Laminate vs Carpet: What Is the Difference?

Whether you’re building a new house or updating your home, choosing flooring is an important decision. Not only does it impact the look and feel of your house, but it also impacts resale value. Plus, some flooring lasts longer than others. As a result, you may be wondering, “What is the difference between laminate vs. carpet, and is one the better choice?”

Laminate and carpet stand apart in several ways. They have clearly different textures and underfoot feels. Carpet can feature natural fibers like wool, though synthetics are also widely used. Laminate is primarily synthetic, but it’s more hypoallergenic.

However, those aren’t the only ways carpet and laminate differ. Here’s a look at laminate vs. carpet.

Laminate vs Carpet

Laminate vs. Carpet: Key Points

In most cases, the most noticeable differences between laminate vs. carpet are the look and feel. Carpet is a highly textured, fiber-based flooring, while laminate is smoother and sleeker. However, they stand apart in many other ways.

By looking at the differences between laminate vs. carpet, it’s easier to decide which flooring option is your best choice. Here’s an overview of the key points you’ll need to consider when comparing carpet and laminate.

 LaminateCarpet
AppearanceSmooth or lightly textured to resemble wood or stone, with varying degrees of color variationHighly textured with some color variations, though the difference in the hues is more commonly subtle
Feel UnderfootSmooth, ranging from springy to semi-rigidSlightly soft to plush
DurabilityModerate to HighLow to Moderate
CostLow to ModerateLow to Moderate
InstallationDIY is an option, though professional installation is worth consideringWall-to-wall carpet almost always requires professional installation, though DIYing carpet tiles is an option
MaterialSynthetic materials like fiberboard and resinWool or synthetic fibers like nylon, polyester, and polypropylene
Moisture ResistanceHighLow to Moderate
Stain ResistanceModerate to HighLow to Moderate
Maintenance and UpkeepCleaning is simple, and maintenance is lowCleaning and maintenance are potentially challenging at times
Repair and ReplacementRepairs and replacements are easy to moderately difficultRepairs aren’t always an option, and replacement often requires a professional
Lifespan5 to 15 years10 to 30 years
HealthHypoallergenic, but may emit formaldehyde or have more VOCsMore traction, but more prone to mold and mildew, and may involve low to moderate VOCs
Resale ValueLow ImpactLow Impact
Best UsesLiving rooms, dining rooms, adult bedroomsBedrooms, playrooms, kid’s rooms

What Is Laminate Flooring?

What Is Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is a primarily synthetic layered flooring material that’s typically designed to resemble wood. It comes in planks, featuring a base layer topped with an image layer and a wear layer. Overall, it’s a durable flooring option that’s commonly moisture- and stain-resistant.

Laminate Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Durable
  • Achieve a wood or stone-look for less
  • Easier to install
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Water-resistant
  • Stain-resistant

Cons

  • Potentially slippery, especially when wet
  • Cheaper versions look fake compared to the materials it’s mimicking
  • Higher levels of chemicals and VOCs

What Is Carpet?

What Is Carpet

Carpet is a fiber-based flooring material. It features woven fibers, which are either natural or synthetic, attached to a semi-stiff backing. Carpet has a highly textured appearance and can come in a wide array of colors and patterns.

Carpet Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Soft underfoot
  • Warmer feel
  • Good traction
  • Cozy look
  • Sound-dampening
  • Some carpet is stain-resistant
Cons
  • Mold and mildew prone
  • Professional installation is typically required
  • Repairing isn’t usually an option, only replacement

What Is the Difference Between Laminate and Carpet?

Difference Between Laminate and Carpet

Both carpet and laminate are popular flooring types, but they stand apart in many ways. By learning how the two differ, it’s easier to determine which option is the best choice.

Here is a deep dive into the differences between laminate vs. carpet.

Appearance

The most undeniable difference between laminate and carpet involves appearance. Laminate is smooth or very lightly textured. It also has color variations that typically mimic natural materials like stone or wood, so they can vary in strength depending on what it’s intended to resemble.

Carpet looks soft and plush at a glance due to the clear presence of fibers on the surface. To what degree can depend on whether it’s low- or high-pile, but it’s inherently softer looking than laminate.

