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September 16, 2022
Loose lay vinyl plank flooring: if you’ve been thinking of installing LVP in your residential space, you’ve probably come across this term at least once.
But what exactly is loose lay vinyl flooring? Do the best vinyl plank flooring brands sell it? And most importantly, is this installation style even good?
We’ll answer all these questions—and a whole lot more—in our guide to loose lay vinyl flooring below!
We’ll show you how loose lay compares to other vinyl flooring installation methods, examine its pros and cons, discuss the best rooms to use it in, and look at some of the best brands that carry it.
So: is loose lay vinyl plank worth checking out? Let’s find out together.
What Is Loose Lay Vinyl Flooring?
“Loose lay vinyl” refers to a PVC flooring installation method that uses the weight of the planks—plus a rubber backing—to keep them in place rather than glue or nails.
As such, loose-lay planks are usually heavier than traditional vinyl planks.
Again: “Loose Lay” Is a Method of Installing Luxury Vinyl
Many people think loose lay vinyl flooring is a type of LVP or LVT. It isn’t—it’s simply a way of installing these products.
What is Luxury Vinyl?
Luxury vinyl (LVP or LVT) is generally a hardwood floor alternative composed of two or more distinct layers of hardened plastic, along with a protective wear layer coating.
Don’t let the word “plastic” fool you though—quality luxury vinyl is exceptionally durable and waterproof. It’s affordable, scratch-resistant, and looks great (plus, it has a seriously-massive design catalog).
Luxury vinyl is not the same thing as sheet vinyl—they’re entirely different types of vinyl flooring (we’ll explain why in a moment).
Luxury vinyl products can be either flexible or rigid. Rigid-core vinyl is also known as EVP flooring, and it’s generally the higher-quality option as far as underfoot feel. Some manufacturers incorporate wood flour or stone powder into these rigid cores for enhanced qualities.
Is There a Difference Between LVP and LVT?
Luxury vinyl plank and luxury vinyl tile (LVT) are pretty much the same thing. There are two notable differences:
- LVP is cut into planks, while LVT is cut into tiles (no surprises here, right?).
- LVP usually mimics different types of wood flooring (think ash flooring or teak flooring), while LVT generally mimics types of tile like porcelain or natural stone.
Loose lay vinyl flooring comes in both LVP and LVT styles, though LVP is a bit more common.
Important note: moving forward, we’re going to use the terms “LVP” or “vinyl plank” to describe all luxury vinyl products (including LVT), since they’re functionally identical.
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Is Loose Lay Flooring Roll the Same as Loose Lay Vinyl Plank?
No—loose lay vinyl plank is very different from loose lay flooring roll.
The latter is a type of sheet vinyl—which is much thinner and doesn’t mimic wood or stone. Remember those old-fashioned, floral-patterned kitchen floors from the ‘70s and ‘80s? Yep—that’s sheet vinyl, aka “vinyl roll”.
You can install vinyl roll/sheet vinyl as a loose lay flooring product, but it’s not particularly common (or practical). After all, sheet vinyl’s biggest advantage is that it’s glued to the subfloor in one huge sheet! You simply lay it out and cut it with a utility knife.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Vinyl Plank Flooring?
Because we’re going to be discussing the way loose lay installation affects these qualities, let’s go over its advantages and disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring.
Quality LVP is cheaper than hardwood, on average—and unlike hardwood, it’s also waterproof and scratch-resistant flooring.
If you compare vinyl plank vs. laminate, you’ll find vinyl to be the more waterproof option. There are some waterproof laminate options out there (like Mohawk’s RevWood), but only vinyl is waterproof by default.
If you invest in quality LVP, it’ll last for a very long time—we’re talking just as long (or longer) than even some of the best engineered wood flooring.
On the other hand, LVP isn’t known for being very eco-friendly flooring, and it doesn’t always have the same appeal as authentic hardwood flooring (which may hurt resale value).
How Is Vinyl Plank Flooring Usually Installed?
Vinyl plank is traditionally installed using either a glue-down or click-together flooring method.
Click-together and loose lay floors are both “floating floors”—and if you’re wondering “what’s a floating floor”, it’s just a floor that rests on top of your subfloor rather than being attached to it. And what is subflooring? It’s just the rough surface below your actual floor!
But while loose lay vinyl plank flooring is “laid loose” (no surprise there) click-together flooring uses special grooves and tabs in the side of each plank to snap them tightly together.
