Are you planning to redo an old floor or install new flooring? Having difficulty choosing between laminate flooring vs tile and wondering what’s the difference? We’re here to help!
Both laminate and tile are durable, scratch-resistant, and can look like stone or wood or 1000s of other images, but while both are water-resistant, only tile is waterproof. Tile, whether ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone is thicker and harder than laminate, will last longer, and will improve resale better.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the differences between laminate and tile. Explain what both are, including the pros and cons of each. Plus identify the most popular types of tiles and laminate flooring. We’ll also compare tile vs laminate vs vinyl, and finish off with which is better, tile or laminate. Our goal is to provide you with the information to choose the best flooring for your project.
Laminate Flooring vs Tile: Key Points
Selecting laminate or tile can be confusing. To help lessen the confusion, the Table below helps compare the different floor coverings based on common factors.
What Is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring is often referred to as a hybrid or composite material – it combines some aspects of engineered hardwood and some vinyl flooring. Wood laminate has a wood ply or fiber base, a high-resolution image or photo layer, and a transparent protective wear layer. Plastic laminate has a base of melamine, a layer of fiberboard, an image layer, and a clear protective top layer of plastic.
There are two distinct ways laminate is produced – direct pressure and high pressure. How and where the flooring will be used typically determines which type to use.
Direct Pressure Laminate (DPL) is manufactured using over 600 PSI and temperatures around 400°F to fuse the layers together. It is a durable product but more suited for residential settings as they experience less traffic than business or commercial settings.
High-Pressure Laminate (HPL) is manufactured using approximately 1,200 PSI and temperatures above 265°F to fuse the layers together. The higher pressure produces a more durable flooring that can withstand high amounts of foot traffic. It is commonly used in commercial and business settings.
Both wood and plastic laminate can look and feel like any species of wood, multiple types of natural stone, ceramic tiles, or numerous other options. Plus, the image layer can be customized for special orders.
They are available in single or multiple tile formats and planks and are great for living and dining rooms, halls, bedrooms, recreation rooms, and even kitchens. However, they aren’t recommended for rooms or areas where excess moisture could cause the wood ply or fiber layer to swell, separate, or otherwise deteriorate.
Laminate Flooring Pros and Cons
Every type of flooring has its pros and cons, and some have more in one category than others, and sometimes it depends on how impartial the site or person making the list is – we try to be as impartial as we are helpful.
- Easy to clean
- Mimic the look & texture of wood, stone, and ceramics
- Good for high-impact or high-traffic areas
- Highly customizable
- DIY friendly
- Can be destroyed by water
- Not recommended for bathrooms
- Can chip
- Can’t refinish
- Not eco-friendly
- Doesn’t improve the resale value
What Is Tile Flooring?
Tile flooring is a term that refers to hard-wearing ceramic, porcelain, glass, metal, natural stone, and other materials used to cover floors, walls, counters, and sometimes ceilings. They come in numerous shapes, sizes, thicknesses, colors, tones glazing, and finishes. Tile is usually set in mortar or an adhesive, and grout is used to fill the gaps between tiles.
Porcelain and ceramic tiles are the most common and are made from a clay-based material of different compositions. They are painted and glazed, with porcelain typically having greater density and durability than ceramic tiles. Smaller tiles are often used to create mosaic patterns and highlights, while larger tiles commonly cover greater expanses of floor and wall areas.
Tile Flooring Pros and Cons
Tiles have been used for millennia to cover walls, floors, counters, and ceilings, so the list of pros should be longer than the cons. However, much depends on the quality of the tile, how well it was installed, where it is installed, and proper maintenance.
- DIY possible
- Low maintenance
- Adds value to a home
- Less expensive than some flooring
- Thousands of colors, sizes, and shape options
- Heavy to carry
- Slippery and hard
- Grout can stain or fail
- Hard and noisy when walked on
- Expensive compared to some other flooring
What Is the Difference Between Laminate and Tile Floor?
Trendy, modern, and rustic are terms commonly heard when describing flooring. Laminate can look like wood, stone, or tile and tile can be made of dozens of materials including glass, wood, metal, and rubber, and is available in hundreds, if not thousands of colors, designs, shapes, and sizes, plus it can even mimic wood and other materials. Looking at the differences between laminate and tile flooring is a great way to understand which is best for your flooring project.
