April 21, 2021
Outdoor vinyl flooring: is it the same as indoor vinyl flooring? Does it actually last in the elements? Who makes it? Is it even a thing?
We know you’ve got questions. And luckily, we’ve got the answers.
While most vinyl products are strictly intended for indoor use, vinyl is a seriously robust material—and products made to work outside do exist.
Below we’re going to cover everything you need to know about outdoor vinyl flooring. We’ll answer all of your questions about using it, discuss 10 of the best brands that sell it, and talk about a few other outdoor flooring options to give you some context.
Ready to learn about outdoor vinyl flooring? Let’s get started!
The Basics of Vinyl Flooring
Before we start talking about the specifics of outdoor vinyl flooring, let’s cover some key terms so we’re all on the same page.
Vinyl is short for polyvinyl chloride, or PVC—a type of hard plastic that’s versatile, strong, and waterproof. PVC flooring was originally designed and marketed as an alternative to linoleum (read all about the differences between linoleum vs. laminate vs. vinyl if you’re interested).
Today, we also have luxury vinyl, which is commonly sold as a fake wood flooring option. Luxury vinyl comes in planks, it’s made of multiple layers, it can be absolutely beautiful, and it gives even the most durable wood flooring a run for its money.
Sheet Vinyl vs. Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)
You might remember your parents or grandparents having floral print floors in their kitchens and bathrooms—there’s a good chance those floors were sheet vinyl and they’re still sold today (though there are a lot more styles available now).
LVP (luxury vinyl plank) or LVT (luxury vinyl tile) is a big upgrade over sheet vinyl. It’s hardier, longer-lasting, and mimics stone and wood floors exceptionally well—and yet, it’s still (generally) cheaper than real hardwood.
What’s the Difference Between LVP and LVT?
Honestly? The way they look. LVP mimics wood planks. LVT mimics tiles. That’s about it. You’ll usually hear people choose one term or the other to talk about all luxury vinyl; we use “LVP” or “vinyl plank”.
Can Vinyl Really Look Like Wood?
You can find an LVP version of virtually any hardwood species—even rare looks like ebony flooring. And since LVP comes in planks (or tiles), you can create your own patterns (including parquet flooring patterns like herringbone or chevron).
Upgraded versions of LVP also exist in the form of rigid core vinyl (sometimes called EVP flooring). These floors are fitted with special cores that improve the floors’ durability and/or comfort.
Can You Put Vinyl Flooring Outdoors? Yes (With Caveats)
Vinyl is an outdoor flooring option. However: if you want your outdoor vinyl flooring to last more than a few months to a year, there are a few things you should consider first.
Most importantly, outdoor vinyl flooring can be divided into two categories:
- Vinyl specifically designed for the outdoors
- Vinyl that can survive in protected outdoor rooms (i.e. sunrooms, greenhouses, etc.)
Some Vinyl Brands Are Specifically Designed for Outdoor Use…
We’ll cover specific brands below, but some vinyl products are actually designed for the rugged conditions they’re likely to face outside.
With these, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about temperature or humidity changes provided you follow manufacturer installation and care recommendations. However, even these products don’t typically last for much more than 15 years.
…But Most Vinyl Will Only Last If Certain Conditions Are Met
Some of the best vinyl plank flooring brands make products that really can go anywhere. While they may not be designed for outdoor use, they will still survive outside, especially in more temperate climates (though it’s worth mentioning that their lifespan may be shorter).
Products that aren’t explicitly meant for outdoor use are better used in enclosed outdoor spaces (think patios, greenhouses, or sunroom flooring). These areas offer just enough protection from the elements that your “outdoor” vinyl flooring can still thrive.
Other Things to Consider About Outdoor Vinyl Flooring
Avoid Installing Outdoor Vinyl Flooring in Direct Sunlight (Unless the Manufacture Says It’s OK)
This is important: unless the manufacturer says it’s okay, don’t put vinyl flooring in direct sunlight. Vinyl with a low-quality wear layer tends to break down with constant sun exposure.
Most outdoor vinyl flooring (that is to say, vinyl flooring designed to go outdoors) shouldn’t have this problem, but we would recommend checking first anyways.
Don’t Install Outdoor Vinyl Flooring Where Standing Water Can Collect
All vinyl flooring is waterproof vinyl flooring, but nothing can stand up to the erosion power of water. For that reason, we still wouldn’t recommend installing any vinyl flooring—whether it’s specifically outdoor vinyl flooring or not—where water tends to collect. It’s unlikely, but standing water can damage wear layers over time, ruining the floor.
