If you’ve browsed flooring for your home in recent years, you have no doubt encountered hardwood, tile, engineered flooring, and vinyl. While those are some of the most common forms of flooring, LVT and LVP are incredibly popular as well. Both products are a form of vinyl but fall into the luxury class for a variety of reasons.
LVT stands for Luxury Vinyl Tile, and it’s a unique alternative to ceramic or porcelain tile. It’s also a significant upgrade from traditional vinyl tile, which makes it suitable for a wide range of homeowners. If you’ve been wondering what LVT is and if it’s the right material for your home, our guide will break down luxury vinyl flooring along with the pros and cons.
If you’ve wondered what is LVT, you are not alone. While luxury vinyl tile has been around for decades, it’s commonly confused with other types of vinyl tile and isn’t nearly as popular as luxury vinyl planks.
Simply put, LVT is a synthetic form of flooring made from polyvinyl chloride in combination with plasticizers, stabilizers, and a variety of chemicals that are bound together through heat and pressure. As it’s a PVC-based product, it isn’t exactly eco-friendly, although it is resistant to rot, mold, and mildew thanks to its construction.
This multi-layered product that’s constructed in a similar fashion to engineered flooring as there is a backing layer, core, and wear layer. The materials used and construction techniques may differ, but it all starts with the backing layer.
On the bottom of each tile is a backing layer. It can be made from vinyl, but you’ll find everything from rubber to cork as well, depending on the manufacturer. The backing can have an impact on how the flooring feels beneath your feet, and can also affect the price.
The next layer is called the core layer. It’s a mix of vinyl, which is usually resistant to water, although WPC and SPC flooring are typically clumped into the LVP category. You can read more about those styles here, but the important thing to remember is WPC stands for Wood Plastic Composite, while SPC is Stone Plastic Composite. The latter is more and referred to as rigid core, but a bit tougher on your feet and SPC core flooring is usually more expensive.
The core layer adds stability, and is “usually” waterproof with this type of flooring, but has nothing to do with style. That would be the image layer. The image layer is a high-quality print that’s usually designed to look like real stone or wood. There are other alternatives, including solid colors and patterns, but realistic LVT flooring is by far the most popular option.
The image is protected by something called a wear layer, which protects your flooring from daily abuse. That includes heavy foot traffic, pets, UV rays, stains, and even scratches if it’s resilient enough. Unlike with hardwood flooring, you won’t find a Janka rating to tell you how well your flooring will hold up, but there are a few things to remember.
The wear layer is the first line of defense against damage to your LVT and can add as much to the cost as a slick design will. Depending on the manufacturer, you may also find substances like ceramic beads or crushed diamonds in the mix for increased scratch resistance. On average, wear layers are from around 6 to 28mils thick. The thicker the wear layer, the more expensive the tile.
How is Luxury Vinyl Tile Installed?
LVT can be installed over a wide variety of surfaces, but it’s not as forgiving as sheet vinyl or other types of flooring that work with subflooring that isn’t completely level. With a good backing layer or proper underlayment, LVT can be installed over hardwood, concrete, plywood, and tile.
The installation type varies by manufacturers, but most have a form of floating flooring available. These use a click-lock system to keep your tiles in place. There are also brands like Karndean that use a grip strip style system and companies with glue-down tiles as well. The average homeowner will have no problem installing LVT’s that lock into play, but a professional may be required for uneven subflooring.
LVT Pros and Cons
New flooring is usually considered an investment once you move past cheaper options like stick and peel tiles and sheet vinyl. That means it’s essential to think about the pros and cons of LVP, as it’s not exactly a budget-friendly style of flooring.
While we aren’t going to compare LVP against another form of flooring, these are a few advantages to luxury vinyl flooring.
There aren’t many drawbacks to luxury vinyl tiles or planks, which is one reason they’ve become so popular in recent years. That said, it’s always a good idea to know the disadvantages of a new style of flooring.
Q: Is LVT safe against pet claws?
A: In our experience, it shouldn’t be an issue as we’ve seen 70-pound dogs fly across our flooring without leaving a mark. It’s where the wear layer or a good topcoat can help, and it’s always a good idea to keep your pet's paws trimmed as well.
Q: Are all vinyl plank floors waterproof?
A: No, but most are water-resistant. It depends on the brand, but you shouldn’t have any problem finding planks that are waterproof.
Q: Are rugs safe to use with luxury vinyl tiles?
A: To be safe, you’ll want to stick with a woven mat or something with a safe vinyl backing layer. Rubber and latex can actually discolor your LVT flooring over time.