While there are a half-dozen types of vinyl flooring, all have either a rigid or flexible core. Regardless of how thick the wear layer is or whether it’s waterproof, one of the first decisions any homeowner should make with vinyl is deciding whether they want flooring that’s flexible or rigid.
Type of Flexible Vinyl Flooring
Before luxury vinyl flooring was invented, homeowners essentially had three types of vinyl flooring to choose from that had a degree of flexibility. Sheet vinyl is something often used in older homes or commercial settings, while VCT is a composite vinyl tile that’s a step up from peel and stick vinyl.
All of these styles are still sold today and an affordable way to bring vinyl flooring into your home. They aren’t flexible like modern vinyl flooring, however, which includes luxury vinyl tiles and luxury vinyl planks.
LVT and LVP are thicker than traditional vinyl flooring with a construction similar to laminate as they are layered flooring. Despite the thickness of this luxury vinyl compared to traditional styles, their construction gives them a flexible core which brings unique advantages to the table.
Types of Rigid Vinyl Flooring
When you hear the term rigid vinyl flooring, it also refers to luxury vinyl that is manufactured in tile or plank format. While all luxury vinyl can be flexible, if it’s considered rigid it is often referred to as EVP, SPC or WPC flooring.
Vinyl in this EVP class is engineered with and the most rigid style is called SPC vinyl flooring. It is short for Stone Plastic or Polymer Composite, which means manufacturers use a mixture of limestone and plasticizers for the core layer.
The process makes the core of each plank or tile more rigid, while altering the acoustical properties as well. SPC flooring uses a large percentage of limestone in the core along with plasticizers and resins. This adds more weight to the material, as the solid core is incredibly dense. WPC vinyl flooring is similar in construction to SPC, but it has a wood-plastic or polymer core.
Limestone and plasticizers are still used, but SPC flooring is a bit softer beneath your feet. A type of foam is added to the core of these planks with less limestone in the mix, so while they are denser than traditional LVP, they are softer than vinyl with a SPC core. The difference in what’s used in the core has a major impact in how the flooring sounds and feels, but both of these styles are considered rigid vinyl.
Flexible vs. Rigid Core Vinyl
The differences between these two styles of vinyl may begin at the core, but that middle layer changes a number of things from the price point to the acoustics. We’re going to take a look at the pros and cons of each material below and highlight some key factors to keep in mind before making a decision.
Flexible Core Vinyl Flooring
Flexible vinyl flooring with a PVC core is more affordable. That’s the first thing most homeowners will notice when comparing these two products, and something that can have a significant impact on which product they choose.
We also found that there is a broader selection of flexible vinyl flooring. Whether you prefer tiles that resemble stone or traditional wood-look planks, there are hundreds of options to choose from. Large brands like Shaw and Mannington have dozens of collections of LVP and LVT available online and locally throughout the United States.
This type of flooring is typically thinner and always lighter which can be an advantage if you plan to install the flooring yourself. Unfortunately, it can also cause issues if the subfloor is not perfect. More leveling could be required with flexible vinyl flooring, and it’s more prone to expansion due to a higher content of plastic in each plank.
Rigid Core Vinyl Flooring
Luxury vinyl that’s in the EVP category is stiffer than flexible vinyl whether it’s SPC or WPC. There is a notable difference in that regard and in the weight of the material as well. The core of these boards adds structural integrity, but can also strengthen old subfloors.
Flexible vinyl has more give while SPC boards can add strength to worn subfloors as long as the joists are sound. SPC flooring “feels” more solid than traditional vinyl while WPC provides a comfortable medium between the two. Severe expansion is less likely with these products, and you’ll get stronger connections from their click-lock systems.
Because of the additional materials used and manufacturing techniques, both WPC and SPC flooring are more expensive per square foot. You may also have a harder time finding a style you like considering there are only a handful of companies that produce rigid core vinyl.
Both rigid and flexible luxury vinyl flooring can be used in any room of your home, but as you can see, style and pricing are just a few of the factors that should be considered as well. If you’re interested in learning more about this resilient type of flooring, check out our vinyl flooring guide that’s full of tips and highlights the top brands.
Q: Is rigid core luxury vinyl flooring waterproof?
A: It depends on the brand. In our research, we found that most SPC and WPC are listed as waterproof, but some are only rated as water-resistant.
Q: Are VCT tiles as rigid as SPC or WPC vinyl flooring?
A: No. While vinyl composite tiles are ideal for high-traffic commercial areas, they aren’t in the same class as rigid vinyl planks or tile.
Q: Which flooring has lower VOCs, flexible or rigid vinyl?
A: Both rigid and flexible vinyl flooring are synthetic and will off-gas VOCs to a degree. Look for vinyl that is FloorScore certified to ensure it meets the standards for safe indoor air quality.
Q: How much more expensive is rigid vinyl compared to flexible vinyl?
A: While branding and quality plays a part in price, you can expect to pay between $0.50 to $2.00 more per square foot on average for rigid vinyl flooring.
Q: Which type of vinyl is the easiest to install yourself?
A: We feel that both rigid and flexible vinyl are easy to install, but flexible LVP easier to work with overall if the subfloor is sound.