April 20, 2021
So: is it better to glue down vinyl plank flooring, or to install it as a floating floor?
It’s an age-old question (well, old-ish), and there’s really no right or wrong answer either way. Both options have their own sets of challenges and perks—and luckily, we’re here to lay them all out for you!
Below, we’re going to compare the advantages and disadvantages of glue-down vinyl plank flooring and floating vinyl plank flooring.
Additionally, we’ll explain the different ways you can create floating LVP floors, evaluate a few other flooring types that can be glued down (for context), and finally, dive into a couple of the best vinyl plank flooring brands that can be glued down as well.
First: What Is Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)?
You probably know this already, but there’s a big difference between luxury vinyl and sheet vinyl. And since the type of vinyl flooring you choose affects how you can install it, we’re going to cover this top-level stuff just to make sure we’re all on the same page. So:
Sheet vinyl is a type of PVC flooring that’s durable, waterproof, and installs (you guessed it) in one giant sheet. However, it’s not a particularly scratch-resistant flooring choice given that it’s so soft. It’s also super-retro and usually comes in floral patterns and the like. And because it installs in one giant sheet, it has to be glued down.
Luxury vinyl (aka vinyl plank or LVP), is a different product entirely. It’s a multi-layer material that comes in planks that mimic hardwood or tile. It’s waterproof, it’s beautiful, and it’s way more durable—meaning it can be installed anywhere inside of your home. It’s a top faux wood flooring choice for kitchen, bathroom, or even mudroom flooring.
LVP Can Look Like Anything
Most LVP is designed to mimic different types of wood flooring, but its design layer can actually be made to look like just about anything. The best vinyl plank flooring brands can even mimic textures, too. Popular looks like ash flooring are certainly common options, but even exotic looks like ebony flooring are available from some brands.
And of course, you’re not limited to wood—if you want LVP that looks like certain types of tiles (natural stone, porcelain, even wood-look ceramic tile) you can find it.
And There Are a Lot of Different Types of Vinyl Plank Flooring
LVP’s huge variety doesn’t stop at design. Many brands have found great ways to upgrade their products for increased comfort or durability. For example, rigid-core vinyl (aka EVP flooring) upgrades the strength of standard LVP by using an engineered core.
Then you have SPC flooring (aka stone composite), which is arguably the most durable type of rigid-core vinyl. And WPC flooring, for example, emphasizes comfort with its wood-composite core.
Again: if you need an LVP that meets a specific requirement for your home, someone probably makes it.
There Are 2 Ways to Install LVP: Glue-Down and Floating
When installing LVP, you have 2 options:
- Glue-down vinyl plank flooring
- Floating vinyl plank flooring
Usually, there’s not a huge difference between the actual flooring materials themselves—but there are a couple of things to consider.
For one, some LVP brands will optimize their products for their intended installation methods. And for another, glue-down vinyl plank flooring may require more professional know-how (depending on the product).
Additionally, There are 2 Ways to Install a Floating Floor
What is a floating floor? Easy: rather than using glue to stay secured, floating floors simply rest on top of their subfloors. Gravity and friction do all the work. Don’t worry—floating floors are not shoddy or temporary. In fact, floating setups are probably the most popular installation methods these days.
Anyway: if you want do-it-yourself flooring, there’s no better option than floating floors. But: there are some floating floors disadvantages, too—so don’t write off glue-down vinyl plank flooring just yet.
Either way, there are 2 ways to create a floating floor: click-together (aka snap-lock) and loose-lay. Here’s how they break down:
1. Click-Together Vinyl Plank
Click-together flooring works like the name suggests. These vinyl planks sport interlocking grooves that snap tightly into place. Once the whole floor is snapped together, it floats on top of the subfloor.
2. Loose-Lay Vinyl Plank
Loose-lay vinyl plank flooring is similar to click-together flooring, except that the planks don’t connect to one another. Instead, rubber backings (and heavier planks) keep the floor in place.
