Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring: What It Is + Best Brands
September 29, 2021
Floating vinyl plank flooring is one of the most popular installation options these days. But are floating floors really a long-term flooring investment, or just a short-term gimmick meant to appeal to the DIY crowd?
We know you want to know, and we’re here to help.
Below we’ve compiled all there is to know about floating vinyl plank flooring. What it is, the different kinds of floating vinyl plank floors, their pros and cons, the best LVP flooring brands that sell them, and a heck of a lot more.
By the end of this article, you’ll know absolutely everything there is about floating vinyl plank flooring.
Vinyl Plank Flooring vs. Vinyl Sheet Flooring (and Vinyl TileFlooring)
Vinyl plank isn’t the only type of PVC flooring. There are also sheet vinyl and luxury vinyl tile (LVT), among others.
Sheet vinyl was the first to hit the market (back in the 1940s!) and it comes in rolls rather than planks. It’s mostly sold as budget flooring because of its single-layer design. There are also a few sheet-based outdoor vinyl flooring options out there, but if you’re looking at outdoor flooring options, vinyl probably isn’t your #1 answer.
Luxury vinyl tile, on the other hand, is nearly the same thing as LVP except that it’s cut into tiles instead of planks. There are a few minor problems with luxury vinyl tile, but they’re no different than the problems with LVP.
The only difference: while LVP mimics different wood flooring types, LVT mimics ceramic and stone tile.
To clear up any potential confusion, the rest of this article applies to both LVP and LVT. Any exceptions will be made obvious!
Let’s be absolutely clear: peel and stick vinyl plank is not the same thing as loose-lay LVP. We’ll get into this more in a moment, but loose-lay doesn’t need any kind of adhesive while peel-and-stick vinyl is installed the same way you install peel-and-stick carpet tiles. And how do you install carpet tiles? Like stickers!
More to the point, peel-and-stick vinyl buys you some time while you think about more permanent flooring ideas, while loose-lay LVP should last decades.
So, What Is Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring?
Floating vinyl plank flooring is anykind of LVP that rests atop your subflooring instead of being glued down. But let’s back up a second, what is a floating floor in general?
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but floating floors don’t actuallyfloat like something out of Star Wars. They are, however, super neat!
Like we mentioned above, floating floors rest directly on top of your subflooring (if you’re wondering what subflooring is, it’s kind of like the bones of your home) without the use of glues or nails. Instead, floating floors use gravity and friction to stay in place.
There Are 2 Types of Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring
There are two types of floating vinyl plank flooring: click or snap-together flooring, which locks planks together using interlocking grooves, and loose-lay flooring, which relies on weight and a rubber backing to stay in place.
Click-Lock (Or “Snap-Together”) Vinyl Plank
Click-lock flooring works the same way Legos do. Planks fit together using interlocking grooves to create a single platform. But unlike Legos, the click-lock grooves are located on the sides of each plank.
While this might sound risky, it really isn’t! By connecting each plank together, the chance of a plank coming loose is dramatically reduced. Without getting into the physics of it too much, the interlocking grooves allow individual planks to share impact forces with their neighbors. Together, they all remain largely unaffected.
If you’re still nervous about the idea, you can always turn your click-lock vinyl plank into magnetic flooring with a specialized underlayment that further reduces the possibility of lifting.
Loose-Lay Vinyl Plank
Loose-lay vinyl plank flooring is even better for DIY flooring installations. Instead of using a click-lock system, this floating LVP floor relies on rubber backings underneath each plank to increase friction—and therefore stay in place.
Think of it this way: tiny rubber door stoppers can keep heavy doors from closing. These rubber backings work the same way. It really is that simple!
For added security, loose-lay planks are usually heavier than other types of LVP to limit the chances of lifting.
As such, loose-lay vinyl is arguably the easiest flooring to install because mistakes are easily forgiven. If you place a plank down incorrectly, you don’t have to worry about unlocking all the surrounding planks to fix it. Just lift it up and try again!
Click-Lock vs. Loose-Lay: Which Floating Vinyl Plank Method is Better?
Both versions of floating vinyl plank flooring offer a lot to get excited about, so we wouldn’t necessarily say one’s better than the other. It really just comes down to your specific needs and personal preference.
Loose-Lay Floating Vinyl Plank Is More DIY-Friendly
Like we said before, loose-lay vinyl is extremely DIY-friendly. Brands like Karndean even market it as “optional” flooring—as in, you could theoretically buy a few different batches and switch out your floors for different events!
This is a far cry from how difficult it can be to install even the best hardwood floors. One of the disadvantages of hickory flooring, for example, is that it’s nearly impossible to cut with normal tools so you A) have to buy tons of specialized blades, and B) have to spend hours upon hours cutting hickory planks to size.
Loose-lay vinyl is practically the opposite. You open the box, place the planks down, and boom! you’re done (okay, it might be slightly more complicated—but not by much!).
And since there are no locking mechanisms to get in the way, you can generally recreate all sorts of wood floor designs with minimal effort. It’s almost like floor Tetris!
