Concrete vs Vinyl Plank Flooring

Concrete vs Vinyl Plank Flooring

By Fortino Rosas / September 27, 2021 / 1 Comments

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    Deciding on floors is a big decision and when you’ve narrowed things down, now choosing between concrete vs. vinyl plank, there’s a lot to consider.

    Concrete is a new trend in the home design circuit, and with good reason. With the promise of a chic, long-lasting style, many homeowners are gravitating toward this industrial option.

    Vinyl plank is an alternative to hardwood that’s gotten high praise in the industry as well. Gorgeous aesthetics and affordability – so enticing all the way around.

    Both these great floors don’t make choosing easy, that’s for sure. So, we’ve created this comparison guide to decipher between the top qualities and inevitable downsides of concrete and vinyl plank flooring, to hopefully help give you a clear winner.

    In this guide, we’ll explore:

    Side-by-Side Comparison

    ConcreteVinyl Plank
    DurabilityExtremely tough and durable, resistant to scratches and marks, won't buckle beneath heavy furniture or even cars, anything dropped is likely to shatterDoes not scratch easily, but sharp objects can damage vinyl plank
    MaintenanceEasy to maintain, will need waxing or sealing every 3 to 9 monthsIncredibily easy to clean, doesn't need to be (and shouldn't be) waxed
    Eco-Friendly?Yes and no, since most subfloors are already concrete there's usually no extra production of materials at all, but it's not a good insulator and installing new concrete floors expels high amounts of carbon dioxideNo, not biodegradeable and can produce harmful emissions but are good insulators to help save on energy spent using A/C or heaters
    LongevityLong-lasting even when undergoing lots of traffic and years of wear and tearCan't be refinished once worn out, lasts 5 to 20 years
    AestheticsNowadays, comes in a variety of colors and texturesComes in a variety of shades and textures, meant to resemble hardwood, will fade in the sunlight
    ComfortHard surface is uncomfortable to walk on, falls will surely hurt, can be very slippery and very coldComfotable to walk on as the floors absorb pressure, doesn't get freakishly cold, absorbs sound too
    Waterproof?No, susceptible to moisture and can produce mildew and mold as well as expansion and cracking if water penetrates concreteYes, 100% waterproof
    AffordabilityRanges from $2 to $30 per square foot to refinish and style existing concrete floors and $2 to $15 per square foot for new concret floorsRanges between $3 and $7 per square foot
    InstallationCrucial that you hire a pro as it can be dangerous to installCan be done DIY, either glued down or with "click and lock" mechanism, subfloors will need to be level

    Durability and Longevity

    Concrete, of course, is an incredibly tough and durable flooring type. After all, it’s what’s used for sidewalks, parking lots, and cross-country highways.

    It can manage the weight of cars and now it’s being used as a long-lasting floor option in residential settings, too. Concrete won’t buckle under heavy furniture and it’s difficult to scratch, making it a solid option (literally) in any household.

    Vinyl plank is also rather durable in that scratches and marks won’t be easily distinguishable, but it’s far more penetrable than concrete. Sharp objects will surely pierce the surface of vinyl plank so clumsy cooks will want to hold on tight to knives and forks in the kitchen.

    But keep that in mind that with concrete, fragile items will definitely shatter upon contact with the super hard surface. So, maybe just work on being less clumsy.

    Concrete will last for decades, even after years of foot traffic, while vinyl plank flooring, depending on its thickness, can last as little as five years (although some vinyl plank can last for 20).

    What’s more is that vinyl plank can’t be refinished so once it is worn down, you’ll have to replace the entire floor. On the other hand, concrete can be refinished and sealed multiple times to help it last longer.

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    Affordability and Versatility

    As with all types of flooring, cost varies depending on quality and style but overall, vinyl plank should cost you less. Ranging from $3 to $7 per square foot, you can install vinyl plank yourself, keeping costs relatively low. The only prerequisite is a smooth subfloor, meaning if you need to level everything out, you’ll want to include that in the budget.

    Since most subfloors are already concrete, you may not need to install anything at all. But chances are, you’ll want to refinish the floors for a polished look. Refinishing concrete floors can cost anywhere from $2 to $30 per square foot, so in some cases it certainly could be less costly than installing vinyl plank.

