What’s better, Laminate Flooring or Vinyl Tile Flooring (LVT)?
At Flooring by Nature we want to help you make the best choices when you’re searching for a new floor, even if that means you end up choosing a product we don’t sell. If you’re trying to decide between laminate and Luxury Vinyl tiles like Amtico or Karndean then read our guide below to understand your options.
What is Laminate flooring?
Laminate flooring is constructed of 4 separate layers, the largest of which is a high density fibreboard (HDF) which gives the floor its strength and rigidity. Underneath the HDF layer is a backing layer primarily used as a balancing agent to stabilise the board in order to stop cupping and bowing. The backing layer can be made from various materials but is often a thin sheet of melamine to give the board extra moisture protection. Directly above the HDF is the design layer which is paper printed with the image that will ultimately give you the colour and pattern of your floor. Finally, a clear lamination sheet usually formed from coats of aluminium oxide gives the laminate its wear layer. The strength of the wear layer will be one of the key factors in determining the cost of the laminate as higher quality boards will have greater moisture protection and scratch resistance. The core of the laminate is constructed from offcuts and wastage from timber mills and from other industries that are combined together under very high pressure to make a stable and robust board.
This makes laminate flooring a very sustainable product, as the offcuts come from a renewable resource so is a great option for environmentally conscious homeowners.
The surface of a laminate board is made of a high definition image of real wood or stone with a protective wear layer. Many will now feature a textured surface that replicates a wood grain and the final product looks highly realistic and can be difficult to tell apart from real wood.
Of course there are various qualities available but most high quality laminate flooring will offer a very high degree of wear and are suitable for heavy domestic use and even general commercial use. Many come with at least 25 years if not lifetime domestic warranty.
What rooms can Laminate be used in?
Laminate flooring is suitable for all areas of the home. It’s a tough and hard wearing surface that can suit even the busiest areas.
If fitting in a bathroom or area of high humidity, look for a water resistant option.
Is laminate easy to fit?
Laminate flooring is relatively straightforward to fit, so if you have some DIY or joinery skills you should be able to achieve a good finish.
It also means that if paying for a professional installer, the installation of laminate flooring is generally quicker and therefore cheaper than other hard flooring options, making it an ideal choice when budget is a consideration.
What preparation is needed before fitting laminate?
Laminate flooring doesn’t need any significant sub-floor preparation, just ensure the sub-floor is smooth, flat and dry.
Laminate flooring is always fitted on a thin underlay, this can help to absorb any small irregularities in the floor and provide a moisture barrier.
How much does laminate cost?
There’s a big range of specifications for laminate flooring, from the basic offerings that can be picked up cheap from the big DIY chains to the high quality and highly realistic options with excellent wear warranties.
We supply a high specification range that is water resistant and have a lifetime warranty for £27m2, you can expect to pay up to £40m2 for similar specifications if sourcing from a high street retailer.
What is Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) flooring?
LVT is a type of vinyl tile flooring that has been popularised by brands like Amtico or Karndean. It is a very versatile product made from several layers of PVC plastic with a high definition image printed to give the design. The specifics of LVT construction will vary from brand to brand but most will follow some variation of the layers outlined below:
As it’s made from plastic and not sustainable materials it is not a product that we sell but we understand that it’s right for some people so think it’s important for you to understand the pros and cons.
What rooms can LVT be used in?
LVT is suitable for all areas of the home. It is available in a vast range of designs that mimic real wood and stone so you should be able to find a design that suits your decorating scheme.
As it’s made from plastic it can be used in bathrooms and areas of high humidity with no problems.
Is LVT easy to fit?
No LVT is not easy to fit, it is a difficult and time consuming process and you really ought to employ the services of an experienced and skilled LVT installer.
What preparation is required before fitting LVT?
The key to a successful LVT installation is in the sub-floor preparation. LVT is a thin, flexible plastic tile generally 2.5mm – 3mm thick. This means any imperfections in the sub-floor will be seen through the tiles if the floor is not smoothed before installation.
On wooden sub-floors (floorboards or chipboard) your installer should fit a high quality flooring marine grade plywood of at least 6mm thickness. They should then use a feathering compound to smooth over the joints in plywood sheets.
On concrete sub-floors your installer should apply a smoothing compound to a minimum of 3mm thickness.
This will provide a smooth surface to fit the LVT without any lumps or bumps showing through.
Another very important factor in the installation of LVT is moisture levels in the sub-floor. LVT being plastic will trap moisture in the sub-floor which will in time lead to a failed floor. Your installer must check for moisture in the sub-floor prior to work commencing and take the necessary steps to treat the moisture.
This is normally an issue for concrete sub-floors in older properties where there may not be a functioning damp proof course or in new build properties there is likely to be high levels of residual construction moisture in the concrete.
The levels of sub-floor preparation required for LVT will significantly increase the cost of an LVT project in terms of materials and labour required far beyond the headline price of the tiles.
It also introduces a significant degree of failure risk should your installer not follow all the recommended steps in sub-floor preparation and installation.
How much does LVT cost?
There’s a vast range in prices depending on the brand and the specification. A mid range Amtico or Karndean will cost around £45m2 for the tiles. Basic sub-floor preparation (excluding moisture suppressant) may cost in the region of £10-25 m2 and fitting by a skilled and experienced installer may cost between £25-35m2. So you could be looking anywhere from £80 to over £100 fitted for a mid-range product and straightforward installation.
In conclusion, which is the better product?
In reality the answer to this question is “it depends”!
Both will provide a hard wearing and resilient flooring for all areas of the home.
LVT will offer more bespoke design options as the tiles can be fitted in any orientation you may desire while a Laminate is limited by the fact that each plank needs to click to the ones around it in a predetermined arrangement.
LVT will almost always be the more expensive product to buy and install. It comes with a whole host of sub-floor preparation issues that need to be addressed by experienced fitters.
LVT is not considered a sustainable or environmentally friendly flooring option as it is made from plastic and it’s very difficult to recycle at the end of its useful life.
Laminate flooring on the other hand is a sustainable product, made from renewable and recycled materials.
Laminate flooring is a good value for money option offering high quality and realistic designs at relatively modest prices and can even be fit by someone with reasonable DIY skills.
If you have a question that hasn’t been answered here, please get in touch and we will do our best to find the answer for you!