If you looking to learn about vinyl plank flooring, you have come to the right place. Our team has spent numerous hours speaking with flooring vendors, researching products, and most importantly listening to questions and concerns from our readers to develop this comprehensive guide on vinyl plank flooring. There is a lot of valuable material to read so take your time.
To help you quickly find what you are looking, we have broken down the vinyl plank guide into three main sections (Diligence, Purchase & Installation, and Top 20 Questions). We have also created a 2 Minute Summary section to give you quick highlights.
WHY LISTEN TO FLOOR CRITICS?
- We are an independent source that aims to provide unbiased reviews
- Experience: each member of our team has multiple decades of flooring experience
- We have a large, trusted network of 2,000+ local flooring pros
- We are a free resource that aims to provide the best flooring content to our readers
Buying flooring is not a straightforward process and can leave customer very overwhelmed and confused. Our main goal at Floor Critics is to help lessen those obstacles by providing you with free educational resources and access to our experienced team and partner network of flooring experts.
If you have any questions as you read (or have feedback for us), please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our in-house team of experts and our 2,000+ flooring partners are ready to help!
- In a rush? Read the highlights and most important parts of this article.
- Flooring is a large investment, take time to do your research and ask questions!
- From cost to top brands to durability to maintenance to warranty, we cover 15 critical diligence topics
- Great, you have done your diligence, but where do you go to purchase and who can help you install your new flooring? This section will answer these questions and more.
- As every customer’s needs are different, reach out to our team and we will help find you the right retailer/installer that fits your needs.
- From a local flooring company to The Home Depot to an online flooring company you have never heard of. There are so many choices for selecting vinyl plank flooring! We can certainly help you make sense of all the options available in the market.
- You think you found the perfect vinyl plank and then you read some negative customer reviews online. What should you do?
- Choosing the right flooring can be both difficult and down right confusing! We answer the questions you the readers have sent us.
2 Minute Summary
- Vinyl plank flooring is a great choice as the flooring is durable, easy to install, and affordable
- Choose a wear layer of at least 12 mil (buy the highest wear layer you can afford)
- WPC (Wood Plastic Composite) or SPC (Stone Plastic Composite) vinyl planks are the top options
- Quality vinyl planks cost at least $3 sq. ft. and install costs can range from $2 to $5 sq. ft.
- Look for at least a 15 year warranty; carefully read what is covered and what can void a warranty
- Do not expect to see a material return on investment
- Vinyl planks are easy to clean and very low maintenance is required
- Understand the VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compound) levels and look for vinyl planks that are phthalate-free
- We highlight several of the top brands (both brand names and lesser known brands) we think are excellent options
- Ask for multiple samples (ideally multiple regular size planks) so you can see the look and test the flooring
- Choose a local flooring pro (vs. a big box or online retailer) as they provide much better personalized service and assistance with your floor selection
- Utilize the Floor Critics’ team for unbiased recommendations and help finding the best installer
Section 1: The Diligence Phase
- Intro to Vinyl Plank Flooring
- Wear Layer
- Return on Investment
- Maintenance & Cleaning
- Health & Safety
- Top 8 Brands (with visuals)
- Buying Checklist
- Alternate Flooring Options
Intro to vinyl plank flooring
If you have been looking into new floors for your home, you have probably heard about vinyl plank flooring as a fantastic option. It looks and feels like hardwood at a fraction of the price. In short, vinyl plank flooring is a great option if you are looking for an affordable floor that is durable and looks good.
There are three types of vinyl planks. Please note all three types are often used interchangeably by sales professionals so it is important to clarify.
- Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP) – Luxury vinyl planks that are better than “non-luxury” vinyl planks due to being more durable and better looking (note: LVP is not waterproof)
- Wood Plastic Composite (WPC) – Similar to LVP, but are waterproof and are a good choice for bathrooms, basements, kitchens, or any room in the house.
- Stone Plastic Composite (SPC) – These planks are commonly known as rigid core. They are also 100% waterproof and are a great choice for uneven subfloors. While less thick than WPC, they are often more durable as they are more dense which makes them better at resisting damage.
Vinyl plank flooring is highly affordable when compared with most other options on the market, and new manufacturing techniques mean that it looks more authentic than ever. It is also durable, easy to install, and easy to clean and maintain.
But, of course, when you save on price, you are usually sacrificing elsewhere. Vinyl flooring is 100 percent synthetic; however, public perception about it can damage your home’s resale value. It also has questionable environmental credentials, and some vinyl plank types can bring health hazards into your home.
Continue reading below so you decide whether vinyl plank flooring is right for you.
Wear Layer (very important!)
If you focus on only one item in your research, we suggest choosing the wear layer. Manufacturers will highlight many items such as positive customer reviews, coatings no other brands have, etc., etc., but what matters most is the 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. The higher the wear layer, the longer the floor will last. 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).
The simple math: Don’t just take price into account when making your flooring decision. Understand the product carefully as lower quality flooring may need more frequent replacement and make the total cost of ownership much higher (as well as the inconvenience and hassle).
Low Wear Layer Example
- Mil: 4 mil (0.1 mm)
- Product Cost: $1.00/sq. ft.
- Install Cost: $2.50/sq. ft.
- Warranty: 1 year
- Replacements over 20 years: 2 (could be more with heavy use)
- Total cost over 20 years: $10.50/sq. ft.
High Wear Layer Example
- Wear Layer: 12 mil (0.3 mm or greater)
- Product Cost: $4.00/sq. ft.
- Install Cost: $2.50/sq. ft.
- Warranty: Lifetime
- Replacements over 20 years: 0
- Total cost over 20 years: $6.50/sq. ft.
Floor Critics’ Recommendation: Go for the thickest wear layer you can afford. 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.
There are generally four types of layers in a vinyl plank floor:
- Wear layer: As described above, this layer helps protect against excessive wear, scratches, and fading.
- Printed film: The printed film helps deliver the look of real wood.
- Vinyl core (four types):
- LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank): also known as PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride). Luxury vinyl planks generally require glue down installation and need a level subfloor prior to installation.
- WPC (Wood Plastic Composite): 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. It is 100% waterproof. WPC vinyl planks interlock together so no glue or underlayment is required and they can be installed as a floating floor.