How Is Loose Lay Vinyl Flooring Installed?
Unlike click-together flooring, loose lay vinyl flooring doesn’t snap together. Instead, installers lay the planks next to one another over the subfloor, where their rubber backings—and increased weight—keep them in place.
Do Loose Lay Vinyl Planks Actually Stay in Place?
If this installation style seems risky, think about how hard it is to slide a coin on a rubber mat. The same principle works here! Seriously, loose lay installation styles work wonderfully. It can be an easy installation process. If you lay your planks tightly together, they won’t move at all. You can even glue the planks on the edges of your room, if you’d like, to serve as a firm foundation.
The Advantages of Loose Lay Vinyl Plank Flooring
There’s a lot to like about loose lay vinyl flooring. Here are a few of this installation method’s advantages.
It’s Easy to Install, Repair, and Replace
If you can figure out how to install carpet tiles (also: not hard), you won’t have any trouble installing loose lay vinyl flooring. The process can be a little tedious, but we wouldn’t say that it’s difficult or requires much experience.
Loose lay vinyl has a less obvious perk too: if a plank happens to get damaged, you can swap it out.
For comparison, it’s extremely difficult to replace glue-down planks without damaging the surrounding planks (even if you shelled out the extra bucks for the very best vinyl plank flooring). And to reach a click-together vinyl plank, you have to disassemble the entire floor starting at the wall.
You Can Easily Move Loose Lay Vinyl Plank Flooring After It’s Installed
Since loose lay vinyl planks can be swapped out, they can also be moved. Want to switch your flooring out seasonally? Go for it. Want to put down vinyl for a party? Why not? The world is your oyster.
To avoid excessive wear and tear, we wouldn’t recommend doing this all the time though—unless the manufacturer gives it the ok. Side note: this is also a perk of magnetic flooring, which also offers a super-easy installation.
Loose Lay Vinyl Can Be Installed Over (Most) Other Floors
One of the biggest obstacles for people who want new floors is getting rid of their old floors. Disposing of old flooring can be pretty expensive (and super difficult). That’s one of the reasons the cost to replace carpet with hardwood can get so steep.
Luckily, you can install loose lay vinyl flooring right on top of many other surfaces! Just make sure the surface is even and moisture-free; otherwise, seams or other problems could develop.
Loose Lay Vinyl Flooring Doesn’t Expand or Contract
Okay, so most LVP doesn’t expand or contract—but since the loose lay vinyl flooring doesn’t have any extra reinforcement, manufacturers often take special precautions to make sure this kind of LVP won’t warp due to changes in humidity or temperature.
Many other types of flooring can’t say the same. For example, among the pros and cons of cork flooring is a tendency to expand with humidity—even the best cork flooring can be susceptible. The same is true for solid hardwood flooring!
Loose Lay Vinyl Plank Flooring Is Just as Durable as Regular LVP
Even the most durable wood flooring has a hard time competing with LVP in terms of durability. Fortunately, loose lay vinyl plank flooring doesn’t do anything to change this winning formula—so it’s just as durable as any other LVP (remember, only the backing and weight are different).
Translation: if you’re trying to find the best wood flooring for dogs, we’d recommend considering wood-look LVP instead. It’s more durable and generally cheaper than any of the best hardwood floor brands.
Loose Lay Vinyl’s Backing Absorbs Sound
Rubber is a great insulator. This also means that it absorbs noise, making it super sound-dampening. And since loose lay vinyl flooring has a rubber backing, it’s a quieter floor by default!
Loose Lay Vinyl is Generally More Comfortable Than Glue-Down or Click-Together Vinyl
Just about everyone’s played with a rubber bouncy ball at some point (don’t lie). The same bouncy properties apply to the rubber backing found on loose lay vinyl flooring. This makes it super comfortable to walk on and better for your joints.
Loose Lay Vinyl Plank Flooring is Often Cheaper to Install
While it doesn’t approach the cost of wood flooring, the cost to install vinyl plank flooring can still get a bit steep. Loose lay, however, is some of the easiest flooring to install—making it cheap and quick to put in, whether you do it yourself or hire a professional.
Oh, and if you’re comparing it to the cost to install engineered hardwood floors… forget about it!
