Whether you love vinyl for its ability to resist water or the nearly unlimited range of styles, there are many reasons homeowners choose to install vinyl flooring in their homes. The term itself could be misleading, however, unless you have experience in the flooring world. There are close to a dozen types of vinyl flooring sold on the market today and we’re going to cover all of them in our guide.
Sheet Vinyl Flooring
Sheet vinyl flooring has been a staple in American households for decades, and something you can still purchase in major home improvement stores today. It’s a multi-layered product just like the other types of vinyl on our list but constructed in a completely different fashion.
Sheet vinyl flooring is affordable compared to similar floor coverings including linoleum but is a synthetic product. It’s ideal for areas where water resistance is crucial along with high-traffic areas as it’s very resilient. Another advantage of this flooring is the fact it’s incredibly resistant to stains from a variety of substances.
On the downside, vinyl sheet flooring can be challenging to install in larger areas. It’s easy to put down, but seams will need to be sealed where water is a concern. This flooring is usually sold on a roll in one width and cut to length although the selection of styles is limited compared to the next option on our list.
Vinyl Tile Flooring
Vinyl tiles are another type of flooring that’s been in use for decades, but one that’s still going strong today. That’s due in part to the various formats vinyl tiles come in, but also for the range of styles that allows them to be used in a variety of rooms.
The most budget-friendly form of vinyl tile flooring are peel and stick tiles. They are popular for backsplashes, but also used in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. These affordable tiles are easy to put down although the adhesive can leave a mess behind if you decide to remove the flooring. VCT or vinyl composite tiles and glue-down vinyl tiles are thicker but come with the same types of challenges.
Traditional vinyl tiles or VCT tiles need adhesive, which can be applied directly to the flooring or the subfloor depending on the project and subfloor. They are considering mid-range tiles, when compared to luxury vinyl tiles and engineered vinyl flooring. When you want a product that’s firm or waterproof, these are the best options.
LVT or luxury vinyl tiles generally come in click-lock format. This makes installation simple for homeowners and contractors alike. The next step up in terms of quality would be SPC and WPC vinyl tiles, which have a rigid core. While they are in the premium class, they come with thicker wear layers and excellent warranties as well.
Vinyl Plank Flooring
One of the main reasons sheet vinyl isn’t as popular as it once was is because of vinyl plank flooring. This is another type of vinyl that comes in multiple formats and is best thought of as a larger version of LVT. In fact, the tiles are manufactured in the same way, just cut down to smaller sizes.
The most prevalent form of vinyl plank flooring sold today is LVP, otherwise known as luxury vinyl planks. They are reasonably priced, readily available, and manufactured by more than two dozen different brands. You can find luxury vinyl flooring in planks ranging anywhere from 3.5” to over 8” wide and in varying lengths as well.
SPC and WPC luxury vinyl plank flooring aren’t quite as popular, but they are also a newer product compared to classic LVP. Just like with vinyl tile, these engineered composite planks provide excellent structural stability. If you’re interested in the best, you can find out more about these mineral-based planks in our SPC and WPC flooring guide.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is thinner vinyl plank flooring. These are usually glued down to the subfloor like vinyl tile and are more affordable. While thinner, these floors can be just as resilient as SPC or LVP with a thick wear layer and proper installation.
Vinyl Flooring By Installation Type
As mentioned, certain types of vinyl flooring require adhesive when they are installed in your home. Glue-down vinyl flooring is only one type, however, as other formats can have a direct impact on how the flooring is installed in your home.
Vinyl flooring that requires adhesive falls into the glue-down category, although there are several variations of this flooring. Peel and Stick vinyl flooring is glued down, but the adhesive is pre-applied in a thin layer across the back of each piece. Otherwise, vinyl plank and tile flooring that requires glue will use a hard-set adhesive or one that’s considered pressure-sensitive.
Floating flooring is the other main type of vinyl and one that also comes in two different styles with loose lay and click-lock flooring. Loose lay vinyl lives up to its namesake by the way it’s installed, while click lock flooring has a unique edge and ends. This allows the planks or tiles to lock together, which can help to form a watertight seal.