- SPC (Stone Plastic Composite): Like WPC, it is also 100% waterproof but the core is made up of a stone plastic composite. They do not require glue and can be installed as a floating floor. These planks are known as rigid core vinyl planks.
- Peel and Stick (self-adhesive): Made from a vinyl material. See our in-depth post on peel and stick flooring.
- Backing layer: The backing or bottom may include corking or other soundproofing material. These layers provide underfoot cushioning.
Floor Critics’ Recommendation: The choice here depends are your project needs. Our choice is WPC vinyl planks if the most important characteristics are waterproof and having a softer/quieter feel. Our choice is SPC if waterproof and better resistance to scratches and dents are more important characteristics.
There are several costs to consider for vinyl plank flooring.
- Costs can range from less than $1 sq. ft. to $6 sq. ft. or more
Bargain (<$1 sq. ft.):
– Type: Mainly peel and stick and glue down planks
– Wear layer: generally 4 mils or less
– Warranty: typically 1 year or less
Moderate ($1 to $3 sq. ft.):
– Type: Mainly glue down planks and interlock/clicklock
– Wear layer: generally around 6-12 mils
– Warranty: typically 10-20 years, some offer a limited lifetime warranty
Quality (>$3 sq. ft.):
– Type: Mainly interlock/clicklock planks
– Wear layer: generally >12 mils
– Warranty: typically 20+ years to lifetime
- Install cost is highly variable but a good rule of thumb is to expect to pay between $2 to $5 a sq. ft.
- Removal of old flooring can cost about $2 sq. ft. and is based on the effort required to remove the old flooring
- Furniture removal
- Sales tax
- Permit or inspection fees
- Relocation of HVAC, plumbing, etc.
Yes. Vinyl plank flooring is one of the most affordable flooring options on the market (though, depending on your brand choice, we wouldn’t call it a ‘cheap flooring option’).
Let’s start at the beginning: demolition. If you’re tearing out carpet or removing tile, it has to go somewhere. You may need to rent a dumpster or pay a disposal fee.
Shop around for the best rates ahead of time, so you’re not caught off-guard. Depending on the area, it may cost you between $100-$400.
Expect to spend a few dollars on essential tools like a rubber-mallet, utility-knife, and a multi-tool. You’ll also need a moisture meter and a tapping block. While you’re shopping, remember to throw a set of knee-pads in the cart; your body will thank you.
If you’re adding a vapor-barrier or padding, ask your retailer to add it to the deal. It probably won’t work, but you never know. Worst case scenario, talk them into giving you a healthy discount.
If you buy the underlayment separately, anticipate spending $30-$50 for a 100 square foot roll.
Last but not least: molding and trim pieces. Not only are these items special order, but they’re expensive to boot. It’s impossible to estimate a figure without knowing the exact details. Don’t forget to purchase transition strips.
You can expect to dedicate $200-$400 of your budget to trim pieces.
Floor Critics’ Recommendation: Don’t get stuck on a brand or the first choice a flooring company tells you to buy. Instead look at the wear layer, warranty, and look/style of the floor for your project. Our team has many years of helping people find the right floor for their needs. For a free quote, please reach out to us and we’d be happy to discuss your project and provide you with a list of options as well as pricing.
- Price: Cheaper than hardwood floors while offering a similar look, beware of bargain brands where quality has been a known issue with many brands.
- Style: Endless options of colors, patterns, and textures to match your décor, ask for samples.
- Installation: Most vinyl planks come pre-fitted with click & lock installation: locking mechanisms that click into place like a jigsaw puzzle.
- Versatility: Unlike wood, it’s safe to use vinyl flooring in damp areas. Vinyl is water-resistant (like linoleum – see our vinyl plank vs linoleum comparison) – making it perfect for bathroom and kitchen floors.
- Durability: It does not scratch easily, higher quality vinyl planks and tiles have through-body coloring, meaning that if they scratch, the damage is less visible
- Water Resistant: Is 100% water and moisture resistant which is an advantage over traditional hardwood floor; WPC and SPC vinyl planks are 100% waterproof (note the distinction between water resistant and proof)
- Comfort: Vinyl is soft underfoot. As you walk, the flooring absorbs pressure.
- Insulation: Vinyl flooring stays at room temperature. Even in winter, your floors will feel warm and cozy. In addition, vinyl flooring also absorbs noise.
- Maintenance: When it comes to maintenance and cleaning, it doesn’t get any easier than vinyl flooring. See our in-depth cleaning guide.
- Associated Health Risks: Vinyl flooring can emit gasses and volatile chemicals, called VOCs, into your home, look for a company that advertises low VOC flooring that is phthalate-free.
- Accessibility Concerns: If a member of your household uses a wheelchair or mobility device, reconsider installing vinyl planks or tile. They are prone to shifting especially under rolling loads.
- Minimal Return On Investment: If resale value plays into your decision-making, vinyl isn’t the best choice. Vinyl flooring will not raise the value of your home (in most cases).
- Susceptible To Fading And Denting: Vinyl flooring is susceptible to sun damage, it won’t disintegrate, but it will fade.
- Substrate Sensitivity: The number one cause of flooring woes is improper substrate preparation. Subfloors should be level, clean, and moisture-free.
- Limited Longevity: When it comes to longevity, hardwood flooring has the advantage. You can sand out scratches, re-stain faded areas, and change the overall coloring over time.
- Environmental Impact: Vinyl flooring is not biodegradable. Once removed, it will spend the rest of its days sitting in a landfill.
- Floor Plan Complications: Installing vinyl in a home with lots of nooks and crannies is a chore better left to the pros unless you have nerves of steel. Hire a pro.
- Tough to remove: If your current floor in glued down, it can take a lot more time to remove it.
For a more in-depth analysis on Pros and Cons, click here.
Most customers believe a product warranty will cover all issues with their new flooring and they have nothing to worry about. This is not necessarily the case.
