What is Vinyl Plank Flooring?

If you’ve browsed the flooring isles of your local hardware store, the largest section is probably devoted to vinyl plank flooring. Otherwise known as luxury vinyl flooring or LVP, it’s the most popular style found in homes today. There’s a good reason for that, but before we talk about what makes this flooring special, we need to talk about how it’s made so that you can understand what vinyl plank flooring is.

Vinyl Plank Flooring Explained

Vinyl flooring has been around in some form for longer than most people realize. You won’t find any LVP in 100-year old homes like you will with hardwood flooring, but manufacturing techniques have allowed companies to close the gap considerably. The closest material from a composition standpoint to vinyl plank flooring is luxury vinyl tile. Here are the layers that comprise vinyl plank flooring from the bottom to the top.

Backing Layer

On the bottom of each vinyl board is a base layer or backing pad. You can find it on cheap vinyl flooring along with high-end planks, and foam or cork are the two materials most commonly used. Karndean uses an acoustical foam while Coretec sticks to cork, but you can find other options from different companies as well.

The Core

Above the backing layer is the core of the board. Cores in vinyl plank flooring can be extremely rigid, especially if they are in the SPC class with a stone plastic composite core. Others provide a bit more flexibility, but most are completely waterproof. The core has a significant impact on vinyl flooring, so pay close attention to the middle layer when torn between two brands.

Design Layers

This layer an area that can make or break vinyl plank flooring. The image or design layer is printed with high-resolution to give you the appearance of real wood or stone. We’ve seen some products that do an excellent job of mimicking those materials, while others fall flat and look fake once installed. Finishing techniques can improve the look, but also raise the price.

Stability Layer

The stability layer is something you’ll find on more expensive products, although we’ve seen it included on a few budget-friendly brands as well. Often called a balancing layer, this layer adds to the dimensional stability of each board. Manufacturers don’t provide many details on what this layer is made from, but virgin vinyl is something several companies have used.

Wear Layer

The wear layer is another part of the plank that can increase the price and not something you should overlook. This transparent layer will vary in thickness and protects your floor from the rigors of daily life. That includes scuffs and scratches from pet paws. In high-traffic areas, look for flooring with a thick wear layer.

Topcoat 

The topcoat is another optional layer typically found on premium products. The topcoat acts as an additional layer of protection and features various technologies from a simple PU layer to a ceramic bead overlay. If you expect your flooring to see a lot of daily foot traffic, consider a company that offers products with a topcoat.

How is Vinyl Plank Flooring Installed?

The installation cost of vinyl plank flooring can be high if you call in a professional. You could end up adding as much as $2.50 per square foot to the overall cost of your flooring, and that price goes up if the installers have to move furniture, cut door jambs or use leveling compound.

Thankfully, LVP is simple to install. In fact, it’s the easiest type of flooring to install for homeowners that want to go the DIY route. While not as easy to cut as peel and stick vinyl tiles, these boards typically snap together in seconds allowing you to zoom through rooms with relative ease. You can find out more about installation and pricing in this guide.

Vinyl Plank Flooring Pros and Cons

Luxury vinyl planks are one of the more interesting options available to homeowners. They have an intriguing price point and bring unique designs to the table, including shades that would be tough to pull off with wooden boards. There are some drawbacks, however, so we’re going to take a quick look at the pros and cons of LVP.

Vinyl Plank Flooring Pros

  • Water-resistance – Vinyl plank flooring is mainly comprised of plastic, which makes it highly resistant to water. It’s the one type of flooring that’s safe for areas like bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms, although it’s not entirely impervious to stains from some substances. Some LVP is rated as waterproof, while others are simply water-resistant, so look before you leap.
  • Durability – When you think of plastic flooring, strength may not be the first thing to come to mind. Well, the best vinyl plank flooring is extremely resilient, although it largely depends on the core, wear layer, and topcoat it has one. Top-quality LVP can actually outlast laminate and wood when properly cared for – especially in areas that are prone to moisture. 
  • Style – Another reason we are big fans of vinyl plank flooring is the fact it’s available in so many styles. While you’ll find similar options from several companies, the wealth of options can be overwhelming. There are planks that mimic everything from oak and maple to acacia wood, and plenty of finishing techniques and colors available as well.
  • Pricing – Vinyl flooring can provide a lot of bang for your buck as there are some very affordable styles and brands. Given how long these floors can last, you can get a lot of value from LVP without breaking that bank. LVP is cheaper than solid or engineered hardwood, but more expensive than laminate.

Vinyl Plank Flooring Cons 

  • Maintenance – Keeping LVP clean is easy, but repairing damage is not. While it can be tough to damage quality luxury vinyl plank flooring, it cannot be refinished like hardwood or even thick engineered planks flooring. If damage or a scratch goes too deep, you’ll need to replace an entire board.
  • The Green Factor – Vinyl is not a material that gives back to the earth, although vinyl flooring does save trees from being cut down. How “green” your flooring is depends on the brand. Manufacturers have gone a long way to ensure plastic flooring is safe in your home, but vinyl flooring can be hard to recycle and is not considering an eco-friendly style of flooring.
  • ROI – While we included pricing as a perk with vinyl plank flooring, it can also be a drawback when it comes to the return on your investment. Hardwood flooring and even tile can increase the value of your home, whereas potential buyers aren’t necessarily bowled over by vinyl planks in a home. Some will see it as a bonus in certain rooms, but it won’t add value if you run it throughout your home.

FAQ

Q: Are vinyl plank flooring and luxury vinyl flooring the same thing?

A: More or less. Any company can use the term “luxury” when marketing vinyl plank flooring. Some companies have cheaper flooring simply dubbed vinyl plank along with a luxury tier, while others use the terms for their entire collections.

Q: Are all vinyl plank floors waterproof?

A: No, but most are water-resistant. It depends on the brand and collection, but you won’t have any problem finding waterproof planks.

Q: Are rugs safe to use on vinyl plank flooring?

A: Most manufacturers advise against using rugs with a latex or rubber backing as it could potentially stain your floor. Look for vinyl-backed mats, woven rugs, and other safe alternatives.

Q: Will heavy furniture or appliances damage luxury vinyl flooring?

A: It shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re dealing with an unusual amount of weight. Just remember to keep felt pads beneath those objects to prevent scratches and scuffs on your floors.

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