Vinyl flooring is versatile and impervious to water which makes it ideal for any room in a home. Those are interior rooms, however, and if you’ve considered covering an outdoor patio with this material, you may be in for a surprise. While an excellent choice for indoors, there are several things you’ll want to know before settling on a brand or attempting to install this product outdoors.
Vinyl Flooring Construction
As a hard flooring surface with multiple layers, luxury vinyl flooring is similar to engineered hardwood and laminate. The big difference between these products aside from the types of layers used is what they are made from. While you can find a measure of synthetic material in this flooring, vinyl stands apart as it’s an entirely synthetic product.
Vinyl flooring is made from PVC, with a core layer that can be flexible or firm. The image layer is what makes it look like wood or stone along with a variety of finishing techniques used by manufacturers. Luxury vinyl planks and tiles with click-lock edging are typically rated as water-resistant or waterproof, which may make them seem like a great choice outdoors. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Problem with Vinyl Flooring
We talked about the pros and cons of this material in our vinyl flooring guide, and while the positives outweigh the negatives, one thing stands out. Vinyl flooring is susceptible to fading from sunlight, which is hard to impossible to avoid in many outdoor areas.
Prolonged exposure can cause even the best vinyl flooring to fade over time, regardless of the wear layer or guarantee. The warranty on vinyl flooring is for indoor installations, not patios. Using it outdoors can void that warranty, and extreme temperature can cause issues as well. In other words, there are better options for patios, although you can use LVP and LVT outdoors if you keep a few things in mind.
What’s the condition and location of your patio?
The first thing we want you to consider is the location and condition of your patio outside. Is it a covered patio with a few large windows or simply screened in? What is the patio used for? Some homeowners use their patios for anything from grilling to lounging while others convert these small areas into greenhouses or craft rooms.
If the patio is covered on all sides to where most of the sunlight is blocked out, using vinyl in this area should not be an issue. You may want to purchase blinds to prevent extended direct sunlight in specific areas, but installation will probably be the biggest concern. Vinyl is durable and easy to clean, but excess heat and certain stains can also cause damage, which means it’s not something you want to grill on either.
For homeowners with outdoor patios that are only covered by a roof or lightly screen in, proceed with caution. Direct sunlight and freezing temperatures can wreak havoc on vinyl. Using a heater or fan to keep control of the temperature is not ideal when there are better alternatives available. If you feel vinyl flooring is still the best choice for your outdoor patio, you’ll want to consider the brands below first.
The Best Outdoor Vinyl Flooring
It’s possible to use any brand of vinyl flooring on a covered patio where temperatures don’t get too cold. If your outdoor area falls into that category, you’ll want to check out our vinyl brand reviews and guides to help you find the best style for your project.
Otherwise, you’ll want to stick to a high-quality product that’s waterproof and thicker than the average vinyl plank. All of the brands we’re listing are known for producing high-quality flooring, but none have a warranty that will cover the use of luxury vinyl tiles or planks on an exterior room that isn’t covered and climate-controlled to a degree.
One of the best choices in our opinion comes from US Floors with COREtec PRO. Part of the reason is in the name itself as the “core” of these planks in their PRO collections are rigid and fall into the SPC and WPC class. This adds durability to the patio, which can be a high-traffic area in the summer. They also come with thick 22mil wear layers and are often used in commercial areas as well as residential homes.
Mannington Adura is another well-received product that has a nice range of styles and a commercial-grade wear layer. The HydroLoc core also adds some extra dimensional stability at 5.5mm thick on styles like Dockside as well. While they don’t have a large selection like COREtec, they are more affordable like select styles from Mohawk and NuCore. Other brands to consider include Shaw, Bruce, SmartCore, and Lifeproof.
Tips for Installing Vinyl Flooring Outdoors
There is no official guide for vinyl plank flooring installation on an outdoor patio, as this flooring is designed and warrantied for interior rooms. That means you are probably going to void the warranty when you install this product. If you want it installed on an uncovered area, you may have trouble finding a contractor to take on the job as well. With that in mind, here are some tips to follow for installation on patios.
For concrete subfloors and porches, make sure the floor is level within the guidelines specified by the manufacturer for the flooring you chose. Level any spots that may need it, and make sure the concrete is completely clear and free of any debris. When you are satisfied that the subfloor is sound and are ready to go, simply follow the directions for installing vinyl plank flooring over concrete according to the manufacturer.
If you want to install luxury vinyl flooring over decking, you’re going to need to consider the expansion gaps between each plank and the thickness of the flooring itself. Any “uneven” surface can potentially telegraph through vinyl leaving depressions or indentions in a plank. While you could screw down a thin sheet of plywood for a subfloor, moisture and water are an issue if the patio is uncovered.
Two other tips to note with this type of flooring are the backing layer and trim. High-end vinyl flooring can come with pre-attached underlayment made from cork and other materials. While cork is cushy, it is not the best choice for damp areas. Instead, you’ll want to look for vinyl flooring with rubber or synthetic underlayment attached to the bottom.
If the patio has full or half walls you will be able to find a way to tack trim or baseboard in place. While it adds a clean finished look, it’s also important to cover the gaps against the walls. For open porches with columns but no walls, the easiest option is to find trim or molding to use along the edges. These can be glued in place with a weatherproof adhesive as long as you keep temperature swings in mind.
When you realize that vinyl flooring is not a great choice for uncovered patios, there’s no reason to throw in the towel. There are a number of excellent options designed as flooring for outdoor areas depending on your needs and budget. While using vinyl flooring for an outdoor patio is tempting because of its resiliency and maintenance-free nature, consider waterproof decking for uncovered areas instead.
Q: Is glue-down vinyl flooring suitable to use in an outdoor patio?
A: We only recommend using glue-down vinyl on a sealed, temperature-controlled outdoor patio.
Q: Will direct sunlight or temperature extremes cause vinyl flooring to crack or break down?
A: Rigid core vinyl has excellent dimensional stability which makes damage highly unlikely, whereas you’ll see a more dramatic effect on thinner, budget-friendly vinyl. In both cases, the flooring will wear down quicker when directly exposed to the elements.
Q: Can sheet vinyl flooring be used on an uncovered outdoor patio?
A: We have seen homeowners have more success with vinyl sheet flooring outdoors, but it can still be damaged by UV rays or freezing temperatures.
Q: Will rain affect waterproof vinyl flooring outdoors?
A: Possibly as it’s never a good idea to leave water standing on vinyl flooring regardless of the subfloor beneath it.
Q: How does vinyl flooring stand up to freezing or very cold temperatures on an outdoor patio?
A: In extreme temperatures below freezing, there is a possibility that vinyl flooring can become brittle and crack – another reason it’s not suited for areas without a measure of climate control.