Examine the Textured Print, Styles and Patterns:
Like all LVP, loose lay vinyl planks comes in a ton of wood floor designs. Popular hardwood species like hickory or oak are easy to find—and you can even find less common options like ebony flooring, too.
You Can Easily Create Your Own Patterns With It
Remember how loose lay vinyl planks don’t need to connect to one another? Well, this means that you don’t have to line up the planks in conventional ways.
You can achieve these looks with wood-look tile format and some click-together LVP options—but with loose lay vinyl flooring, you don’t have to worry about glue or interlocking tabs (so they’re easier and cheaper to do).
You Can Find Low-VOC Options In Loose Lay Installations
VOCs—or volatile organic compounds—are harmful chemicals emitted from things like plastics and glue. And unfortunately, they can sometimes be found in flooring.
Additionally: because loose lay vinyl plank flooring doesn’t use any adhesives, you don’t have to worry about what’s in those adhesives either!
The Disadvantages of Loose Lay Vinyl Plank Flooring
Unfortunately, even loose lay vinyl plank flooring has a few disadvantages that might discourage some buyers.
Loose Lay Vinyl Needs to Be Installed With Care (But It’s Still DIY-Friendly)
Though you don’t need fasteners, you still have to be careful when you’re installing loose lay vinyl flooring because any gaps or visible seams will invite water or grime to settle (and potentially destroy your subflooring).
Our advice: if you’re installing it yourself, just be patient and diligent. Worst case: hiring a pro to install loose lay vinyl planks are still likely to cost less than a glue-down LVP installation.
Loose Lay LVP Can Lift and Develop Visible Seams if It’s Not Installed Correctly
On that last note, we should mention that it’s possible for loose lay LVP to shift. This is one of the few disadvantages of floating floors, but it’s not especially likely unless the floor is installed incorrectly.
If loose lay planks do shift, visible seams may develop. Of course, there’s a really simple solution here: just move the plank back to its original spot!
Spills Can Penetrate Improperly Installed Loose Lay LVP
If loose lay planks shift, liquid can seep in between them. That said, loose lay vinyl flooring is absolutely waterproof vinyl flooring if installed correctly. Just check that there aren’t any planks out of place every now and then and you’ll be golden.
And for comparison, remember that loose lay planks won’t expand or contract with any amount of water, so they’re still superior to water-resistant wood flooring, which can warp with excess moisture.
There’s a Lot of Confusion About What Counts as “Loose Lay Vinyl Flooring”
One of the only unique complaints about loose lay vinyl plank flooring: not all companies define the term “loose lay vinyl” the same way! For example, Stainmaster luxury vinyl claims to sell loose lay vinyl flooring—but in actuality, it’s a flexible product closer to peel-and-stick carpet tiles.
The bright side: virtually all brands of vinyl floors will tell you how to install their products beforehand—so you’ll know ahead of time if the floor you’re looking at isn’t real loose lay vinyl.
Not a Ton of Brands Sell “Real” Loose Lay Vinyl
Continuing from the last section, we should note that there are only a few brands that offer “real” loose lay vinyl plank flooring. On the bright side, most popular looks seem to be available in a loose lay format.
…Which Also Means That Unique Designs May Be Harder to Find
We promise we’re not trying to put you on a rollercoaster, but we should mention that given the limited number of brands that sell loose lay vinyl plank flooring, designs mimicking rare wood floor colors and patterns may be harder to find.
Example: there isn’t a ton of loose lay vinyl flooring that mimics wide-plank wood flooring, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find it!
Like Most LVP, Loose Lay Vinyl Isn’t Particularly Eco-Friendly
If you’re looking for environmentally-friendly flooring, LVP in general probably isn’t the way to go. A few brands, like Proximity Mills, make recyclable floors—but sustainable wood flooring or hemp flooring are all-around greener alternatives.
What Are the Best Applications for Loose Lay Vinyl Flooring?
A word of caution: if you’re going to be throwing LVP into the mix of outdoor flooring options, remember that with most brands, too much direct sunlight can damage the design layer.
Are Loose Lay Vinyl Flooring Reviews Positive? Yep!
Let’s keep this simple: authentic loose lay vinyl flooring is great. Just be wary about brands that only claim their product is loose lay, like Stainmaster’s so-called “loose lay” vinyl that still needs to be glued down.
Of Course, It Still Varies by Product and Brand
As a general rule, we’d suggest looking at brand and product reviews versus reviews of loose lay vinyl flooring specifically. Remember: loose lay vinyl refers to an installation style—so you’ll get a better idea of a product’s quality by checking out its reviews instead.
