Installing a new flooring your home should be an exciting time. A chance to refresh and renew without having to move. However, with so many flooring options on the market, it can become a daunting decision.
This article will cover Luxury Vinyl Plank compared to Laminate Plank flooring. We will examine the builds, materials and pros and cons of each flooring type to help you decide which is the best option for you and your home.
LVP Vs. Laminate Quick View
- 1 LVP Vs. Laminate Quick View
- 2 What is Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring?
- 3 What is Laminate Plank Flooring?
- 4 How Laminate and Vinyl Planks are Similar
- 5 How Laminate and Vinyl Planks Differ
- 6 Where to Install LVP
- 7 Where to Install Laminate
- 8 Buyer’s Guide: What to Look For Before you Buy
- 9 Pros and Cons of LVP
- 10 Pros and Cons of Laminate Plank
- 11 Frequently Asked Questions
- 12 Conclusion
LVP and Laminate have a lot of similar characteristics and a few that are quite different. Here is a brief glance at those factors.
- Vinyl and laminate planks are made from several layers of materials.
- Both styles can be water-resistant but only vinyl can be 100% waterproof.
- Installation is a simple DIY project for both laminate and vinyl.
- There are a wide range of prices for flooring options in all budgets.
- Laminate flooring mimics the look of hardwood planking while vinyl mimics hardwood, stone and tile.
- Neither floor type can easily be refinished should damage occur.
- Vinyl planking is highly stain resistant where laminate can stain easily.
- LVP and Laminate Planks are notoriously low-maintenance flooring options.
What is Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring?
Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring is a synthetic flooring option that has many benefits. The planks are made from various layers of all synthetic materials.
These layers give the planks their durability, water resistance and looks . Each plank is made from at least 5 layers, with a base layer that usually has an underlayment already attached.
The core layers are constructed from various synthetic materials, and come in two styles, wood-plastic and stone-plastic (also known as WPC and SPC) . Stone-plastic is the newer style and adds a lot of strength to the planks.
The image layer is where the graphic is printed to give a wood grain, stone, or tile appearance. On top of this is the clear wear-layer which comes in varying degrees of durability and thickness.
Each plank is attached with a tongue and groove interlocking style. The floor is considered a floating floor since you don’t need to glue or nail it to a subfloor.
However, if you prefer there are certain brands that make permanent LVP that requires glue or nails.
What is Laminate Plank Flooring?
Like LVP, laminate planks also comprised multiple layers. The planks also start with a sturdy base layer that may or may not have an underlayment attached.
Most brands that do not attach an underlayment include one in the box with the planks, though.
The core layers are made from a fiberboard material making them sound dampening, soft to walk on and not exactly waterproof.
The image layer also shows wood grain prints, almost primarily. However, there are some laminate brands that explore other material mimicking prints like stone.
Laminate planks are also floating floor designs that don’t require glue or nails. You can permanently attach them to the subfloor, but most find it is more beneficial and easier to install on top of the current flooring in the room (unless it is carpeting).
How Laminate and Vinyl Planks are Similar
As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of similarities between LVP and laminate. Let’s look at a more detailed breakdown of these similarities.
- Both types come in varying thicknesses, which adds (or subtracts) from the individual plank strength.
- Each flooring option is considered a floating floor install with tongue in groove connections.
- DIY installations are not only options, but encouraged. Even with no prior experience.
- LVP and laminate planks are each made up of several layers of materials for a solid, durable plank surface.
- Both styles are water-resistant and can be installed in most areas of the home.
- There are well over 200 style options, each brand will have multiple styles in both plank types for you to choose.
- Residential and commercial builds are available in both plank styles.
- Each has an affordable cost.
- Warranties can range from 5-years to lifetime, depending on brand and installation method.
How Laminate and Vinyl Planks Differ
There are some obvious, as well as more subtle, differences in the two plank types. The following list will help you determine which type you may need to avoid.
- The core materials of laminate make the planks not capable of being 100% waterproof, LVP can be.
- Laminate is made from natural materials where LVP is fully synthetic.
- When it comes to availability, certain retailers will only stock or sell specific brands and may or may not carry both laminate and LVP.
- Some laminate is still made with products that produce VOCs and can cause health issues in some.
- Laminate shouldn’t be installed in wet areas such as bathrooms, basements and laundry areas, while LVP can be installed in these areas.
- LVP is better for homes with pets and offers better protection against potty training, nails and shedding than laminate.
Where to Install LVP
Most LVP brands and styles are 100% waterproof. This means you can install the flooring basically anywhere you need new flooring. However, you always need to check.
