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Updated August 3, 2020
You’re trying to decide on new floors and you’ve narrowed it down to tile vs. laminate. But you’re stuck because tile and laminate are both awesome types of flooring and each one offers tons of advantages. So now what?
It is, as we say, a question for the philosophers. But we’re not philosophers (just humble flooring people) so we’re here to help you make your decision!
Below, we’re going to compare the pros and cons of tile vs. laminate floors at every level. We’re going to look into tile vs. laminate cost. We’re going to talk about each material’s makeup. We’ll discuss resale value, installation, and durability concerns.
Then, we’re going to talk about the pros and cons of each flooring material’s maintenance, waterproofing, underfoot feel, and appearance. We’ll even go into the pros and cons of tile vs. laminate in kitchens, bathrooms, and basements.
Basically, we’re going to dive into everything you need to know about tile vs. laminate flooring. Because we’re here to help.
If you’ve been looking into your flooring options, you probably know this already—but tile and laminate are two very flooring different materials. Here’s the quick side-by-side:
What are laminate floors made of?
What is laminate flooring? In its most basic form, laminate flooring is made up of three layers: a rigid base layer (usually made of high-density fiberboard), a photo-realistic image layer, and a hard plasticate wear layer. Thanks to its super-realistic image layer, laminate flooring can mimic just about any type of material—wood, stone, even fabric.
What are tile floors made of?
When it comes to flooring, here are two main types of tile: man-made tile and natural stone tile. Man-made floor tiles are usually made from ceramic or porcelain. Natural stone tiles are different types of rock—marble, slate, onyx, quartzite, etc.
And these days, tiles can be made to resemble other flooring materials as well. Wood-look tile, for instance, has become a very popular flooring option recently.
And vinyl tile is something else entirely
You’ll notice that we didn’t mention vinyl when we discussed man-made tile. There’s a reason for that! Vinyl tile (often called LVT) isn’t really a tile per se. It’s a synthetic flooring material that is sometimes shaped like a tile. So while LVT might be one of the best types of vinyl flooring around, we don’t think of it as a “true” tile like porcelain or stone.
Cost of Tile vs. Cost of Laminate
Tile vs. Laminate material prices
When it comes to pricing out tile vs. laminate floors, you’re going to see a pretty even split for the materials themselves. Laminate strips will often run you between $1 and $5 per square foot,while ceramic or porcelain tiles will often cost between $1.50 and $5 per square foot.
Natural stone tiles, on the other hand, can cost much more than that (depending on the product you choose).
Installation: is it cheaper to do tile or laminate?
While the materials themselves might be close in price, their installation costs are not. We’ll explain why a little further down, but suffice to say that laminate generally costs $1–$2 per square foot to install, while tile generally costs between $5–$8 per square foot to install. And remember: these are just ballpark figures. The actual price of installation will vary depending on your location, materials, and project.
Long-term tile vs. laminate resale value
While tile might be more expensive to install, it does have a much higher long-term value. Laminate can’t be refinished, meaning that when it’s worn out, you’ll need to replace it (every 10–25 years or so on average). And it doesn’t add a huge amount of value to your home.
Tile, on the other hand, can last forever if maintained correctly—and it doesadd value to your home.
When it comes to price, both laminate and tile have significant perks. Laminate is cheaper to purchase and install but has less long-term value. Tile comes with a higher initial investment, but will last longer and increase your home’s value. Trade-offs, you know?
Installing Tile vs. Installing Laminate
How do you install tile floors?
This one’s a doozy. See, tile is not the easiest flooring to install. Because tile is attached directly to your subfloor, that subfloor needs to be perfectly level (and what is subflooring, you ask?) Plus, the tiles themselves need to be laid down with spacers to ensure they’re all the same distance from each other. And after that, the tiles also need to be grouted together in order to create a waterproof surface.
