Economical flooring that is easy to replace has become a favourite for homeowners in South Africa. The market is filled with elegant options that will not break the bank and are simple to redo once style trends change. Customers regularly approach us looking for budget-friendly solutions like these that are not just high quality, but suitable for a versatile range of applications. Two standout options are vinyl and laminate flooring, but which is better? While it is possible to examine the pros and cons and weigh up which bears more advantages, it will not matter unless you consider your own home. This means where you want your floors redone, what your lifestyle is like, and environmental factors such as humidity levels in the room. If you would like to know which solution is better for you, then the following considerations may be of interest.
How Wood Laminate Planks Are Made
Wood laminate planks are manufactured with a sturdy core made of highly compressed wood fibre, that is bonded with resin. It has a décor layer, which is a printed image, that allows it to mimic real hardwood, and it is sealed with a wear layer on top. Some products also come with a built-in underlayment to ensure an even finish and underfoot comfort. These layers are sealed together in a lamination process, hence the name.
How Vinyl Flooring Is Made
Unlike laminates, vinyl flooring is 100% synthetic, and there are various forms of it, such as sheeting and luxury planks and tiles. Luxury tiles and planks are made up of various layers, consisting of a backing layer, a printed image layer, a wear layer, and a UV acrylic coating. The main core of the product is made of PVC. While the sheets can be rolled out and applied to large sections, the planks and tiles are floating floors that interlock, and many homeowners prefer them.
Which Looks Better?
Both solutions are any interior decorator’s dream because of the ample options they provide. You can find just about any shade, style and embossed texture you are seeking in the market with both products. They emulate natural materials such as real hardwood, and products of higher quality will fool the untrained eye. In terms of aesthetics, both products are comparable, though wood laminates might mimic the look and feel of hardwood slightly better.
Resistance to Water Damage
Wood does not perform well with excess humidity because it is porous and soaks up moisture, causing it to swell and warp. Laminate floors are made with composite wood cores, and should these cores be exposed to moisture, the product may suffer. That said, many modern brands have exceptional ranges that are highly moisture resistant and create a water-tight seal when installed properly. As long as liquid is not left to pool on these floors, they should perform well. Newer, high-quality vinyl flooring, on the other hand, is 100% waterproof, though some older products with a fabric or felt backing may still be vulnerable to water damage. In high-moisture areas like kitchens and bathrooms, vinyl will always be a better choice.
A Comparison in Durability
Durability is important for many homeowners, especially when they have children or animals in the home. Wood laminates are known for their durability (and commercial-grade laminate floors are even used in high-traffic environments like malls and restaurants). It is a scratch-resistant option that is not easily damaged by small knocks and scuffs. Quality vinyl is also long-wearing and used in commercial applications, and stands up to moisture much better, which gives it a longer lifespan overall. This is why the industry refers to it as “resilient flooring”, and people seeking longevity often opt for luxury vinyl planks and tiles.
Are Comfort and Sound Important to You?
Most wood laminate floors put out by reputable brands today come with a cushiony underlayment that allows the planks to feel much warmer and softer underfoot than real hardwood. Many vinyl options today also come with padding that adds to better cushioning and warmth, and both products absorb sound well. Laminates are often thought of as more comfortable, but these days, top-tier vinyl brands do give them a run for their money.
What About Maintenance and Cleaning?
Regularly vacuuming or sweeping your floors will keep them clean, but laminates should never be wet-mopped. A slightly damp cloth or mop can be used to quickly clean up spills and messes, and liquid should never be left to sit on laminate planks. Vinyl flooring has no issue with wet-mopping and can even be gently scrubbed using mild cleaning detergents. As floating floors, both vinyl planks and wood laminate planks can be replaced individually if one board gets damaged, which means storing extra planks is wise.
The Final Verdict
The two products share ample similarities; installation is easy for both, both are relatively cost-friendly and have cheap options or high-end product ranges, and both have a similar lifespan, depending on the product you buy. To answer the question, “Is vinyl flooring better than laminate floors?” you will need to assess your home and consult flooring specialists, such as our Top Carpets and Floors team.