And Remember to Factor in the Thickness
Quality lvp will generally have a thicker wear layer (and often, a rigid core).If you happen to find a loose lay vinyl flooring brand that we don’t cover below and you’re not sure of its quality, here are some things to look out for:
- Rigid-core vinyl like WPC or SPC flooring is generally superior to flexible LVP.
- Wear layer thickness matters, but so does what it’s made of (we cover common wear layer makeups in our guide to the best vinyl plank flooring).
- Try to avoid big-box store brands like LifeProof vinyl flooring—there are better products available at similar price ranges.
Which Brands Make the Best Loose Lay Vinyl Plank Flooring?
Not all of the best vinyl plank brands offer loose lay vinyl plank flooring, but the following manufacturers will give you some great flooring options to choose from!
Karndean deserves a lot of recognition for their loose lay vinyl plank flooring—because they’re the ones who invented it!
“Karndean LooseLay” was the first LVP of its kind—and it also happens to be some of the best. It can get a little pricey at up to $9 per square foot, but it also comes in cheaper options.
It’s important to note, here, that Karndean LooseLay is a flexible product. That doesn’t make it poor-quality, per se—but it is worth considering when it comes to underfoot feel.
Proximity Mills is a relative newcomer to the flooring market, but it’s already established itself as a top value player.
Its affordable pricing ($4 per square foot or so) does not come at the expense of superior quality—it features ceramic bead-infused wear layers up to 22mil thick, along with high-quality rigid cores.
We mentioned Proximity Mills earlier because their LVP is recyclable, but they’re also one of the few brands that have a loose lay vinyl flooring line.
Southwind is a smaller vinyl floor brand but they’re a little more recognizable in the carpet industry. They only have six options in their loose lay line, but Southwind says their products have a 20 mil wear layer (which is good) and their LVP is fully recyclable.
We’d probably recommend the other two over this one for no other reason than Southwind vinyl reviews are sparse.
Selecting the Right Loose Lay Vinyl Option
Selecting the right loose lay vinyl plank option for you depends on your unique needs. Ultimately, this type of flooring is not made for commercial spaces or high-traffic areas, so if that’s you, the loose lay vinyl might not be the best option.
Typically, loose lay vinyl flooring is means for residential spaces and those looking for something that offers easy installation yet is durable and water resistant.
Ultimately, Loose Lay Vinyl Plank Flooring Is Practical and Convenient
With all this in mind, it’s hard to find a serious flaw in loose lay vinyl plank flooring. It’s easily one of the best fake wood flooring installation options out there, especially since the total cost of loose lay vinyl materials and installation doesn’t even come close to the price of buying hardwood floors.
Essentially, loose lay vinyl plank flooring is practical and easy to install—what’s not to like?
So: if you’re ready to start looking at specific products, we’d recommend finding a top-rated flooring store near you. Otherwise, feel free to look through some more resources on all things flooring:
- Your Complete Guide to the Best Bamboo Flooring
- Tile vs. Laminate Flooring: The Pros and Cons
- Pergo Reviews 2022: What Buyers are Saying
- Laminate vs. Hardwood Floors: Which are Better?
- Engineered Bamboo Flooring: Pros and Cons
- Comparing Tile vs. Wood Floors for Your Home
- Snap-Together Tile Flooring: Is It Right for You?
- What is Laminate Flooring: Laminate 101
- Linoleum vs. Laminate vs. Vinyl: Differences, Pros, & Cons
- Heating Wood Floors 101: Everything You Need to Know
- Why Concrete Flooring That Looks Like Wood is So Darn Cool
- Can You Bleach Wooden Floors? Yes! Here’s How.
- Pine Flooring: The Pros and Cons
- Douglas Fir Flooring Pros and Cons
- Advantages & Disadvantages of Cork Flooring
- Hickory Flooring Pros and Cons: The Guide
- What is Engineered Hardwood: The Guide
- Engineered Hardwood vs. Laminate: Side-by-Side Comparison
- How Much Does It Cost to Refinish Hardwood Flooring?
About The Author
Christian is a freelance everything-writer, editor, & SEO guy. When he’s not writing about flooring and remodeling, he’s either writing news for the California American Legion or writing fresh content for his camping & EDC blog (or, you know, actually camping).