When it comes to choosing between laminate or vinyl flooring, one of the biggest considerations is longevity. Homeowners want to know which option will stand the test of time and look great for years to come. Both laminate and vinyl floors have evolved a lot over the years and can now mimic wood, tile and stone while providing durability and easy maintenance. Let’s take a closer look at how they compare when it comes to lasting power.
Vinyl Flooring Longevity
Vinyl flooring has come a long way and today’s vinyl floors are far superior to those in the past. Thanks to advanced technology, vinyl now offers stunning visuals and textures that make it hard to distinguish from natural materials. And improvements to the durability of the wear layer make vinyl an extremely resilient choice.
There are a few factors that determine the longevity of vinyl flooring:
- Wear Layer – The thicker the wear layer, the better vinyl flooring will resist scratching, fading, and indentations. Look for a wear layer of at least 20 mil.
- Vinyl Plank vs. Sheet – Vinyl plank flooring tends to be more durable than sheet vinyl. The rigid planks hold their form better whereas sheets can crease.
- Rigid Core Planks – Rigid core planks are even more durable than standard vinyl planks, resisting dents and damage from heavy impacts.
- Flooring Grade – Commercial grade vinyl flooring is made to handle heavier foot traffic and will outlast residential grades.
- Quality – Higher-end vinyl floors use higher quality materials and manufacturing resulting in greater durability.
With proper care and maintenance, high quality vinyl flooring should last anywhere from 15-30 years on average. Some vinyl floors come with warranties up to lifetime, which is defined as 35 years. Over time, the floor may show some signs of wear and lose its luster, but it can last decades before needing replacement.
Laminate Flooring Longevity
Laminate flooring is designed to be a very durable synthetic alternative to hardwood floors. It was originally invented in the 1970s in Sweden and further innovations have increased its longevity and performance over time.
There are several factors that determine how long laminate floors will last:
- Core Density – Denser laminate cores resist moisture damage better for longer-lasting floors.
- Attached Underlayment – Laminate with an attached underlayment will help smooth subfloor imperfections for extended wear.
- Abrasion Rating – Look for AC ratings of AC3 or higher for heavy residential traffic and commercial use.
- Warranty – Many laminates come with 25-year residential warranties and 5-year commercial warranties.
- Quality – High-end laminate floors use better construction for enhanced durability.
On average, most standard laminate floors will last 15-25 years with proper care. Commercial and premium laminate floors can last 25-30+ years. Eventually the surface may start to show scratches or wear over time, but the floor can still remain fully functional.
Laminate and vinyl are both resilient man-made flooring options suitable for any room in the house. They share similar lifespan expectations, but there are some differences when it comes to durability:
|Pet Claws Resistance
|Kid and High-Traffic Resistance
|Water Damage Resistance
Vinyl ranks higher when it comes to resisting common damages. The resilient vinyl wears surface makes it more scratch, stain, and dent resistant than laminate. Laminate floors have a tough melamine resin surface layer but are prone to chipping from excessive impact. When it comes to moisture damage, vinyl is naturally waterproof while liquid spills and leaks can swell and warp laminate over time.
Longevity With Pets
Pet owners need flooring that can stand up to animal traffic, scratches, accidents, and general wear and tear. Here’s how laminate and vinyl compare when installed in homes with pets:
- Laminate – Laminate is reasonably resistant to pet claws and impact damage but over time may show light scratches. Accidents should be wiped up quickly to avoid moisture entering joints and the core. High-quality laminate with attached underlayment tends to hold up better.
- Vinyl – Vinyl is naturally waterproof and scratch-resistant, making it very resistant to pet claws, urine accidents, scratches, and impact damage from pets. Thicker wear layers provide even greater durability for active pets.
Overall, vinyl is the better performer when it comes to flooring for pets. It is more scratch and water-resistant than laminate and the seams are highly water-resistant. Spills, accidents, and scratches will have minimal effect even with heavy animal traffic.
Longevity in Bathrooms
Bathrooms require flooring that can withstand moisture from splashes and leaks around the shower, sink, and toilet. Here is how laminate and vinyl compare in humid bathroom environments:
- Laminate – Laminate flooring is susceptible to moisture damage and swelling over time. Occasional limited bathroom use is possible but not recommended for main bathrooms with frequent use and humidity.
- Vinyl – Waterproof vinyl flooring is highly recommended for bathrooms. It resists damage from splashes, leaks, and high humidity. Looks great and outlasts laminate.
Vinyl is the clear winner when it comes to bathroom flooring longevity. Its waterproof construction makes it ideal for dealing with dampness issues that laminate cannot handle. Just ensure proper bathroom ventilation to limit excessive humidity.
