what thickness to choose for vinyl plank flooring

Vinyl Plank Flooring Thickness: How to Choose?

Have you ever lain awake wondering what the best thickness for Vinyl plank flooring is? If so, you might be in the middle of a renovation meltdown. Or maybe you’ve spent way too much time watching home improvement shows.

Whichever the reasoning, you probably need to get out more. But before you go, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the mechanics of vinyl plank.

Here’s what you need to consider when determining your floors thickness.

How to Calculate Thickness

To find the depth of a vinyl plank you need to account for the protective wear layer, core, and the backing. To better evaluate your options you’ll need a basic understanding of how companies assemble vinyl planks. In-depth videos and diagrams explaining the process are available online.

Be careful: Vinyl plank manufacturers often display the wear layer thickness as opposed to the actual thickness of the plank. As most of these products ship from overseas, they reflect the metric measurement.

For actual plank thickness, you’re looking for measurements in mm. You’ll find a wide range here, with lower quality planks falling in the 4mm range and higher quality planks boasting 8mm or thicker.

Will there be a transition from your vinyl planks to another type of flooring? If so, you’ll need to keep that in mind when calculating the thickness of the planks. Awkward transitions between rooms will make your floors uneven and unattractive.

The next factor to consider is the wear layer.

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What’s a Wear Layer?

The wear layer lies between the printed design and urethane finish. This layer is a key factor of how well your floors will hold up over time.

If the wear layer breaks down, the printed design will damage and fade. Better vinyl floors have wear layers that include a protective top coat. This coating often contains additives like ceramic or other substances to increase the hardness level of the planks.

During manufacturing, these substances need to bond to the flooring through the process of curation. If bonding isn’t performed correctly, the coating won’t be effective. Be sure to check your warranty for guidelines on manufacturer defects.

The level of wear on a vinyl plank is measured in mil (one thousandth of an inch). A mil is not the same as a millimeter, as roughly 40 mil equals 1.0 mm (39.4 mil to 1 mm, to be exact).

A thicker layer is more resistant to scratching and denting. Better quality flooring tends to have the highest wear layers but is more expensive. Building professionals tend to stick with a minimum of 12 mil for residential and 28 mil for commercial.

You should look for vinyl planks with a wear layer of at least 12 mil. If you have an active family or an assemblage of pets, consider buying 20 mil or higher.

Even with a thicker wear layer, your floors may not last as long as you’d think. Other factors such as plank construction, installation and maintenance will play a critical role.

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Cores and Bottom Layers

Some luxury vinyl planks have a solid wood plastic composite core or WPC. WPC does not contain actual wood. Instead, it’s made up of wood flour fused with thermoplastic and calcium carbonates. This type of flooring is free of phthalates and safer for your family.

Planks with a rigid center allow for increased durability and better stability. Solid cores are water resistant and mask minor imperfections in the subflooring, making them a better choice when installing over an existing floor.

The backing or bottom may include corking or other soundproofing material. These layers provide underfoot cushioning. The thicker it is, the more comfortable it will be to stand on.

Some planks have attached underlayment for sound reduction and better heat retention. It’s especially useful in second-floor applications. However, not all vinyl planks come with an underlayment backing.

Many popular brands use bottom layers made of recyclable materials. While environmentally friendly, these backings have been shown to break down quicker.

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Do You Need Residential or Commercial?

Another important consideration is the rating. Is it rated for residential or commercial traffic?

Both have the same maintenance requirements, but planks appropriate for business settings can hold up to excessive use.

It’s helpful to compare the commercial warranty with the residential. An extended industrial warranty usually signifies a thicker wear layer.

Flooring manufacturers tend to err on the side of caution with commercial customers. By underrating the vinyl plank’s life expectancy, companies avoid costly warranty claims.

In contrast, residential flooring is expected to withstand less abuse over a longer period. If the plank in your home needs to hold up to rolling loads, exposure to grease or extreme use: you should consider the commercial grade rating as a better indicator of how long your vinyl planks will last

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Final Considerations

When shopping for vinyl plank; look at the warranty, core construction, wear level, and attached underlayment before making a final decision. Planks with added cushioning are warmer and quieter. Some products also feature built-in vapor barriers within the underlayment.

If your flooring doesn’t include it, you can add an underlayment during installation. On the same token, never add a second layer of padding. If you do, your planks will eventually shift.

