Engineered vs Vinyl vs Laminate Flooring

In a previous post, we compared solid floorboards to their engineered counterpart. However, if you’ve been in the market for timber flooring, you’ll know that there are a lot more options than just these two. 

At Reconstructed, we don’t sell vinyl nor laminate flooring, however we get asked a lot of questions about these products, so it’s a worthwhile discussion for us to have.  

Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl is short for polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which essentially is a type of plastic. The core of this product is made from PVC, which is bonded to a printed timber image and then sealed with a protective coating to prevent damage or scratches. Vinyl flooring has become very popular recently, as it is a very cost effective way to get the look of real timber. Since vinyl is made from plastic, it is also waterproof which makes it ideal for most high use environments, especially kids and pets. It also doesn’t require any professional installation since it can be glued to the floating layer below, making it ideal for DIY jobs or cheaper installation.

 

While there are some great benefits to vinyl flooring, it’s important to understand that it is not a timber product. While vinyl can look very close to real timber, it still won’t quite give that warmth, depth and character that real timber does. So if you’re someone who prefers the aesthetic of a hardwood product, then vinyl may not be for you.
Another factor to consider with vinyl is that is it doesn’t a wear layer and cannot be sanded back. Timber floors can be sanded up to 5 or 6 times if damaged or scratched, giving it a lifespan of many decades. Since vinyl is only a single layer once damaged, it needs to be lifted and replaced entirely. Vinyl may appear to be cheaper upfront, over time it may end up costing more in the long run.

 

Unfortunately, vinyl flooring also won’t add much value to a home. If you’re renovating or purchasing a home with capital investment in mind, it could be worthwhile weighing up whether the lower upfront cost of installing vinyl flooring could affect the long term value of your home.

 

Another factor to consider for the health and environmentally conscious, is that vinyl floors have been known to emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds) due to the toxic chemicals used in their manufacturing process. VOCs can adversely affect health and an indoor environment, particularly without windows or ventilation. Timber flooring has a positive impact on your living space and environment, by actually drawing and absorbing gasses. If health is a concern, this may be something worth considering with vinyl flooring.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate and engineered flooring are often confused with one another. They have a similar structure, whereby both have a ‘aesthetic’ top layer which is then mounted onto a floating timber layer (usually plywood). However, engineered floorboards use a thick layer of hard wood as their aesthetic layer, whereas laminate simply uses a printed photograph of timber. The print is then sealed with a protective layer to help prevent scratches and damage.

 

The main benefit of laminate is it’s very affordable. The pieces of laminate slot together similar to an engineered board, so after installation, it may be even cheaper than vinyl since it doesn’t require any glue. However there are a few drawbacks to be mindful of.

 

Laminate is made from timber products, and like all timber products, it can be prone to water damage. All laminate is sealed with a protective later, but if water seeps in, it can rot the core or cause rippling (see image below). 

Similarly to vinyl, laminate cannot be re-sanded if it becomes damaged or scratched. This is because the top layer is simply a thin paper print rather than a solid piece of timber like engineered boards contain. Therefore the damaged boards would need to be lifted and replaced with new boards. This could end up costing more in the long term. 

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