Thick Vinyl Flooring
How thick vinyl flooring largely depends on the type. That means tiles can be slightly thinner or thicker than planks, and there are two specifications to be aware of with board thickness and the wear layer.
In our research, we found that most thick vinyl flooring comes in at between 7mm to 8mm thick. That’s considerably thicker than sheet vinyl, glue-down vinyl, and VCT which is 2mm to 3mm. Vinyl tiles are around the same thickness, although the options will be sparse with certain brands and collections.
When you drop down a few millimeters to 5mm to 6.5mm, the selection opens up with thousands of styles and colors to choose from. Some WPC and SPC flooring is in this class, but you’ll also find traditional luxury vinyl tiles and planks at 6.5mm and under. The wear layer on vinyl flooring is measured in mils, but thicker flooring doesn’t necessarily mean a thicker wear layer.
Finishing Techniques for Vinyl Flooring
One of the things manufacturers have done to help vinyl flooring stand out is the use of finishing techniques. It’s something we’ve seen with engineered hardwood flooring and even laminate, which has a wood veneer.
There are close to a half-dozen types of vinyl flooring by finishing technique, with smooth or traditional being the one every homeowner will be familiar with. Wire Brushed flooring provides varying levels of texture whereas planks and tiles that are hand-scraped have an entirely different feel.
Both of those types of laminate come at a premium, as do boards that are considered hand-sculpted or distressed. Vinyl flooring designed to look distressed can be weathered like old wood or even have splits or faux nail holes for a rustic vibe.
Waterproof and Water-Resistant Laminate Flooring
Vinyl flooring is synthetic, so you won’t find any wood or organic material inside of these planks or tiles. That makes them the perfect choice for wet areas in homes like kitchens and bathrooms along with living spaces. They won’t swell, warp, or be damaged by water, but the subfloor beneath the vinyl can be a different story.
Waterproof vinyl flooring is another type of premium flooring that’s gained incredible popularity in recent years. They are constructed in the same fashion as regular luxury vinyl but designed to keep water from reaching the subfloor. Many major brands have a collection of waterproof luxury vinyl flooring, but water-resistant vinyl is an alternative as well.
Vinyl that’s water-resistant can still be used in damp areas and can have slightly looser restrictions during installation. It may not be able to withstand a steam mop, however, and doesn’t have the same warranty when properly installed.
Whether you prefer vinyl flooring with click-lock edges or that has been firmly glued to the floor, we hope our guide helped shed a bit of light on the types of vinyl available on the market today. Whatever style you set your sights on, remember to keep VOCs in mind and check out our installation guides if you’re thinking about taking the job on yourself.
Q: Are all types of vinyl floors easy to clean?
A: Yes! One of the biggest advantages to vinyl flooring is low maintenance as it’s easy to sweep, wet-mop, and can be vacuumed. Sheet vinyl and smooth vinyl planks are the easiest, however, as there are fewer cracks and crevices.
Q: How expensive is it to have vinyl flooring installed?
A: Many factors play into the cost including your location and any preparation that needs to be handled beforehand. On average, you can expect to pay between $2.00 to $3.50 per square foot just for the labor.
Q: Do all types of vinyl flooring need to acclimate before being installed?
A: That all depends on the type of flooring, but 24-48 hours of acclimation is common for luxury vinyl planks and tiles.
Q: Are all types of vinyl flooring safe for radiant heating systems?
A: No, so you’ll need to check with the manufacturer before settling on a brand or style. Most modern luxury vinyl flooring and engineered vinyl are safe within a set temperature range, but there can be issues with thinner vinyl or flooring with pre-attached backing.
Q: What’s the best type of vinyl to purchase if you plan to install vinyl yourself?
A: Any vinyl flooring with click-lock edges. This flooring does not require adhesive and can be snapped together like a large jigsaw puzzle.
Q: Is waterproof vinyl or waterproof laminate better for bathrooms?
A: While you can find both with a lifetime guarantee, vinyl flooring is the best option given its synthetic nature.