Vinyl flooring has come a long way. Gone are the days of the cheap-looking stuff from your grandma’s kitchen floor. Today’s vinyl products look more realistic than ever, and can offer unique patterns and styles that aren’t always achievable – or affordable – with natural products. Innovations in manufacturing and technology have also given vinyl flooring performance attributes that are hard to beat.
If you’re thinking about vinyl flooring, you have a few different options.
Luxury vinyl tile
Sometimes called luxury vinyl plank, this is a vinyl flooring product that comes in either tile or plank format. In addition to its vinyl core and backing, It includes a design or pattern layer, which usually includes a visual that looks like hardwood, stone, fabric, concrete, metal, or some other natural material, as well as a protective finish or wear layer.
The wear layer’s thickness often determines its warranty, as well as applications it’s best suited for. Wear layers can range from 8 mil (one-thousandth of an inch) for residential products to about 28 mil for heavy commercial products. Different manufacturers offer different types of wear layers, such as urethane finishes, ceramic bead coatings, and even cultured diamonds.
Luxury vinyl tile is generally a flexible product, and is installed one of three ways: glued to the subfloor, as a loose lay product, or as a floating floor with a locking system.
Sometimes referred to WPC, SPC, or rigid core, rigid vinyl is an offshoot of luxury vinyl tile. The difference lies in its core, which makes for a stiff, sturdy product as opposed to a flexible one. Different manufacturers offer different core compositions. These floors are often waterproof, and can be installed in any area of the home. Because the planks and tiles are rigid, they tend to “feel” more like real hardwood or tile than luxury vinyl. These products are also generally installed as a floating floor with a locking system.
One of the original vinyl flooring products, sheet vinyl comes in 6 or 12 foot rolls and is laid out on the floor in a sheet. It can either be directly glued to the subfloor, or installed as a modified loose lay product, depending on the product’s makeup and backing. Sheet vinyl has been around for decades, and is one of the most affordable flooring options you can find. It’s a seamless floor, meaning it’s a great fit for moisture-prone rooms, like bathrooms, kitchens, basements, and laundry rooms.
No matter what kind of vinyl flooring you choose, you’ll have plenty of design options to choose from. And improvements in printing technology have lead to clearer, more realistic designs, as well as in-register embossing, which means the product’s texture matches up with the printed visual.
Vinyl can go anywhere in the home – bathrooms, basements, kitchens, and laundry rooms are all great places to use vinyl. And with today’s great designs, it wouldn’t be crazy to think about putting luxury vinyl in your living room or bedroom. Its durability makes it a good choice for beach or lake houses, where sand and dirt can be tracked in, as do its waterproof qualities.
Subfloor conditions are important to consider when using vinyl, especially if you’re using a flexible or glue down product. Subfloor irregularities can telegraph through flexible products, so it’s important to make sure you’re installing your vinyl floors on smooth and level conditions. Rigid vinyl products aren’t susceptible to telegraphing, but should still be installed under the best conditions possible.
While we recommend using a professional installer, some of the floating products make for good DIY products, especially if you’re handy. Luxury vinyl and sheet vinyl do need time to acclimate; however, many rigid products do not. This means you can install the planks or tiles as soon as you have them in your home.
While vinyl probably isn’t going to give you the same longevity that hardwood or tile will, some products with thicker wear layers offer residential warranties upwards of 20 years – especially products with commercial grade wear layers (generally 20 mil and up).
Vinyl floors are also pretty easy to clean – you can sweep, dry mop, vacuum with the bare floor setting, or wet-mop as needed. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaning tools, which can damage or scratch the floor.
Vinyl can fade if exposed to direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time, so consider how much sunlight your room gets before installing vinyl floors. You can also use area rugs and window treatments to help fight fading.
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About The Author
Proud flooring aficionado and office dog mom, "Flauren" has been a professional writer and editor for more than a decade (though she still maintains her magnum opus was "The Day it Snowed Slurpees," written at the age of 6).
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