If you’re in the market for new flooring, it’s almost impossible to ignore the growing number of vinyl designs.

Vinyl has been popular for years because it’s waterproof, low maintenance, and affordable. It has also been trending up in recent years, and if you look at the new technology, it’s easy to see why. 

With newer vinyl plank flooring options, homeowners don’t have to compromise between the advantages of vinyl and the aesthetics of wood and tile. No matter the decor, vinyl can imitate stone, wood, cement, marble, and several other patterns and textures.

Vinyl plank flooring is a budget-friendly option for residential and commercial spaces, but like any flooring, it does have its drawbacks and limitations. If you think vinyl might be a possibility for your next flooring project, we’ll explain the ins and outs of this versatile material so you can be sure it will work for you and your family.

Vinyl Plank Flooring: What Are My Options?

Vinyl plank flooring products can vary widely in quality and appropriate applications. Like any flooring material, you can usually determine the top-end vinyl plank by the price per square foot. If you want to truly understand how it will take the everyday wear and environmental conditions of the room it’s going in, look at the thickness and core construction.

Vinyl plank is sold in two categories — luxury vinyl plank (LVP) and rigid core vinyl plank. Let’s look at the build and use of each.

Luxury Vinyl Plank

Unlike cheaper types of vinyl, like sheet rolls, luxury vinyl comes in either planks (LVP) or tiles (LVT). Planks go down like hardwood and LVT flooring installation is similar to laying tile. This gives both a more authentic look.

The bottom layer of LVP is a PVC backing that provides water resistance, but it may not be 100% waterproof. Above this layer is a thin print of the wood or stone texture, a picture of the material it’s imitating. Finally, the top layer is the wear layer, and this is the critical factor in the vinyl’s durability.

The wear layer is a resilient transparent coating that protects the underlying layers. It’s easy to clean and resistant to scratches, scrapes, and stains.

There are several different thickness options for the wear layer to match the amount of use it will get. For residential use, you will generally choose between 6-20 mil in early layer thickness, though you can get thicker if you need even more durability.

When choosing your thickness, durability is only one consideration. You also need to make sure that the profile matches any adjacent flooring, so there’s not a drop or rise as one surface transitions to the next.

For installation, LVP is available in newer click system designs, similar to the tongue-and-groove replacement for hardwoods. For temporary solutions, cheaper peel-and-stick flooring is also available, as well as the traditional glue-down style.

Rigid Core Vinyl Plank

Rigid core vinyl plank is a heavy-duty upgrade to standard LVP, featuring a click system floating floor installation. The layers are similar between the two, but the key difference is in the core.

Cores are either wood-plastic composite (WPC) or stone-polymer composite (SPC). WPC/SPC planks have cores that mix either wood with plastic or stone powder with plastic. Unlike normal LVP, these kinds of vinyl plank flooring are 100% waterproof, not water-resistant.

The cores of WPC/SPC planks do not warp, break, or expand, making them one of the most versatile boards. If you have dampness in your basement, or if you’re sick of the standard tile in your bathroom, rigid core vinyl plank flooring is a great addition to these rooms and more.

SPC vinyl is sold in thinner planks than WPC and LVP because the denser core is much stronger. SPC planks will usually be 1-3 mm thinner than their WPC counterparts.

Maintenance and Repair

One of the many pros of vinyl plank flooring is the easy maintenance. Their waterproof quality makes spills in the kitchen, splashing in the bathroom, and flooding in the basement much less of a concern. It’s also great if you’re house training any pets.

Vinyl plank is easy to sweep and mop clean. There are many textures available, but the smooth poly surface reduces dirt traps.

There are ups and downs to the installation of both glue-down LVP and click system rigid core. If you need to replace a glued vinyl plank, you can cut it out and replace it without removing any other pieces. However, ripping up a fully glued piece of wood can be difficult and messy.

Click system pieces also have their issues. If a board gets damaged in the middle of the room, you’ll have to start at the edge and remove planks until you reach the damaged piece. As you can imagine, this can take a long time in a large room.

It’s tough, but it’s also hard to call this a downside compared to the alternatives. Hardwood works the same way — you can glue it, click it, or fit tongue-and-groove pieces together. And if you have a tile floor, it’s not hard to see how much easier it is to replace damaged LVT over real tile.

Comfort and Cost

Vinyl plank flooring has an excellent under-foot feel, which gets better with thicker flooring and better underlayment. If you don’t like the hard, cold feel of tile, and LVT flooring installation will have more give and feel warmer.

Compared to hardwood, LVP is much more affordable, and even WPC/SPC options can be less expensive than the real deal alternative. You may only pay $3 per square foot for vinyl, whereas mid-grade wood can run $5 per square foot on the low end.

Downsides to Vinyl Plank Flooring

There are three glaring weaknesses of vinyl plank flooring compared to hardwood. First, while LVP resists scratches and scuffs, it dents more readily than wood. If you have heavy furniture or appliances sitting on it for long periods, or if you drop something heavy, it can leave a permanent impression.

Vinyl is a great flooring solution for pets, their claws, and their innate ability to stain anything they touch. There is a limit to that durability, however, and that leads to the second major weakness — punctures. If you drop a knife or other hard, sharp item, the wear layer is easy to penetrate.

Finally, vinyl does not hold up well under a lot of direct sunlight. Unlike many other flooring types, there is no protective UV layer, and your floor will fade more readily from too much exposure.

Is Vinyl Plank Flooring Right For You?

Vinyl plank flooring continues to improve, making it an ideal solution for several rooms. If you need moisture resistance and durability at a great price, vinyl will likely be the best choice. Plus, if you have uneven subfloors, pets, or kids, its flexibility and wear protection make it a perfect fit.

It’s worth your consideration, but despite all the advantages, vinyl is just one of many potential candidates for your next flooring project.

To make sure you’re getting the quality, look, and value you deserve, talk to the pros at Grand Rapids Flooring. Our team is dedicated to providing the advice and pricing that keep our customers confident, satisfied, and coming back for more. Contact us to learn more about your flooring options and our special deals!