When it comes to color variations, most carpets are either one hue or only have subtle, complementary color differences. While some may feature more dramatic variations, those aren’t as widely used as they aren’t as popular with homeowners.

Feel Underfoot

Underfoot, carpet is usually relatively soft and reasonably warm, if not outright cozy. Some carpet is even plush feeling, depending on the fibers, pile height, and the carpet pad used. However, no matter the type, carpeting with an appropriate pad is usually softer than any other flooring material; the degree of softness simply differs.

How laminate feels underfoot also varies. Generally, the surface is smooth or just lightly textured, though there’s typically a distinct slickness.

When it comes to rigidity, the underlayment may determine if it feels semi-rigid or slightly springy. The thickness of the underlayment and its materials, as well as the thickness and structure of the laminate, can lead to some variance. However, it typically doesn’t feel overly stiff.

Durability

The durability of carpet generally falls short of laminate, though by exactly how much depends on the type of carpeting used. Nylon fibers typically hold up better than polyester. Loop pile carpet is also longer lasting than cut-and-loop or cut pile.

In most cases, the higher the pile, the less it offers when it comes to durability. Taller fibers won’t remain standing for long, particularly in high-traffic areas. Low-pile carpeting is sturdier, so the shorter the pile, the more durable it is overall.

With laminate, you have a far more durable surface. It’s designed to resist wear and tear, scratches, dents, dings, chips, and more. Plus, you don’t have the fiber issues you get with carpet, as the surface is relatively rigid.

Cost

In most cases, the cost of installing laminate or carpet is highly similar. You can often find options for as little as $2 to $3 per square foot for carpet, while laminate may begin closer to $3. However, the price does climb with either flooring type if you opt for higher-end laminate or carpet and more expensive underlayment.

In some cases, top-quality laminate does cost more per square foot than high-quality carpet. However, its higher durability can mean it lasts longer, too. As a result, any savings achieved by choosing carpet are often offset by needing more frequent replacements, keeping these two options closer to even.

Additionally, it’s important to note that laminate and carpet are often more affordable than many other flooring types. As a result, in the grand scheme of things, both fall in the low to moderate price range.

Installation

When you’re looking at laminate vs. carpet, laminate is far easier to install. If you choose a click-and-lock version with an underlayment built-in, even novice DIYers can often tackle the job.

You aren’t messing with nails or glue with click-and-lock laminate, and a mistake with one board doesn’t impact the rest of the installation. Instead, you can simply use another piece of laminate flooring to replace the damaged one, suggesting you buy some extras.

Even if you go with a glued or nailed laminate, experienced DIYers can likely handle the job. Plus, since getting it right is easier, your warranty may be intact as long as the manufacturer doesn’t require professional installation. However, there’s also the option of going with a professional, so keep that in mind.

Wall-to-wall carpet almost universally requires professional installation if you don’t explicitly have carpet-laying experience. It’s difficult to properly cut and secure, and one misstep can essentially ruin the installation. Plus, it usually involves tools most homeowners don’t have on hand.

Self-installing wall-to-wall carpet can also void your warranty, even if you don’t make a mistake along the way. As a result, if you want that protection, it’s better to go with a professional.

If you’re going with carpet tiles, self-installation is possible. You might need to use glue or tape, so novices may prefer not to go this route. However, there are peel-and-stick versions too, which could be friendlier to those who are new to DIY.

Material

When it comes to the materials, laminate flooring is primarily synthetic. Fiberboard and resin are common components. Generally, the use of synthetics is to make the flooring water-resistant and is chosen with durability in mind.

For the underlayment, laminate floors may feature foam, felt, cork, or a combination of those or similar materials. As a result, it can be synthetic or natural, depending on the one you choose.

Carpeting can be natural or synthetic. Genuine wool carpet features natural fibers, though the backing materials could include some synthetics and glues. Nylon, polyester, and similar carpets are essentially fully synthetic.

Carpet underlayment may be a combination of natural and synthetic or purely synthetic. There are versions that feature a mix of wool and rubber, including zero-VOC options. However, some are produced using nylon, polypropylene, or polyester, either being fully fiber or featuring foam.

Moisture Resistance

Overall, laminate is far more moisture-resistant than carpet. Carpet has fibers that can draw in moisture, potentially trapping it for longer periods. Soaking up spills also requires more effort, as getting the moisture back out of the fibers takes more than a quick wipe.

