlayment already attached.

Still, if you are installing over concrete or in a high-humidity area a moisture barrier may be needed, which is not included on the planks.

Even though installation is a DIY project it still takes some time. The planks need at least 15 hours in the room to acclimate to the temperature and humidity levels. Not counting installation time, you also need to let the planks rest after install to expand and form properly before you can use the floor.

As long as you can go 24 to 36 hours without using the room or placing your furniture in there, it isn’t a huge detriment. However, this can be a major factor for some.

Finally, laminate can change temperatures. If it is cold in the home, the planks will become cold, too. The cold will linger a while, too, which may force you to wear socks or shoes so your feet are more protected.

Installation Methods for Laminate and Carpet

installation methods

Carpet and laminate are most easily divided by their installation methods. Both options can be professionally installed, but generally carpet is not considered a DIY project.

Because carpet is mostly a professional installation, you need to factor in all of those costs. Below you will find the extra costs associated with each flooring type in better detail. However, when considering carpet, you need to know what you are truly paying for.

Because carpet must be installed with a carpet pad, the subfloor condition is less of an issue. Unless you have sections of the subfloor that are missing or damaged beyond laying flat, you won’t need to pay extra for repairs.

If you don’t have a subfloor, you may need to pay to have one installed before the pad and carpeting can be laid. This is determined mainly by location. Some rooms, such as finished basements or bedrooms may not need a subfloor.

Laminate, on the other hand is a DIY project and one that is fairly simple to do. It takes a little bit of time, but the savings on professional installation outweigh the time it takes to do it yourself.

When it comes to subflooring, you don’t need to worry too much. Again, unless parts are missing or are so damaged they cause hazards, laminate can lay fine. This is also true with floating planks, that can lay on top of other flooring that may already be installed.

Carpet is the obvious exception, but if the room already has laminate, tile, stone or even vinyl, the laminate planks can be installed directly on top. This will save you even more money since you won’t need to pay to have the previous floor removed, if you don’t want to.

The clear winner here is laminate. The exception is if you decide to have the laminate professionally installed. This will negate the added cost and bring carpet closer to the front as the winner.

Cost of Laminate Flooring vs Carpet

cost

As with most flooring purchases, there will be hidden, or extra, costs. Most floors won’t come complete and ready to go with just the sticker price.

You need to understand what other items or products you will need to complete the install.

Below, we look at the most common expenses associated with both carpet and laminate. There may be others, based on things like your location or region’s requirements, or what your installer recommends.

Extras for Carpet

Carpet, sold by the square foot, isn’t all that you need. A professional install will usually (though not always) include all the extras. For this reason it is wise to get at least three quotes from reliable installers. 

You will want to make sure their quotes include the following expenses:

  • Removal of old carpet or flooring
  • Subfloor inspection
  • Subfloor repairs or installation (if needed)
  • Tack strips
  • Padding
  • Remnant removal
  • Clean up

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If you plan to do the install yourself and have the knowledge and tools to do so, you can remove the old flooring removal, clean ups and inspections from the list. Tack strips and padding, though, are always going to be required.

Extras for Laminate

The extras list for laminate isn’t as long. However, it will also depend on the type of laminate planks you buy. The following list should be included in your budget.

  • Extra boxes of planks for repairs or replacement down the road
  • Underlayment (if not included on your planks)
  • Moisture barrier (if installing over concrete)
  • Wedges and spacers for install

As you can see, if you buy a high-quality laminate, most of the extras will already be included. A few spacers and maybe a moisture barrier is all you will need to budget for in most cases.

Considerations When Choosing a Flooring Option

consideration when choosing flooring option

Know that you know what goes into actually paying for and installing your floors, let’s take a look at the consideration factors. This list covers all the small things you need to think about to make the right choice for your new floor.

Coverage Area

If you are doing a single room, then the choice can still go either way. However, for entire homes or very large spaces, carpet is generally preferred. Wall to wall carpet is cheaper in the long run than laminate.

