Laminate or Vinyl Flooring: What’s the Difference?

Many people confuse laminate (better known as floating) and vinyl flooring. One of the major differences is that one is waterproof, while the other isn’t.


To better understand the difference between laminate and vinyl flooring, you have to start with the basics, that is, how they are made. Laminate flooring is composed of three components. The first is a core of high-density pressed wood fibre(MDF) and a layer of melamine that covers the back of the plank. The second is a decorative layer, on which the pattern is printed. The last is the covering (or wear layer), which is made of melamine resin and aluminum oxide. The wear layer resistance level of a laminate floor and a linoleum floor are different. The resistance level of the wear layer of a laminate floor is determined by the AC standard, which involves passing a series of consecutive tests for wear, impacts, stains and water absorption level. For laminate flooring to achieve an AC grade, it must have met or exceeded the AC standard predetermined results.

As for vinyl flooring, in the majority of cases it comprises four layers. The first is a vinyl stabilizing backing, the second is a double layer of fibre glass, followed by a PCV decorative film which is then covered by the fourth and final wear layer. The wear layer of a vinyl floor is determined its thickness in millimeters. The more millimeters of wear layer, the more resistant the vinyl.

Types of vinyl flooring

Unlike laminate flooring, there is more than one kind of vinyl flooring. There are two broad categories: sheet vinyl (better known as linoleum), and vinyl planks and tiles. 

 Vinyl in sheets or rolls (linoleum) is a seamless floor covering. It is often used in commercial spaces for its durability, low cost and easy care. 

Vinyl planks and tiles are easily distinguished from linoleum by their format. Vinyl tiles often imitate ceramic tiles or stone, which is why they are often square; whereas vinyl planks often imitate wood, which is why they are generally rectangular (similar to wood planks). 

There is another distinction between vinyl tiles and planks which concerns the composition of one of their components. More specifically, they can be made of two types of components: 

  • SPC: as indicated by its name, SPC (stone particle composite) vinyl is made of particles of stone composite. 
  •  WPC: again, as indicated by its name,WPC (wood particle composite) vinyl is made of particles of wood composite. It is the older technology which is slowly disappearing from the market. 

 SPC vinyl is more hard-wearing than WPC vinyl, due to its stone component, which is harder than wood. It is also more resistant to heat and cold. WPC vinyl reacts more easily to temperature changes due to its wood component, which reacts to differences in temperature. It tends to ripple with heat and crack with cold.

 Advantages and disadvantages 

Laminate flooring is more scratch and impact resistant than vinyl flooring, and its installation often requires less time, since less subfloor preparation is required. On the other hand, vinyl is waterproof, while laminated flooring isn’t. However, it is true that some laminate floors have waxed joints, which prevent water from entering between the joints and making the floor swell. That being said, this doesn’t make laminate flooring waterproof; it only limits any potential damage. On the other hand, vinyl is more demanding because it requires a flat installation surface since it is thinner than laminate, and its joints are fragile. This means that if the floor is under tension (it moves), the joints can crack. 

 In short, both types of flooring should be considered when choosing your new décor, however, vinyl is more expensive than laminate. As well, laminate flooring should, ideally, be installed in a room where there is almost no chance of water damage, since it is not waterproof. It is never advisable to install a laminate floor in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, or house entrances.