Here are our pro tips:
- Very important: choose a reputable installer as many issues such as visual defects at the time of installation are the responsibility of the installer – we partner with over 2,000 trusted installers and can help you find the best installer
- Keep all documents, receipts, installer contact info, etc. from your flooring purchase
- Most flooring issues are not due to the product itself rather the installation, floor preparation, and installation in an environment not suitable for the floor
- Avoid very inexpensive products where the warranty is less than 10 years and does not cover fade, wear, and stain
- A manufacturer should not charge you extra for a warranty
- If buying online (we do not recommend), thoroughly due your diligence on the retailer (see your purchase options)
- There is a lot of fine print in warranties that often makes it difficult to get a claim approved
- Most warranties are non-transferable when a home is sold (most people tend to move every seven to ten years)
- Warranties do not mean the manufacturer will replace your floor whenever there is an issue
What is not covered by warranty:
- Deep scratches or dents caused by furniture, pets, or high heels, damage during installation, not following manufacturer cleaning instruction, etc.
What can void a warranty:
- Some manufacturers require a certified manufacturer to install the floor (however note the process to get certified by a manufacturers is not very diffcult)
- Product has visual defects at the time of install
- Not following the cleaning instructions
Floor Critics’ Recommendation: Look for a product with at least a 15 year warranty. Carefully read what is not covered and what can void a warranty.
Return on Investment (ROI)
Will you see a noticeable positive impact to your home sale price if you install vinyl plank flooring? The short answer is no.
While vinyl planks offer many benefits they do not provide the level of price appreciation as hardwood floors. While the quality and durability of vinyl planks keeps improving each year, there is still a stigma that the floors are inferior to hardwood or engineered floors.
No matter how beautiful, people tend to scoff at the mention of vinyl. First-time buyers won’t appreciate the durability or cost-savings. They may have never paid for an extensive renovation or cried as their children skateboarded through the living room.
On the flip-side, vinyl flooring is a budget-friendly home improvement option. If you’re replacing stained carpeting or worn/dirty linoleum, new floors will help your home sell, especially if the potential buyer has children or pets.
Hopefully, as time passes and technology improves, so will vinyl’s not-so-favorable reputation.
Other factors that can impact the ROI:
- The design or layout of the floor
- Color of the floor chosen. Lighter colors such as gray have been popular.
- If the floor is waterproof (vs. water resistant)
- Not being able to transfer the warranty to a new home buyer
Floor Critics’ Recommendation: Don’t expect to see a material return on investment for vinyl plank flooring.
Maintenance & Cleaning
Vinyl plank flooring is actually one of the lowest maintenance flooring types you can install in your home.
Read our in-depth guide on cleaning vinyl plank.
Everyday cleaning: It is important to frequently remove any dust or debris from your vinyl floors. Luckily you only need a mop or vacuum for this.
- Our top mop picks (choose an option that doesn’t include a built in scrub brush)
- Our top vacuum picks
- Pro-tip: invest in a quality vacuum built for dealing with pet hair if you have dogs or cats – you won’t regret it
- AVOID steam cleaning vinyl plank flooring – it’s not meant to withstand steam
Floor Critics’ Recommendation: Vinyl plank flooring is an excellent choice if you do not want to spend lots of time cleaning and maintaining the floor. Carefully read the cleaning instructions to ensure your warranty stays intact.
Health & Safety
Is your flooring safe? You may have heard of the 60 Minutes investigation in 2015 of Lumber Liquidators for not complying with acceptable levels of formaldehyde emissions. It highlights a key diligence item that everyone should remember to follow before purchasing any type of flooring.
What is Formaldehyde? It is a colorless gas that it used in many products such as flooring, medicines, cosmetics, etc. Exposure to high levels of formaldehyde has been linked to cancer in humans. Formaldehyde is considered a VOC (Volatile Organic Compound).
As for flooring, formaldehyde is more commonly found in laminate and is less prevalent in vinyl flooring.
If you or someone in your home has respiratory issues, vinyl flooring may not be the best option.
To minimize the risks:
- Look for a brand that advertises low VOC flooring that is phthalate-free. Make sure they have documentation to support those claims.
- Check the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. In addition to statistics, you’ll find in-depth explanations and brand-specific databases. Responsible manufacturers have programs in place to keep consumers safe.
- Look for NAF-certified products
- Try to find flooring that is nail-down or that interlocks vs. glue down flooring which can emit VOCs
Examples for flooring that is formaldehyde free or has low levels of VOCs (always check the product specifications to confirm):
Floor Critics’ Recommendation: Look for brands that have very low VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compound) and are phthalate-free.
Top 8 Brands (with visuals)
With thousands of different brands to choose from, which vinyl flooring is the best? We suggest researching different brands (big and small). The Floor Critics’ experts have reviewed nearly 50 brands and have experience working with many more.
Most times, finding a trusted local flooring retailer and installer is the best option to help you find the right flooring.
We have over 2,000 trusted partners that we work with to help find you the best product at the best price. Let us know if you would like a free quote.
The team at Floor Critics spent a lot of time to come up with our top eight trusted brands and customer-preferred lines.
- Proximity Mills
- Mohawk SolidTech
- COREtec Plus
- Michael Raskin USA
- Mannington ADURA Max
- Armstrong PRYZM
- Mohawk Pergo Extreme
- Karndean Korlok
Proximity Mills is one of the fastest growing flooring companies, for good reason. With styles that are durable, waterproof, and fashion-forward, Proximity Mills delivers the range of products that meets any customer’s lifestyle, and budget.
These vinyl planks are some of the most realistic wood visuals on the market. They are recommended if you have pets, kids or are looking for something easy to maintain/waterproof.
Proximity Mills is sold exclusively through a network of premiere flooring retailers who have demonstrated a proven track record of professionalism and craftsmanship. Our team can put you in touch with a retailer if you would like to get samples or learn more.
Mohawk’s newest line of vinyl planks is genuinely stunning. It’s called SolidTech, and it is set to become a major hit for this well-known company. These planks come in beautiful muted tones and hand-scraped textures.
SolidTech is waterproof, odor-proof, and stain-resistant. It’s easy to maintain and easy to install. The planks fit together seamlessly to create a watertight barrier. Our team can put you in touch with a retailer if you would like to get samples or learn more.
COREtec is one of the most trusted flooring brands on the market. The company’s Plus line comes in a variety of sizes and styles, including wide-plank. These floors feature a hearty 20 mil wear layer and a lifetime warranty.
COREtec Plus installs as a floating floor, making it an ideal DIY project. The durable click-to-lock mechanism won’t break or bend during install. The best part, this product needs no acclimation time, meaning you can install it the same day you buy it. Our team can put you in touch with a retailer if you would like to get samples or learn more.