Laminate may also require transition molding when covering large spaces. While this molding isn’t always needed, it can give you an unsightly bump on your flooring, but is necessary to keep the planks from shifting or bowing.

Room Type

The type of room is quite important. Carpet shouldn’t be installed in wet areas like your bathroom or laundry room. However, laminate isn’t always the best choice for these areas either.

If you plan to use laminate in wet areas, you must use a moisture barrier and buy a higher priced laminate that has waterproofing treatments added. Most brands of laminate are water resistant for small spills or messes, but can’t handle a busted water pipe or overflow from a bathtub.

Budget

Your budget will also play a big role in your final decision. As we have discussed previously, laminate generally has less install and hidden costs. However, if you don’t want to install the laminate yourself, the cost will go up.

Carpet has a wide variety of price ranges and can fit any budget with a quality carpet for your floors.

Budget carpets are good for low-traffic or out of the way places that don’t see a lot of visitors. 

Laminate is more uniform in price, at least inside the brand names. If you are looking for specialty planks, such as waterproof treated or higher scratch resistance, you can expect your cost to rise per square foot.

Installation

Professional installation will generally come with a labor warranty should anything happen to your new flooring. Things covered include loose planks, carpet coming up from the tacks, bubbles, bowing, etc.

You won’t have a warranty if you do the labor yourself, but you will save most of the costs associated with new flooring. There isn’t a right or wrong way to go here, as long as you stick within your budget.

Care and Maintenance

Caring for carpet and laminate are both straightforward and fairly simple. Carpet is by far much easier to care for since all you need is a good vacuum. While different carpet styles may require different vacuums, there isn’t much else you need.

Of course, depending on pets and children, foot traffic and what gets tracked in from outside, a carpet shampooer may be desired every few months or so.

For laminate you need little more than a broom and a mop. You can even forgo the broom if you have a vacuum for laminate floors. Vacuums can get into the cracks and crevices between the laminate planks and remove all the finer dust and debris a broom may miss.

Mopping should be done with a mop designed for laminate. You don’t want to use a full wet mop as most laminate can’t get too wet without causing damage.

Foot Traffic

Something else to think about is to determine how much foot traffic the floor will receive. High traffic areas require much more cleaning and care. They can also wear down the floor much faster.

For entryways, and hallways it may be wise to install laminate over carpet. Carpet can end up matted or worn down with constant traffic that these areas produce.

Living areas, bedrooms and less used hallways can survive well with carpet and the added cushion and warmth may prevail over laminate. 

For areas with lots of foot traffic a hardwood floor is more durable than both carpet and laminate.

Final Thoughts on Carpeting

Carpets are a great flooring solution for most homes. It provides a warmth and comfort underfoot that is rarely rivaled.

However, carpet isn’t ideal for all rooms in the home and should be avoided in wet areas. The cost of installation is higher than most other floors because it does require a professional.

With more styles, colors and textures to choose from, not to mention pile height, brand and various treatments (stain guard, etc.) carpet is a flooring option that really can’t go wrong.

Final Thoughts on Laminate

Laminate is a timeless classic that just gets better with age. Now that we have laminate planks, a DIY install is not only possible but expected. You can save a lot of money going with laminate floors.

Laminate, though, is not waterproof and should still be used with caution in places like kitchens and bathrooms. However, you do have some moisture protection and in many rooms the soft cork underlayments will make the floor comfy to walk on, even barefoot.

Conclusion – Choosing Between Laminate and Carpet

Whether you choose carpet or laminate is completely your choice. This article examined the advantages and disadvantages for each flooring type to help you decide which is best suited for your home.

When you are deciding between carpet vs. laminate, the choice isn’t always clear. Now, though, you are armed with the knowledge of what to expect from each flooring solution and an idea of what to look for when you do make your choice. Enjoy the process and good luck!

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AUTHOR

Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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