When properly installed, laminate is water-resistant. If you seal the seams, laminate flooring may be nearly waterproof, though that depends on the exact materials. Still, cleaning up a spill takes little more than a quick wipe with a soft cloth or mop.

It’s important to note that there are manufacturers that make moisture-resistant carpets. Usually, there’s a water-resistant backing that prevents moisture from seeping into the subfloor. The fibers may also be less absorbent or quick drying, reducing the odds of damage.

Stain Resistance

Laminate flooring also outperforms carpets when it comes to stain resistance. The protective top coating prevents spills from penetrating into other layers. As a result, colors from spills won’t get beyond the surface, making them easier to address.

How much stain-resistance laminate flooring offers can vary by manufacturer and product line. Not all top coats are as resilient as others. Plus, wearing through the upper layers over time can make stains in high-traffic spots more likely.

When it comes to carpet, stain resistance is usually low to moderate. Whether the fibers are naturally stain-resistant or are treated to combat stains makes a difference. Some may perform reasonably well, though those without the right technologies are often susceptible to stains.

Maintenance and Upkeep

Generally speaking, it’s far easier to take care of laminate than carpet. Laminate may only need regular sweeping or vacuuming and occasional mopping.

Carpet can take more effort. While regular vacuuming is part of the equation, dealing with ground-in dirt or spills isn’t that easy. You may need to steam clean to deal with dirt or stains trapped in the fibers.

Plus, carpet fibers don’t stay in their original position over time. Walking across them mashes the fibers down, creating visual pathways. Again, steam cleaning could be required to bring them back to life, and that’s usually cumbersome.

Repair and Replacement

Repairing carpet that’s damaged isn’t usually an option. If a part is clearly damaged, you either have to cut out a section and try to blend a replacement piece in or entirely replace the flooring.

When it comes to repairs, laminate is more forgiving. Even if a board is badly damaged, you just have to address that one spot. With floating laminate flooring, that could involve taking up a large section to reach that board. While that’s cumbersome, it’s completely doable.

Even with glued laminate flooring, replacing one board is an option. While dislodging the board and sanding down any remaining glue is potentially challenging or tedious, new boards typically blend in seamlessly once they’re in place.

Replacing wall-to-wall carpet almost always requires a professional, which isn’t always ideal. With laminate, a DIY approach is a potential option, though it can be a long project if the existing laminate floor is glued.

Lifespan

When it comes to lifespan, laminate far outperforms carpet in many cases. If you go with high-end laminate and it’s installed correctly, you may get as much as 30 years out of your floor. Even lower-end laminate typically lasts at least ten years.

With carpet, low-end carpet or certain fiber types may only give you about five years of solid use before it shows clear signs of wear and aging. Even higher-end carpets designed for durability may only give you 15 years, particularly in higher-traffic areas.

Health

From a health perspective, neither laminate nor carpet hit all of the marks. Laminate flooring doesn’t trap dust, pollen, or pet dander, so it’s considered hypoallergenic. As a result, those with allergies are far better off with laminate, as carpet can hold allergens in the fibers.

However, laminate may emit formaldehyde for years after installation. Additionally, on average, laminate has more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than many other flooring types.

Carpet also comes with benefits and drawbacks. While it’s not as allergy-friendly, the texture can improve traction. Since that’s the case, it can be a safer choice for those with certain mobility issues.

When it comes to downsides, carpet is more prone to mold and mildew growth. Additionally, VOC levels may vary from low to moderate, depending on the materials.

Resale Value

When it comes to resale value, carpet or laminate usually won’t have a major impact. Generally, flooring that improves resale value includes higher-end options like hardwood in living areas or tile in bathrooms.

However, laminate may work slightly in your favor with some buyers. Those with allergies or pets may prefer laminate since it’s hypoallergenic, easier to clean, and more durable.

There are cases where carpet in select areas can actually attract some buyers, too. For example, some homebuyers prefer carpet in bedrooms or kid’s rooms.

Still, the potential value of the two is generally low and highly similar. As a result, if resale value is your main concern, opting for alternatives like luxury vinyl plank, tile, or hardwood could be a better option.

