carpet vs laminate flooring

Carpet vs Laminate

Carpet and laminate couldn’t be much different.

You have one that is a hard flooring, the other soft. One is a classic flooring that dates back centuries, the other benefited from new technology and is rising in popularity.

But you’re still here because as different as carpet and laminate are they both make great floors. And maybe more importantly, they both make great value floors—meaning they don’t come with a crazy luxury price tag (more on that later).

So when it comes down to it, which is better for your home—carpet or laminate? I’ll review and compare both types of flooring on critical categories for homeowners and let you make the decision.


Captain comes clean! Did I start this blog writing about carpet? Yes. But despite the name, I have no preference to carpet. Actually, I take most pride in Carpet Captain the internet’s unbiased flooring guide–I don’t sell flooring, so I’m not influenced by the profit margins of one product vs another. My sole purpose of the free advice to get you the best floor purchase for your home.

Durability.

Flooring durability is a top concern for most homeowners. And rightly so — it’s one of the few expensive investments that literally takes a daily beating.

So which do I like better for durability?

I almost copped out and called this a tie. But after further review, I’m going with laminate.

I’ll explain why in a minute, but first cover what they have in common.

Both low-quality carpet and laminate can last you less than 3 years. This can be avoided by reading our carpet guide and laminate guide.

On the other hand, pick out a high-quality carpet or laminate floor for a guest bedroom, and it will outlive you.

Those are the two extremes, but laminate and carpet are also similar in average life expectancy. Most quality carpets and laminate floors will last 8 to 15 years.

So why does laminate win for durability?

For two reasons…

The first is because it’s easier to repair laminate. Most laminate can be easily snapped into place, so removing a tile and inserting a new one is a DIY job. Carpet repairs require a professional.

The second is that laminate technology has come a long way. A lot of the fault that makes laminate wear are being eliminated, so it’s average durability is increasing. In the right situation, a high-quality laminate may last 30 years.

Carpet technology for wear and stain resistance improves over time, but laminate technology improves more rapidly.

Ease of installation, repairs, and replacement.

Any interest in DIY?

If not, you can skip this section.

If you do, laminate is your winner.  Installing a laminate floor can be a one day project if you don’t have any setbacks.

Sounds simple right?

Well, it’s not as easy as snapping together puzzle pieces of flooring. You’ll have to prep the base floor, make sure it is flat and level, and prepare door jams. If you’re still interested, this is a pretty good article on what it takes to install laminate.

Maybe you’re thinking that sounds too difficult.

Fair enough. But laminate still wins because replacing/repairing a damaged laminate plank is simple. You can ignore the prep work that comes with installing laminate—just pull out the old piece and snap in the new.

For 99% of jobs, carpet is not a DIY project. It takes special equipment and a lot of skill to measure, cut, and install the carpet the correct way. You’re best leaving this one to the professionals.


Captain’s warning! I used to think DIY meant easy. That’s not always the case. If you want to DIY laminate, you need some builder skills. For instance, you may need to control moisture and level a subfloor. Don’t know what those are? You aren’t doomed, but if it’s your first rodeo, ask an experienced friend for help. Just make sure to offer pizza and beer in return.

Price.

Many people land on this page because laminate and carpet are two of the more affordable types of flooring. Can’t blame you because no matter how “affordable” your flooring is, you’re still investing in a big home improvement project.

I don’t like doing it, but I have to give price for these two floors a tie. And I hate ties.

Expect most carpet and laminate floors to cost between $1-$7 per square foot for materials. Installation cost ranges from $0.50 to $3.00. Laminate may be slightly more expensive to install.

For decent quality carpet or laminate, expect to pay $4 to $8 per square foot for the complete job (materials and labor).

Keep in mind, you will find exceptions. And I mean big exceptions. Luxury flooring can add 500% to your final bill.

Maintenance.

Laminate picks up another slight win here, but you’ll appreciate that both floors don’t require much in the maintenance department.

They both require weekly cleaning—vacuuming, sweeping, mopping.

Carpet requires a professional deep cleaning every one to two years. Beyond that, there’s no required maintenance. Don’t worry about refinishing, buffing, or other treatments.

