Advantages & Disadvantages of Vinyl Plank Flooring
November 13, 2020
We’re just going to come out and say it: there aren’t many disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring. In fact, this high-tech surface carries a ton of perks!
Comfortable, beautiful, and in many cases waterproof, vinyl plank is one of the top fake wood flooring options out there.
In fact, we’re willing to bet that at some point, you’ve stood on what you thought was a hardwood floor—but what you were actually standing on was vinyl plank flooring.
It’s an easy mistake to make! With today’s 3D printing and embossing techniques, it’s harder than ever to tell the difference.
But of course, we to give you all the information you need to choose the perfect flooring for your home. That’s why below, we’re going to go through all the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring.
Then, we’ll even show you how vinyl plank flooring compares to real wood (and some other hardwood floor alternatives), and talk about some of the best vinyl plank flooring brands, too!
You may already know this stuff already, but we want to make sure you have all the information you need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring below.
So: what is vinyl plank flooring, exactly?
Vinyl plank flooring is a synthetic material made up of several different layers. It comes in planks—just like hardwood—but it’s made primarily of PVC (a type of plastic).
The most basic vinyl plank flooring comes in three layers. From the bottom, they are:
A core or base layer that provides foundation and underfoot feel. It can either be rigid or flexible, depending on the product.
A pattern or design layer that gives the vinyl plank its look and feel. This layer can mimic natural wood, tile, stone, or pretty much anything else.
A wear or surface layer to protect the vinyl plank from any kind of damage, including UV fading. This layer is transparent.
Many of the best vinyl flooring products have one or even two extra layers to help with anything from soundproofing to underfoot feel.
What’s the Difference Between Vinyl Sheet and Vinyl Plank?
When many people picture the disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring, they’re actually picturing the disadvantages of vinyl sheet flooring.
And that’s understandable. Often mistaken for linoleum—an older, similar product—vinyl sheet was the go-to kitchen and bathroom flooring for generations.
You can probably picture it now: your parents’ or grandparents’ decades-old, floral-printed vinyl sheet kitchen floor. It was freezing in winter, and weirdly sticky in summer. And if you happened to gouge it, well, good luck fixing it.
But that’s not the vinyl plank flooring we’re talking about here! Nope!
Luxury vinyl plank flooring could not be more different. Rather than being sold in a roll, it’s sold in planks like real wood. It’s thick, with texture and bounce just like real wood. In fact, it’s much more similar to the best engineered wood flooring than it is to vinyl sheet flooring.
Can you still find vinyl sheet flooring? Absolutely! And it’s fantastic for more utilitarian roles, like basement flooring and bathroom flooring. Just remember: vinyl plank flooring is an entirely different type of floor than vinyl sheet is. And that means the disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring have nothing to do with the disadvantages of vinyl sheet!
What’s the Difference Between LVP and LVT?
A quick search for “vinyl flooring” will almost always reveal a confusing list of initials like LVP and LVT.
The truth is, you need to understand the difference—because some disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring will apply to one of these products, but not the other.
So, what’s the difference between Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) and Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)?
It’s simple: appearance.
Luxury Vinyl Plank (aka vinyl plank) looks like a wood plank! And Luxury Vinyl Tile looks like (you guessed it) a tile!
Other than that, there usually aren’t really any significant differences. These days, “vinyl plank” and “LVT” are the most common generic terms to describe all types of luxury vinyl, including plank-look and tile-look products. It’s kind of like how we describe all modern athletic shoes as “tennis shoes”! Think of LVT and vinyl plank as the “tennis shoes” of the vinyl flooring world.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Vinyl Plank Flooring?
Now that you know everything about what vinyl is, let’s talk about the specific advantages and disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring. And since we love this space-age surface, we’re going to start with the positives.
The Advantages of Vinyl Plank Flooring
Water and scratch resistance, easy maintenance, a gorgeous appearance that’s comfortable and affordable—what’s not to like? Hare are all the vinyl plank advantages that make it a top option for any room in the house:
Vinyl Plank Flooring is Water Resistant (and Often, Completely Waterproof)
If you’re looking for a water-resistant wood floor, put aside the expensive samples of teak flooring—and go with vinyl instead! Vinyl plank is always water-resistant because it’s made of plastic. And most vinyl plank floors are able to be installed so that they’re completely waterproof. Even the lower-cost options!