Also, grouting is not the easiest process in the world. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s easy to make a mess and ruin your beautiful tile floors—so it’s easy to see why tile costs so much more to install than laminate. It’s also why installing tiles is not a DIY project unless you really know what you’re doing. Ask your local flooring professional instead; it’ll save you a massive headache.
We should also add: fueled by the ongoing flooring installer shortage, there have been some amazing advances in do-it-yourself flooring products recently. If you’re interested in a DIY flooring project but you also want real porcelain tile, look into snap-together tile flooring products—they’re easy to install (just like other floating floors), but with a fraction of the effort. You’re welcome.
How do you install laminate floors?
Laminate floors, on the other hand, are comparatively easy to install. Almost all laminate products come as click-together flooring, meaning they snap together using interlocking grooves. This makes laminate something called a “floating floor”—one that’s not nailed or glued down to a subfloor.
In any case: while laminate is easy to install, it does need an appropriate underlayment. Some laminate floors require a specific underlay to dampen noise; some require a specific underlay to improve underfoot feel; some come with a built-in underlay; some require… well, you get the point. Basically, your underlayment will be dictated by the specific laminate product you buy. It’s not as cut-and-dried as installing tile.
Laminate is easier to install, but it necessitates an underlayment (whereas tile doesn’t). That said, regardless of where you land on the tile vs. laminate question, you need to make sure you’re using a correct underlayment or subfloor. Otherwise, you’re not going to get the results you want.
Durability of Tile vs. Durability of Laminate
How durable is tile?
Depending on the product, tile can be one of the most durable flooring options around. When grouted correctly, it’s entirely waterproof (even though some tiles may stain in standing water). Heavy foot traffic, dogs, tapdancing—none of it will phase tile. Plus, it’s one of the most pet-friendly flooring options due to its resistance to scratching and denting.
The only thing you’ll need to worry about with tile is chipping or cracking (although it heavily depends on what kind of tile you purchase). Tile is really strong, but you still shouldn’t drop a refrigerator on it. Luckily, if you do end up cracking a tile, it’s easy to replace—just dig out the broken tile and grout a new one in its place!
How durable is laminate?
Laminate is also a really durable type of flooring. Most laminate floors have a very hard wear layer that’s designed to prevent dings and scratches. That’s why laminate is also an excellent floor for houses with pets and kids! Like we mentioned before, though, laminate floors will wear out in 10–25 years on average (depending on the specific product you buy and traffic it receives).
Additionally—and we can not stress this enough—laminate is not a waterproof flooring option. If you spill a bunch of water on your laminate floor (or if you install it somewhere with super high humidity) it’ll swell and warp into an absolute mess. Plus, if you drop something super heavy on it (or lay a very heavy piece of furniture on it) laminate can dent.
Both tile and laminate are great floors for busy households; they’re both durable, they’re both scratch-resistant flooring options, and they’re both resistant to water. But: only tile is waterproof. Additionally, nothing short of cracking an entire tile is going to affect a tile floor—whereas laminate can be dented by heavy furniture.
Maintaining Tile vs. Maintaining Laminate
How to maintain tile
Tile is relatively easy to maintain. As always, it depends on what kind of tile you buy, but in general, tile can be mopped, scrubbed, you name it. Some types of tiles need to be resealed periodically (cement, for instance), but some do not. As long as you keep your grout clean and sealed, your tile floors can last forever.
How to maintain laminate
Laminate is also pretty easy to maintain. Unlike tile, you don’t have to worry about resealing. But, you do have to be careful not to wet mop it (because it’s not waterproof) and only use certain cleansers on it (some can eat through the wear layer). But as always, the specifics come down to the particular product you choose.
Repairing tile vs. repairing laminate
Laminate might be easier to install, but tile is much easier to repair. Think about it: if you damage a tile, you can just chisel it out and grout in a new one! But if you damage a laminate plank, you’re going to have to remove the entire floor all the way to the wall—because the planks are click-locked together.
As far as maintenance is concerned, the tile vs. laminate debate is pretty much even. Sure, tile does take a bit more care and consideration, but it’s also much easier to repair if anything happens to it.
