Carpet or Laminate: Which Is Best for You?

Compare the characteristics of carpeting and laminate and you might make carpeting your BFFF — best flooring friend forever.

Admit it. You were dazzled for a time with laminate flooring and its vast array of realistic patterns and designs. You delighted in the promise of durable surfaces and easy cleanups, and you were giddy over affordable pricing compared to hardwood, stone, and tile.

Now, though, you find yourself missing the comfort of an old friend — carpeting — with its room-quieting qualities, cozy warmth, and cushy feel underfoot.

Good news: Carpet is making a comeback. A spate of innovations have made modern carpeting more durable and stain-resistant than ever, creating an uptick in demand.

“Fifty to 55% of the flooring sold every year is carpeting,” says Tom Jennings of the World Floor Covering Association. “In the last few years, we’ve seen a 3% or 4% increase in sales.”

Here’s a look at why you should welcome carpet into your circle of flooring allies.

More Choices

One reason carpet is on the rise is that manufacturers offer a nearly unlimited array of eye-catching colors, patterns, and textures. Shaw Floors, for example, offers more than 25,000 carpet variations.

Ultra-soft fibers, crush- and stain-resistance, and low-odor emissions address former misgivings about carpet, making it even more appealing than laminate and other flooring options.

Friendly Fibers

Say “so long” to stiff, scratchy carpet that stains and overwhelms the house with new carpet odors. Manufacturers use technology that combines synthetic molecules tightly so fibers are smaller in diameter, which means more softness per square inch of carpet. 

Those same properties also make carpeting more crush- and stain-resistant than ever before. And, carpet is being made with fewer and more earth-friendly chemicals, so low-VOC products are available for sensitive sniffers.

“With the high stain resistance and ultra softness, carpet is coming back into playrooms, family rooms, and media rooms,” says Emily Morrow of Shaw Floors.

Competitive Costs

Although laminate can achieve a very low cost of 90 cents to $2 per square foot, laminate products in this price point are only 6-7 mm thick and offer 10-year warranties. 

Compare quality laminates (8-12 mm thick, and 30-year warranties) with high-end carpeting, and you’ll find that carpeting provides a great value.

For a 12-by-12-foot room, expect to pay:

Materials:

  • Laminate: $430 to $1,000. Add $165-$345 for underlayment and matching baseboards.
  • Carpet: $300 to $600.

Installation:

  • Laminate: $288 to $720.
  • Carpet: $35 to $100.

Total for 12-by-12-foot room:

  • Laminate: $883 to $2,065.
  • Carpet: $335 to $700.

Should You Un-Friend Laminate?

Maybe not. You can bring the look of wood or tile to a room for less than the real thing, install laminate as a DIY project, and save on labor costs. Also, you might find laminate preferable for rooms with heavy traffic and anywhere that carpeting’s need for consistent maintenance and cleaning wouldn’t be practical.

Related: Do’s and Don’ts of Flooring