1. Appearance & Style
Laminate flooring has developed over the years to have a picture-perfect image layer that imitates real wood, stone, or tile. It offers a smooth, softer, and warmer surface than real tile, and without the grout issues. While it looks like wood or tile, though, many argue that it doesn’t offer the same style as the real product.
Tile can look like wood and is also available in numerous shapes, sizes, colors, and finishes as real tile, not imitation. It is also cut from real stone with all the innate properties of that material. Tile can be hard and cold or cool to the touch, but radiant mats can make it toasty warm too. Tile offers more design options than laminate, which is limited to base sizes for connectivity.
Laminate flooring is highly durable with a tough wear layer that is hard and difficult to scratch or stain. Ideal for high-traffic areas, laminate will handle boots, boxes, pets, kids, spills, and high-heels. Laminate can be damaged by moisture and also dented, which can lead to other problems.
Tile, whether ceramic, porcelain, real stone, or one of the other options, is more durable than laminate. It is resistant to moisture, scratches, spills, kids, boots, and heels too, but can be chipped or cracked. Some stone tiles need to be sealed against stains, and grout can discolor and deteriorate over time, but it too can be sealed or replaced when necessary.
Laminate flooring can last 5 to 25 years or more with the proper care, but it will need to be replaced. The tough wear layer will give out, and then the image layer will deteriorate. Laminate can’t be sanded down, so it does have a life span.
Tile is an interesting topic when it comes to life span. There are ceramic, porcelain, and stone tile floors and wall coverings that have existed for millennia. Individual tiles can be replaced if damaged, and many stone tiles can be sanded and resealed, providing centuries of use. The lifespan depends on care and maintenance, the quality of mortar, grout, and installation, as well as that of the tile itself.
4. Moisture Resistance
Laminate is typically moisture resistant, which means spills should be wiped up quickly. However, liquid that penetrates to the core layer can cause the laminate to swell, warp, and even separate. There are several laminate products that claim to be waterproof and are great for bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens where moisture can be an issue.
Tile is commonly water-resistant, with many types being impervious to moisture. Those that aren’t impervious can be sealed against moisture damage and staining. Many types of tiles can be used indoors or out, and some can even withstand severe cold too.
5. Scratch Resistance
Laminate flooring has a durable, tough wear layer that is highly scratch-resistant. The abrasion criteria (AC) rating is a good indicator of how well the flooring will stand up to claws, kids, and heels. Tile flooring typically is more durable and scratch-resistant than laminate, and has a harder finish. Some types, though, are better suited for low-traffic areas as they are more susceptible to wear and damage.
Both tile and laminate can be swept, wet or dry mopped, or vacuumed. Tile is more durable and withstands claws, scratches, and furniture scrapes better than laminate. Most tiles are impervious to moisture or can be sealed against it. Laminate often requires a special sealer oil, wax, or varnish to be applied periodically to protect it, but it is prone to fading. Grout between tiles regularly needs to be cleaned and resealed, and may need to be replaced periodically too,
Laminate flooring can be glued down, nailed or stapled into place, or interlocked and left to float on a cushioned underlay. Laminate requires a smooth supportive subfloor surface so the planks or tiles can lock together properly. Plus, there should be an expansion space left at the room’s perimeter to allow for humidity expansion and contraction to prevent buckling.
Tile requires some special tools, skill, and patience to install. It also needs a good mortar or adhesive to secure the tiles and a quality grout to fill any gaps between the tiles. The size and type of tile also affect the time needed to accurately place each piece. The more intricate the design, the more time and patience required too.
8. Home Resale Value
Ceramic, porcelain, stone, or marble tile has a greater impact on a home’s resale value than laminate. Plus, the laminate must be in excellent condition to be seen as a positive on the resale value.
9. DIY Friendly
Laminate flooring is easy to install with a few simple tools and some know-how. It is, however, very labor-intensive and can be hard on knees, back, and hands. Whether using T&G, click-lock, lapping, snap-together, or click-together, the flooring is DIY-friendly.
Some tile installs are DIY-friendly, and others should be left to the skilled professional. Tiling takes lots of patience, time, and knowledge, plus an understanding of how to cut or break different types of tile material to make them fit. While there are many helpful videos on the internet, getting the correct spacing and amount of mortar or adhesive on the tile, floor, wall, or counter can be a learning curve.
