What's The Difference Between Luxury Vinyl and Laminate?

A common misconception when shopping for new floors is confusing luxury vinyl and laminate. Read on to find out about the differences, and similarities, between these two floor types.

Kitchen with Shaw Timberline laminate flooring, visit us at our flooring showrooms in Clayton, Ohio and Springboro, Ohio
Shaw Timberline laminate flooring, available at Johnson's Flooring

To start off, here’s a quick overview of laminate and luxury vinyl.

Laminate is a wood composite flooring product that is usually manufactured in planks and intended to mimic hardwood. Unlike actual hardwood, laminate does not have real wood on the top layer. It instead uses a computer-generated image to give a realistic hardwood, or even stone, look.  

Laminate floors were invented almost 50 years ago and the first widely recognized laminate brand, Pergo, came out of Sweden. Pergo is now owned by Mohawk, one of the largest flooring companies in the world, and still produces laminate to this day.

Laminate is composed of three layers and is made by thermally fusing together the layers.

  1. Core Layer – usually made of wood composite materials (think plywood, fiberboard) and is the thickest layer of the floor
  2. Design Layer – this is the where the digital image mentioned above comes into play. The large sheets of printed images are attached to the top of the core layer. This is what gives laminate its realistic wood appearance.
  3. Wear Layer – this is the top, protective layer of the floor and is made of thin, flexible sheets of paper commonly saturated with melamine resin or aluminum oxide. This gives the floor protection against scratches and household traffic.

Luxury Vinyl

Luxury vinyl is a PVC flooring product that is manufactured in planks or squares, and is intended to mimic hardwood or stone. Similar to laminate, computer generated images are used to give luxury vinyl realistic wood and stone looks. Luxury vinyl is commonly referred to as LVT (luxury vinyl tile) or LVP (luxury vinyl plank). 

Vinyl has been used as flooring in one way or another for almost 100 years. When vinyl first debuted as a flooring option, it was in the form of vinyl composite tiles. After World War II, vinyl sheet flooring was introduced and is still a popular flooring option today. Finally, luxury vinyl was introduced in the 1970’s to give consumers an affordable alternative to hardwood.

Luxury vinyl in a kitchen from Shaw Floors, Endura Plus Tawny oak, Johnson's Flooring showrooms in Clayton, Ohio and Springboro, Ohio
Shaw Endura Plus Tawny Oak luxury vinyl, available in-stock at Johnson's Flooring

Most luxury vinyl is composed of four layers:

  1.  Attached Underlayment – most luxury vinyl comes with an attached pad that provides additional softness and acts as a noise barrier.
  2. Core Layer – luxury vinyl cores are made of plastic composite materials, giving them the waterproof qualities that this type of flooring is widely known for. The two types of luxury vinyl cores are SPC (stone plastic composite) and WPC (wood plastic composite).
  3. Design Layer – similar to laminate, large sheets of printed images are attached to the top of the core layer.
  4. Wear Layer/Protective Finish – similar to laminate, this is the top, protective layer of the floor. It is commonly composed of aluminum oxide, ceramic beads, or nylon beads.

Luxury Vinyl v. Laminate

As you may have gathered from above, the main difference between luxury vinyl and laminate is what the core is made of. Laminate is made of a thicker, wood composite while luxury vinyl is made of a plastic core. This makes luxury vinyl much more resistant to moisture damage from topical spills. Here is a chart we put together for a side-by-side comparison of the two flooring types.

Interested In Luxury Vinyl or Laminate?

Here at Johnson’s Flooring, we have a variety of luxury vinyl and laminate from brands such as Shaw, COREtec, Mannington, Casabella, Mohawk, Quick-Step, and more. Contact or visit us in Springboro, Ohio or Clayton, Ohio today!

Interested in installing luxury vinyl yourself? We put together a free Luxury Vinyl DIY Guide available today. We also offer free luxury vinyl tool kit rentals with all luxury vinyl DIY purchases!