This makes vinyl plank perfect for mudroom flooring, as well as any other rooms that frequently get dirty or wet.
Scratch Resistance is Not a Disadvantage of Vinyl Plank Flooring
Vinyl plank is also a great scratch-resistant flooring choice. While hardwood will show dings and dents after years of use, vinyl plank is super hard to scratch thanks to its ultra-durable wear layer. In fact, there’s only a single weakness to this wear layer—which we’ll talk about further down in the disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring section. #Spoiler!
Pet Accidents Don’t Stand a Chance Against It
We all know that accidents and scratches are the most common ways pets can harm floors. You could buy an easily-refinished type of wood like Douglas fir flooring, but what’s the point when Marley or Milo might just scratch it and—dare we say—urinate all over it? Don’t go through the trouble. There’s a more convenient choice!
Vinyl plank flooring can take years of abuse from pets and keep on keepin’ on.
Plus, vinyl plank has a non-porous surface—so it won’t absorb odors easily. Compared to hardwood, or even something like cork, that can make a huge difference. There aren’t many disadvantages of cork flooring, but when dogs are involved, all bets are off.
Maintenance is Simple (and Easy)
While wood floors often require special maintenance, vinyl plank does not. Vinyl should still be regularly cleaned—but you don’t need to stick to a strict schedule or use any expensive specialty products.
Vinyl Plank Can Look Like Just About Anything
As we mentioned before, vinyl plank flooring can be made to look like just about anything. Obviously, your options are limited to what manufacturers offer—but they offer a lot.
Want your vinyl planks to look like slate tile? Check out these ones from Congoleum. How about vinyl planks that look like they’re made of granite? Take a look at these ones from Armstrong.
But when it comes down to it, vinyl plank is one of the best fake wood flooring products on earth. It’s just a fact!
Vinyl plank looks so much like hardwood flooring, it can be almost impossible to tell the two apart. You can buy vinyl plank in an endless variety of wood floor colors and wood floor patterns. Do you want vinyl plank that looks like ash flooring? How about vinyl plank that looks like something more expensive, like ebony flooring? Done.
When you buy LVP, you can get the look and feel of any type of wood flooring at an affordable price. In fact, the biggest disadvantage of vinyl plank flooring might be that there are too many options to choose from!
LVP Can Go Where Hardwood Can’t
Vinyl plank isn’t just a beautiful and realistic faux wood floor. It’s also an ultra-durable product that can go places where real hardwood can’t.
LVP isn’t affected by heat and humidity, so it’s a great alternative for wood floor bathrooms. It’s water-resistant or waterproof, so it can stand up to wet climates too. Live in Florida and want a hardwood floor? Go with vinyl instead!
Vinyl plank is impervious to termites, so you can even put it outside. We told you—the disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring are few and far between!
Vinyl Plank is Extremely Durable and Can Last Forever
Aside from being hard-wearing and scratch-resistant, vinyl plank is super durable and can last almost forever.
In fact, many manufacturers offer lifetime warranties for their vinyl plank floors. When it comes to longevity and toughness, this stuff can go toe-to-toe with even the most durable wood flooring.
In Terms of Comfort, There are Very Few Disadvantages of Vinyl Plank Flooring
When it comes to underfoot feel, vinyl plank wins some points once again.
It might not be as snugly as carpet, but vinyl plank is more shock-absorbent than some other types of flooring. So it’s easier on your feet, back, and knees. Plus, there are tons of special underlayments you can put between your subflooring and your vinyl planks to increase comfort.
Everyone wants a floor that will increase their home’s resale value. And luckily, vinyl plank is excellent at increasing a home’s resale value. It’s so durable, home buyers know they’re getting a beautiful floor that will last a lifetime.
Or, you can opt for a glue-down installation. Either way, installing vinyl plank flooring is a lot easier than installing most types of wood flooring.
