What's the difference between vinyl flooring and laminate flooring?

Home Builder with The Flooring Girl

There seems to be a lot of confusion between vinyl flooring and laminate flooring.


laminate floors brazilian cherry westchester NYHere in Westchester NY, many customers get these terms mixed up...they say vinyl when they mean laminate or laminate when they mean vinyl.  So, part of my job is to help clarify which type of flooring they mean as well as which type of flooring makes the most sense for them.



What is laminate flooring?

Laminate flooring is a hard surface that usually looks like hardwood (occasionally looks like tile) and is made with recycled hardwood.  It has a picture of hardwood floors (it isn't real), but some of the more upscale versions do look very real. On top, it has a melamine wear layer which gives it strong scratch protection, and underneath, there is a high density core board.  Laminate flooring is usually around 3/8 of an inch and can often be placed on top of existing flooring - whether it's concrete, tile or even hardwood (assuming the floor underneath is stable and even).

laminate flooring in Westchester NYLaminate flooring is a floating floor (read more about What is a floating floor?) that clicks together into place.  Because it is made of recycled hardwood, it is NOT waterproof (read more about Is laminate flooring waterproof).  It is generally not a good idea to install laminate flooring in any place where you tend to get a lot of water or that is humid (or that has high fluctuations in humidity level throughout the seasons) - this would mean that it is generally not good for most basements or bathrooms.


laminate flooring installation westchester countyBecause laminate is a hard (and inflexible) surface, it is important that the floor or subfloor underneath is level and relatively smooth.  If it isn't, the laminate flooring will move a lot when you walk on it and if it is too bumpy or too sloped underneath, it can even crack and break.


Like hardwood flooring, laminate floors should acclimate in the home before they are installed.  It should be in there for at least 24 hrs, but ideally 48 or more hours.  This allows it to properly expand/contract for the conditions in that room.  During this time, the room should be set to normal temperature/humidity conditions for that time of year (so if you are moving into a new home and don't live there yet, it's important to put the heat or AC on (pending time of year) during the acclimation and installation process.

What is vinyl flooring?

sheet vinyl flooring in westchester countyVinyl flooring is synthetic material that looks like tile or hardwood.  Most vinyls are glued down directly to the floor underneath.  Vinyl comes in many forms - there is sheet vinyl (usually 12 ft in width), luxury vinyl tile and plank (which is upscale and looks very real), there is vinyl composite tile (VCT - usually for commercial applications) and there is cheap peel & stick tile that you can often find in Home Depot.


Vinyl is thinner than laminate - usually, it's about 1/8" thick.  Sometimes, the height of laminate can cause a height issue with doors and/or appliances while vinyl will usually fit in quite easily.



Unlike laminate flooring, most vinyl is waterproof or water resistant (this depends on the exact type of vinyl).  While the cheaper types of vinyl can easily withstand spills and strong cleaning, theyLuxury vinyl plank Westchester NY Luxe Armstrong will usually not survive major floods - most of these use cheap adhesives that will not hold up to standing water and some are applied directly onto plywood and if the water has soaked through, the subfloor may warp. Cheaper types of vinyl have a tendency to fade if exposed to sunlight for extended periods of time.   


Whereas laminates are hard and inflexible, most vinyls are soft and flexible.  So, vinyl flooring can tolerate floors that are sloped or have humps in it.  The vinyl will just go right on top of it.  Because vinyl is flexible, it is critical that the floor underneath is smooth (not level, but smooth), so you often need to do a couple of layers of skim coats to smooth out the floor underneath.  (Otherwise, the imperfections of the floor below (or vinyl) will telegraph through and that would not look good.


Which is less expensive - laminate flooring or vinyl?

VCT Vinyl composite tile Armstrong Westchester NYWell often this depends most on the condition of the subfloor.  More often than not, the floor is relatively level, when I compare laminate to a nice looking vinyl, the laminate will be USUALLY be less expensive BECAUSE USUALLY the floor prep needed for the vinyl significantly increases the cost.  But, this is not always the case.  And, in come cases, if the floor is very uneven, laminate flooring is either not practical, or if we need to level it out with self leveling mix, then the laminate flooring can become more expensive.  And, as I mentioned above, if there is a concern about water or humidity, laminate flooring is not a good option at all.  It is best to involve a flooring professional to help give you an expert opinion on which option is best for your needs and your floor.  They should be able to price out both options for you so that you can easily compare.


When you're looking for laminate or vinyl flooring in Westchester County, or if you are not sure which might be best for your needs, give The Flooring Girl a call at 914-937-2950.


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What is the difference between vinyl flooring and laminate flooring?

Comments (51)

Nan Jester
Exit Real Estate Gallery Jacksonville Beach, FL - Jacksonville Beach, FL
Realtor, Exit Real Estate Gallery

Seems like here they are more likely to get linoleum and vinyl confused.