Longevity in Basements
Basement subfloors are notoriously cold, damp and uneven. Flooring needs to withstand these conditions for lasting performance. Here’s how the two options compare for basement installations:
- Laminate – Laminate should be avoided in basements prone to moisture or floods. The composite cores will swell, warp and disintegrate over time. Floating installation also accentuates uneven subfloors.
- Vinyl – Waterproof luxury vinyl plank flooring is an excellent basement flooring choice. The attached underlayment helps smooth over uneven slabs while resisting moisture damage long-term.
Vinyl is the clear basement flooring winner thanks to its waterproof structure and durability. Laminate will quickly fail in damp basement environments.
Longevity in Kitchens
Kitchens experience high traffic and potential for spills that flooring must endure. Here’s how laminate and vinyl hold up:
- Laminate – Minor spills must be wiped up quickly to avoid moisture damage around cabinetry. Holds up fairly well against scratches and impact damage. Dropped pots, pans or appliances may chip or gouge over time.
- Vinyl – Waterproof construction prevents damage from spills and leaks. Excellent resistance to scratches, dents, and heavy impacts from dropped kitchenware. Outperforms laminate.
Vinyl is the winner for kitchen installations thanks to its waterproof nature and resilience against kitchen mishaps that can damage flooring over time.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Proper care and maintenance are key to maximizing the lifespan of any flooring. Here are some best practices for laminate and vinyl floors:
- Laminate – Sweep regularly and use damp mopping only with approved laminate cleaners. Avoid excessive liquid and steam mops which can enter joints and damage the core. Use furniture pads under heavy furniture.
- Vinyl – Sweep regularly and clean with damp mopping. Vinyl is highly water-resistant but avoid standing water. Use mild cleaners and rinse thoroughly. Furniture pads can help but vinyl resists indentations.
Both floors require simple cleaning routines. Follow the manufacturers’ maintenance guidelines to keep floors looking fresh and maximize durability.
Here is an overview of average costs for laminate vs. vinyl flooring installed:
|Total Cost Per Square Foot Installed
|$3 – $8 per sq. ft.
|$3 – $12 per sq. ft.
There is significant overlap in prices from low-end to premium products. Total costs depend on product grade, features and local labor rates. Either can be cost-effective options.
Pros and Cons Comparison
Here is a breakdown of the major pros and cons of laminate and vinyl flooring:
- Durable and scratch-resistant wear layer
- Wide variety of realistic wood looks
- Easy floating click-lock installation
- Affordable cost for a wood-like floor
- Susceptible to moisture damage
- Prone to chipping from excessive impact
- Cannot be refinished
- Shows damage easily on dark colors
- Completely waterproof
- Extremely durable and scratch-resistant
- Realistic visuals and textures
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Suitable for any room in the house
- Can indent from heavy furniture without pads
- Off-gassing odors with some products
- Seams more visible than laminate
- Not refinishable
Frequently Asked Questions
Does vinyl flooring last longer than laminate?
There is no definitive lifetime difference between laminate and vinyl flooring. When properly installed and cared for, high-quality floors of either type can last 15-30 years. Vinyl tends to perform better with moisture, scratches and heavy impact. But laminate offers comparable longevity in dry areas.
Does vinyl scratch easier than laminate?
No, vinyl is much more scratch-resistant than laminate due to the durable vinyl wear layer that protects the floor. Laminate will scratch more easily from pet claws, dragged furniture, active kids and more. But small scratches are less visible on patterned laminate.
Can you use laminate flooring in bathrooms?
Laminate flooring is not suitable for bathrooms with frequent, prolonged use. Occasional use of a powder room may be acceptable, but the composite core is prone to moisture damage and swelling from leaks or excessive humidity.
Does laminate hold up as well as vinyl?
Overall vinyl performs better in terms of moisture protection, scratch resistance, and dents from impacts. But laminate offers comparable durability in dry areas without excessive traffic. For wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms, vinyl is the better choice.
Is vinyl plank flooring durable?
Yes, vinyl plank flooring is very durable and designed to mimic the look of real hardwood while outperforming it in toughness and water resistance. Top quality rigid core vinyl planks can last decades with proper care and maintenance in residential and commercial settings.
Is laminate or vinyl cheaper?
There is significant overlap in price between entry-level to premium flooring for both laminate and vinyl. Total costs come down to product grade, thickness, visual detail and labor. In general laminate and vinyl both offer affordable options.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to durability, both laminate and luxury vinyl floors can offer long lifespans of 15 years or longer with proper care. Vinyl generally outperforms laminate in terms of waterproofing, scratch resistance and resilience against dents and heavy impacts. But laminate can still last over a decade with proper maintenance in dry areas. Consider factors like cost, ease of installation, visual appeal and performance needs for pets, kitchens and bathrooms when deciding between options.