The Disadvantages of Vinyl Plank Flooring
Vinyl may be fantastic, but let’s be fair: there are some disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring too. Plus, we want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a smart flooring choice. And we’d hate for you to be blindsided by one of these cons down the road!
Vinyl Plank Flooring Can Be Susceptible to Discoloration and UV Damage
The first disadvantage of vinyl plank flooring we want to cover: sun exposure. Basically, some types of vinyl plank need to be treated like vampires. But don’t slather garlic all over them! We just mean that some products can fade when exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time.
Translation: you need to make sure that, if your vinyl floors are going to see some rays, they have UV-resistant coatings in the wear layer. Our advice? Find a flooring store near you and ask them how to avoid discoloration. They’ll be able to tell you everything you need to know!
Some Vinyl Plank Flooring Can Off-Gas VOCs
Vinyl plank is hardly the only floor that can off-gas Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). But since it’s made of plastic, it can be one of the bigger offenders.
What are VOCs? They’re the chemicals responsible for that “new car smell”, and the hundreds of other industrial scents you encounter day-to-day. They’re released by just about every industrially-made product there is, and they’re not great for your health.
In small amounts, many VOCs aren’t particularly hazardous. But VOCs can cause health issues with vulnerable groups, and new floors can be a big VOC culprit.
Bottom line: not all floors off-gas VOCs. And not all vinyl plank floors off-gas a lot of VOCs. But if low-VOC flooring is a priority for you, you should definitely make sure to look for low-VOC vinyl flooring.
And There Are Some Other Environmental Disadvantages of Vinyl Plank Flooring, Too
You could make the argument that, because vinyl lasts so long, it’s relatively sustainable. And that’s true! But when it comes to environmental friendliness, vinyl plank is not known for being a particularly eco-friendly flooring option.
Why? There are a number of reasons.
Since LVP is made of plastic, it’s not a “green” material.
Most types of vinyl flooring can’t be recycled, nor can they decompose.
Vinyl plank can’t be repaired—so it has to be thrown out if damaged.
Translation: if you want a floor that’s better for the environment, you may want to take a peek at some super-durable natural options like hemp flooring.
Although it’s Durable, Vinyl Plank Can Be Dented
Overall, vinyl is a super durable type of flooring. But you knew that already!
Unfortunately, vinyl plank does have one big weakness: if something heavy and sharp hits it hard enough to penetrate the wear layer, the entire plank will be dented forever. This can also apply to heavy furniture that rests on vinyl plank for long periods of time.
Is this a big risk? Not particularly. But it is something to be aware of, especially if you’re planning on practicing knife-throwing in the house (or moving heavy, pointy furniture without a cushion).
And LVP Is Really Hard to Repair
If you scratch hardwood floors, you can usually sand and refinish them. Poof! The scratch is as good as gone.
With vinyl plank, this isn’t really the case. If you happen to damage your vinyl floors, it’s going to be difficult—if not impossible—to get them looking like new again. There are products you can use to hide scratches, but a close look may still reveal imperfections in the wear layer.
Furthermore, if you damage the design layer, there’s not much that can be done to repair that section of flooring.
Plus, Vinyl Plank Flooring Can Be Super Hard to Remove
This brings us to another one of the big disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring: it can be extremely hard to remove. This is due to the two common ways vinyl plank flooring is installed: glue-down and snap-together.
When you have a snap-together floating floor, it’s nearly impossible to remove and replace a single damaged plank. Because all the planks are interconnected, you have to remove every plank between the damaged plank and the wall. What a hassle!
And glue-down vinyl plank isn’t much better. It’s almost impossible to take out a single plank without damaging its neighbors or the subfloor below!
To be fair, this isn’t purely a disadvantage of vinyl plank flooring. It’s a disadvantage shared with all snap-together and glue-down floors!
And Vinyl Plank’s Resale Value Isn’t as High as Hardwood’s
It’s important to remember that a lot of factors go into how resale value is calculated in a home. And vinyl plank does add resale value. But on average, it does not add as much value as solid wood does. Again: It adds resale value, just not as much.
Still, the brand, specific product, and the specific appearance can all play a role in vinyl’s value—and it’s not impossible to find vinyl plank products that are more valuable than some wood floors.
