Vinyl plank flooring is an area that’s seen more growth in the past several years than the rest of the flooring styles we cover combined. That’s due in part to its water-resistant nature, but also thanks to new manufacturing techniques. Wood-look vinyl flooring is more realistic than ever before, but with an influx of products, finding the right choice can be difficult.
While there are countless companies producing vinyl plank flooring throughout the world, a few brands stand out with consumers. SmartCore, COREtec, and NuCore are three that get a lot of attention, and we’re going to compare the company’s collections against one another to see which one comes out on top. Before we get into our breakdown, we’re going to take a brief look at each company and their collections.
The COREtec brand is produced by US Floors, and the company currently has two types of LVP with COREtec Original and COREtec Pro. The former is an ideal all-around solution for your home and consists of 11 different collections from COREtec One to the aptly named COREtec Plus XL Enhanced. Every collection under the COREtec Originals lineup is “Plus” branded and has a waterproof vinyl core.
The Premium collections are a bit thicker than the rest, and they have an excellent selection of luxury vinyl tiles and boards. The COREtec Pro collections are essentially more durable versions of the styles from their original lines and better suited for commercial use. They carry the same series or collection names aside from COREtec Pro Galaxy. If you’d like to learn more about COREtec’s collections, check out our full review.
If you prefer to buy your flooring from big-box retailers, SmartCore will be right up your alley. This vinyl plank flooring is sold through exclusively through Lowe’s so it’s easy to find, and they have a basic lineup of planks available along with SmartCore Ultra and SmartCore Pro. The company also produces several styles of LVT including a few very interesting options.
Whether you choose the Core, Ultra, or Pro collection, there is a little something for everyone with SmartCore flooring. You can find wider planks that resemble worn Walnut or opt for more traditional looks like Burbank Oak. Their overall catalog isn’t as large as other brands across their three product lines, but they make up for that with the variety of styles they carry.
NuCore is another exclusive store brand as you can only find their styles through Floor & Décor. Their planks are rated as 100% waterproof with a thick, rigid vinyl core and a hypoallergenic cork backing layer. While they don’t have traditional collections, there are plenty of styles to choose from, and those flagship features are found on all their LVP and LVT products.
Most of the NuCore luxury vinyl collection consists of wood look boards that feature finishing options ranging from high gloss to hand-scraped. The widths and lengths vary as much as the styles themselves so you can find cork-backed tile that resembles marble alongside planks that vary from light to dark like NuCore Kingsbarn.
When we think of style with vinyl flooring, we’re considering things like the gloss level, colors, texturing, and finishing techniques. The species or material the vinyl mimics is obviously important as well, along with how realistic manufacturers can make their planks or tiles.
SmartCore’s range of LVP is classified into three categories, with Rustic, Traditional, and Contemporary. They don’t have many species outside the domestic class, and most of their wood-look planks will look like Oak. The color range is nice, however, and covers the full spectrum from light grey to dark brown. The tile selection is varied, but sparse with some patterned options, but only a few styles that resemble actual stone.
With NuCore, there are around 100 styles, and 90% of them are wood-look planks. The majority of their boards are textured, but some have a natural look with high-gloss or feature NuCore’s EIR texturing. While there aren’t many planks with high color variation, you’ll find an even mix of grays, dark, medium and light-colored boards. Most of their boards are made to look like Oak, while the LVT resembles materials like marble or slate.
At the time of this NuCore vs. COREtec vs. SmartCore shootout, COREtec has over 200 wood-look vinyl plank options and 60 styles of LVT. They are the clear winner from a style standpoint, as you can find a shade or species to suit your needs. That includes Oak along with Acacia, Driftwood, and Pine, just to name a few. Texturing options and finishes vary across the board, and you can spend hours looking through their expansive catalog.
Most of the planks and tiles we checked from the COREtec Plus series are 8mm thick, aside from a few series like COREtech One. The COREtech PRO Plus collection boards and tiles we checked were listed at 5mm, so they are thinner but have a special top and bottom layer which provide stability. The Plus lineup is durable as well; it’s just made in a slightly different fashion and has a unique core.
NuCore’s luxury plank vinyl is just as multi-layered as the other brands, but with a few differences. The bottom has a layer of cork backing, which adds cushioning while keeping mildew at bay. The waterproof vinyl core is topped by a premium layer of luxury vinyl. The boards are finished with a 22 layer anti-microbial wear layer, and most are 6.5mm thick with the exception of a few 8mm and 5.5mm boards.
With vinyl, thickness, and the wear layer are a great way to get an idea of durability, and SmartCore is a little better than most in the mid-range class. Their boards and tiles are between 6mm to 7.5mm depending on the collection. The SmartCore Pro lineup has a 20mil wear layer while the Ultra collection provides you with 12mil of protection. Their flooring has an extruded core structure, is waterproof, and double-coated with a UV acrylic finish.
This is one area where NuCore falls behind SmartCore and COREtec. When it comes to sizes, you are not going to get as much of a selection, although they still cover a lot of ground. There are wide boards around 9” along with several styles listed at 5.75”. That said, most are around 7” x 48” aside from a handful of multi-width styles, and their entire LVT lineup clocks in at 12” x 24”.