Aesthetics.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I’ll stay humble on my design knowledge and not pick a winner here.

It’s worth knowing that you can get creative with either flooring. Check out the Carpet Captain on Pinterest for some design ideas. You’d be surprised at the designs people come up with each flooring, and sometimes a combination!

Intangibles (comfort, insulation, noise reduction)

Sometimes carpet seems kind of blah.

It’s been around forever. But hidden in this classic flooring are many benefits people don’t think about.

One benefit is it insulates your home. This makes it one of the few flooring types that makes your home more energy efficient. Not only can it save you on heating bills, but you’ll appreciate it when you walk barefoot on your floor on a cold winter morning.

You’ll also have a quieter home with carpet. Hard flooring can produce an empty echo chamber that makes your home sound more like a stuffy building.

What goes perfectly with a warm, quiet house besides a [insert your favorite alcoholic beverage–for me, I’d go with a Maker’s Mark on the rocks]? A soft, comfortable, blanket-like floor to lay on.

Carpet wins the intangible home factors by a long-shot.

Unexpected problems.

Sometimes everything seems perfect with your new floor. You love its look, researched it and know it should last 10+ years, and got a bargain on it. But 3 months after installation… you start to get annoyed by how it creaks. Or worse, the installation is starting to split.

The stressful reality is this can happen with any floor you choose, but is more common with laminate than carpet. 

Carpet is pretty straightforward. Some people are disappointed by their carpet’s durability, but they usually bought the wrong product. Learning what makes a carpet durable avoids 90% of these cases.

Laminate is the same in that if you don’t know what to look for, you can buy the wrong product. And the wrong product can be a disaster.

But with laminate, I hear more stories of installation gone bad. This is probably because a poor base foundation including level or moisture can ruin it.

Carpet vs Laminate in the basement.

Now, while I covered the main characteristics of laminate and carpet floorings, there’s one section of most homes that needs to get a special mention as well – the basement.

Basements are unique in that they can serve a large variety of purposes. Some people use their basement as a living area, others use if for storage. Plus, the things that you can store in a basement can be very different as well.

And herein lies my answer – whether you should get laminate or a carpet for your basement depends on what you’re going to use the basement for. If you intend to use it for storage, be it for tools, roof tiles, machinery, or whatnot – laminate can be a better choice. It’s easier to clean and maintain and it won’t get ruined as quickly as a carpet. Of course, it can break or scratch too but you also won’t care much because you’re not exactly inviting guests there.

If instead, you’re going to use your basement as a living area, carpet can often be a better choice. Basements are typically colder than the rest of the house and a nice carpet can easily compensate for that.

There’s one problem with basements no matter what type of flooring you install: moisture. If you have a moisture problem but still need new flooring, carpet is probably your better of the two. It can take some water and wick it through to evaporate. Too much is going to lead to mold and mildew problems, but laminate will deconstruct with moisture—at least most laminate. Technology for water-resistant laminate is improving so this may change as time goes on.

Captain’s parting words!

It may sound like a political answer, but there’s a place for both laminate and carpet in the house.

The most obvious example is laminate is your only option of the two in the kitchen, but carpet gives you the warmth and softness that is appreciated in a kids room or living room.

Other times it can be a more difficult decision, and cost is about the same so that won’t help. Personally, I’d favor laminate in a lot of entry-way rooms that get a lot of dust and dirt or any rooms where there are spills. But I also like to mix in some rooms with carpet for its insulation, sound dampening and warmer, “homey” feel.

Looking into the future, I don’t think either will make a big difference in your home value. My prediction is laminate will become more popular with better technology (we’re already seeing this), but that won’t affect the laminate you buy today. Plus, carpet will always be desired in certain rooms.

If you’re stressing about which to pick, go with a mix of both. That’s probably the best option anyway. Any other questions on carpet vs laminate? Feel free to ask in the comments below.

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Inez K

Is laminate good on a slab living room floor? I have carpet now that needs replacing.

Nnacy Coxall

WOW! I was going to go with Laminate throughout my house that is a slab. Now, I don’t think so. I thank you for all your advice! I could have made a huge mistake!

Thank you!

Nancy

Louise

Thank you!