What Are Some Alternatives to Vinyl Flooring?
Ok! Now that we’ve covered all the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring, let’s talk about some different types of flooring that offer comparable features. This isn’t a complete list of every vinyl plank alternative, but it will give you a general idea of how vinyl plank stacks up to some other popular options.
For a long time, vinyl plank had one clear advantage over laminate: water resistance. But now, waterproof laminate options like RevWood are starting to even the playing field.
Otherwise, vinyl plank and laminate are pretty similar. They’re both composite floors, meaning they’re made of several layers. They’re both quite durable. And they both offer amazing wood-look visuals at an attractive price point.
That means engineered wood is vaguely similar to vinyl in that it’s made of multiple layers, but that’s about it. There’s nothing synthetic about it!
Are there some engineered wood disadvantages out there? Sure. It’s not as water-resistant as vinyl, and it can only be refinished a few times at most. But really, they’re entirely different types of flooring. One isn’t any better or worse than the other and there are no real disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring vs. engineered wood.
Again: neither carpet nor tile is any better or worse than vinyl plank, since they’re totally different types of flooring!
Tile has always been popular in bathrooms and kitchens because of its water resistance. Vinyl plank fulfills that same purpose. Vinyl plank looks just like real wood. But then again, there are types of tile that do too.
See? There’s really no “better or worse” here.
Similarly, carpet is used for entirely different reasons than vinyl plank. It’s soft, it’s good for kids, and it’s not meant to look like anything but carpet! The only real similarity: if you’re using peel-and-stick carpet tiles, both of these types of flooring can be relatively easy to install.
What Advantages Does Real Wood Have Over Vinyl Plank?
Ironically, while vinyl fixes some of real wood’s flaws (poor water resistance, susceptible to humidity, etc.), real wood fixes some of the disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring.
Super-durable hardwood species can be more resistant to denting than vinyl plank.
Real wood floors can increase resale value even more than vinyl plank can.
Hardwood is better for the environment, and it’s easier to find sustainable wood flooring than it is to find sustainable vinyl plank.
Plus, hardwood floors are easier to repair.
What’s the Best Vinyl Plank Flooring Brand?
Now that we’ve gone through the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring and talked about how it stacks up to other types of flooring, let’s talk about manufacturers!
These days, vinyl plank is manufactured by many different flooring companies. Even some of the best hardwood floor brands also offer vinyl plank! That’s why we’ve listed a few of the most popular ones here.
But this is by no means a complete list! There are literally hundreds of vinyl plank flooring brands to choose from.
Shaw offers a number of 100% waterproof vinyl plank floors in both wood and stone tile flavors.
Mohawk has one of the largest selections of luxury vinyl plank flooring in the world to fit virtually every niche. Mohawk also happens to own the company below, Pergo.
Pergo actually started out as a laminate flooring producer (they invented the stuff back in the 1970s), but has since expanded. Today, their vinyl plank line, Pergo Extreme, is one of the most popular products on the market. Check out these Pergo Extreme reviews to see what we mean!
Cali Bamboo vinyl flooring is “built to last” with a 50-year lifespan. It’s one of the lesser-known brands in vinyl flooring, but its eco-friendly mission has begun to put it on the map.
Conclusion: The Disadvantages of Vinyl Plank Flooring Are Few (and the Advantages are Many)
If there’s one thing to take away from the disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring, it’s that they aren’t particularly numerous (or severe). Especially compared to its advantages!
Sure, vinyl plank is not the most eco-friendly option out there, but there’s something to be said for its long lifespan. And as a wood floor alternative, vinyl plank offers key features a lot of real wood can’t.
All in all, vinyl plank flooring is a great choice for the home. It’ll work just as great in the living room as it will in a kitchen or bathroom. Now, the only thing left to do is to find a flooring store near you and talk to the real experts: local flooring retailers!
Take any subject and there’s a good chance Christian has written about it. From marketing and international relations to wildlife (hobby!) and sports, Christian writes, edits, or helps publish just about everything that’s resigned to written form. His love for home design and remodeling began with his first job working for his uncle’s property management business.
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