What Do Floating and Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Flooring Have in Common?
While some brands optimize their products for one installation method or the other, most luxury vinyl plank floors will share the same basic traits—regardless of how you choose to install them.
Plenty of Designs Are Available in Both Install Types
Both floating and glue-down vinyl plank floors offer tons of stone and wood floor designs.
With LVP, you can even mimic wood floor patterns like parquet flooring or wide-plank wood flooring.
More Specifically: Floating and Glue Down Vinyl Usually Offer the Same Designs
Most of the best vinyl plank flooring brands offer glue down and floating vinyl products, and some even sell products that can be installed either way!
The cool thing about this is that if there’s a specific design you like, you can probably find options optimized for the installation method of your choice.
Aside From Specialty Products, Most LVP Won’t Survive Outside
This isn’t a problem with floating or glue-down floors so much as it’s one of the disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring in general. Unless you buy vinyl specifically meant for the outdoors, it won’t do well in the elements.
So: if you’re looking for outdoor flooring options, we’d recommend looking into hardwood instead—many of the best hardwood floor brands offer products that will serve you better.
On the other hand, most high-end LVP—and especially glue-down LVP—can be used for sunroom flooring (just check with the manufacturer first!)
The Advantages of Installing Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Flooring
In general, glue-down vinyl plank flooring can be a little more robust than floating vinyl plank flooring (though we’ll get into that more in a moment). Here’s where glue-down vinyl excels:
Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Flooring Can Be More Durable
The big word here: can. Floating floors—whether click-together or loose-lay—are super durable. But: lower-quality (ahem, “budget”) LVP brands like LifeProof vinyl flooring and SmartCore flooring sometimes have issues with their click-together tabs breaking.
And when those tabs break, the integrity of the surface is compromised—and your waterproof vinyl flooring becomes waterproof-except-for-between-the-seams vinyl flooring.
It Also Tends to Be Thinner (And Offers More Thickness Options)
Vinyl that’s specifically designed to be floated tends to be thicker—because the heftier planks are more likely to stay together after regular wear and tear.
With loose-lay vinyl, this is because the planks have to be heavy to stay in place. With click-together vinyl, thicker planks mean thicker interlocking grooves—and therefore, more strength.
Since glue-down vinyl plank flooring is secured with adhesives, the chances of it shifting are low—even with a lot of daily traffic. This means that glue-down vinyl planks can be thinner, and sometimes even cheaper (lower material costs). It also means you have more options when it comes to plank thickness.
And Glue-Down LVP Can Be More Resistant to Environmental Changes
Like we said earlier, glue-down vinyl plank flooring is directly attached to the subfloor, so it’s not likely to shift under heavy traffic. This also means it’s more resistant to environmental changes (think humidity, temperature, etc.) Translation: it’s very unlikely that it will warp or bend.
Does that mean floating vinyl plank floors will warp or bend? Not necessarily. Not even usually!
It’s entirely dependent on the product. Stainmaster luxury vinyl reviews, for instance, often mention warping issues. COREtec flooring reviews, on the other hand almost never do. It’s just something to keep in mind.
Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Flooring Generally Won’t Wear Down as Quickly (So it’s Great for Commercial Spaces)
This is much less an issue with floating vinyl plank flooring than it is an issue with floating floors in general.
See, because there’s a tiny layer of space between any floating floor and its subfloor, there tends to be a little give in these floors. And over time, with enough foot traffic, that can lead to the floor breaking down more quickly. This isn’t a problem with glue-down vinyl plank flooring.
So, broadly speaking, glue-down vinyl is a little more resilient than floating vinyl—making it great for commercial spaces. Even the most durable wood flooring—what LVP is supposed to replace—can’t really compete.
However, we should also mention that the best vinyl plank flooring can essentially be used anywhere regardless of the install method—longevity is, as always, very product-specific.