Aug 26, 2012 02:18 AM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Mike - Actually, linoleum is a 3rd product.  It's often also misused.  When most people say linoleum, they really mean vinyl.  (I wrote another post on this a while back - I'll have to find it).  Linoleum is a green product made w/ linseed oil.  It tends to be more expensive than vinyl; it's usually thicker and more limited in color selection; vinyl is petroleum based (the oppsosite of green).  I'll have to do another post on that.

Aug 26, 2012 02:18 AM
John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Debbie - Thank you for sharing detailed list of information about the difference between vinyl flooring and laminate flooring.

Aug 26, 2012 03:50 AM
Shannon Milligan, Richmond VA Real Estate Agent/Associate Broker
RVA Home Team - Richmond, VA
RVA Home Team - Winning with Integrity.

Great explaination of the difference between vinyl flooring and laminate flooring!

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

Aug 26, 2012 03:59 AM
Juli Vosmik
Dominion Fine Properties - Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale/Cave Creek, AZ real estate 480-710-0739

Excellent information, Debbie.  I have a question for you.  On the laminate flooring, there's usually an echo or hollow sound if one walks on them with harder shoes/heels.  Is there a sub-flooring which can be placed underneath it to dull that sound?  I'll stop back to see.  Thanks for your time and answer.

Aug 26, 2012 04:18 AM
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

Excellent information for home owners.  I enjoy your outstanding blogs.

I would vote to include political calls on the do not call list. Sometimes, we are forced to allow voice mail to screen the calls.

Aug 26, 2012 04:41 AM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Juli - Yes, that's the nature of the floor and the fact that it's floated.  You could try a cork underlayment which helps with the sound muffling, but it will never fully go away.

Roy - Thx. Oh, and me too!

Aug 26, 2012 04:49 AM
Evelyn Kennedy
Alain Pinel Realtors - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA


I try to explain the difference to client occasionally.  They end up having to talking to a flooring professional for the real difference.  You have made my job so much easier.  Thanks and now I am going over to the links you provided for more information.

Aug 26, 2012 04:56 AM
Lynn Pineda
eXp Realty - Boca Raton, FL
Real Estate Promises delivered in SE Florida

Great information Debbie! In fact, I reblogged it and then I'm going to "Pin" it to my Home flooring Board on Pinterest! Thank you

Aug 26, 2012 05:13 AM
MichelleCherie Carr Crowe Just Call...408-252-8900
Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty - San Jose, CA
Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years
Aug 26, 2012 05:17 AM
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Debbie great explanation about the differences between the two.  I have seen both, and even though laminate some draw backs, it has a better appearance in my opinion.

Aug 26, 2012 09:10 AM
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

Debbie - Your posts about flooring are always so very educational for consumers and real estate professionals alike!  I don't think in my 30 years as a Realtor, I've had a resource as valuable as you when it comes to doing so!

Aug 26, 2012 09:57 AM
Adrian Willanger
206 909-7536 AdrianWillanger-broker.com - Seattle, WA
Profit from my two decades of experience

Debbie, very nice explanation about the difference in vinyl and laminate, I got some very valuable take always out of your post.

Aug 26, 2012 10:27 AM
Eileen Hsu
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY

This is a great blog post, the distinction between the two is easily understood but only after reading your concise explanation.

Aug 26, 2012 12:16 PM
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Debbie, as always, we learn a lot from your posts.

As I was going through the post, I had a question about the pricing - somehow you dodged it, by saying - it depneds on the floor level. About the absolute cost of material, my guess is, laminate is more expensive. True?

And given the ideal conditions, what do you think will be less expensive?

P.S.: 'Dodged' is for fun only - please do not take it negatively. We come across such questions very often - and your expertise help us look 'experts' at flooring...lol.

Aug 26, 2012 03:04 PM
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Debbie - A great explanation on the difference between vinyl and laminate flooring to educate people.

Aug 26, 2012 03:27 PM
Elite Home Sales Team
Elite Home Sales Team OC - Corona del Mar, CA
A Tenacious and Skilled Real Estate Team

This is the best article I have ever seen on laminate and vinal flooring.  Thanks.

Aug 27, 2012 01:45 AM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Roy - THx for th reblog

Evelyn - Thanks.  I'm glad to hear that.  And, I hope you find the other links helpful.

Lynn - Thx.  You rock and doubly.  Thx so much.

Michelle - You are welcome.

Aug 27, 2012 02:23 AM
Sandy Acevedo
951-290-8588 - Chino Hills, CA
RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale

Hi Debbie, great explanations on the differences. I am one of those that thought that vinyl and linoleum were the same.

Aug 28, 2012 03:57 AM
Kathy Burke
Sensational Home Staging~~Danville, CA - Danville, CA
S.F. East Bay Home Staging

Debbie....THANK You!  GREAT summary of what each is and have bookmarked for reference!

Aug 28, 2012 11:21 AM