Luxury vinyl flooring is one of the most popular styles available to homeowners today. It provides consumers with the best of both worlds whether they want stone or wood-look floors, and they have several advantages over other materials like linoleum, sheet vinyl or engineered flooring.
While we won’t compare luxury vinyl tile to hardwood this time around, we are going to pit some of the top brands against each other. If you’ve wondered exactly how thick SmartCore or TrafficMaster luxury vinyl flooring actually is, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to take a look at the thickness and wear layers from popular brands, so you’ll know what to expect before spending thousands of dollars on new flooring for your home.
Luxury Vinyl Flooring Construction
Before we take a look at wear layers or the overall thickness of a plank or tile, it’s important to understand what luxury vinyl is and how it’s made. Unlike traditional vinyl, this style of flooring is comprised of layers which always include a core, vinyl top layer, and wear layer.
This multilayered approach adds thickness to any product that falls into the luxury vinyl plank class, but tiles are made in a similar fashion as well. The one thing that varies from one company to the next is how thick each of those layers are along with what’s on the bottom.
Brands like COREtec and Karndean often have a backing layer on their premium lines, while others will require you to add your own. Most flooring in this class is click-lock as well, regardless of the design aside from a handful of traditional luxury vinyl tiles that require adhesive.
Luxury Vinyl Plank Comparison
Comparing LVT to LVP is like comparing apples to oranges, which is why we decided to separate our samples. While you can find planks that resemble stone, most of these options look like hardwood but are suitable for any room in your home.
COREtec vs. SmartCore Ultra
We pitted these two brands against one another and NuCore in our LVP shootout, but this time we’re just going to compare COREtec and their sub-brand SmartCore. The sample on the right is from the COREtec Plus lineup in Blackstone Oak. It’s 8mm thick with a 20mil commercial wear layer while the sample on the left is SmartCore Ultra Blue Ridge Pine. It’s 7.5mm thick with a 12 mil wear layer, and while both are waterproof, there is a significant difference in their construction.
While COREtec Plus is 1.5mm thicker, the 8mil difference in the wear layer can make a difference, and the same goes for the backing layer. With SmartCore, there’s a layer of rubber on the bottom, whereas COREtec sports a slightly thicker layer of cork.
You won’t need to buy underlayment for either product, and both are waterproof with a lifetime residential warranty. The price difference is also significant, just like the construction considering COREtec is generally $1.00 to $2.00 more per square foot depending on the collection. COREtech planks have the best thickness, but their sub-brand is not far behind.
LifeProof Rigid Core vs. Karndean
LifeProof is another brand that’s quite popular at a Home Depot, and it’s the closest thing they’ll have to SmartCore, which is carried by Lowes. On the right is a rigid core plank in Woodacres Oak, which is 7mm thick with a 5mil wear layer. The sample on the left is Washed Grey Ash from Karndean’s Korlok collection, and its 6.5mm thick with a 20 mil wear layer.
While these planks are also close in size, the difference again lies with the wear layer. Lifeproof’s LVP only has a quarter of the wear layer found on Karndean’s plank but is around $3.20 per square foot compared to around $5.00 per square foot for the Korlok Select.
Decorators vs. TrafficMaster vs. Shaw
As with any type of flooring, you’re going to pay more if it’s thicker, whether it’s carpet, hardwood, or vinyl. Our first four options are all close in size, but when you drop down to the next pricing tier, you’ll notice a major difference in the overall thickness, wear layer, and backing.
In the photo below, the top sample carries the TrafficMaster Allure branding and is 3.8mm thick with a 4mil wear layer. In the middle, is a slice of vinyl plank flooring from the Home Decorators Collection in Noble Oak. It’s slightly thicker at 4mm with an 8mil wear layer while the bottom sample is Shaw Matrix at 3.2mm thick with a 6mil wear layer.
All of these boards range from $1.89 to $2.39 in price, which puts them in the budget-friendly class. While that may seem like a good deal if you’re on a tight budget, you need to consider that you won’t get a cushy wear layer on these planks, and the warranties take a hit as well. Home Decorators sports a lifetime guarantee, while the other two brands are only warrantied for 25-years.
Luxury Vinyl Tile Comparison
Even though luxury vinyl is extremely popular, wood-look products outnumber their stone counterparts 4 to 1. That means there’s not as much of a selection of vinyl that resembles travertine or marble, and the difference in thickness isn’t nearly as great.
SmartCore vs. Shaw vs. Tarkett
One of the thicker samples we acquired comes from SmartCore’s Pro collection. Gardenia Marble would look great in a bathroom, and its 6mm thick with a 20 mil wear layer. As you can see from the photo, it’s built to last and gets a boost from a thick rubber backing layer, so no underlayment is required.
By comparison, Transcend Café Cascade Travertine from Tarkett is 4mm thick, and Shaw’s Journey tile, which is stacked on top of Tarkett’s tile, is 2mm. Although they have respectable wear layers, as the photo shows, it takes both of those products to measure up to the thickness of a SmartCore Pro tile.
We hope our thickness comparison helped you understand a bit more about the layers that make up luxury vinyl flooring. The wear layer and overall thickness are two specifications that are touted by manufacturers and distributors alike, and something that’s tied directly to the warranty and price point as well. If you’re thinking about installing luxury vinyl flooring in your home, be sure to check out our brand reviews!