Michael Raskin USA
Finally, a made in the USA vinyl plank that is affordable and extremely durable. The Michael Raskin USA collection features the colors and styles you only see in the movies. They are stylish, modern and perfect for the everyday home. Michael Raskin is a one of a kind flooring designer.
These planks are waterproof, scratch resistant, and made in the USA. Our team can put you in touch with a retailer if you would like to get samples or learn more.
Most made in USA flooring products are cost prohibitive however these planks are extremely affordable, especially for the quality. You can find them exclusively at independent retailers from $4-$8 per square foot.
The Mannington company has been in business for more than 100 years. But don’t let that fool you; this company prides itself on innovation and design. And the AduraⓇMax line is no exception.
ADURAⓇMax vinyl flooring features an aluminum oxide topcoat and a shock-absorbing, noise-reducing, padded backing. It’s certified environmentally and allergy-friendly. The line is available in both planks and 12×24” tiles.
Mannington has an excellent reputation for customer service. While the original ADURA line has had its share of issues, the company has addressed most of them with ADURAⓇMax. Recent reviews are overwhelmingly positive.
Mannington ADURAⓇMax sells for $3.00-$4.00 per square foot. Check online for savings. This line goes on sale often.
PRYZM is Armstrong’s newest line of vinyl planks. And with more than 20 different shades, you’re sure to find a favorite. Planks are water-proof and scratch-resistant, making them suitable for homes with children and pets.
The planks are made with a rigid-core construction and feature layers that absorb noise and shock. Armstrong sweetens the deal by adding a limited lifetime warranty and easy click-lock installation.
Mohawk Pergo Extreme
Pergo offers a selection of what they call “extreme luxury vinyl” flooring. Characterizing it as the next generation of LVP flooring, they claim it’s 100% dent-proof, waterproof, kid-proof, and pet-proof.
Pergo’s vinyl flooring comes in 60 different designs, including wood, stone, and tile look. The planks are made with a rigid-core construction and are 100% waterproof.
The Korlok line features large-format planks up to 9” wide. Karndean LVP floors are waterproof and scratch-resistant, and they feature attached foam padding. The Korlok line has a wear-layer of 20 mil and a lifetime warranty.
You can install Korlok using Karndean’s vertical click locking system. Karndean prices the line competitively in the range of $4.00-$5.00 per square foot.
Other brand reviews by Floor Critics: Achim, Amtico, Baroque, Beaulieu, Cali Vinyl Pro, Congoleum, Coreluxe, Duralux, Duraclic, EarthWerks, Eternity, Fusion Hybrid, Global Gem, GreenTouch WPC, Hallmark Courtier, HSC Woodland Creek, Lifeproof, NovaCore, Nuvelle WPC, Reward, Rigid Core, SFI Luxury Vinyl, Smartcore Ultra, Sono by InHaus, Stainmaster, Moduleo, MultiCore, NuCore, Tesoro, Shaw Floorte, Flooret Modin, Forbo Allura
If you want to see how flooring would look in your home through our product visualizer, reach out to our experts.
Before making a large investment in vinyl flooring, be sure to get plenty of samples! Our network of partners has access to almost any floor on the market. Contact us to request samples.
Here are some things you can test for:
- See how the color and design look in your home (experiment with different lighting and see what the floor looks like in the sun and at night)
- Spill water, drop things on the floor
- Walk on the floor with heels – does the floor easily dent?
- How does vinyl plank look and feel vs. hardwood vs. bamboo?
Floor Critics’ Recommendation: Get multiple full length samples (one plank will not look the same as all the planks) so you can clearly see the look and also test the flooring.
Below is our vinyl plank flooring buying checklist. Refer to this and the rest of this guide as you look for flooring for your next project.
◊ Read this guide and ASK our experts any pressing questions!
◊ Determine your budget to help narrow down the vast options (remember with flooring, you get what you pay for)
◊ Visit a local flooring store to get a sense of styles and colors that will fit your home décor
◊ Look for a wear layer of 12 mil or greater (purchase the highest wear layer you can afford)
◊ Determine vinyl plank core that fits your needs: LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank), WPC (Wood Plastic Composite), or SPC (Stone Plastic Composite)
◊ Take samples home or use a room visualizer tool to see what the floor will look like in your home and to also test the floor (make sure you get multiple full length samples)
◊ Find a local retailer that also installs floors (most people should avoid buying flooring online)
◊ Clearly understand the manufacturer and installation warranty and terms (save all documents if a claim needs to be filed years after purchase)
◊ Review and follow the care and maintenance instructions
Floor Critics’ Recommendation: Take your time and try to enjoy the process! We are here if you want to run anything by us on your journey.
Did you survive the sticker shock? Good. Deep breaths; we’re in the home stretch. Now comes the fun part: installation.
- Tips For Hiring A Pro Installer
- Floating Installation Tips And Tricks
- Glue-Down Installation Tips And Tricks
Tips For Hiring A Pro Installer
If you’d rather not deal with installation hassles, hire a pro to do the job. Pricing varies by location, but expect to pay between $40-$50 an hour. Connect with us to receive free quotes from certified professional installers in your area.
A local flooring retailer may also be able to include your installation costs into the price of your flooring. If not, they should be able to provide you with a list of trusted installers.
Another option is to ask your friends or co-workers for recommendations. They may know of a reasonable and reliable local contractor. If all else fails, solicit suggestions from your social media friends.
Remember to get two to three estimates before deciding on a contractor. Don’t go by blind bids. Make sure each company visits your home and sees the layout.
If there are any obstacles, they can figure it into the bid from the beginning. Don’t forget to ask for references or photos of their past jobs. Additionally, make sure the contractor is licensed and insured before signing the contract.
Floor Critics’ Recommendation: Take your time here and do your research. To help you, Floor Critics has a large partner network that we trust. Reach out to us if you would like help finding a retailer/installer.
Floating Installation Tips And Tricks
Make sure you buy at least 10-20 percent more flooring than what you need. You’ll want it for cuts and waste. There is nothing worse than running out of planks a few boards shy of the finish line.
Remove any wall trim and undercut door jambs before you start. Otherwise, you’ll have to stop halfway through the install and you’ll lose your momentum.