Best Uses

Technically, you can use any flooring type in any space. However, some choices may work better for specific situations.

Generally, laminate is a better choice than carpet for living rooms and dining rooms, particularly versions that look like wood. It may also add sophistication to adult bedrooms, which some buyers may appreciate.

Carpet could be a preferred choice for all bedrooms for some people, as its softer and warmer underfoot. Some may also prefer it in just children’s bedrooms or kid’s playrooms, particularly if their kids are younger and can benefit from the increased traction.

Carpet vs. Laminate for Pets

Carpet vs Laminate for Pets

If you have pets, laminate may be the better choice. It’s scratch resistant, so dogs running around won’t usually damage the surface. Plus, it’s easier to clean and resists stains.

Carpet can trap dirt. Plus, it may capture pet odors in the fibers, particularly if your pet has an accident or is ill on your carpet. It also gives fleas a place to hide, which can lead to challenges if your pets aren’t correctly treated against fleas and they spend time inside and outdoors.

However, carpet is quieter, so you won’t hear pet nails on the surface. It also provides more traction, which is beneficial if your pets have mobility issues.

Which Is Warmer, Carpet or Laminate Flooring?

Overall, carpet is warmer than laminate flooring. Carpet can retain heat, keeping it relatively toasty. That’s one of the main reasons why some people prefer carpets in bedrooms.

However, laminate isn’t necessarily cold when compared to some other flooring types. Usually, tile flooring feels colder underfoot. The same is true of natural stone.

Carpet vs. Laminate vs. Vinyl

Vinyl Flooring Pros and Cons

While we’ve taken a close look at carpet vs. vinyl, you may wonder if you should consider vinyl instead. Luxury vinyl flooring can closely resemble the look of wood or stone, often slightly better than laminate. It’s also highly durable, and many versions are waterproof, not just water resistant.

Vinyl flooring is reasonably comfortable underfoot, often having a slight springiness. It’s also moderately warm, and click-and-lock versions with built-in underlayment are easy to install.

Luxury vinyl flooring also has a better resale value than carpet or vinyl. As a result, it’s a solid option if you’re looking for wood or stone-like flooring without the cost of the real deal.

Laminate vs. Carpet in Bedroom, Living Room, Basement

Bedroom

Both laminate and carpet are reasonable options for bedrooms. In many cases, bedrooms are lower-traffic areas, so the lower durability of carpet may be less of an issue. Plus, some prefer the warmer, softer feel, as being barefoot in a bedroom isn’t uncommon.

However, laminate can add a sense of sophistication. Plus, it’s easier to clean and maintain. Usually, it’s simply a matter of personal preference, so go with the one that suits you.

Living Room

In a living room, laminate is often a better choice. It offers higher durability, which is beneficial in high-traffic areas. Plus, it’s easier to clean and hypoallergenic.

At times, carpet in a living room feels outdated. While it was a popular choice in the 1970s, people began shifting away from carpeted living rooms after that point. Today, you rarely see updated homes with carpet in the living room.

On Stairs

With stairs, going with carpet has advantages. Carpet is quieter to walk on, which can reduce noise. Plus, its texture leads to better overall traction.

However, laminate flooring is easier to clean, which is beneficial on tricky areas like stairs. Whether that’s enough to forgo some traction may depend on your household.

Basement

Whether carpet or laminate is the best choice for a basement depends on moisture levels. While you can install a moisture barrier to protect the underside of either option, basements prone to mold or mildew might be ill-suited to carpet.

However, for reasonably dry basements, carpet can add a sense of warmth. If you go with carpet tile over wall-to-wall carpeting, replacing damaged sections is also less challenging should water become an unexpected issue, so keep that in mind.

Laminate vs. Carpet: Which Is Better?

If you’re comparing laminate vs. carpet, which is best often comes down to personal preference. Laminate is hypoallergenic, longer-lasting, and more durable, and you can find wood-look options with ease. Carpet is softer and warmer, which some people prefer. Since resale value and costs are similar, it’s better to choose the one you enjoy most.

Did you find out everything you wanted to know about laminate vs. carpet? If so, take a moment to let us know in the comments. Also, if you have someone in your life who’s trying to choose new flooring for their home, please share the article.

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