If durability is your primary concern, look for vinyl planks with the highest wear layers. Your retailer should provide you with documentation detailing these features.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that more expensive flooring is always the better choice. While that is often the case, sometimes you are paying for the name, not necessarily the quality. Be sure to confirm the product is health compliant and carries safety certifications.

Whether you’ve found vinyl planks that have exceeded your expectations or have failed to live up to the hype,  help others by sharing your comments.

Jeanine Hintze

About Jeanine Hintze

Jeanine Hintze is a professional content writer, and home improvement enthusiast from Long Island.

16 thoughts on “Vinyl Plank Flooring Thickness: How to Choose?”

  1. Great info! I am pretty up to speed on a lot of the basics, what I can’t figure out is how important is what the wear layer is made of? I hear ceramic bead is the best but I was considering CoreTec and sounds like that is a urethane product.

    Any insight on that topic and or brands that have a stronger material on the wear layer?

  2. Two 65 year olds wanting to put waterproof vinyl strips with click construction in our basement. I would like to not spend hours running around looking for a suitable product. You wouldn’t possibly help us out by giving us a nice middle of the road flooring option, would you? Please… 30 some years of teaching 7th graders has exhausted me; driving all over hoping to find a good deal and a good product just doesn’t sound like that much fun!

    1. FYI… Comparing Godfrey Hirst Orion Hybrid WPC Floor Boards (no phthalates) with Cork Backing at 7.8mm thickness, including .55mm Wear Layer and Karndean Looselay Longboards with Grip Backing (plastic type material) at 4.5mm thickness and .55mm wear layer.

      Both offer either waterproof or for wet areas; 25 year Residential Warranty for Orion Hybrid, suitable for Heavy Traffic (Residential) areas; and Lifetime Warranty for Karndean, kid friendly and pet friendly.

      Sizing is comparable in length and width. No difference.

      Hope this helps some other floor board researchers!

      Cheers

  3. I am considering an Empire product called Valletta, they claim an overall thickness of 4.2 mm and a wear layer thickness of 12 mil. Do you think that is an acceptable thickness for a residential kitchen application? Thanks for your response.

    1. Chris, the moderator has given guides as to 12 Mil = .3mm wear layer. From my research, a high traffic area ie. a kitchen, should be no less than 20 mil or approx .5mm wear layer. The thicker the wear layer the more resistant it is to wear & tear, denting, scratching etc. Heavy pots & pans, if dropped from shelving etc, could damage a thin wear layer. Hope this helps!!!

  4. Dear Jeanine (and Floor Critics.com)
    Very good article! I’ve been researching online and asking ?s in stores for WEEKS to get contrasting answers. This new product has me stumped and sales reps are pushing it but the specs have me questioning if it will be a good fit. We do have an active family, cats, and the basement is to be a multipurpose (ping pong, dance, yoga, fitness…) space. The gym area has a rubber floor where weights will be used.
    Coretec Pro Plus is relatively new and has a 30% thinner “CORE” but overall 5mm thickness. 0.5 mm/20 mil wear surface.
    1.0 mm vinyl base layer
    1.5 mm core
    1.0 mm vinyl balance layer
    1.0 mm cork underlayment. Seeing it in person the tongue and groove is noticeably thinner and while it would fit our budget much better than the $5.99/sq ft price of the the HD series.

    Would you think “Pro Plus” provides adequate cushion? One flooring guy said you could add 1/8″ cork underlayment (3mm) and maintain warranty but also help it work better overall but then i’m looking at $490 for 7-100′ rolls to do a 610 sq ft floor… I’m torn if that would be worth it or to pay more for the thicker overall floor (“Plus has a 1.5mm cork so negligibly more underlayment cushion, the “core” is what I’m concerned with if I go Pro Plus….

    HELP!

    Andrew from Lexington, married 9.75 yrs, 4 cats, 2 little girls, 2 jobs, 1 basement renovation

  5. Crystal Brown-Voeltz

    I’m a little confused, as my contractor told me to get 6-8 mm, but never mentioned the wear layer, I discovered that during some research. Everything I read says 6 mm and up but in lowes etc I am finding 0.3 layer. Is that actually 3 or is that something else. Is 0.3 bad? I am loving some of the vinyl planks that are 3.2-4.5 mm thickness but I am worried that this is going to crack? Anyone have any insight. I will continue to google information, but I’m down to some deadlines so I gotta make some decisions

  6. Lots of great information! Had no idea there would be so much to consider when buying the vinyl flooring! Your guidelines will definitely be very helpful when checking out different flooring sources for vinyl flooring.

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