Most laminate flooring can be used throughout the home. The exceptions are those areas that often experience higher moisture exposure, such as the bath, some basements, and even kitchens. An overflowing sink, tub, or leaking dishwasher can ruin the laminate. Depending on the AC rating, some laminate is better suited for high-traffic zones and others for low-traffic areas.
Tile can be used in any room in the house without exception, and even outside. Some forms of tile are softer or warmer feeling on bare feet or more slip-resistant, but all are basically able to withstand moisture. Many tiles are hard-wearing for use in high-traffic areas, and others are better suited for a bath or bedroom. Tile can be used on floors, walls, countertops, and even ceilings too.
The cost of laminate depends upon the type of flooring. The price per square foot can range from $1 to $10 or more. The more realistic and durable the product, the greater the cost. Installation, glue, nails or staples, and underlayment also are added cost factors, with installation commonly adding $3 to $8 a square foot to the bill.
Ceramic or porcelain tiles cost between $0.50 to $10 a square foot, natural stone tiles range from $5 to $15 or more, with metal, rubber, and concrete tiles falling somewhere in between, while plastic tiles can range from $0.25 to $3.00 a square. Installation, adhesives, and grout can run from $3 a square to $30 or more. Tile typically also has a greater return on investment than laminate too.
Most Popular Types of Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is easy to install and mimics the look and texture of more expensive natural materials. There are numerous colors, images, and even various types of laminate flooring available.
Some interlock or click together, others are tongue & groove, there are different thicknesses and widths available, edges, AC (Abrasion Criteria) rated products, you can even find those that have an integrated underlayment attached. To help sift through and minimize any confusion, here are the criteria used to identify the more popular types of flooring:
Texture and Finish
Laminate flooring comes in smooth, matte, glossy, distressed, embossed, oiled, soft-scraped, oxide wood finishes, and in slate or stone finishes.
- Smooth comes in low, medium, and high gloss finishes and looks like wood but has little texture.
- Matte has a more weathered appearance and is more textured.
- Glossy has a high gloss finish that shines and has little texture.
- Distressed looks like the paint has been weathered or hand-scraped for an aged look.
- Embossed has a textured wood grain-like finish.
- Oiled finish mimics natural wood that has been treated with natural oils instead of synthetic clearcoats.
- Soft-scraped provides an aged or timeworn appearance.
- Oxide provides an almost metallic finish or acid-washed look to the finish.
- Slate or stone typically has the look and feel of natural slate or stone.
Laminate flooring comes in peel-and-stick, glued, and floating or glueless-click-lock formats. The peel-and-stick are pre-glued and simply click or snap together. The glued flooring needs adhesive to fasten the joints together or adhere the planks to the subfloor.
The glueless-click-lock is the most commonly used today and doesn’t require any glue, and is often referred to as floating floors. They all require an underlayment to soften the echo and feel, although some glueless types have attached underlayment for faster and easier installation.
There are different methods for fastening laminate flooring together – tongue and groove, lapping, and mechanical.
- Tongue and groove can only fasten together in one direction with a protruding tongue sliding into dado-like grooves. Some tongue and groove systems click or lock into place to minimize separation with expansion and contraction due to humidity.
- Lapping typically has the top layer of one piece overlapping the bottom of another piece. To fasten them together there may be a peel-and-stick strip on the lower lap, or adhesive needs to be applied.
- Mechanical locking systems are a cross between the tongue and groove and lap systems. An aluminum rail-like locking system extends from the bottom edge – like the lap system – and locks into a groove in the underside of the top lap.
Laminate flooring is available in different thicknesses ranging from 6mm (≈1/4”) to 12mm (≈1/2”). The thickness doesn’t necessarily improve the quality, just the cost. The thickness of the laminate required commonly depends on the stability of the subfloor and how smooth or even it is. Rough subfloors will require thicker laminate to prevent the roughness from transferring through. Thick laminate also decreases the transfer of sound.
Laminate plank flooring mimics the look of natural wood, so some planks will have the look of narrow hardwood but are actually five or six inches wide. Other boards may look like individual planks that are three or four inches wide to make small rooms look larger, or five or six inches wide for a more rustic look.