Climate and Temperature: Outdoor Vinyl Flooring May Still Be Sensitive to Environmental Changes
Outdoor vinyl flooring can be sensitive to rapid changes in temperature, humidity, and so on.
Now, the best vinyl plank flooring brands are likely to be protected against sharp, frequent changes. However, the more stable your environment the longer your vinyl is likely to last.
Even if you get designated outdoor vinyl, you still need to read the manufacturer’s recommendations. All flooring products have different needs and caveats.
Some Outdoor Vinyl Flooring Can’t Handle Freezing Cold Temperatures
Unfortunately, even the best outdoor vinyl flooring may not do well in extremely cold weather. Freezing temperatures can cause cracks, break waterproof seals, and cause floor adhesives to degrade—any of which can ruin the floor.
Again—it depends on the product, but this is something to be aware of.
How to Install Outdoor Vinyl Flooring
Installing outdoor vinyl flooring can actually be pretty easy, regardless of whether you choose sheet vinyl or LVP.
Outdoor Vinyl Flooring Should Be Glued Down (No Floating Floors)
If you’re putting vinyl outside, you’ll have to make sure that it’s secured to a foundation or subfloor (with few exceptions). Most of the time, this means you need to glue down vinyl flooring outdoors.
Sadly, you can’t float vinyl floors outside (what is a floating floor?) because there’s nothing to prevent them from warping or lifting with temperature or humidity changes. This is one of the disadvantages of floating floors (and click-together flooring in general) that there’s really no workaround for.
And while the glue-down method can increase your cost to install vinyl plank flooring, it’s the best way to ensure your floor’s longevity outside.
You Need a Good Foundation for Your Outdoor Floors
If you’re installing outdoor vinyl flooring, you can’t just throw it on the dirt; you have to have a foundation to support it.
Most foundations, or subfloors (and what is subflooring?), are made of either concrete or wood. Either will do, so long as they’re even and have been treated to resist moisture (or covered with a heavy-duty moisture barrier).
What Are the Benefits of Installing Outdoor Vinyl Flooring?
There are actually many benefits to installing outdoor vinyl flooring, at least compared to other types of flooring like hardwood.
High-Quality Vinyl Is Very Durable
Vinyl is one of the best scratch-resistant flooring options available. It can be dented, but modern LVP like rigid-core SPC flooring goes a long way towards preventing this.
If you’re buying vinyl flooring for outdoor use, there’s a good chance it’s been built to resist common forms of damage.
Vinyl Is Waterproof
Obviously, your outdoor vinyl flooring needs to be waterproof—even if rain is rare where you live. And fortunately (with the exception of a few very low-quality products), all vinyl flooring is waterproof.
For context, this makes it superior to hardwood because even the best hardwood floors can be ruined by water damage.
Outdoor Vinyl Flooring Is Easy to Install
If do-it-yourself flooring is your thing, you can’t do much better than outdoor vinyl flooring: it’s some of the easiest flooring to install because you’re just gluing planks or sheets to a foundation.
Hardwood, on the other hand, can be super difficult to install because you have to cut planks, secure them, and then apply a finish (unless you buy prefinished hardwood flooring).
Vinyl flooring Is Versatile
High-end vinyl is just as good for outdoor use as it is for kitchen, living room, or even mudroom flooring.
It’s Also Low-Maintenance
One of the best things about vinyl is that it’s very easy to take care of and has virtually zero special care requirements.
For outdoor vinyl flooring, you can probably get away with hosing it off every now and then.
High-End Vinyl Flooring Can Be Comfortable
Higher-end vinyl products, like WPC flooring, can be super comfy to walk on because they’re built with shock-absorbing materials.
However, sheet vinyl and low-end LVP may be less comfortable because there’s nothing to absorb the impact of your steps.
Few Other Floors Offer as Many Styles and Designs as Vinyl Does
Outdoor vinyl flooring, and really all vinyl flooring for that matter, can be made to look like anything. Whether you want interesting wood floor patterns or unusual wood floor colors, or something entirely unique, someone makes it.
You can even find atypical wood floor designs that look like wide plank wood flooring. So: the options are basically limitless.
The only other materials that might offer a similar catalog are the many different types of tile that exist (from natural stone to wood-look tile).