Acoustics: Glue-Down Vinyl Flooring Can Also Be Quieter
For the same reason as above—that tiny empty space between a floating floor and its subfloor—floating surfaces can have a hollow sound when you walk on them. Since glue-down vinyl plank flooring doesn’t have an air gap, it’s usually quieter. That said, this issue can easily be fixed with the proper underlayment.
Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Floors Are Sometimes Cheaper to Buy
Vinyl plank floors that are specifically designed to be glued down are sometimes cheaper than their floating counterparts—because they’re thinner, which means the company is spending less on materials. Again, however: it all comes down to the product.
Advantages of Installing Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring
Floating vinyl is generally easier to work with than glue-down vinyl plank flooring. Here are some more of its advantages:
Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring is Easier to Install
Floating LVP is some of the world’s easiest flooring to install. Just measure, cut, snap, and you’re in business!
Glue-down vinyl plank flooring, on the other hand, can be tedious—and as anyone who builds model airplanes or makes Etsy-worthy crafts can attest, high-strength adhesive is not easy to work with.
Which Means Floating Floors are Usually Cheaper to Install, Too
While it won’t approach the cost to install hardwood floors (or even the cost to replace carpet with hardwood), the cost to install vinyl plank flooring using is going to be higher if you opt for a glue-down method. It takes longer, it’s messier, it’s more labor-intensive, and it requires more expertise.
Floating Vinyl Plank Is Also Way Easier to Replace
Since floating vinyl isn’t directly attached to the subfloor, if a plank gets damaged, you can replace it without much fuss. You might have to remove a number of planks in the process, but it’s a heck of a lot easier than lifting glued-down vinyl planks.
So unless you’re opting for something like magnetic flooring, floating setups are definitely the way to go if you see yourself replacing your floors with anything approaching regularity.
And it Can Be Lower in VOCs
It’s hard to classify LVP as eco-friendly flooring, given that it’s made of plastic. And while some LVP brands are recyclable and use production processes that are more environmentally friendly, options like hemp flooring or sustainable wood flooring are probably a better call if you want something green.
That said: the other problem with vinyl flooring has to do with VOCs—volatile organic compounds. These harmful chemicals are sometimes emitted by man-made materials (like vinyl and adhesives). So: even if you buy low-VOC vinyl flooring, how do you install it without using harmful adhesives? By floating it, of course!
That means floating vinyl plank floors can be lower in VOCs than glue-down vinyl plank floors.
Floating vs. Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Flooring: Does the Subfloor Matter?
We’ve referenced the “subfloor” a few times so far. But what is subflooring?
Subflooring serves as a foundation for your floors! You can kind of think of it as part of the “bones” of your home, and it’s generally made from either concrete or wood.
So does it matter for LVP? Absolutely. Without a decent subfloor, your LVP (or any other floor) could be vulnerable to all sorts of extra wear and tear, or even moisture-related damage.
Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Flooring Is More Forgiving of Subfloor Issues
In terms of function, glue-down vinyl plank flooring is a little more forgiving because it’s literally attached to the subflooring. And that means ridges and bumps might not be quite as noticeable (or problematic).
Whereas Uneven Subflooring May Break a Floating Floor’s Seal
Floating floors may not seal properly if there are rises and falls in your subflooring. This means water can trickle down in between the seams, potentially damaging your subfloors and/or encouraging the growth of mold and mildew.
What Other Types of Floors Can Be Glued Down?
Vinyl plank is just one of the many types of flooring that can be glued down—a list that includes tons of other hardwood floor alternatives.
What is laminate flooring? It’s a multi-layer fake wood flooring option composed of a high-density fiberboard base, a photorealistic image, and a protective wear layer.
Basically, it’s super similar to LVP—but it’s not made out of plastic. And boy, the vinyl plank vs. laminate debate is intense. Both are great choices, but vinyl might be a touch more resilient given that it’s inherently waterproof.
That being said, some of the best laminate flooring brands—like Mohawk’s RevWood—are now evening the playing field with waterproof laminate options. And because it’s not made of plastic, it’s a touch easier to find non-toxic laminate flooring than it is to find entirely VOC-free vinyl flooring.
