Does this sound familiar? “Vinyl flooring gives you the look of hardwood and the durability of laminate — for a fraction of the price.” If you’ve shopped around enough, I’ll bet you’ve encountered at least one variation of that speech.
But, is it the truth or just another pitch? Well, that depends on your outlook. No flooring is 100% perfect, but Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP) – aka Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) – comes close.
Before we dive in any further, understand vinyl won’t work for everyone. There are a few drawbacks. We’ll go into that in a bit, but before we do let’s discuss the benefits.
Vinyl Plank & Tile Flooring Pros
Luxury vinyl plank is a cost-effective way to update your home without breaking the bank. You can save thousands without sacrificing style. Unlike real wood, you can find quality vinyl for under $4 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 per square foot and goes up to $7.
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-$4 range, colors and sizes are limited. 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 2-3-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.
3. Easy Installation
You won’t need to be a carpenter to install your new vinyl floors. If you’ve tackled home improvement projects in the past, it should be an easy task. Vinyl tiles are usually glued down, while most planks come pre-fitted with click & lock: 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.
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 bathrooms and kitchens floors.
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. Giving you the look of real wood 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 safe side.
This is an area where vinyl flooring and laminate, its close relative, are particularly made for: busy households. It doesn’t scratch easily. 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 vinyl planks and tiles have through-body coloring. Meaning 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 and small children. 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.
Its one weakness: sharp objects. So, hold onto those utensils for dear life.
Vinyl is soft underfoot. As you walk, the flooring absorbs pressure. Like a sponge, 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 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 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.
In fact, 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.
Vinyl Plank & Tile Flooring Cons
- Associated Health Risks
- Accessibility Concerns
- Minimal Return on Investment
- Susceptible to Fading and Denting
- Substrate Sensitivity
- Limited Longevity
- Environmental Impact
- Floor Plan Complications
1. Associated Health Risks
Vinyl flooring emits gasses and volatile chemicals into your home called VOCs. 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.
2. Accessibility Concerns
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 hearts 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.
3. 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 improvement. 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 bad reputation.
4. 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.
In fact, most manufacturers advise against installing vinyl underneath fixtures. Keep that in mind for future renovations.
5. Substrate Sensitivity
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.
6. Limited Longevity
When it comes to longevity, hardwood flooring has the advantage. You can sand out scratches, restain 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.
Just something to consider.
7. Environmental Impact
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 write off eco-friendly flooring, check brand reviews. Some companies have managed to balance quality and safety without compromising durability.
8. Complicated Floor-Plans
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 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.
And that concludes our ride on the vinyl flooring roller-coaster. So if you’re still here, let’s leave the negative energy in the past and get into some helpful tips.
How to Find High-Quality Vinyl Planks
Shopping for vinyl plank 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 20mil or higher. If you’re adding vinyl planks to a second home or less frequented space, you can get away with 12mil or higher.
Another critical factor is the top-coat material. Better planks will have 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.
Brands & Reviews
Here’s a list of trusted brands and customer-preferred lines, in no particular order, to get you started.
- Karndean Korlock
- Armstrong Pryzm
- Coretec Plus
- Mohawk SolidTech
- Flooret Modin
- Mannington Adura Max
- Shaw Floorte Largo
- Forbo Allura
When it comes to vinyl plank, Karndean is the gold standard. Adored by homeowners and preferred by installers, Korlock is the Cadillac of vinyl flooring.
The Korlock line features large-format planks up to 9” wide. Karndean LVP floors are waterproof, scratch-resistant and feature attached foam padding. The Korlock line has a wear-layer of 20mil and a lifetime warranty.
You can install Korlock using Karndean’s vertical click locking system. Karndean prices the line competitively in the range of $4-$5 per square foot.
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 of 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.
Expect to pay between $4-$7 per square foot for Pryzm Planks.
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 the same day you buy.
Reviews for this product and the Coretec brand are overwhelmingly positive. The one caveat, Coretech Plus is pricey. Expect to pay between $4.50-$6.50 per square foot.
Mohawk’s newest line of vinyl planks is genuinely stunning. It’s called SolidTech, and it stands to become a major hit for this well-known company. These planks come in beautiful muted tones and handscraped 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.
Mohawk even includes a warranty, especially for pet owners. The biggest drawback — the 12mil wear layer. Mohawk SolidTech sells for approximately $3 per square foot.
Flooret isn’t a household name, but their fanbase of satisfied customers suggests they should be. Sold exclusively online, the Modin line averages between $3.50 -$4.50 per square foot. Planks come in 49 colors and 5 styles.
Flooret’s vinyl plank boards are waterproof, scratch-resistant and have wear layers ranging between 30-40mil. The planks are made with a UV and ceramic-bead top coat. Modin planks sport 4-sided beveled edges and install as a floating floor.
For more information and exclusive discounts, check out the company’s website. You’ll be glad you did.
Mannington Adura Max
The Mannington company has been in business 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-$4 per square foot. Check online for savings. This line goes on sale often.
Largo planks have a 20mil wear layer; wire brushed finishes and varying lengths. The planks are waterproof and carry a limited lifetime warranty.
Reviews of the Largo Plank are mostly favorable. Any negative comments center around the Shaw vinyl brand and not the actual line.
What makes Largo unique is the ability to mix and match sizes, and create a custom design. Stop by Shaw’s website for more information. While your there, be sure to watch the video demonstration.
The Forbo Allura line has more than 100 styles and sizes. You can choose patterned, wood-grain or natural stone replicas in varying sizes. But the choices don’t stop there.
The company offers you three ways to install your Allura tile. Talk about versatility. Depending on your preference, you can glue, loose lay or click together this vinyl.
Allura tiles are 20mil thick and cost between $3-$4 per square foot.
Now that we’ve discussed specific product pricing — we need to talk about the extras. You know, those unexpected trips to your favorite big box store. They add up quick. It’s best you know what you’re in for.
Yes. Vinyl plank and/or vinyl tile flooring are two of the most affordable flooring options on the market (though, depending on your brand choice, we wouldn’t call it a ‘cheap flooring‘).
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 your 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.
Did you survive the sticker shock? Good. Deep breaths, we’re in the home stretch. Now comes the fun part — installation.
- Floating Installation Tips and Tricks
- Glue-Down Installation Tips and Tricks
- Tips for Hiring a Pro Installer
Floating Installation Tips and Tricks
Make sure you buy at least 10-20 percent more flooring than 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 3 or 4 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 ½ – 1 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.
If you have extra material, keep it. You might be tempted to ditch it — but don’t. If your vinyl is damaged, you can replace individual boards or tile without ripping out the entire floor.
Glue-Down Installation Tips and Tricks
Always purchase glue direct from the manufacturer or store. It might cost more but if something goes wrong, you’ll have proof you used the correct adhesive. 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 snug against each other.
Use a damp rag to clean up any excess adhesive. When you’re done, wait at least 3 hours before walking on your floors.
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 $30-$50 an hour. Use our free tool to receive 3 instant quotes from certified professional installers in your area.
The next best way to find an install company is through your flooring retailer. They may be able to include your installation costs into the price of your flooring. If not, they should be able to provide 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 2-3 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.
Shopping for vinyl can be a chore — but don’t forget the fun. Start researching your options early and stock up on freebies and samples before settling on a style. Try to look for flooring that compliments your home’s overall feeling and incorporates your taste.
Join a few online forums and address any questions and concerns with fellow renovators. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to lend a hand. Especially after they have gone through the process.
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 on your flooring ventures. If this article has helped you or we forgot to include a topic — drop us a line. We’ll do our best to answer your questions or address any concerns.