Homeowners deciding to install luxury vinyl flooring in their homes have no shortage of styles or colors to choose from. There are only two installation methods, however, with glue-down or floating vinyl flooring. In this guide, we’re going to talk about the pros and cons of each method so that you can make the right choice for your next DIY project.
Floating Vinyl Flooring
More than 60% of the luxury vinyl flooring sold in the United States is designed and designated as “floating” flooring. It gets its name because it’s not nailed or glued down to the subfloor, and it’s something you can find with other styles like laminate, and engineered hardwoods as well. Floating vinyl flooring comes in two formats with click-lock and loose-lay vinyl.
Click Lock Vinyl Flooring
While companies use various names for this technique, the end result is the same. The planks and tiles are designed to lock together the sides and edges, which can provide a nearly seamless look depending on the style. No glue or adhesive is required.
Click-lock vinyl flooring can also add more realism to a room by adding deep grooves between each plank. This style of flooring is listed as water-resistant or 100% waterproof as well, which makes it ideal for damp locations like bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
This flooring can come in several forms with vinyl that has a flexible or rigid core and falls into the WPC and SPC category. All floating flooring is simple for homeowners to install, but click-lock vinyl is considered a step up from traditional loose lay flooring. It’s even easier to install, comes in a wider range of styles, and can be purchased with pre-attached underlayment.
Loose Lay Vinyl Flooring
Loose lay vinyl was around before click-clock vinyl sprang into existence, and while not as popular today, it is still an interesting alternative. These thick pieces of vinyl flooring have a rubber backing layer that helps keep them in place through weight and friction.
This type of floating flooring is best-suited for areas where you want to put down a floor quickly and don’t want to rely on adhesive. This can keep the existing subfloor free from damage, although the surface below has to be completely level and free of debris. You won’t find as wide of a selection with loose lay vinyl, but it is incredibly quick and easy to install.
Glue-Down Vinyl Flooring
Vinyl flooring that can be glued to a subfloor comes in plank or tile format and is considerably thicker than traditional peel and stick tiles with adhesive backing. This type of vinyl can also be thin or flexible at the core but requires a special type of adhesive for it to properly adhere to the subfloor.
In most cases, you simply need to follow the manufacturer’s directions on which adhesives to use, but most are either considered pressure-sensitive or hard set. Both substances are designed specifically for vinyl, but there are significant differences in application and longevity.
Hard set vinyl flooring adhesive is applied with a spreader directly to the subfloor. Luxury vinyl planks or tiles are placed directly onto the tacky subfloor, whereas pressure-sensitive adhesive is applied on the back of each piece of flooring.
It’s the most common installation for homeowners looking to do it themselves and is easier to remove in the future as well. Both are great in areas with moderate to heavy foot traffic, but hard-set adhesive is a better choice for commercial spaces.
Glue Down vs. Floating Luxury Vinyl Flooring
Now that you understand a little more about these types of luxury vinyl flooring, it’s time to consider the pros and cons of each one. Flooring that is glued down or floats above the subfloor are highly resilient, but there are major differences in pricing, installation along with several other key areas.
The biggest difference between flooring that’s glued down or floats is how it’s installed, not how it’s constructed. Any vinyl flooring that requires adhesive whether it’s pressure-sensitive or hard set, will take twice as long to install.
The process behind cutting and measuring the material remains the same, but spreading glue across the floor takes a considerable amount of time. Even using a caulk gun with adhesive on the back of each plank is time-consuming compared to simply cutting pieces and snapping them together as you go.
Unless you plan on making the floor a permanent part of your home, vinyl flooring is far easier to remove. These floors can be pulled up just as quickly as they are installed, and can even be reused, which is generally not an option with glued-down luxury vinyl flooring.
Vinyl is not nearly as thick as floating laminate, hardwood, or engineered flooring, but resilient despite being thinner. Thicker flooring doesn’t always equate to better flooring, although you should realize there can be a big difference in thickness between glue down and floating vinyl flooring.
Floating loose lay and clock-lock or interlocking vinyl flooring usually varies from 4mm to 6mm. That said, you’ll find more variety with click-lock flooring which tends to be a bit thicker all-around. By comparison, most vinyl flooring that needs adhesive is between 2mm to 4mm thick on average.
Overall durability can be measured in a number of ways with hardwood and other flooring surfaces. Vinyl is known more for being resilient than thick and durable, however, which can make different types of this material hard to judge.
Simply put, if you’re concerned about durability, look for vinyl flooring with a rigid core and thick wear layer. Rigid core floating flooring is common while most glue-down vinyl has a flexible core. The wear layers on both glue-down and floating vinyl are in the same range. There are hundreds of planks with 22mil wear layers as well as budget-friendly flooring with wear layers between 6mil to 12mils.
Styles and Sizes
Whether you are leaning towards glued-down vinyl or floating flooring in your home, both types have hundreds of options designed to resemble wood. They outnumber flooring that resembles stone by a wide margin, although that changes with the format.
Glue-down and interlocked vinyl tiles provide countless styles that resemble everything from marble to slate. The overall selection of floating flooring dwarfs glue-down vinyl, however, which can make finding the perfect shade or style troublesome.
Vinyl flooring is a synthetic product, which means there is always the chance for off-gassing in your home because of VOCs. We’ve discussed volatile organic compounds a number of times, it’s something we all experience throughout the day whether we are inside our home or outdoors.
Glue-down and click lock flooring are made from vinyl, so both are capable of producing VOCs. You can see if the flooring you have your eyes on is safe through FloorScore certification, but adhesives also emit VOCs. You can avoid that by using high-quality glue, but we still give floating floors the edge when it comes to green flooring.
Loose Lay Flooring
Ease of Installation
Floating flooring may be one of the top-selling styles today, but there are some clear advantages to using glue-down vinyl as well. If you’re considering installing this type of flooring for yourself, be sure to check out our guide to vinyl flooring installation.