If you are looking for a flooring material that looks like wood planks but comes at a fraction of the price and maintenance, look no furtrher: Meet Luxury Vinyl Planks! There are a number of manufacturers/suppliers out there sellling the products online or in stores like Home Depot, Lowes and Build.com. They come in various sizes, thicknesses, pattern, color, finishes and prices which can make it hard to chose. We ordered samples from many of them and Manuela of MP DESIGN even installed two of these products herself. Here are some of the basic things to consider and what we have learned in the process after our hands-on installations:
Plank sizes and thicknesses:
Luxury Vinyl Planks (LVP) come in a few different sizes and many colors. Some are more textured than others and some have beveled edges to give it a more realistic hardwood plank appearance. And to clarify, this material also comes in a tile formats, commonly referred to as LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile). They might mimick the look of natural stone, etc.
In general, these planks try to mimick the look of hardwood flooring. So, you will find planks that are sized like 6″ x 48″ or 9″ x 60/72″. Some manufacturers also cater to the more traditional hardwood flooring look of narrow planks, like 3.35″ x 72″ (Flooret Craftsman series). Some offer more intricate patterns like Chevron.
Each plank is constructed of multiple layers of plastic and padding, which vary by thickness and in the composition of the core layer; these elements affect how quiet and comfortable the floor is to walk on, and how durable it is.
When it comes to the thickness and layers of these planks, you want to pay attention to the wear layer. The thickness of this layer is measured in mils, with 1 mil equal to one-thousandth of an inch (about 40 mils equals 1 millimeter). The thicker the wear layer, the more durable and long-lasting the tile or plank. Most residential vinyl wear layers range from 8 to 12 mils thick. Experts recommend at least a 20-mil-thick wear layer for heavily used areas. You also want to get a thicker wear layer if you have pets such as large dogs that will scratch the flooring.
Insider Tip: We highly suggest getting samples and testing them for various potential abuse from scratching to liquid spills, etc.
In general LVPs are a waterproof and a great option for basements, mudrooms, laundry room, bathrooms, kitchens and entryways. However, this is not a product suited for outdoor installation. In enviroments with moisture issues like some baseboard a vapor barrier will typically be recommended. Check the manufacturers installation instructions before ordering any of the products.
Advantages and where to use Luxury Vinyl Planks:
Because it’s usually waterproof and easy to maintain, luxury vinyl flooring is a good choice for wherever there are spills, kids and pets, making it a sensible option for kitchens, bathrooms, entries, laundry rooms, mudrooms and playrooms.
Some luxury vinyl planks come with Pet Protection like shown here from STAINMASTER. This Pet Protection line of luxury vinyl flooring comes with a special coating to resist scratches and provide traction.
Most planks have a click-lock system that locks them together and float atop the subfloor without any adhesive. They can potentially also be installed over existing flooring such as inoleum, tile but never over carpet. The subfloor needs to be smooth, undamaged and leveled to guarantee a successful LVP installation.
Another important planning aspetct when considering LVPs and the typical floating installation is that the material needs to be able to expand and contract. Hence, it cannot be placed under cabinets and appliances. But it is OK to place furniture on top.
The planks with a number of trim pieces so any unfishied edges or flooring material transitions can be trimmed out. LVP can also be installed on staircase and some providers offer stairparts such as nosing profiles. Here is an example using LVP from Flooret (Craftsman Series) – staircase photo on the left.
The prices for LVPs typically range from about $1.95 to $7/square foot (not including installation). Installation costs vary a lot depending on location. But the beauty of LVPs is that they are pretty easy to install for handy homeowners out there. However, some basic tools are highly recommended and from our experience, needed, i.e. decent spacers, heavy duty tapping block and a saw vs. a utility knife.
There are many manufacturers of LVPs out there. We highly recommend that you get samples, not just to check for the color/finish. We have tested and installed two interior floors with two different products, and we learned that the construction of the planks is very important. Especially, how strong the locking mechanism/tongue & groove edges are. The first product we (= Manuela by herself) installed was from MSI, the Everlife Prescott in Ludlow finish. The pattern and finish selection is very impressive and we are happy with the final result (see picture below on the left). But the installation process was not easy with the locking mechanism/edges that were rather flimsy and broke very easily. Granted, Manuela is not a professional flooring installer but she is very handy nevertheless and had decent tools at her disposal.
We were not satisfied with our first LVP product, so we searched for a better alternative. We found Flooret, which was highly praised by a flooring expert and professional installer on Youtube. Manuela bought and installed the Flooret Modin, Tilden Base, in another area of her condo. The installation was much smoother, because the locking mechanism was much sturdier, did not break easily and sped up the process (see installation photo on the right). We are very happy with the quality and appearance of Flooret LVPs, and we can highly recommend their products.
Flooret products also have FloorScore certification. This indicates that they meet the low emission standards for volatile organic compounds (VOCs).is the type of materials used for LVPs and other interior finishes. To ensure good indoor air quality, look for products that have a Floor Score certification. This indicates that they meet the low emission standards for volatile organic compounds (VOCs). FloorScore® is the most recognized indoor air quality (IAQ) certification standard for hard surface flooring materials, adhesives, and underlayments. Developed by SCS with the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI), a leading industry trade association of flooring manufacturers and suppliers, it qualifies for many green building schemes including LEED v4.1, WELL, BREEAM, CHPS, and Green Globes.