Laminate Flooring vs Carpet: A Comparative Guide

Are you looking for new floors but can’t decide between laminate flooring vs carpet?

The differences between these options are significant depending on your goals and the space where you want them installed

If you want to have a clear grasp of each option, keep reading. By the end of this article, you’ll know whether you want to install carpet or laminate.

Laminate Flooring vs Carpet

Neither laminate flooring nor carpet is a new product. Both have been around for decades, though both have seen massive innovations as well. This isn’t the flooring in your mom’s house!

Let’s break down key components and compare carpet vs laminate.

Cost Differences

Is it cheaper to get carpet or laminate? Both laminate flooring and carpet are priced per square foot, and the simple thing about choosing between either is that both fall into similar price ranges.

You will find different vendors offering different quotes. However, the average price for quality carpet is only different than laminate (sometimes cheaper, sometimes more expensive) by $2-$4 per square foot.

One stand-out difference is that “high-pile” carpets can cost more than high-end laminate. If you aren’t looking for an extra-plush carpet, then that is not a factor.

Price can be a guiding factor. But since prices are so similar, you do get to examine the other aspects of each a bit more closely.

A separate cost to consider, too, is installation. The price can swing depending on the installation process. People very often want to DIY their laminate floor install, and this saves money.

Poor installation is also the reason laminate floors fail the most.

Wall-to-wall carpeting is not as “easy” to install, so paying a professional to install it is an expected cost.

Looking at future value, although carpet is becoming more popular again, laminate still adds more value when you go to sell your home. Some of this has to do with perceived longevity (we’ll get to this), and some of this has to do with personal tastes.

For example, laminate that looks like wood flooring will remain as timeless as wood flooring and carry some of the perceived value.

Warranty lengths also affect the price. Laminate flooring with a 10-year warranty is less expensive than flooring with a 25-year warranty. But this flooring is often of lesser quality and prone to damage.

With flooring, the phrase “you get what you pay for” rings true.

Installation Process

Setting aside the cost of installation, the process to install laminate is very different than installing carpet. Laminate flooring comes as engineered tongue-and-groove planks that “float” on the floor.

The planks easily snap or lock together. This makes laminate installation simple to DIY and only requires a day or two to complete on your own.

However, if laminate flooring is installed incorrectly, it clean lead to a lot of unnecessary wear-and-tear or damage.

Carpet is more challenging to install. Pros cut the carpet to the size of the room and then tack it to the subfloor. Carpet installed in sections needs to be perfect to create a seamless look.

Adding padding beneath the carpet makes the installation even more complicated.

If you’re looking to DIY your install, the size of each option might change your mind.

Laminate flooring planks can fit in the back of a van or pickup truck. You can remove planks one by one and set them piece by piece.

Carpet may require special delivery and comes in large, heavy sections depending on the size of the room. This means putting carpet in your second-floor master bedroom is much more difficult to do alone.

Appearance

One benefit of laminate is that it comes in a wide variety of styles. Different laminates look like all types of wood plank, stone tiles, ceramic, and more. These options make it useful throughout your home—on your main floor, second floor, and in the basement.

This makes the transition between styles simple too. You can “tile” to your entry and transition to “hardwood” in your living room and dining room.

Carpet’s basic construction has remained the same for years: A textile pattern with an upper “pile” attached to a backing. Carpet will always more or less look like carpet.

However, the full catalog of carpet options has grown over the years. More pile heights, patterns, materials, and colors allow you to customize the carpet you want.

Innovative carpet designs even resemble cobblestone and wood flooring.

The versatility of laminate vs. carpet is worth considering, too.

Since laminate resembles timeless, natural products, it offers a lot of versatility. Decorating the interior of your home isn’t impacted by major changes in style or your personal tastes over time.

This versatility varies with carpet. Once you chose the color of a room’s carpeting, furniture and other decor need to match.

You don’t want to change the carpet when you buy a new sofa. Many choose “neutral” color options for this reason.

Durability

Both carpet and laminate flooring lifespans vary depending on who you listen to. Cheap flooring—laminate or carpet—lasts three years or less. A 3-year lifespan does not inspire confidence!

On average, both laminate flooring and carpet last between 8 and 15 years before needing complete replacement.

Laminate floors can last as long as 25 years, depending on their quality and whether or not you take good care of them.

But durability is not just a measure of lifespan. It also accounts for the wear and tear that impact each flooring option over time.

For instance, the discoloration of carpet is significant compared to laminate flooring. The color fades as you vacuum and steam-clean your carpet over the years. Exposure to sunlight causes fading, too.

Manufacturers treat laminate flooring to prevent this fading. But laminate has its own durability issues.