The joints between the pieces make for a more natural wood flooring look too. Larger widths are also available, as are multi-width planks for a reclaimed or historic look. Laminate tiles that look like parquet, ceramic, stone, or slate commonly come in 7-5/8” by 47-58”, 13” by 48-1/4”, 15-7/8” square, and 15-9/16” square panels.
Another component to consider is the different types of edges or cuts. A square edge often creates a seamless look, while a micro-beveled or rounded edge offers a more traditional wood plank look. The two types of edging can be found on most types of laminate flooring.
AC (Abrasion Criteria) Rating
- The AC Rating identifies how well the flooring will withstand foot traffic, and how durable it is. The scale goes from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best, and typically the most expensive.
- AC1 or Moderate Residential will withstand light usage so is adequate for closets, bedrooms, and where heavy use isn’t expected.
- AC2 or General Residential will stand up to moderate foot traffic and is ideal for most living areas of a home.
- AC3 will withstand higher residential traffic or light or moderate foot traffic in commercial settings.
- AC4 is designed for heavy off-street or general commercial traffic like boutiques, cafes, and offices. It can also be used in residential settings.
- AC5 is rated to withstand high-traffic commercial, government, and educational settings, but can also be used residentially in homes and apartments.
Most Popular Types of Tile Flooring
A quick internet search or a wander through a tile flooring store can be a real eye-opener. There are literally thousands of choices offering millions of design opportunities. Much, however, depends on your budget, personal aesthetics, where they will be used, and the tile material and size you want.
Aside from color, size, shape, and thickness, the deciding factor comes down to the type of tile flooring. Here are the most popular types of tile flooring:
A tough, durable, and long-lasting tile made of clay-based components that won’t fade or crack, even in subzero temperatures. It is the most common tile type and is ideal for indoor and outdoor spaces. Available in numerous colors, finishes, designs, shapes, and sizes, it can be elegant or utilitarian and can mimic natural wood without the upkeep.
Another clay-based tile, its components differ slightly from that of porcelain. Manufactured in several different ways, the tiles are commonly kiln dried and can be either glazed for long-lasting protection or unglazed for a more rustic finish. Ideal for indoor use, ceramic tile is a common choice due to its durability.
Manufactured from a mixture of clay, silica, and quartz dust or granules that are vitrified using a huge amount of heat. The heat melts and blends the clay and silica together to form a hard, transparent layer resistant to moisture and freezing temperatures.
The tiles are highly durable and retain their shine better than stone or ceramic tiles, plus provide a unique shimmering look that is easy to clean and brightens any room. More expensive than porcelain or ceramic but cheaper than marble or granite, it is ideal for indoor or outdoor use.
A stain-resistant waterproof tile available in different shapes and colors. It may be stone-washed to resemble sea glass which is more difficult to clean or have a shiny finish that is easy to clean and maintain. As with any glass material, it can chip or break, so is recommended for low-traffic areas or as an accent.
A natural metamorphic material in multiple colorings with distinctive veins of different colors. More porous than granite, it is better suited for bathrooms, bedrooms, and other low-traffic areas. Marble is higher maintenance and easier to damage than porcelain or ceramic tiles.
A highly dense igneous material, its coloring is determined by the minerals and materials it is composed of. Tiles have a unique appearance that may be solid, veined with different minerals and colors, or almost mosaic in composition.
The polished stone is moisture and scratch-resistant. However, it can stain if poorly maintained. The stone is cold and hard on the feet, and slips and falls are a hazard. It is also difficult to cut and install, so not as DIY-friendly. Ideal for kitchens, baths, entries, or other rooms.
A form of soft, highly porous limestone found in ancient river beds and springs. It has a pitted or rough look and an earthy color pallet and can be easily stained or scratched. Travertine is commonly used in low-traffic areas where moisture isn’t a concern. It will also improve the resale value of most homes.
A highly durable, slightly porous, sedimentary rock with a beach color pallet of browns, tans, reds, and even yellows. The tiles can be used indoors or out, and are often used for high-traffic areas and even pool decking.
A soft, lightweight, natural stone with multiple color variations and striations including black and white, plus a luminescent quality that enhances any location in the home. Onyx is a porous stone, meaning it can stain or be damaged easily, so it requires more cleaning and maintenance. Use in low-traffic areas like bedrooms or baths, will add to the resale value of any home.