Lay the floor out as a test run and mark cuts with a crayon or chalk. Work from three or four boxes to maximize the variations and shading. It’s easier to make adjustments before the boards are locked together.
Start at the longest wall and lay out the rows. Stagger the joints at least 5 inches. For the best results, make sure your last row is half to one plank wide.
Don’t forget to leave room for expansion. When you’re finished, take a moment to survey the room. If you’re satisfied with the layout, go ahead and start locking the planks into place.
Having trouble getting the boards to lie flat? Tap them in place with a rubber mallet and a scrap piece of vinyl. If seams are the issue, use a hand-roller and apply even pressure.
Glue-Down Installation Tips And Tricks
Always purchase glue directly from the manufacturer or store. It might cost more but, if something goes wrong, you’ll have proof you used the correct adhesive or what they advised. Once the materials are in order, you’re ready to go.
Start by dividing your room into sections. Begin at the center and snap chalk lines to form a grid. The lines act as a visual guide, so you’ll have a clear starting and ending point.
Mark any tiles for cutting before you apply the glue. Pick a section and spread the adhesive from the center out. Work in rows and press the vinyl firmly into place. Use a roller to flatten the seams.
If you need to make adjustments, use the edge of the trowel to lift individual tiles. After you finish, do a final walk around. Make sure the tiles fit snugly against each other.
Use a damp rag to clean up any excess adhesive. When you’re done, wait at least three hours before walking on your floors.
Alternate Flooring Options
While vinyl planks are a great flooring option, there are so many other choices. Please see our detailed guides below.
- Acacia Wood
- Brazilian Walnut
- Engineered Hardwood
- IPE Decking
- Wood Look Tile
Section 2: Purchase & Installation
There are numerous choices on where to buy product. Here are our suggestions:
Best Choice: Local Flooring Store
- Our team feels this is by far the best way to buy flooring, the personalized customer service and vast product selection are two reasons why
- The time, dedication, and knowledge of a local flooring pro is very valuable – without these traits, it would make it very hard for a local shop to survive
- You can find the product and also have them do the installation (often times local companies have installers who have worked with them for many years)
- People often think local flooring stores have less of a selection than big box stores such as Home Depot or Lowe’s. This is not true. The big guys focus on a few brands that make them the most money where as local flooring stores often have a better, more unique selection and tend to accommodate custom orders better than larger stores.
- Another misconception is that pricing at local store is higher than big box store, that is also not true.
- Who should use a local flooring store? Best for someone who has many questions, still deciding what she/he wants, and is looking for the best customer service.
- If you are looking for a trusted local flooring pro, contact us and we will put you in touch. You can be sure that you will receive honest advice, personalized customer service, and quality installation.
Next Best Choice: Big Box Store
- Store like the Home Depot sell so many items related to home improvement. While they may a few flooring experts, their level of knowledge and experience is often not the same as a local flooring company whose expertise if solely flooring.
- If you come into to bog box store one day and meet with a flooring expert and come back another day with more questions, you are likely going to be talking to a different person. We feel some of the personal touch is lost at big box stores vs. local flooring stores.
- Most of the time the installer is contracted out
- Often times the buying decision comes down to knowing a store that you have heard of and give you peace of mind.
- Who should use a big box flooring store? Someone who already knows what they want and doesn’t need as much hand-holding.
Not Recommended: Online Retailer
- Online shopping makes sense for commodity or smaller purchases, but flooring is a very large investment and we feel it is best to be done at a brick and mortar store
- Don’t be swayed by a lower price as the risks outweigh any cost benefit
- Returning defective product can be a big hassle vs. simply taking it back to the brick and mortar store and often times there is a restocking fee
- Buying online can also be confusing as product names, models, and colors are often changed by retailers
- If you choose to buy online, then you will need to find a separate installer. Our team strongly believes having a retailer who also can install the product is key. As we noted in our warranty section, proper installation is a key consideration so having a retailer who is familiar with installing the product makes sense.
- Who should use a online flooring store? Online shopping for flooring is best for someone on a budget and is a DIY type person
Section 3: Top 20 Questions From Our Readers
- I’m confused, I found a product I like, but then read some negative user comments and don’t know what to do. Please help!
- I am overwhelmed by the number of product and brand options, how can I find the best vinyl floor?
- Should I hire a professional to help me install my new floors?
- Can I speak to someone to help me find the right flooring for my project?
- After only a few months, my flooring is having issues and the manufacturer is rejecting my claim, what should I do?
- What climate should vinyl flooring be installed in?
- Is vinyl plank floor good if you have pets?
- What do you think of [enter brand name]?
- Is Vinyl Plank Better Than Laminate?
- What Are The Pros And Cons Of Vinyl Plank Flooring?
- What Is The Best Vinyl Plank Flooring?
- What Is Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring?
- What Is WPC Flooring?
- What Is SPC Flooring?
- What Thickness Of Vinyl Plank Flooring Is Best?
- Can You Put Heavy Furniture On Vinyl Plank Flooring?
- How Long Do Vinyl Planks Last?
- What Is The Average Cost To Install Vinyl Plank Flooring?
- Can You Mop Vinyl Plank Flooring?
- How Do You Find High-Quality Vinyl Planks?
I’m confused, I found a product I like, but then read some negative user comments and don’t know what to do. Please help!
The team at Floor Critics agrees that buying flooring can be a very confusing process. Here are a few tips to help lessen the confusion:
1. Follow this guide’s diligence section and do your homework (vs. just basing your decision off a user’s positive or negative comment)
2. When questions arise, ask our team. Our goal is to help you by being an independent resource whose experience can help solve or answer your questions.
3. We really appreciate the comments we receive on flooring types and brands we write about. So keep them coming! We do notice that many readers who have had a negative experience with a product tend to be more vocal vs. those that have had a positive experience. This is an important point and again stresses the importance of doing your own diligence and asking the experts.
4. Ask for samples. This is a great way to test out the product for quality, appearance, etc.
5. The top brands we have listed have been selected by our experts and include a mix of large and small companies who we trust
I am overwhelmed by the number of product and brand options, how can I find the best vinyl floor?
First focus getting answers to items that are in your control before going online and getting lost in the flooring jungle. Don’t focus on brands right away and instead focus on flooring characteristics.