Solid Hardwood Flooring
Many of the best hardwood floors can be glued down as well as nailed. There are a lot of considerations when it comes to hardwood, though. For one, buying hardwood floors is a lot more expensive than buying glue-down vinyl plank!
And unlike LVP, wood isn’t waterproof (though water-resistant wood flooring does exist). And you also have to think about refinishing it every so often—even if you buy prefinished hardwood flooring. Oh, and the cost to refinish hardwood flooring isn’t cheap, either (though it may be cheaper than having to replace budget LVP every few years).
On another note, even the best wood flooring for dogs can’t compete with high-end LVP as far as scratch resistance is concerned. And finally: if you’re thinking about heating wood floors, you need to be careful if you use glue—some glues can degrade or even release toxic fumes with heat.
Engineered Hardwood Floors
A lot of people are confused about the difference between engineered hardwood vs. laminate.
We’ve already talked a bit about laminate, so: what is engineered hardwood? It’s basically a high-performance version of hardwood, combining a solid wood veneer with a durable plywood core.
Compared to solid hardwood, the best engineered wood flooring is (usually) cheaper and easier to install, but still just as gorgeous. And it’s more resistant to changes in temperature and humidity, too.
You can find engineered wood in just about every hardwood species there is—and it offers some extra perks in that department. For example, one of the disadvantages of hickory flooring is that the wood is so tough that contractors need special blades and nails to install it. Engineered hickory is thinner, so cutting and installing it (using glue or nails) is much simpler.
While there are some disadvantages of engineered hardwood, they’re relatively few and far between—and luckily, it’s often installed in a glue-down method.
Engineered and Solid Bamboo Flooring
The best bamboo flooring can also be installed using the glue-down method. You can refinish bamboo flooring like you would hardwood, and it even comes in many traditional wood floor colors and patterns.
Compared to LVP, bamboo is a much more environmentally-friendly flooring choice (when it’s sustainably farmed).
There’s even an engineered version, and in fact, the pros and cons of engineered bamboo flooring are pretty similar to engineered hardwood’s.
The best cork flooring is yet another option that can be glued down—but it’s not easy to do because cork is so porous.
Cork looks similar to hardwood, but it has an almost spongy texture that’s a lot more comfortable than the latter (or most glue-down vinyl plank floors). Of course, one of the big disadvantages of cork flooring is that rather unique appearance that may not be appealing to all home buyers (not great for resale value).
Ultimately, the pros and cons of cork flooring put it in a category of its own. Like we said, it looks similar to hardwood, but you have to treat it differently. It’s also water-absorbent so you can’t get it wet—at all.
The Best Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Flooring Brands
You really can’t go wrong with any of the top options in our best vinyl plank flooring brands guide. All these manufacturers sell glue-down vinyl plank floors. Some, like Proximity Mills, make click-together, loose-lay, and glue down vinyl plank flooring. So really, you have options.
Are There Brands of Glue-Down Vinyl Plank to Avoid?
We won’t go as far as saying there are LVP brands you should outright avoid, but you definitely get what you pay for.
Budget LVP brands like NuCore flooring have fairly “mixed” (read: poor) reviews—and considering their price point (around $2–$3/sq. ft.), we generally recommend spending the extra dollar per square foot for a better brand like Proximity Mills. The latter will last much longer, so ultimately you’re spending less overall.
So Which is Better: Floating or Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Flooring?
The answer to this question really depends on you. As (we hope) we’ve explained above, there are pros and cons to both installation options. We would say, however, that if you’re willing to spend a little extra money, there might be a few fewer issues with glue-down floors. But again: the difference is minimal.
So: if glue-down vinyl plank sounds like your deal, we’d recommend finding a flooring store in your area to continue your search. And if you’re not quite ready for that, check out some of the articles below for more help choosing your floors.
Whatever you do, good luck picking your surfaces, and thanks for reading!