Laminate flooring is prone to scratches and looking “worn” if it is not maintained. Any regular abrasive traffic causes laminate flooring to wear down.

If you choose laminate, you need to use felt pads or sliders on furniture feet to prevent scratching. You need to trim your pet’s nails, too. 

Unlike wood floors, you cannot sand or refinish laminate flooring.

People choose laminate because it is easy and inexpensive to install. Many also think this means you can pop out a worn panel and replace it. Think again.

Removing a plank in the center of a room means breaking down the floor from the nearest edge until you reach the center. Removing the floor from half of a room is time-consuming and strenuous.

A professional can cut damaged sections of carpet and replace them, though it is hard to match faded carpet with new pieces. This is a complicated repair, so it is best to hire a pro.

Cleaning and Care

The cleaning and care process is different when choosing between carpet or laminate. While laminate is more prone to surface damage, cleaning it is not as intensive. Although carpet damage is usually limited to accidents and spills, it does require a bit more effort.

Both carpets and laminate floors need regular cleaning. More convenient, laminate floors tend to show the debris.

Dust, dirt, and debris visibly pile up. A few sweeps of a broom or a quick pass with a vacuum cleans up small messes without any trouble.

Even liquid spills on laminate are easy to see and clean, though it is important to not let liquids stand. Laminate can peel and warp from water damage.

Since it doesn’t “hide” any mess, laminate is considered cleaner and more hypoallergenic. It’s an excellent choice for busy living spaces like living rooms and dining rooms.

However, because it is prone to moisture damage, it is not always a great choice for areas where water accumulates.

It might be safe in your kitchen, but real tile is a better option for your bathroom.

Carpet is not as forgiving in terms of “seeing” the mess. Dust, pet hair, and dirt get pushed into the pile and blends in. 

You should vacuum your carpet, like laminate flooring, at least once a week.

Carpet also absorbs odors and moisture. So unlike laminate, it is necessary to steam clean carpet at least once a year or more. Pet stains might need to be steam cleaned to fully remove them. 

Carpets are more forgiving with moisture overall. While allowing them to stay wet will create mold in time, damage from liquid spills is caused by staining more than anything else.

Like with laminate, it is best to keep carpet out of high-moisture environments like bathrooms.

Comfort

Comfort is a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer walking on a harder surface than a softer one because it provides stability. Others prefer a softer platform for its cushioning effect.

In general, carpet wins for comfort. Unless you plan to wear shoes around your house all the time (which isn’t great for keeping dirt out), even low-pile carpet is a bit more pleasant to walk and stand on.

This is why carpet is installed in spaces where people are often barefoot, like family rooms and bedrooms. Don’t be afraid of carpet wherever people want to lounge in your home—it’s a good thing!

Have you ever walked on a hard floor that had a little bit of “give?” If you cannot sacrifice the look of laminate wood planks, you can still get some comfort similar to carpet. You need an underlayment.

Underlayment is either attached to the flooring or comes separately on a roll.

An underlayment is a thin layer of additional padding set between the floor and the laminate flooring. This provides that bit of “give” when walked on that does not disrupt the flooring.

Insulation

Flooring has a major impact on both sound and heat in your home. In this category, carpet wins again.

Let’s discuss sound first. When you create sound by walking or dropping something on the floor, it creates a sound wave that reverberates around the room. The sound of your footstep on a hard surfaces bounces off the ceiling, the walls, and the floor again too.

Laminate flooring, even with underlayment, provides almost zero sound dampening.

In fact, in larger spaces where other dampening surfaces are limited, like thick curtains or fabric-covered furniture, the sound echoes, and people perceive it as louder than it actually is.

Carpet does not do this. Carpet deadens sound, from everything like an initial impact from a footstep to guests having a loud conversation. All those reverberating sound waves literally get caught in the fibers of the carpet and stop.

Heat works in a similar way. Hot and cold air always try to find equilibrium. Hot air moves toward cooler spaces. Cold air moves toward warmer spaces.

Laminate flooring is not a good insulator. It allows hot and cold temperatures to transmit through the surface without resistance.

That’s why your hard floors are cold in the winter regardless of the temperature setting.

Carpet, just like the comforter on your bed, is a great insulator. It traps heat in the room and does not allow it to transfer to a new space.

Area rugs do all of this too, but wall-to-wall carpeting does a better job.

Wrapping Up

Weighing all the differences between laminate flooring vs carpet, there is no definitive winner. Too many factors—style, comfort, effort, and cost—make the end decision completely personal.

We hope this article helps you come to a decision. If it has, reach out to us for a quote! We’d love to help you install new laminate flooring or carpet when you are ready.

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