Tile vs. Laminate: Which Floor Feels Better?
Tile can be chilly
It’s true: tile can absorb heat or become a bit chilly. If you live in a warm climate, though, that’s probably a big plus, especially if you’re using tile as sunroom flooring. Florida, we’re talking to you!
It depends on the specific floor you purchase, but some cheaper laminates have been known to feel a bit plasticky and artificial underfoot. Take that into account when you’re pricing out your flooring options!
Laminate is more flexible underfoot (for better or worse)
Generally speaking, laminate is a bit more flexible underfoot since it “floats” atop an underlayment. That can be a pro or a con depending on the type of floors you like, though!
This part of the tile vs. laminate comes down to personal preferences. Some people like a floor with some give, while some people like the rigidness of tile. Some people want a floor that’s going to stay cool in the heat, while some people want a floor that’ll stay warm. It’s totally up to your wants and needs!
Deciding between tile vs. laminate in specific rooms
Tile vs. laminate in kitchens
If you’re choosing between tile and laminate for your kitchen, there are a few things you’re going to need to consider. Most significantly, how wet does your kitchen get?
Look, we know that laminate flooring can stand up to the occasional spill (and some brands even claim to offer entirely waterproof options). But: most laminate flooring isn’t completely waterproof. That means there’s always a risk of water seeping into the space between the floor and the subflooring/underlayment below. This is one of the common disadvantages of floating floors, and it’s what we in the biz call a “major bummer”.
On the other hand: while tile is completely waterproof, it can also be quite slippery if you don’t purchase a product with a high Coefficient of Friction (CoF) rating. And if you’re choosing between tile and laminate for your kitchen, this is going to be a significant concern. Our advice: talk to your local flooring dealer about which product is right for you.
Tile vs. laminate in bathrooms
The pros and cons of tile vs. laminate for bathrooms are largely the same as they are for kitchens. But the big difference is that in the bathroom, you know you’re going to have water splashing around. That’s why so many bathroom floors are tiled!
So if you’re dead-set on having laminate in your bathroom, make sure to look into laminate brands that claim to offer fully waterproof products. Pergo, for instance, makes some of these products—just make sure to check out some Pergo and Pergo Extreme reviews before purchasing. But really, either option is better than a wood floor bathroom, so you can rest easy on this one.
Tile vs. laminate for basements
If this were a debate between laminate vs. wood floors for your basement, it would be a no-brainer. Laminate is much less susceptible to a basement’s underfloor moisture and temperature changes than solid wood is. But: tile is equally up to the task! In fact, when it comes to flooring your basement, the real question isn’t what kind of surface you want—it’s what kind of underlayment you want. That’s really what’s going to determine the longevity of a basement floor.
While tile is a completely waterproof flooring option, laminate can also be somewhat, or even very much waterproof. With that in mind, neither surface really has a huge advantage over the other anywhere except for the bathroom. And when it comes to basements, it’s more about the underlayment than it is about the surface.
In the battle of tile vs. laminate flooring, we have no choice but to declare…no winner. Sorry! If you were looking for a definitive answer, we can’t help you. Both of these flooring options are fantastic in their own way, and each serves a different purpose.
If you’re looking for something long-lasting, totally waterproof, and don’t mind the higher price point or maintenance concerns, tile might be the surface for you. If you’re looking for something water-resistant, versatile, and with fewer maintenance or cost concerns, look into laminate!
Whichever surface you choose, you’re going to get a great floor. Just remember: the best way to make the right decision when buying new floors is to talk to an actual flooring expert—so use this flooring dealers near me search to find an amazing local retailer in your area. And for more information on choosing the right floor for you, check out:
Associate Director of Content Marketing at FlooringStores (and its parent company, Broadlume), Samuel is a former travel writer, English teacher, and semi-professional trivia host. When he’s not creating content, he can be found doing crosswords, drinking coffee, and petting the office dogs.
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