1. Budget: Know how much you can afford on a new floor. This will allow narrow you to narrow down the list of options. Remember that installation cost is separate from product cost.
2. Color/Style: What color(s) are you most interested in? Do you prefer wide or narrow planks? As mentioned above, ask for samples so you can see what the products looks like in your home as well as test the product thoroughly.
3. Wear Layer: If you can afford it, go with a wear layer of 12 mil or greater
4. Warranty: Read out warranty section, at minimum you should look for a product with 10 years
5. Waterproof: Do you need the floor to be waterproof?
Now you can research brands online, visit a big box retailer, or send the Floor Critic’s team a note on what you are looking for. We truly believe finding a local retailer that is also an installer is the best option. The quality and care is more than often better than a big box retailer.
Should I hire a professional to help me install my new floors?
For most people the answer is a strong yes. Here is why:
1. Often times times trying to DIY can lead to more damage and expenses than having a pro do it for you (flooring is a large investment and needs to be done right the first time)
2. Some manufactures void the warranty if the product is not installed by a certified installer
3. By the time you factor in your time, effort to remove the old floor, and extra equipment needed, there may not be any cost savings
4. Installing a floor properly takes quite a bit of time and preparation that not everyone has
We have over 2,000 trusted partners that we use to help find you the best installer at the best price. Let us know if you would like a free quote.
Can I speak to someone to help me find the right flooring for my project?
Certainly! Visit our Ask the Pros section and tell us about your project and one of our experts will be in touch.
After only a few months, my flooring is having issues and the manufacturer is rejecting my claim, what should I do?
We hear stories like this all the time. It often becomes a blame game between the customer, manufacturer, and installer.
Unfortunately, many times it is too late for the customer to do anything. It is critical that a situation like this is considered ahead of time.
Here are some tips:
1. This is about the hundredth time we have mentioned this, but always ask for samples and thoroughly test the product prior to buying.
2. Ensure you have selected a product with a high wear layer.
3. Ensure the manufacturer stands by their product (through a warranty, has been in business for a while, etc.)
4. Choose a reputable installer. Often times the manufacturer rejects claims and puts the blame on the installer for not following instructions correctly.
5. Know the product you are buying, i.e. water resistant is not the same as waterproof.
6. Save all of your flooring documents (best to scan and save electronically to easily locate in the future)
What climate should vinyl flooring be installed in?
Vinyl flooring is a great option for any type of climate. Always consult the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific type of floor.
– Ensure the product is stored in a dry environment prior to installation
– Note vinyl flooring can fade if exposed to prolonged sunlight
Is vinyl plank floor good if you have pets?
Yes, vinyl plank flooring is a great option for those of you with pets. It’s easy to clean, maintain, as is very durable. Be sure to choose a floor with the highest wear layer you can afford.
For more information, read out in-depth guide on best flooring for pets.
What do you think of [enter brand name]?
Is Vinyl Plank Better Than Laminate?
Vinyl and laminate are considered close cousins when it comes to flooring, and both allow you to achieve a real wood look at a fraction of the price. Which one is best depends on what you are looking for.
Laminate flooring is made from real wood, and therefore, tends to add more value when it comes to resale value.
But while laminate can easily be warped and stained by moisture, vinyl is highly water-resistant and can even be waterproof. This makes it superior for wet or damp areas.
Vinyl flooring tends to be easier to maintain, as laminate flooring needs specialized products, but vinyl flooring is more prone to fading over time when exposed to sunlight.
Which floor is better for you depends on your priorities, so check out our more detailed comparison of the two.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Vinyl Plank Flooring?
Vinyl flooring allows you to get a hardwood look and feel in your home at a fraction of the cost. It is easy to install and maintain, and it is durable enough to use in all but the highest traffic areas. It is even water-resistant, so is appropriate to use in wet rooms and damp areas.
However, vinyl is not environmentally-friendly, and some of the planks will never biodegrade once they find themselves in a landfill. Poor quality vinyl flooring may also release chemicals into your home, which can be damaging to your health, especially if you suffer from respiratory issues.
Vinyl flooring can also be problematic when it comes to resale value, as they are not as highly valued as natural flooring options. They also have a limited lifetime when compared to natural floors such as stone or wood.
What Is The Best Vinyl Plank Flooring?
Which brand of vinyl plank flooring is best for you depends on what you are looking for. In general, you want to look for floors that:
- Have been safety approved in terms of toxic emissions
- Are durable, as indicated by a wear layer of at least 12 mil
- Are advertised as both water and scratch resistant
See our list of Top 8 brands.
What Is Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring?
Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring, or LVP flooring, is 100 percent synthetic flooring that is made to look and feel like real wood. This allows you to have a real wood look, at a fraction of the cost.
What Is WPC Flooring?
WPC stands for Wood Plastic Composite. WPC vinyl planks are similar to LVP, but are 100% waterproof (unlike luxury vinyl planks) and are a good choice for bathrooms, basements, kitchens, or any room in the house.
What Is SPC Flooring?
SPC stands for Stone Plastic Composite. These planks are known as rigid core. They are also 100% waterproof and are a great choice for uneven subfloors. While less thick than WPC, they are often more durable as they are more dense which makes them better at resisting damage.
What Thickness Of Vinyl Plank Flooring Is Best?
As a general rule, the thicker the better when it comes to LVP flooring, though how thick you need it depends on how much traffic your floor will need to withstand.
LVP planks generally range from between 4 mm and 8 mm in thickness, with the thicker planks generally being more expensive.
Remember that this is the overall thickness of the plank, which is separate from the wear layer. This is an enforced layer added to the top of the plank to make it more durable and scratch-resistant. For serious use, you will probably want to invest in LVP flooring with at least a 20 mil wear layer.
See our in-depth article on vinyl plank thickness.
Can You Put Heavy Furniture On Vinyl Plank Flooring?
It is certainly true that heavy furniture can do serious damage to vinyl flooring, especially if it has any sharp angles. But you can accommodate all but the heaviest items of furniture if you use padding underneath the feet of the furniture pieces.
How Long Do Vinyl Planks Last?
Most vinyl flooring will come with a domestic warranty of around 10-20 years. This is a pretty good indication of the lifespan of the floor within a normal home setting.
