Flooring options - Wood veneer vs. Laminate vs. Roll-out vinyl (sheet vinyl)

34 Replies

Hi Experts!

My PM is making ready one of our 16 units and came to me with the wood veneer flooring, saying it's cheaper and durable. I did some research and found most people say wood veneer scratches easily and can only be sanded once. My original thought was to do laminate floor, which is slightly more costly but more sturdy. Another contractor also suggested roll-out vinyl, claiming he's used in a lot of his clients' apartment units.

Our unit is renting our for $600. I want to make smart decisions with the upgrades that would benefit in the long run. Does anyone has experiences in any of the 3 types of flooring? and any preference?

Thank you guys!

Becky

Allure vinyl planks. 

It looks really good and is very durable. At turn over you can just swiffer the floors and if you need to, you can easily cut out and replace a plank.

Do a Google search for Alure Vinyl to see examples of rooms that have been done with this.

@Becky Lu

Around here your end costs for a basic laminate or sheet vinyl {all but the cheapest, paper-thin stuff} will be about the same.  The laminate will cost a little more per ft^2, but the vinyl requires more prep work and materials for installation.  If you go for a loose-lay vinyl / fibre floor, then the installation is even easier than laminate - though the floor itself may cost a little more than the cheapest glue down vinyl sheet.   If the rooms you are covering are not that large, or if you were to be setting cabinetry on the flooring,  you may be able to loose lay regular vinyl sheet. We have loose-laid regular vinyl sheet and pinched it with the trim and cabinets to hold it in place in several units and it is still fine 3-4 years later.

If this flooring is going in the kitchen or bathroom, then vinyl would be the better and safer choice as laminate does not fair well in wet environments - if water gets under the floor or in the seams, the floor will swell and cup.

I like the click-together laminate.  I get the cheapest stuff from Lumber Liquidators for 0.29-0.39/sqft and it holds up pretty well and is super quick and easy to install using just a jig saw.  I order the trim to finish it off from Home Depot online because it's cheaper than going to the store and buying the same thing.  I haven't tried the vinyl product yet but have been hesitant because I don't want to have to deal with glue and the click-together vinyl that doesn't require glue is typically more expensive.  I'm pretty sure if I tried to do the roll out vinyl that I would mess it up pretty bad.

With the plank laminate types stuff, is it required to also install the underlayment or is that optional??

Some of the better quality laminates will have the underlayment already attached and are around $1/sqft.  I personally do not use an underlayment because I don't think it really makes a difference.  If I were to install the stuff over concrete, I'd get the type that has the underlayment attached.

Originally posted by @Nicole W.:

With the plank laminate types stuff, is it required to also install the underlayment or is that optional??

 It is better if you roll out the thin foam underlayment (tack it down) before laying the laminate.  If laying over a concrete slab or unconditioned basement, you can get underlayment with a vapour barrier built-in (or lay down your own vapour barrier).  The thick underlayment (3 -5 mm) they sell in the big-box stores is not worth the extra cost (IMHO) and often makes for a poorer installation.

If you are trying to save costs by skipping the underlayment  why not simply ask the supplier to throw it in?  Our experience is if we a buying any amount of laminate, our supplier is more than happy to through in the underlayment.

Updated over 6 years ago

Above ... I should have put 8 - 15mm for the thick underlay. The basic foam stuff is usually 3 - 5mm.

Originally posted by @Jassem A. :

Some of the better quality laminates will have the underlayment already attached and are around $1/sqft.  I personally do not use an underlayment because I don't think it really makes a difference.  If I were to install the stuff over concrete, I'd get the type that has the underlayment attached.

 You would still require a vapour barrier.

I usually buy about 1200 square feet of flooring at a time when it goes on sale from LL because that is what will fit in my truck (also because they cap it off at 1200 square feet for online sales and I'm too lazy to call them).  The cost for the flooring when it goes to 0.29/sqft is about $350, adding underlayment would cost another $80.  Maybe on the more expensive flooring they would throw in the underlayment but I doubt they would throw it in for me.  Putting in the stuff without an underlayment over plywood hasn't resulted in any issues and it has saved me a few bucks.

@Roy N.

 It will be installed over a subfloor. It's the 2nd floor apartment of a 1940-something building.

I was thinking of getting my flooring from Lumber Liquidators.  So I could go to that store and ask them to throw in the underlayment?

You mentioned now that it's on a 2nd floor. Laminate is a very poor choice for a second floor install if you don't invest in an underlayment that is sound deadening. Cheap foam won't cut it and all you'll get in complaints about noisy neighbors upstairs. 