SmartCore doesn’t provide you with many options when it comes to board length. Everything in plank form is 48.03” while the widths vary from 5”, 5.91” or 7”. There are no narrow boards or anything over 7” wide unless you choose tile. The LVT options include stone-look short planks that measure 11.9” x 23.6” along with traditional 12” x 24” tiles.
Whether you prefer boards that are wide, under 5” or triple the length of a standard board, COREtech has one of the best selections of sizes we’ve seen. There are over 40 styles available from 4” to 6” and 142 styles if you like 7” planks. Those are just what we consider “standard” sizes as the company also has close to 60 boards in the 9” class available as well. With tiles, you’re looking at 12”, 18” and 21” LVT styles.
Most flooring in the luxury vinyl plank world is 48” long, but you can find shorter and longer boards from most manufacturers. Well, COREtech takes things a step further as there are plenty around 100 styles with boards 72” to 73” and three styles from the COREtech Plus Design collection that are 180” long. This is another area where we feel COREtech is ahead of NuCore and SmartCore.
NuCore is just as easy to install as most forms of luxury vinyl flooring. You can install these planks or tiles in any room of your home, whether it’s a finished basement or kitchen. All are classified as floating floors with a locking edge, which makes installation a breeze. That edge is beveled or micro-beveled depending on the style.
COREtec flooring is 100% waterproof and can be installed below, on or above grade, depending on your needs. The installation method varies with a few collections, but all the styles we checked involve a glueless installation process. Most have pre-attached padding and a micro-beveled edge as well, although you’ll want to check the specifications as COREtech One does not have attached cork like the other styles.
All of the planks and tiles from SmartCore’s Pro and Ultra line have pre-attached padding, which is a huge perk in our eyes. You’ll also get a click-lock design, so you won’t have any trouble installing their luxury vinyl tiles or planks. There’s no selection when it comes to edges; however, as the majority of their collections have beveled edges.
Eco-friendliness is one thing all these brands have in common. NuCore, COREtech, and SmartCore flooring is all GreenGuard GOLD certified. That’s a plus if you care about indoor air quality, but one brand is a little greener than the others.
The core of COREtec Plus planks is made from a mix of recycled wood mixed with bamboo dust. It’s combined with limestone, and PVC is obviously involved, but the fact they clearly state they use recycled content in their flooring gives them an edge. We also saw the CARB compliant certification listed on some of their products, but not on the others.
Warranties are an important part of purchasing any style of flooring, and they are a mixed bag with these three brands. SmartCore has the most straightforward policy although you’ll still want to read the fine print. Both collections have a limited lifetime guarantee, and the Ultra line is good for 5 years with commercial usage while the Pro line is warrantied for 10 years.
With NuCore, in our previous review, we found that they prorate their warranties. Their residential guarantee is based on a 50-year lifespan which honestly, is good enough for most folks. That said, it drops by 2% each year until 5% while the commercial guarantee is prorated for 15 years. Again, you’ll want to read the fine print with any warranty, but especially with flooring.
COREtec’s warranty policy is tiered, so it depends on the collection and line you choose to a degree. In our research, we found the COREtec Original line has the best guarantee. You’ll get a limited lifetime warranty for residential use, which covers the finish, structure, and water-resistance along with damage from pets. That drops to 10-years for medium commercial except for the COREtec Original One collection.
That lineup has a 25-year residential warranty on wear but a limited lifetime on structure and water-resistance. The commercial rating is listed at 5-years for light-duty use. The company’s PRO Plus lineup also has a limited lifetime residential guarantee like the Original collection, but it’s more durable, so it’s rated at 15 years for limited medium to heavy-duty commercial use. The Galaxy series is the only one that’s different at 30 years residential and 7 years light commercial.
As two of these brands are store exclusives, you’ll need to live near one of their locations or order online. With NuCore that would be Floor and Décor while SmartCore is only sold through Lowe’s. Luckily, you can find both of those stores located across the United States, so availability won’t be an issue with these brands.
With COREtec, you can’t stroll into Home Depot or check out samples in person unless you visit a flooring store. As they are a well- known premium brand, you won’t have a problem getting samples and may even be able to find some in stock locally depending on where you live. NuCore and SmartCore have an advantage here, especially considering COREtec LVP isn’t easy to order online.
You can get a better idea of pricing in the individual reviews for NuCore, SmartCore, and COREtec but in our research we found that COREtec is clearly the more expensive of the three. Some styles can run over $8.00 per square foot, and their budget-friendly flooring is priced as high as some company’s premium lines. On average, can expect to pay between $5.00 to $8.00 per square foot with COREtec.
SmartCore and NuCore are far more affordable and priced in-line with each other. We found that NuCore was slightly cheaper on the low end, but some styles are more expensive than SmartCore’s highest priced LVP and LVT. NuCore average around $2.38 - $3.79 per square foot while SmartCore is between $2.89 - $3.69.
Floor & Decor
$2.10 - $3.95
uses recycled content
$5.00 – $8.00+
$2.30 - $3.79
We feel COREtec luxury vinyl flooring is the winner in more areas than the other brands and your best option overall when quality and style is a concern. NuCore and SmartCore are cheaper and easier to acquire however which makes them enticing options as well. All three have solid reviews, although you’ll find a lot more feedback with NuCore and SmartCore due to where they are sold and their overall availability.