If you’re in the market for a floating floor in Calgary, you’ve probably been comparing Vinyl Plank and Laminate. They’re both very popular, lower-cost alternatives to hardwood, stone or tile. But lower cost nowadays doesn’t necessarily entail a “fake” or “cheap” looking product.

Far from the artificial-looking versions of yester decade, contemporary Vinyl Plank and Laminate can be quite beautiful. Available in the floating floor format, they occupy the same niche in the world of flooring, but they have their differences, especially when it comes to performance. In this blog, I will compare the two products in order to help inform you as to which is best suited for your home and the rooms within it.

Aesthetics

Both Laminate and Vinyl Plank can convincingly represent the material they seek to emulate. Today’s dying and embossing technologies inscribe the material with the texture of a natural material as well as its colour and its patterns, (specifically, LVP stands for ‘Luxury Vinyl Plank’ and it emulates hardwood, and LVT stands for ‘Luxury Vinyl Tile’ and it emulates stone and tile). More and more, manufacturers are able to recreate the intricacies that make natural materials like wood, stone and tile so desirable: soft and hard grain variations in hardwood, striations and streaks in stone and the earthiness of clay.

That being said, not all products harness this potential to the same degree. Some are less intricate than others. What really makes the difference here is the price point, not whether the product is Laminate or Vinyl Plank. Higher end Vinyl Planks more accurately emulate than lower end Vinyl Planks. For example, the difference between ‘registered’ and unregistered products: on a higher end product, the surface will be embossed to register the specific pattern depicted on that board,whereas on a lower end product, the surface will be embossed with one of several generic patterns used on all boards.

Durability

For all their aesthetic similarities, Vinyl Plank and Laminate are made of fundamentally different materials and have constructions unique to each. Vinyl plank is made of ‘Vinyl,’ an umbrella term for a variety of different plastics (often PVC). It is generally two layers, the image on top and then the backing layer. Laminate however is made of wood byproducts and is multilayered. Vinyl Plank has the physical properties of ‘Vinyl’ and Laminate has many properties of hardwood. This largely determines their performance when it comes to durability.

While both will last decades when properly installed and maintained Vinyl Plank will stand up to moisture better and Laminate will better stand up to foot traffic. Vinyl is 100% waterproof. Unlike most other types of floor coverings, Vinyl plank will not warp or deteriorate when exposed to water and high humidity. This is perhaps Vinyl Plank’s best attribute and makes it an excellent choice for rooms that see high exposure to moisture, (bathrooms, kitchens, spa rooms etc.) On the flipside, Vinyl Plank isn’t quite as hard as Laminate, which makes it more susceptible to wear from foot traffic. Laminate however is one of the hardest floor coverings, and because of its composite, wood-based structure, it sometimes surpasses the hardness of even hardwood.

Installation & Maintenance

Both Laminate and Vinyl Plank come as floating floor systems, which are convenient to install and make for a quicker and less messy process. Vinyl Plank however, comes in a glue-down format as an LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile). Adhering it to the subfloor makes it a bit more resistant to wear over time. In both cases though, installation is relatively simple and convenient and will not create the mess of hardwood or tile installations.

Similarly, both Vinyl Plank and Laminate are relatively simple to repair and maintain. The level of ease however, depends on the manufacturer. TORLYS floating floors are especially simple to repair: using a ‘Bulldog’ tool, the installer can isolate a board, remove and replace it without disturbing the rest of the floor. When it comes to maintenance, both should be dry-mopped regularly to keep them clean. As mentioned earlier, Vinyl Plank can withstand much exposure to water but that doesn’t mean the subfloor below can. Although the joints between boards will likely seal out moisture, it’s best not to use too much water when mopping to prevent seepage into the walls and subfloor.

Price

Last but not least, price. Vinyl Plank and Laminate are pretty comparable, sitting in the 2$ – 7$/sq. ft. range. Lower end laminates can dip a bit below the 2$ mark. In the end, both Vinyl Plank and Laminate are great alternatives to the natural materials they seek to emulate. They are both durable, long-lasting products when properly installed and maintained. The biggest advantages then, are contextual. Vinyl Plank performs very well in high moisture areas whereas Laminate performs better against long-term foot traffic wear. If you want a tile look, Vinyl Tile is your best bet since it can be glued and grouted, making its emulation all the more convincing.

Of course much of the choice depends on what look you want. Each Laminate and Vinyl Plank manufacturer has an array of styles and looks to choose from, many of which are unique to that manufacturer. Come to our showroom to see them in person and we will help you make the choice between Vinyl Plank and Laminate.

Conclusion

If you have any more questions about laminate or vinyl plank, send us an email or give us a call. Better yet, if you live in Calgary and you’re in the flooring market, stop by our showroom at 525 58th Aveue SE. The Floorscapes team has as much experience as we do passion: combined, we have over 150 years in the world of Calgary flooring. We offer our knowledge, our expertise and our aesthetic sensibility in order to help you create a space that you will love.

Written by guest author Eric Osborne.

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