    But, the real money will be spent if you need to install fresh concrete on top of getting it refinished. It’ll cost you between $2 to $15 per square foot and it’s crucial to get professional installation since the process can actually be quite dangerous. Unlike vinyl plank with easy glue-on application or “click and lock” installation.

    Conversely, vinyl plank isn’t very versatile. Once worn down, you’re looking at replacing it completely, as previously mentioned. But with concrete, if you decide you want to switch it up, you can just lay new flooring right on top. Plus, with the ability to refinish and its long-lasting nature, concrete is much more versatile.

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    While you may assume that concrete is just a drab, industrial-looking, uneven surface only feasible for driveways and basements, this option has come a long way in aesthetics. Concrete is available in a wide variety of colors and textures that look stunning in a modern home.

    In some cases, color is directly mixed into wet concrete before installation for uniform pigments. Otherwise, pre-laid concrete can be dyed and stained for a polished look. With just a bit of refinishing and sealing, your floors will be beautifully smooth or stylishly textured to your liking.

    Vinyl plank is made to resemble hardwood and does a respectable job of it. Even some experts can’t tell the difference between them. Coming in a plethora of different hues and styles, you can have gorgeous wood-look floors at a fraction of the cost in practically any shade you prefer.

    One downside of vinyl plank is that it will fade when exposed to sunlight – something that won’t occur with concrete. Especially if you have a skylight or floor-to-ceiling windows, it’s important to know before you buy. Coatings can help prevent or prolong the process but investing in some decent curtains and blinds for your windows won’t hurt.

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    Comfort and Maintenance

    One of the biggest differences between concrete and vinyl plank is the level of comfort and vinyl plank definitely wins this race.

    Concrete is extremely unforgiving and standing on its surface for long periods of time can wreak havoc on joints and lower backs. On top of that slip and falls will be far more painful on concrete vs. vinyl plank.

    Another advantage that vinyl plank has on concrete is that vinyl plank acts as an insulator. Concrete gets freakishly cold and can be extremely slippery while vinyl plank holds heat (and sound, for that matter) well.

    Both floors are extremely low-maintenance when it comes to concrete and vinyl plank cleaning, only requiring some sweeping, vacuuming and a wet mop with mild cleaning products. You should wax concrete occasionally, somewhere between every 3 to 9 months.

    Vinyl plank doesn’t even need waxing. In fact, you shouldn’t really wax it at all. In general, you probably couldn’t find floors that are easier to maintain than vinyl plank, which is a good thing in every regard.

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    Notable Features and Drawbacks

    With concrete and vinyl plank, there are a few more notable advantages and disadvantages of both.

    The first is that vinyl plank is 100% waterproof while concrete is not. This makes vinyl plank a fantastic option for kitchens, bathrooms, and basements since spills and leaks won’t affect it. Concrete, being susceptible to water, can actually become hospitable to mildew and mold of water seeps into its pores, which certainly isn’t ideal.

    If you value eco-friendliness and sustainability, it’ll be tough to choose which is better when it comes to concrete and vinyl plank, essentially because they’re both not very environmentally conscious.

    One positive for concrete is that most subfloors already consist of concrete. So, if all it takes is a bit of refinishing, you’re actually not using any extra resources. But, installing new concrete floors expels high amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – not good.

    Vinyl plank flooring is easy on energy levels in that it’s a good insulator, meaning you’ll be using fewer resources to heat or cool your home on a daily basis. However, vinyl plank is not biodegradable and will be spending its dying days in a landfill. Plus, it can release harmful emissions as well – also not good.

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    Which Should You Buy?

    If you’re in the market to put floors in your kitchen or bathroom, it’s probably better to go with vinyl plank since it’s absolutely waterproof, while concrete is not. The only thing you’ll have to worry about with vinyl plank in the kitchen is sharp objects nicking the floors. So, hold on to your forks.

    Another thing to consider is: who will be gracing those floors? If your aging mother-in-law lives in your basement, it’s probably best to install vinyl plank. It’s much softer than concrete – repeat, much softer – so potential slip and falls will be a lot more graceful. Plus, joints will be less achy.