Sheet vinyl is a cheap choice that you will end up replacing with every move out. It tears too easy and NO one uses the proper method to  move things across it so it swells up and cuts.

Luxury vinyl planks can be got at various price ranges and contrary to a comment above the are LVT click locks that are residential grade and cost effective. They don't require a pad and don't have that hollow sound

Another thing about wood laminate is the formaldehyde issue in regards to LL.( Google it if you want more info) Also wood laminates are not water resistant and can swell if water is left on them for any time period. 

There are options that will last through  more than one client. Check with a Menards in your area and see if they have any vinyl wood look plank left in their closeout section.

@Nicole W.

I've never done business with Lumber Liquidators, but it never hurts to ask ... the worst they can say is, no.  If they do not throw it in, they may discount it  (not that it is expensive to start).

The underlayment will provide you with cushioning, making the floor more enjoyable to walk upon, and a bit of sound reduction ... if anyone upstairs walks across the laminate floor in heels, the folks downstairs will appreciate the underlay.

I put the .68 per sq ft light color laminate from Home Depot.  I put the mid grade underlayment which makes it feel like a higher quality aka no ticking sound when you walk on it.  It's durable and SUPER cheap to replace if needed.  I also keep a spare box around in case I need to replace some planks.  

For the second floor I'm still on carpet.  Eventually, I'll get off it but I need to figure out how. 

@Keith Lewis

If the upper floor is a separate unit, then the space between it and the ceiling of the lower unit, if properly fire rated will be filled with a non-combustable "insulation" such as rock wool which also provides significant sound deadening.  In addition, the ceiling should be 5/8" drywall suspended from resilient channel.   Using a lighter underlay will make no significant difference.

Of course, most old(er) and non-permitted conversions of residential buildings into multiple units probably do not have fire separation between units which meets modern code.  In those cases using a slightly thicker (5 - 8mm) or {better, but more costly} cork underlay will deal with the tick-tick-tick of heels.

@Bryan N. ... see above.

Originally posted by @Bryan N. :

@Roy N.

I was talking about the second floor of a home.  

 Yes ... you can still use a cork underlay to deaden sound.

Even in our house renovations - or within an apartment itself - we use rock wool in the walls and ceilings of bathrooms and laundry rooms to provide sound deadening.  We will even use sound cored doors on those rooms as well.

Originally posted by @Roy N. :

@Keith Lewis

If the upper floor is a separate unit, then the space between it and the ceiling of the lower unit, if properly fire rated will be filled with a non-combustable "insulation" such as rock wool which also provides significant sound deadening.  In addition, the ceiling should be 5/8" drywall suspended from resilient channel.   Using a lighter underlay will make no significant difference.

Of course, most old(er) and non-permitted conversions of residential buildings into multiple units probably do not have fire separation between units which meets modern code.  In those cases using a slightly thicker (5 - 8mm) or {better, but more costly} cork underlay will deal with the tick-tick-tick of heels.

@Bryan N. ... see above.

 Roy, I note that you're located in the Canadian market. I know that your building codes over there far exceed a lot of our over here. In the Detroit market, which is an older market the second situation you mentioned is more likely

Roll-out vinyl sounds cheap but our PM said it's thick and very durable. You can replace sections if damaged. It is cheaper. Did anyone has experiences with roll-out vinyl? I read reviews on line but would like to hear the real stories please. Appreciate it!

I put vinyl plank in all of our flips.(and plan to put it in our rentals next time I do flooring)

 It looks high end, is cost effective, is essentially waterproof so ok for the kitchen, lasts an extremely long time, and doesn't make that cheap sound when you walk on it.

Originally posted by @Becky Lu :

Roll-out vinyl sounds cheap but our PM said it's thick and very durable. You can replace sections if damaged. It is cheaper. Did anyone has experiences with roll-out vinyl? I read reviews on line but would like to hear the real stories please. Appreciate it!

As I mentioned above, vinyl comes in different qualities (just like any flooring).  The thicker, loose-lay/fibre floor is easier to install.  

Sure you can patch sheet ... and if the floor is relatively new and the girl/guy {vinyl welding} the seam is good, it may not be obvious.   If you are worried about having to patch sections, you can get a vinyl plank which does not interlock and is {mildly} adhesive to the floor {adhesive is already on the back of the plank}, but designed so you can {with a little effort} pull up and replace individual pieces (and not have to lift entire sections of the floor to replace one piece)