A natural sedimentary material that is softer, more porous, and less dense than granite or marble, so it can be more easily scratched or damaged. Limestone comes in different colors tones, and patterns, and often has visible fossils embedded in it.
The finish may be smooth or textured but must be sealed to prevent staining, moisture damage, or cracking. Ideal for low-traffic indoor or outdoor areas, it should never be cleaned with vinegar or citric-based cleaners.
A metamorphic stone that is very dense, durable, and resistant to cracks, chips, and scratches, it is ideal for high-traffic areas. Slate may have a smooth or textured finish and have a wet or dry look.
Typically, slate has a darker color pallet with blends of grays, greens, browns, blues, purples, and black, with some having a pale white appearance too. Slate needs to be sealed to prevent staining, but should last for decades or longer and improve resale values.
Made from ground-up quarry castoffs such as clay, shale, feldspar, and other materials, mixed together, formed, and then heated to more than 2000°F. The tiles are dense, water-resistant, nonporous, and slip-resistant, and can have a natural or glazed finish. The tiles have an earthy tone and do not need to be sealed, and can be used in high-traffic areas both indoors and out.
A heavy, versatile tile, available in different patterns, shapes, sizes, and colors. It is porous and can discolor over time. However, it can be sanded to return it to its original color and sealed to prevent discoloration. The tiles can be used inside or out, but are better for low-traffic areas as they are softer than marble or granite.
Assembled from small pieces of tile, stone, glass, or other materials into squares or other shapes to form images or patterns. Mosaic tiles are commonly used for decorative purposes in low-traffic areas such as bathrooms or showers stalls.
Available in different shapes, finishes, colors, and even metals, the tiles work as accents on walls, ceilings, countertops, and some floor areas. Although it isn’t porous, it can be scratched and then damaged by moisture. Typically used in rec rooms, kitchens, man-caves, and utility rooms.
Resin or Plastic Tile
Ideal for bathrooms, entryways, backsplashes, or as an accent, the tiles may be smooth or 3D in numerous patterns and colors. They can mimic ceramic, wood, stone, or other materials and images. Unfortunately, the tiles can yellow and chip.
A popular inexpensive waterproof, stain-resistant, synthetic tile commonly available in 9×9 or 12×12 squares. Easy to install, clean, and maintain, they can imitate stone, wood, ceramic, or other attractive images. Very versatile and durable, the tiles are ideal for any room in the house, including entryways, kitchens, bathrooms, halls, and basements.
A soft, durable, nonslip waterproof flooring commonly made of recycled material. Available in different colors, shades, patterns, and textures. It can look like stone, brick, tile, or other materials. The finish may be smooth or textured finish, and it can be used indoors or out in high-traffic areas.
Tile vs Laminate vs Vinyl
Tile, whether porcelain, ceramic, or natural stone is more difficult for a DIYer to install than laminate or vinyl, but is typically longer lasting and more durable. Tile is hard and cool or cold to the touch and usually thicker than laminate or vinyl. Most tile is impervious to moisture, and those that aren’t can be sealed against damage, making them ideal for any location inside and even outside a home.
While both vinyl and laminate can mimic the look of tile, neither improve a home’s resale as much. Laminate and vinyl each have a picture-perfect image layer covered by a protective layer that can wear over time, so both have a shorter lifespan. However, while laminate has a wood product layer that can soak up water like a sponge, effectively ruining it, vinyl is impervious to moisture.
Like tile, vinyl can be used anywhere inside a home while laminate shouldn’t be used where moisture can damage it, like the bath, kitchen, laundry room, or basement. Plus, many laminates need some time to acclimatize to the humidity of the home before installing to prevent expansion or contraction issues.
It also should have an expansion joint around a room’s perimeter too. Vinyl has the softest and warmest feel of the three floorings, can look and feel like them, and usually costs less per square foot.
Which Is Better Tiles or Laminate Floor?
The choice between tile or laminate is often personal and budgetary. Laminate can look like wood or tile, while tile is tile and can also mimic wood. Tile is longer-lasting, more durable, more resistant if not impervious to moisture, and improves resale value more.
Laminate, however, is easier and faster for the DIYer to install, thinner than most tile material, and much warmer on bare feet than tile too. Hopefully, we’ve provided you with the information you need to choose the best flooring for your project.