    Similarly, if you have young children running around or a toddler just learning to walk, concrete won’t be the best option for you. Falling down repeatedly on concrete won’t be a good time for anyone.

    Concrete will be the perfect option for anyone looking for modern flair. It’s great if you place a high value on being trendy.

    It’s one of the latest trends in interior design. A refinished concrete floor will bring a chic, industrial feel to your space. It’s durable, long-lasting and since it comes in a wide range of color and texture options, the end result is truly stunning.

    Plus, if you are, in fact, flooring an industrial building that houses heavy machinery, for instance, concrete floors will do the job – and, these days, look good doing it.

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    What’s better: vinyl or concrete flooring?

    These are two different flooring types, so which one will be better depends on what you expect. Concrete is highly durable, doesn’t scratch, comes in various colors, and is easy to maintain; however, it’s uncomfortable to walk on, is cold, and requires professional installation.
    On the other hand, vinyl is not as durable but is much more comfortable and is warmer. In addition, there are many affordable options; it comes in a wide range of colors and styles and is easy to maintain.

    Is stained concrete cheaper than vinyl plank?

    On average, you can expect to pay between $3 and $7 per square foot for vinyl plank flooring, depending on the quality. Staining concrete is slightly more expensive. The cost can vary between $7 and $15 per square foot.
    Simpler staining jobs usually cost between $2 and $4 per square foot, but if you want more beautiful designs and styles, you should be prepared to pay between $12 and $25 per square foot.

    Do I need underlayment for vinyl flooring on concrete?

    It’s recommended that you install underlayment between a concrete subfloor and your vinyl flooring. It will act as a water, sound, and heat barrier and protect your new floors from damage. It will also create an even surface for installation.
    The underlayment you need will have a built-in vapor barrier to prevent water from getting to the vinyl, will be made out of materials that will retain heat, will create a smooth surface for installing the vinyl, and can withstand the weight of the expected traffic on the floor being installed.

    What are the disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring?

    First of all, vinyl plank flooring won’t increase the value of your home. Although this flooring type is durable, it’s an affordable alternative. Most prospective homeowners look for hardwood floors and other similar options.
    Another disadvantage is that it can’t be refinished, and unfortunately, vinyl floors are not biodegradable and can release harmful chemicals. If you’re worried about the color of your  floor over time, you should know that vinyl planks can fade when exposed to sunlight.

    What should you not use on vinyl plank flooring?

    When learning how to care for your new vinyl plank flooring, remember that you should never slide heavy furniture across it and you should add protectors to the legs of your furniture. Also, you shouldn’t use abrasive solutions because you can easily damage the planks.
    Solutions that contain ammonia can be very harmful and destroy vinyl planks. Instead, opt for gentle products explicitly made for this flooring type. Finally, don’t use paste wax or solvent-based polishes.

    How to clean vinyl plank flooring?

    Vinyl plank flooring requires basic care. First, your daily cleaning routine should use a soft-bristled brush for sweeping away debris, dirt, and dust. Second, you can use a vacuum suitable for vinyl plank floors, but don’t ever use a brush attachment because it can be too harsh.
    For deep cleaning sessions, use a damp mop with a solution suitable for this flooring type. Avoid chemicals such as bleach, ammonia, and abrasive solutions.

    The Verdict

    Overall, most people will probably choose vinyl plank. It’s easier to DIY, looks fantastic, and works in most rooms. But for those who dare to be different, concrete is a trendy option that’s sure to turn heads.

    Concrete is tough, durable, and long-lasting, coming in so many styles it’ll make your head spin. Simply, rip off that carpet and usually you’ll find concrete underneath. With a simple refinish, you’ll be enjoying simply gorgeous floors.

    Vinyl plank is often totally waterproof, easy on joints, and you can install it on your own. Resembling true hardwood floors, it’s an affordable way to have beauty beneath your feet.

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    About Fortino Rosas

    Chief Floor Critic, 32 years of experience in flooring installation and sales

    Fortino Rosas is an independent flooring contractor with 32 years of experience in residential and commercial flooring installation and sales. He joined the Floor Critics team to share his expertise with our readers. Fortino has acquired vast knowledge and skills in the areas of product selection, space planning, and installation. He has installed flooring in residential, government, and commercial office projects in the Midwest. Visit Website.

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