Just because the synthetic makeup of the planks makes them water resistant, doesn’t mean the brand goes the extra step to include waterproofing. The cheaper varieties generally don’t.
High traffic areas such as entrances and hallways will find a lot of benefit from having LVP installed., The wear layers are generally quite thick and hold up to pets, constant foot traffic and daily cleaning.
If you need flooring in wet areas, such as your bathroom, laundry area or basement, LVP is a viable solution, there, as well.
Where to Install Laminate
Unlike LVP, there isn’t a laminate option that is 100% waterproof. There are a few brands that make the claim, but there are a few things to make note of.
First off, the individual planks are not waterproof. The waterproofing is an application added to the tops of the planks that only seals when fully assembled.
However, the edge pieces along the walls still have an exposed core, meaning moisture and water can get there if there is flooding or large spills along the baseboards.
Because of this, laminate planks aren’t well suited for wet areas such as bathrooms or laundry areas and don’t perform in higher humidity areas like the basement.
Anywhere else in the home, though and laminate will shine through. High traffic areas, living spaces and even bedrooms will do well with laminate planks. The higher-quality planks hold up to daily cleaning, heavy furniture and resist damage fairly well.
Buyer’s Guide: What to Look For Before you Buy
Below you will find a brief buyer’s guide to laminate and vinyl flooring solutions. Knowing what to look for and which questions to ask will ensure you get the best flooring for your home.
The core of the planks will be one of the biggest deciding factors you face. A little research in this area will go a long way. The overall thickness (explained below) will mainly be determined by the core materials.
Most LVP will have 3 core layers with your choice of SPC or WPC . Wood-Plastic core is a synthetic wood and plastic composite that is softer, less durable but easier underfoot. It isn’t ideal for high traffic areas, but in bedrooms and living rooms you can feel the softness of the planks under bare feet.
Stone-Plastic core is more rigid, highly durable and excellent in any room. However, it is less forgiving underfoot, so there won’t be as much give or “softness” to the planks. They will however, last much longer.
For laminate planks you will generally see between 2 and 4 core layers . Each layer in the core is made up of various fiber- or particle board materials (or a combination of the two). Laminate has slightly better sound absorption that LVP, and is always more giving underfoot.
Because of this, though, the planks generally won’t last as long and don’t hold up well under consistent, heavy use.
The thickness of your plank, overall, will tell you how durable the plank is. Measured in mils, the thickness for residential homes should fall between 5 and 10 mils . This will give you support, a great wear layer and hold up under most pet and traffic situations.
For a more sturdy plank, or those installed in a commercial flooring situation, you can find planks up to 22 mils . These are extremely tough, but have no give, making them less ideal for residential installations.
There are two main install methods for plank flooring, you can do it yourself (DIY) or hire a professional to install it for you.
LVP is the easiest flooring to install, by far, but laminate isn’t much more difficult. If you can hold a hammer, you can install these flooring styles, which may save you thousands on install costs.
Using sites like Angie’s List, you can find reputable installers. Just understand that you need at least 3 quality quotes before committing, and that a lot of the quotes you receive will include the cost of materials.
Laminate AC Rating
For laminate planks only, you will find that most packaging comes with an AC number, or AC Rating. This is a number (1 – 6) with an icon of a residential home or an office building. The ratings 1 – 4 are designed for residential installs and the lower the number, the less durable the planks are.
Residential installs with an AC Rating of 4 are not recommended. This rating is best suited for commercial installs that have little foot traffic. The best option is to find a laminate you like with a rating of AC 3. This will provide the best stain resistance, durability, anti-swelling and wear protection for the money.
When it comes to the planks you also need to consider things like width and length. In general (though not always) laminate planks are available in longer sizes. LVP is pretty uniform across the board, though you can find planks in varying widths.
The length and width of the planks will determine how many boxes you need to purchase as well as what the resulting floor will look like.
Narrow, short planks will give you a bowling alley type of look, standard widths will resemble authentic hardwood floors and wide widths will do best for large rooms looking for a rustic aesthetic.
You will also want to look at the style, image layer and coloring. Even if you purchase 10 boxes from the same lot number, each box will have a different amount of dye used in the grain image creation. This is normal, but should be something you keep in mind.
Price and Warranty
Finally, the price per square foot and warranty coverage need to be considered. Think about your budget and how large of an area you plan to cover. Both LVP and laminate planks fall in price ranges for every budget.
However, the lower the price, usually the lower quality of the plank. Some consumers find it better to select their brand and style and wait until their budget fits the selection instead of settling on a lower-quality product just to be done.
