Ask Sarah: Vinyl vs. Laminate for Basements

Vanessa asks:  We are thinking of replacing our basement carpet, as my husband has allergies, and we have 2 kids and  a cat.   We originally thought laminate would suffice, but I recently came across the click-in vinyl wood-like plank flooring.

My husband isn’t sold on it yet, as he thinks of vinyl as being “cheap”.  He’s thinking future re-sale value of our town home and thinks a vinyl floor would cheapen our home and that laminate would be better.  But with 2 busy kids, and a cat that sometimes has accidents in the basement, I think the click-in vinyl would be the way to go, being that it’s waterproof, easy to install, etc.  I would greatly appreciate your feedback on this product!  We’d prefer the click-in over the adhesive strip vinyl.

Thanks for the question, Vanessa!  Speaking strictly from my own experience and expertise, I’m going to recommend vinyl.  (Sorry, hubby!)

Here’s why:

The price points are pretty similar when comparing apples to apples, but there’s a very broad price range within each category – $.99/sq.ft. up to $5.00 or more/sq.ft.  It all depends on quality and if there’s an underpad attached.  If there’s no underpad and you want to install one, your price is back up there, but at least you have flexibility in the type of product you can choose as an underpad.

Both are floating floors and water resistant, assuming you clean up spills quickly.  If there’s moisture in the basement, you’ll want to address that before installing a new floor.  Moisture getting into the core of the flooring will cause swelling and buckling.   One of the types of vinyl flooring I saw on the Lowe’s website claims it’s 100% waterproof (I’m assuming it’s vinyl all the way through).  I think that *could* be a bit misleading.  If you have a flood in your basement, it doesn’t matter what type of flooring you have.  It’s going to get underneath and into the walls and guess what?  You’re gutting that sucker.  If the product itself it 100% waterproof it is *possible* that it will be salvageable but you’ll likely lose a few pieces pulling it up and unclicking it (as an aside, it’s always a good idea to purchase extra tiles/hardwood/flooring/etc. when renovating, just in case).  You’re still going to lose the subfloor or underpad, and likely your baseboards and possibly a foot or more of drywall.  If you’ve got laminate or vinyl on a fibreboard base, forget it – it’s done.


 Vinyl is softer underfoot and warmer than laminate.  If the underpad under the laminate is insufficient, the laminate can sound hollow and ‘clicky’.  To avoid this, your price is going to go up.  A good quality laminate is going to be more resistant to scratches and dents due to it’s hardness, but can be slippery if it’s not textured.

Installation is pretty similar between the two as well, lots of measuring and cutting, but neither is super difficult if you’ve worked with power tools before.  Depending on your skill, you might want to get someone in to install your baseboards.

Assuming you have no floods, both products are going to fine for cleanups of kitty accidents (you’ll want to be very careful of accidents getting into wood subfloors though – no cleaning will get that out and it can affect resale significantly), and are non-allergenic.  Unfortunately, like most new products, both will off gas for a time, so keep that in mind if that’s a smell that bothers anyone.

From a resale point of view, neither is going to affect the value of the house, as long as you choose a product that’s in line with the value of the house and that your installation is done well.  If you have a million dollar property and you put in $.99 laminate with no underpad, install it poorly so there’s gaps and mismatch all the baseboard corners, yes, that’s going to affect the value.  Poorly done DIY jobs indicate to potential buyers that you’ve cut corners and it’s going to make them wonder where else you’ve skimped.  In a town house, having a finished basement is in itself a big selling feature, so assuming you choose a reasonably priced product and install it well, you’re good to go with either flooring type as is your preference.

I know you said that you’d prefer a click-in product over the sticky one, but I think it’s worth considering, simply because I’ve used it myself and love it.  We refinished our basement ourselves about 3 years ago.  We pulled down the sagging acoustic tile ceiling and drywalled it, painted the terrible 70’s panelling and installed vinyl plank flooring over the existing linoleum tile.  We’d been told by the condo that there was a possibility of asbestos in the tile, so covering it with a floating floor seemed the best idea.  We used Home Depot’s Allure Milano flooring and were lucky enough to catch it on sale.  At regular price it works out to about $2.00/sq.ft.  The only tools we used were a pen and a utility knife.  It took about 3 hours to do the whole basement and hallway to the stairs.  I then installed new baseboards (which as a lefty was both awkward and a little dangerous.  Mitre saws, like most power tools, are meant for right handed people.).

There are a few scuffs and scratches; I’m terrible for dragging laundry baskets around on it, but other than that it’s held up very well.  Warm, soft, and no lifting corners.  And for the record, I also have two busy kids and an 80lb dog, all of whom hang out in the basement with us.

Don’t mind the fuzzy picture, you know, iPhones and all:


 Hope this helps!  Let me know which you decide on!