In commercial settings or homes that have unusually heavy traffic, 15 years is a more realistic estimate of the life of the floor and what warranties tend to match.
What Is The Average Cost To Install Vinyl Plank Flooring?
Vinyl flooring is significantly more cost-effective than most flooring options you will encounter at the home improvement store.
Vinyl plank generally ranges in cost from $3.00 to $7.00 per square foot for product cost and $2.00 to $5.00 per square foot for installation is a good estimate, though be wary of anything costing less than $3.00 per square foot. Remember to buy 10-20 percent more than you need to accommodate trimming and corners.
Also, remember that you need to consider costs related to preparing the space before the floor is laid.
While most vinyl flooring comes with an attached underlayer, this is another thing you will need to invest in if it doesn’t. If you are installing the vinyl plank flooring in an area that is likely to be damp or wet, you will also need an additional moisture layer.
Can You Mop Vinyl Plank Flooring?
One of the benefits of vinyl flooring is that it is easy to clean. An old-fashioned mop is the best way to clean your vinyl flooring with just warm water and a bit of dish soap. You can add some white vinegar to the mix if your floor needs a little bit of sparkle and shine.
Make sure to remove all cleaning agents thoroughly with a wet mop and dry the floor thoroughly soon after cleaning.
How Do You Find High-Quality Vinyl Planks?
Shopping for vinyl planks can be overwhelming. There aren’t any warning signs flashing over the inferior products or arrows guiding you toward quality materials. Thankfully, there are ways to tell the difference.
Virtually all vinyl planks are water and scratch resistant. Some brands include higher levels of protection or added padding. Decide on your must-have features before heading to the store.
High-quality material has a thicker wear layer. It’s measured in mil vs. mm. Millimeter refers to a board’s overall thickness, but mil measures the top-most layer.
If you want flooring that stands up to a busy household, choose a product that’s 20 mil or higher. If you’re adding vinyl planks to a second home or less frequented space, you can get away with 12 mil or higher.
Another critical factor is the top-coat material. Better planks will have a hardened clear-coat that protects the flooring from scratches and stains. Look for buzzwords like “titanium top coating” or “diamond-hardened.”
The final clue is the warranty. Residential warranties on quality floors will often cover your purchase for 20-years or more. Wear-layers should be covered for at least 10 years. If the company is offering less, ask them why.
In-Depth Pros (continued from Pros Summary to provide more detail)
Vinyl plank flooring is a cost-effective way to update your home without breaking the bank. You can save thousands without sacrificing on style. Unlike real wood, you can find quality vinyl for under $4.00 per square foot.
But beware of bargain brands. If they look a little too good to be true – well, you know the rest of that story. Quality LVP starts at $3.00 per square foot and goes up to $7.00.
The mid-priced lines are usually a sure bet. You’ll get the features you need – like waterproofing and scratch resistance – without paying for unnecessary upgrades.
If you’re hoping to spend less, expect to shop around. At the $3.00-$4.00 range, colors and sizes are limited. But don’t lose hope; try looking at discontinued lines or waiting for sales.
Tip: Don’t forget to sign up for discounts on the manufacturer’s website.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to designing with vinyl. The options are endless. Whether you’re looking to replicate rich earthy mahogany, silvered barn wood, or even natural stone, you’re sure to find the perfect shade.
Then it’s time to select a size. Choose between large format tiles, wide planks, or traditional 2- to 3-inch boards. Or, mix and match styles for a one-of-a-kind look.
Today’s vinyl comes in a variety of textures like hand-scraped and knotted. Make sure you run your fingers across the boards to ensure the flooring will be comfortable underfoot. Not only do these options mimic the look of genuine hardwood up-close (and are comparable in style to engineered hardwoods, bamboo, and others), they feel like the real deal too.
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference – even for seasoned pros. Whichever you choose, remember décor is easy to change, but flooring isn’t. Go for timeless, not trendy.
Take your time and shop around. Experiment with different lines and sizes. Remember to ask for samples and bring them home, so you will know how the flooring looks with your lighting and color scheme.
You won’t need to be a carpenter to install your new vinyl floors. If you’ve tackled home improvement projects in the past, installing these floors should be a relatively easy task. Most vinyl planks come pre-fitted with click & lock installation: locking mechanisms that click into place like a jigsaw puzzle.
There is debate over which method works best. When deciding between the applications, consider the overall usage. Glue-down tiles are best for rooms with heavy foot traffic while floating floors work best in secondary spaces.
Depending on the conditions, you may be able to install vinyl directly on-top of your existing flooring. Remember to check with the manufacturer for product-specific guidelines. Nothing voids a warranty quicker than improper installation.
It won’t rot or discolor if exposed to spills or splashes. And, since it isn’t nailed down, you can use it on lower levels, such as basements. So, you can get the real wood look without the hassle.
Planks designed for damp areas usually include attached vapor barriers. If not, simply install the barrier beneath the flooring. You’ll need that layer to keep moisture from gathering underneath the boards or seeping through the seams.
Consider investing in a dehumidifier for below-grade installations. Vinyl handles humidity well, but it never hurts to err on the side of caution.
Durability is an area where vinyl flooring and laminate, its close relative, stand out. It doesn’t scratch easily. There is no need to worry if your toddler tracks in snow or your furry pals race through the door with mud-caked paws. Your floors will survive.
Better quality vinyl planks and tiles have through-body coloring, meaning that if they scratch, the damage is less visible. Additionally, most floors feature a protective layer or hardened clear-coat.
Vinyl is the perfect choice for homes inhabited by clumsy adults, small children, and pets. Unlike stone or ceramic, it absorbs shocks. Vinyl won’t crack or chip when a dish jumps out of the cabinet or a cup leaps from your hands.
One weakness is sharp objects. So, hold onto those utensils for dear life.
Vinyl is soft underfoot. As you walk, the flooring absorbs pressure. It almost feels bouncy.
If you’re on your feet cooking and cleaning for extended periods, you’ll appreciate the softness, especially if you usually suffer from leg and back pain.
For the ultimate in comfort, treat yourself to planks that feature added layers of padding.
Vinyl flooring stays at room temperature. Even in winter, your floors will feel warm and cozy. No more cringing as you roll out of bed, and no more tiptoeing out of the shower.