Loose-Lay Floating Vinyl Has Better Acoustics (It’s Quiet)
One of the benefits of that half-inch-or-so of rubber: it has great sound-dampening qualities.
What does that mean exactly? Loose-lay vinyl isn’t very noisy. To be fair, click-lock floating vinyl plank flooring isn’t very noisy either, but loose-lay is the quieter of the two.
Loose-Lay Is Also Comfier (By Itself)
Loose-lay’s rubber backing gives it a tiny bit of bounce—not enough to be obvious, but enough to make it pretty comfortable to walk on.
One of the biggest (and only) disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring: it’s about the furthest thing from being eco-friendly flooring there is. After all, it’s mostly plastic! However, loose-lay floating vinyl plank flooring tends to be greener than other LVP options because it doesn’t (usually) need glue, and rubber is fully recyclable.
Of course, if you want the best in eco-friendly flooring, options like hemp flooring are going to be better. Alternatively, some of the best bamboo flooring options can give you the durability of vinyl with more eco-friendly cred—but it really depends on the product.
Click-Lock Floating Vinyl Plank Will Probably Last Longer…
On the other hand, click-lock floating vinyl plank flooring is just a tiny bit more secure than loose-lay flooring because of its locking system. So: there’s a slightly smaller chance that it will get damaged.
Following that train of thought, it’s fair to say that click-lock LVP probably lasts longer than loose-lay (on average). But again: as with all fake wood flooring options, it entirely depends on the specific product.
Click-Lock Floating Vinyl Plank Is “More” Waterproof
Click-lock planks snugly fit together to create a watertight seal, while loose-lay vinyl still has seams.
That said, loose-lay is also waterproof, so there’s no reason you can’t use it for a wood floor bathroom or kitchen look.
Overall: both loose-lay and click-lock LVP are great choices for any rooms that frequently get wet (like mudroom flooring)—click-lock is just a little bit safer. Again, though (and we say this all the time because it’s really true), it totally depends on the product.
However, it makes it easier to mimic popular wood floor patterns (think parquet flooring styles like herringbone or chevron) because there aren’t any click-lock systems to get in the way. Obviously, this isn’t an issue for loose-lay installations.
Materials-wise, floating vinyl plank flooring usually costs about the same as any other kind of vinyl plank; that is, between $2 and $6/sq. ft. on average.
However, the cost to install vinyl plank flooring—which usually ranges between $1.50 and $6.00/sq. ft.—does tend to be slightly cheaper in a floating style than for glue-down because the work isn’t as tedious.
Regardless of which variety you choose (click-lock or loose-lay), floating vinyl plank flooring offers a lot of benefits over its glue-down counterpart.
Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring Offers Tons of Design Options
From exotic wood floor colors to a full range of soft and hardwood species, floating vinyl plank flooring offers a substitute for it all. Or, maybe you prefer stone styles? Floating LVP can do that too!
The mimicry doesn’t stop at looks either. You can find floating LVP that resembles thin-plank, mixed-plank, or even wide-plank wood flooring as well.
Since floating vinyl plank flooring can support any type of wear layer too, there’s really no limit to how durable it can be. And there is zero difference with product durability as far as floating setups are concerned—meaning floating vinyl plank flooring is just as durable as its glued cousin.
Depending on the Product, They Can be Even More Waterproof
So why did we say “or even more so”? Because depending on the product, floating LVP floors can be even more waterproof.
See, click-together floors offer a watertight seal with zero seams (as we mentioned before). That’s why products that are made specifically to be waterproof—AquaGuard flooring, RevWood, etc.—come standard as click-together floors.
Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring Reviews Say It’s Easy to Clean and Maintain
Since floating vinyl plank flooring is waterproof, you can simply mop it to keep it clean. Now, you can buy special cleaning chemicals—and some brands even recommend this—but it’s rarely a requirement.
The disadvantages of floating vinyl plank flooring (vs. glue-down) really aren’t that bad, but it’s our duty to keep the public informed!
Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring Doesn’t Support Heavy Foot Traffic as Well as Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Does
As we’ve mentioned before, floating vinyl plank flooring may not support super heavy foot traffic quite as well as glue-down floors do. This is a very product-dependent issue, and loose-lay vinyl plank is usually better for heavy foot traffic than click-together is.
All Floating Vinyl Plank May Be Slightly More Prone to Lifting
All floating vinyl plank flooring is a little prone to lifting (though, as we mentioned before, loose-lay is a little more vulnerable). Factors like high heat, traffic, and humidity can all increase the risk. And again: we’re not saying they’re prone to lifting. At all. We’re just saying they’re more prone to lifting than glue-down.
That said, there’s no reason you can’t use either type of floating vinyl plank flooring for sunroom flooring, so the problem may be overstated. Even better, some brands are highly resistant to any kind of movement, including lifting.
The Subflooring Needs to Be Excellent
To be fair, subflooring needs to be prepared well regardless of the type of flooring.
However, floating vinyl plank flooring is especially vulnerable to an uneven subfloor. Click-lock floors won’t connect right and loose-lay floors will rise and fall with any subfloor imperfections.