Outdoor Vinyl Flooring Is Usually Cheaper Than Hardwood
Wood flooring costs can be quite high once you factor in materials, labor, and maintenance. Even high-end outdoor vinyl flooring can cost as little as half the total cost to install hardwood floors.
Are There Disadvantages to Installing Outdoor Vinyl Flooring?
As great as vinyl is, it has some flaws. Here are a few things to look out for.
Even if You Buy Vinyl Flooring Specifically Made for the Outdoors, It Will Degrade With Environmental Changes
Outdoor vinyl flooring will degrade over time, and environmental changes can hasten this process. Higher-end brands and products will certainly last longer, though.
Even Great Outdoor Vinyl Flooring Has a Limited Lifespan (10–20 years)
One of the most critical disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring is its lifespan. Unlike hardwood, which can last for decades with proper upkeep, vinyl plank can’t be repaired so it will eventually need to be replaced.
The good news is that most vinyl will probably last for at least 10 to 20 years, even if it’s used outside.
Cheap Vinyl May Fade in Direct Sunlight
We mentioned before that some vinyl, particularly budget brands like NuCore flooring, can lose their sheen if they get too much sunlight.
Fortunately, this usually isn’t a problem for the best vinyl plank floor brands.
Vinyl Flooring May Emit VOCs in Enclosed Outdoor Spaces
This doesn’t apply to all outdoor vinyl flooring, but vinyl that’s put in sunrooms or other outdoor rooms may release more volatile organic compounds when it’s hot out. These chemicals are harmful to both people and the environment, especially for sensitive groups.
Our recommendation: buy low-VOC vinyl flooring if you’re going to put it in an enclosed space.
Vinyl Flooring Isn’t Particularly Eco-Friendly
If you want eco-friendly flooring there are better options than vinyl (sustainable wood flooring options like pine flooring, Douglas fir flooring, or even the best bamboo flooring are good places to start—and you can refinish bamboo flooring, too).
But even if you buy low-VOC flooring (to limit off-gassing), there are still environmental concerns. Some vinyl brands, like Proximity Mills, make products that are at least partially recyclable and/or made with sustainability in mind—but they’re not the norm.
10 Outdoor Vinyl Flooring Brands to Consider
Before we get to our list we need to make something pretty clear: luxury vinyl plank that’s specifically designed for the outdoors isn’t really a thing (currently, at least). But: high-quality outdoor sheet vinyl does exist.
On the other hand, some LVP products are so well made that they can at least survive in outdoor rooms.
Each of the products below has (mostly) good reviews but we should also note that they tend to question products’ longevity. We’ll circle back to this soon, but the point here is that outdoor vinyl may not be a permanent solution—but it can be an inexpensive one.
Vinyl Flooring Specifically Designed for Outdoor Use
Again, we want to note that only these first five brands are specifically designed for outdoor use.
Econodek sheet vinyl can be used anywhere outdoors, including in unrelenting, direct sunlight or by poolsides.
You can even install it in frigid environments, as it’s tested to survive temperatures as low as -40℉. The manufacturer simply recommends that you remove ice with plastic shovels to avoid puncturing the product’s wear layer.
G-Floor sheet vinyl has the unique distinction of primarily serving as a utility floor—that is, it’s meant for workshop-y type purposes. While it’s extremely tough and resistant to harsh weather and sunlight, that durability seems to come at the cost of style options.
If you’re looking for flooring that will accent your snazzy new pool, this probably isn’t the option for you. However, if you want something to line an outdoor workspace and don’t care about looks, you can’t beat G-Floor’s ruggedness.
Tukdek sheet vinyl is specifically designed for outdoor installations, particularly around pools. They have a decent selection of both stone and wood looks, many of which are equipped with a “Cool Step” technology that’s supposed to limit how hot the flooring can become in direct sunlight.
#4: Deco Floors
Deco Floors is a bit of an obscure vinyl brand that seems to cater more to commercial audiences, but their LVP can be installed outside so long as it’s not placed in direct sunlight for extended periods of time.
Duradek is pretty similar to Econodek in that it can go anywhere; however, the product isn’t quite as popular and doesn’t seem to have the same kind of weather-proofing properties.
Another downside: Duradek is a pretty small company and only seems to cater to buyers in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States.
Vinyl That Can Be Installed in Closed Outdoor Rooms
The products below aren’t specifically designed for outdoor use, but if you install them in closed outdoor rooms (like a sunroom or greenhouse) and follow installation instructions, you shouldn’t run into problems.