You can even pair vinyl flooring with radiant heating systems. Always check with your manufacturer for exact requirements as each brand is different.
Vinyl flooring also absorbs noise. It’s an excellent choice for second stories and playrooms. Rest easy knowing that you can watch your favorite show downstairs, without your teenager’s music vibrating through the ceiling.
When it comes to maintenance, it doesn’t get any easier than vinyl. No wax? No polish? No problem. Today’s vinyl doesn’t need added chemicals to hold its shine.
Most vinyl shouldn’t be waxed. It will damage the surface. Always check labels before applying cleaner or polish to your floors.
Vinyl flooring can stain, so be sure to wipe up spills before they dry. Worst case scenario; replace the individual tile or plank. It’s usually a 5-minute procedure and requires no special skills.
In-Depth Cons (continued from Cons Summary to provide more detail)
Associated Health Risks
Vinyl flooring can emit gasses and volatile chemicals, called VOCs, into your home. The government sets strict manufacturing regulations on levels, but it’s not always enough. There are widespread reports of health issues that trace back to vinyl flooring.
If you or someone in your home has respiratory issues, vinyl may not be the best option. To minimize the risks, look for a company that advertises low VOC flooring that’s phthalate-free. Make sure they have documentation to support those claims.
When in doubt, check the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. In addition to statistics, you’ll find in-depth explanations and brand-specific databases. Responsible manufacturers have programs in place to keep consumers safe.
If a member of your household uses a wheelchair or mobility device, reconsider installing planks or tile. Floating floors are out of the question. They are prone to shifting – especially under rolling loads.
Additionally, rigid boards may snap under the added weight or wheels may catch in the grooves, causing a safety hazard. So, if your heart is set on vinyl, opt for sheeting, or at the very least, glue the boards down.
Remember, most warranties exclude damage caused by heavy furniture or mobility devices. Your salesperson may tell you otherwise, but get it in writing. Then go over the fine print with a magnifying glass.
Minimal Return On Investment
If resale value plays into your decision-making, vinyl isn’t the best choice. Vinyl flooring will not raise the value of your home (in most cases). If it does, the effects will be minimal.
No matter how beautiful, people tend to scoff at the mention of vinyl. First-time buyers won’t appreciate the durability or cost-savings. They’ve never paid for an extensive renovation or cried as their children skateboarded through the living-room.
On the flip-side, vinyl is a budget-friendly home improvement option. If you’re replacing stained carpeting or worn/dirty linoleum, new floors will help your home sell, especially if the potential buyer has children or pets.
Hopefully, as time passes and technology improves, so will vinyl’s not-so-favorable reputation.
Susceptible To Fading And Denting
Like vampires, vinyl is susceptible to sun damage. It won’t disintegrate, but it will fade. If you have a wall of windows or a ceiling of skylights, reconsider buying vinyl.
You can add light-blocking window coverings, but if you enjoy the sun, you’ll regret that choice. Adding area rugs will just contribute to the problem. Your floor will still fade, except now it will have spots.
Another enemy of vinyl: heavy furniture. Make sure you use padding under couches and credenzas. That goes double for cabinets and appliances.
Most manufacturers advise against installing vinyl underneath fixtures. Keep that in mind for future renovations.
The number one cause of flooring woes is improper substrate preparation. Subfloors should be level, clean, and moisture-free. If you’re installing over plywood sheeting, check for dips or soft spots.
Scrape off old adhesive, remove any tack strips, and fill in large gaps. If you’re installing over concrete, buy flooring with an attached moisture barrier or add a layer before starting your project.
You’ll also want to invest in a moisture meter to ensure humidity levels are within acceptable ranges. Failure to do this will result in headaches down the road. If your subfloor is questionable, consider hiring a pro to prepare it for you.
It will cost a bit extra, but it beats watching your brand new floors lift and shift.
When it comes to longevity, hardwood flooring has the advantage. You can sand out scratches, re-stain faded areas, and change the overall coloring over time. Unfortunately, vinyl is a one-hit-wonder.
If you choose a timeless option and maintain your floors, this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. If a small portion of the vinyl is damaged, it’s an easy fix. But, if your flooring looks dated or distressed, you’ll have to tear it out and start over.
This is just something to consider.
Vinyl flooring isn’t biodegradable. Once removed, it will spend the rest of its days sitting in a landfill. Because vinyl flooring is made with different chemical compounds, recycling is nearly impossible.
There are some exceptions. Manufacturers in the green building arena are using recycled fillers in their planks. Unfortunately, this practice often results in lower quality flooring that’s prone to crumbling and breaking.
But, before you dismiss vinyl as non-eco, check brand reviews. Some companies have managed to balance quality and safety without compromising durability.
Installing vinyl in a home with lots of nooks and crannies is a chore. One better left to the pros unless you have nerves of steel. Notching out corners and undercutting doorways isn’t fun.
It takes skill and results in an exorbitant amount of waste. If you choose to accept this mission, do yourself a favor and buy extra material. Don’t forget to lay everything out ahead of time.
If your vinyl transitions to another surface, have a plan in place to compensate for any height difference.
Or choose door number two: hire a pro and let them handle it.
Now you know the nitty-gritty about vinyl flooring, you should be able to decide if it is an appropriate flooring option for your next home improvement project.
If you do decide on vinyl, bear in mind that quality matters and take the time to do your research. Also, never buy without seeing and touching the floor yourself. Take advantage of samples to see how it looks in your home and how it will feel under your feet.
Try to shop during holiday sales and year-end clearances. And don’t forget to sign up for discounts on company websites. Your inbox may get a little full, but you can always unsubscribe after you’ve purchased your vinyl.
Prepare a list of questions before you hit the stores. Most salespeople are happy to help. If your salesperson isn’t willing to answer your questions (or if they try to push you off to carpet), ask to speak with a manager or go to another store.
Don’t forget to ask about safety certifications and warranty details. Flooring is a big-ticket item. Make sure you’re satisfied before the money leaves your hands.
If you’re installing the vinyl, remember to include extra material for waste and replacement. Additionally, make sure you have everything you need before you start your install. If you opt to hire a pro, ask them to provide you with a custom estimate, proof of insurance, and referrals from past jobs.
Good luck with your flooring ventures!