For this reason alone, we highly recommend hiring a contractor to (at least) prepare your subfloor.
Top Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring Brands
We’ve used tons of vinyl plank flooring reviews to create this list of top brands that offer floating vinyl plank flooring. We also specify which type of floating vinyl plank flooring (click-lock or loose-lay) the brand offers.
Proximity Mills (Click-Lock and Loose-Lay)
Proximity Mills is one of two brands on this list that offers both loose-lay and click-lock floating vinyl plank. While it’s a smaller company, Proximity Mills enjoys excellent reviews and offers a wide range of high-end LVP products at an affordable price point.
Karndean (Click-Lock and Loose-Lay)
Karndean is the only other brand here that makes click-lock and loose-lay floating vinyl plank flooring. Considered a premium brand, Karndean vinyl plank flooring costs a bit more than your average LVP, but the trade-off is generally worth it.
All Karndean products are certified as low-VOC vinyl flooring (learn about low-VOC flooring before making any purchases) and designed to last at least 35 years (which is longer than average).
COREtec (Click-Lock Only)
The key takeaway from our COREtec flooring review: the brand makes excellent LVP, but you’ll really pay for it. While most high-end LVP costs between $4 and $6/sq. ft., some COREtec products cost upwards of $10/sq. ft. and more.
If you’re looking for a budget brand, LifeProof LVP isn’t a bad option, but don’t expect it to last for decades. The product has decent reviews but the price makes us wonder if it makes more sense to invest in a better-performing brand like Proximity Mills or Karndean.
SmartCore is probably the better of the two and it even offers some decent rigid core options, but it ultimately falls into the same trap as its rival: why not pay slightly more for a much better product?
CoreLuxe (Click-Lock Only)
LL Flooring’s CoreLuxe floating vinyl plank flooring is another middling product from a big box store (notice a theme yet?). The premium version of the floor is okay but LL Flooring’s sketchy reputation and a string of lawsuits regarding harmful chemicals and faulty floors is definitely concerning.
For the same price, there are much safer bets. You know, bets where you don’t have to worry whether your flooring will kill you.
Bonus tip: our Armstrong laminate flooring reviews highlight another brand with a checkered reputation. It’s definitely worth it to research your chosen brand to make sure there aren’t any recent lawsuits that could influence your decision.
TrafficMaster Vinyl Flooring (Click-Lock Only)
TrafficMaster flooring—the other Home Depot exclusive—is probably better known for its budget laminate products, but they also sell LVP. The reviews are mediocre but that’s not too surprising for a brand that’s not exactly trying to be a premium brand.
TrafficMaster LVP isn’t bad for temperature-controlled, low-traffic spaces, but otherwise, we recommend looking for better floating vinyl plank flooring.
NuCore (Click-Lock Only)
NuCore flooring is yet another big box store product, this time from Floor & Decor. It’s not terrible, but it also doesn’t offer anything that makes it stand out from brands like LifeProof—and it doesn’t hold a candle to Proximity Mills, Pergo, or other high-end brands.
Stainmaster Vinyl Flooring (Click-Lock Only)
If you know anything about Stainmaster luxury vinyl, you might be wondering why we’ve neglected to include their “loose lay vinyl flooring.” Simple: it’s not actually loose-lay vinyl flooring, but peel-and-stick vinyl instead!
Confusing—and borderline misleading—name aside, Stainmaster LVP is one you probably want to avoid.
While their LVP is geared towards the budget market, other brands like LifeProof and NuCore offer more overall value for your dollar.
Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring FAQs
Is there anything else worth knowing about floating vinyl plank flooring? We’ve collected some popular questions below!
Can You Install A Toilet on Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring?
Yes, of course! After all, LVP is essentially meant for rooms where it comes into frequent contact with water (though, in this case, hopefully that doesn’t happen!).
Can You Glue Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring to the Subfloor?
Maybe with the exception of a few low-end brands, you can absolutely glue your floating vinyl plank flooring down! This may even counteract some of the flaws we mentioned regarding lifting.
Can You Install it Over Hardwood (or Other Existing Floors)?
So long as they’re clean, level, and protected from moisture (by using an underlayment), you can install floating vinyl plank flooring over existing floors like hardwood. This is actually a common practice and one that can save you some serious dollars since you won’t have to rip up the old flooring.
Can You Use Radiant Heat with Floating LVP?
Some brands of floating vinyl plank flooring can be heated the same way you might go about heating a wood floor. You will need to check a given product’s warranty and care instructions to make sure it’s compatible.
Can I Use a Wheelchair on Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring?
Yes, but it depends on what kind. Click-lock floors are not suited for rolling loads like wheelchairs. It should be no problem with most loose-lay products, though.
Conclusion: Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring Is Great—If You Pick the Right Brand!
In general, floating vinyl plank flooring is fantastic! It’s versatile, durable, and relatively affordable. However, with so many mediocre brands out there, it’s easy to end up with a meh product.
And that brings us to our next point: the one thing all those budget brands we mentioned have in common is that they’re from big box stores like Home Depot and LL Flooring!
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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