The warranty will generally cover the floor until you have the planks installed. While the longer warranties such as 20 years to lifetime will be in effect , the most coverage options look at the craftsmanship and manufacturing defects of the planks, and give you only a few months to file a claim against them.
The rest of the warranty term needs to be read over so you understand what is and isn’t covered.
Pros and Cons of LVP
Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring has several benefits, though it is not without its list of negative aspects, too. Find out the good and the bad below.
- Lower cost. LVP has gained in popularity and as a result, the prices continue to drop. You can find high-quality planks for any budget.
- Simple installation. For the home DIYer, LVP is simple to install and only takes a few hours per room.
- Waterproof. Most mid to high-range planks are 100% waterproof now, making them ideal for wet are installations.
- Multiple style options. Along with your core materials, thickness and sizes, you also have a wide variety of styles, colors and patterns to choose from. LVP easily matches most any décor.
- Stain resistant. Unlike other floating floor options, LVP is highly stain resistant.
- Residential or commercial use. There is a style, thickness and durability for every home or business need. Each will come with a warranty to reflect install location.
- Off-gassing. Because the planks are made from synthetic material some off-gassing is to be expected.
- Difficult to repair. Due to the wear layer thickness on most LVP, repairs are not an option and damaged planks must be replaced completely.
- Doesn’t add value. With the exception of natural hardwood flooring, no other flooring type, including LVP will add resale value to your home.
Pros and Cons of Laminate Plank
Laminate plank flooring also has its own list of pros and cons. See below to find out if anything listed makes or breaks your purchase decision.
- Durability. Depending on the AC Rating, laminate flooring can be durable enough to maintain appearance even in high-traffic areas.
- Styles and design. Aside from the most popular wood grain styles, laminate planks are beginning to use stone, rock and pattern image layers for more options.
- DIY install. Laminate plank is simple to install and makes a great DIY project.
- Comfortable to walk on. Laminate is more forgiving than LVP due to cork underlayments. These planks are soft to walk on.
- Price for every budget. Laminate flooring, like LVP, comes in a wide range of budget-friendly options from a dollar or two per square foot to several dollars per square foot.
- Low maintenance. Regular cleaning with a broom and a steam mop will be primarily all you need to keep the floors in tip top shape.
- Toxin possibility. A lot of laminate manufacturers still use chemicals that produce chemicals (VOCs) that can cause some health concerns.
- Cannot be refinished. Like LVP, the planks aren’t generally designed thick enough to refinish. Replacement of damaged planks is usually the only option.
- Not waterproof. While most laminate planks are water-resistant, none of the planks are 100% waterproof.
- Stains easily. Unlike LVP, laminate is not stain resistant. Spills need to be cleaned up immediately to help prevent staining.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below I answer some of the more common LVP and laminate questions. Feel free to use the comment section below the article if you have more questions or concerns.
Q. What’s the difference between traditional vinyl and LVP?
- The difference that concerns consumers is that traditional vinyl is very thin. It isn’t a floating floor design and doesn’t hold up well in all situations. Averages less than 2 mils thick, traditional vinyl tears and scratches easily. LVP on the low end still weighs in at at least 5 mils and is more durable and longer lasting than traditional.
Q. What type of maintenance do vinyl and laminate flooring require?
- Both options are generally maintenance-free flooring solutions. Sweeping, mopping and dusting are all that is needed to maintain the planks. When mopping, make sure you do not use a mop with a scrubbing pad, as this will scratch the surface. Read more here about cleaning vinyl vs cleaning laminate flooring.
Q. Why am I required to wait 24 hours after installing laminate before I can use it?
- Laminate planks require 24 hours to expand and stretch to their full and proper width or length after the manufacturing and packaging process. (LVP generally needs at least 15 hours for the same expansion process). After the floor is laid, you will need to give the planks at least 24 hours before you walk on them or place your furniture to ensure that the planks remain flat and flush as they expand.
Q. How long to LVP and laminate floors last?
- Depending on the quality and warranty, as well as how you care for the flooring, LVP can last for a lifetime. The general accepted life expectancy is about 20 to 25 years. For laminate, you can expect a solid 15 to 20 years of service before replacement needs to be considered.
Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring is one of the most durable and frequently purchased flooring solutions today. The low cost, multiple style options and high durability make it a favorite in most residential applications.
Laminate flooring is also low cost and the durability is increasing each year. While laminate is more environmentally friendly, it also lacks some of the desirable features like water-proofing.
In the end, the best flooring option is the one that fits your budget, looks and reacts how you expect and does the job you pay for it to do. Between LVP and laminate planks, you really can’t go wrong. Find the best fit for you and don’t look back.