#6: Proximity Mills
Despite a modest price, Proximity Mills is hyper durable, partially recyclable, and can be installed in outdoor spaces like sunrooms because its wear layer is built to resist fading.
Karndean is an LVP brand from the UK and also the inventor of loose lay vinyl plank flooring (a special type of floating floor). Its premier lines are more expensive than Proximity Mills but comparable in performance.
#8: Shaw Floors
Shaw Floors is one of the biggest names in the industry, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see their name on our outdoor vinyl flooring list. Shaw’s LVP is slightly cheaper than Karndean’s LVP, but arguably offers a larger selection.
COREtec is actually owned by Shaw Floors. Before they were acquired, however, COREtec burst onto the LVP market with the first WPC products. They still make these products today, but they tend to have a smaller selection than Shaw.
Our COREtec flooring reviews note that the products are very well made, if a little expensive.
#10: Armstrong Flooring
Armstrong Flooring is yet another titan in the vinyl flooring industry. Their LVP tends to be a little cheaper than Shaw Floors’ LVP and they even offer a comparable selection, but there’s also a slight dip in quality.
Are There Brands of Vinyl That Shouldn’t Go Outdoors?
Some vinyl products, even if they’re actually decent, should never go outside. Our Pergo Extreme reviews evaluate one such brand. Pergo makes a very solid vinyl plank, but that’s the problem—“solid” won’t cut it outdoors.
Moreover, we wouldn’t recommend any budget brands for outdoor use. Lowes’ SmartCore flooring and Home Depot’s LifeProof vinyl flooring are two examples, but we also wouldn’t put lesser-known brands like Stainmaster luxury vinyl outside. Reviews for some of these brands are mixed even for indoor use.
Other Outdoor Flooring Options
There are actually a lot of great outdoor flooring options to choose from, even if you don’t want to use vinyl. Hardwood is the most common, but there are a couple of great hardwood floor alternatives that can go outside, too.
Many types of wood flooring are suitable for the outdoors—specifically species that offer water-resistant wood flooring by default. For example, teak flooring looks great and is water-resistant thanks to its natural resins and oils—so you don’t have to worry about rain too much.
The problem: if you want quality outdoor flooring you should probably opt for products made by the best hardwood floor brands, and they’re not cheap. The cost of buying hardwood floors is the reason people consider vinyl and other alternatives.
There are also a lot of stone and tile options that can be installed outside, but if you want the hardwood look you’re limited to outdoor vinyl flooring, wood-look tile, and concrete flooring that looks like wood.
Just remember that snap-together tile flooring and other floating floors may not be ideal for outdoor installs.
With properties similar to the best engineered wood flooring and the best laminate flooring, composite decking is in a league of its own. Essentially, it’s a mix of wood fibers, plasticizers, and binders—making it both waterproof and durable.
Of course, composite decking offers relatively few style options compared to some of these other materials (so if you had your heart set on something like ash flooring, or the look of hemp flooring, you might want to look elsewhere). And given that the plastic makes it super hard, it’s not really the best wood flooring for dogs or other pets (since it’s not super comfortable for them to walk or sleep on).
Conclusion: Outdoor Vinyl Flooring Exists, But in Extreme Climates, You Might Be Better Off With a Different Material
Overall, outdoor vinyl flooring is a good option. It’s durable, relatively inexpensive, offers a ton of great looks, and is pretty easy to install. But we can’t say it’s the best option: hardwood may be a lot more expensive, but there’s a reason even budget decks are still made with hardwood or composite hardwood.
Sure, you might have to worry about the cost to refinish hardwood flooring every so often (depending on how you want your flooring to look), and you might agonize for a while over whether you want hickory vs. oak or something else entirely—but refinishing wood is probably easier (and more sustainable) than buying and installing entirely new outdoor vinyl floors on a similar timetable.
Alternatively, stone and tile flooring are great outdoor options that don’t have the same longevity concerns that vinyl does, and they’re also cheaper than hardwood on average.
Your Local Flooring Stores Offer the Best Value on Outdoor Flooring (Vinyl or Hardwood)
Nevertheless, if outdoor vinyl still makes sense for your needs, we’d recommend going straight to the source and finding a flooring store near you. Local retailers almost always offer a better value than the big box stores and can help you find the right outdoor vinyl for you!
Or if you’re still looking for inspiration, check out our other articles below. And either way, good luck with your outdoor vinyl flooring journey!