When it comes to hardwood floor alternatives, there are two affordable contenders vying for the number-one spot: luxury vinyl plank (LVP) and laminate flooring. They look very similar when installed and boast similar features, so what sets them apart from one another? Which should you choose?
Both hardwood flooring alternatives are highly durable and do well in high-traffic areas, though you’ll want to limit direct sun exposure overtime to protect from fading (consider curtains or rugs in particularly bright spots). Both flooring types have similar longevity, lasting for about 15-20 years without showing signs of age. With any hard floor (wood included), you’ll want to avoid dragging or dropping heavy objects on the floor, as this can scuff, scratch, or dent the surface. In the category of durability, it’s tough to pick a clear winner. Result: Tie
How a floor responds to moisture is pretty important -- no one wants their flooring to become buckled and warped from water exposure. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to avoid water on the floor, and this is where LVP shines. Choosing vinyl plank flooring means you won’t need to panic in the event of a major spill (or even a minor spill that isn’t cleaned up right away). Unfortunately, when it comes to laminate, prolonged exposure to a moist environment (i.e. a bathroom or kitchen) can lead to peeling and warped or buckled planks. Result: LVP wins!
While neither LVP nor laminate requires particularly specialized cleaning, you should be aware that steam mops are generally a no-no. Wet mops and general-use cleaning products are safe to use on vinyl plank floors, but laminate should be dry-mopped or sprayed with a laminate cleaner then promptly wiped off. If your floors lose their shine over time, you can apply a no-wax polish, and they’ll look good as new! When it comes to maintenance, LVP has an advantage over laminate because of its waterproof surface, though both are much easier to maintain than hardwood floors. Result: LVP wins!
One of the things you’ve probably heard about vinyl plank flooring and laminate is that it’s easy to install on your own. And while it’s true that you definitely can do this without hiring a professional, many of the features and benefits mentioned above are contingent upon proper installation. And let’s get real: if you’ve never done it before, how confident are you that you’ll install it so well that your LVP is fully waterproof? How comfortable are you with using a circular saw to cut the laminate planks to fit when you get to the edges of your room? When it comes to an investment as significant as your home’s flooring, having it installed professionally saves you time and provides peace of mind. The only significant difference between installing the two flooring types is that while both can be installed as a floating floor, LVP can also be glued down. Adhering planks to the subfloor (a task best suited for a professional installer) is a great option for large rooms, or for when you want the flexibility to remove/replace the floor (or sections of the floor) without much difficulty. Result: LVP wins!