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May 26, 2021
So you’re researching the problems with luxury vinyl tile. We get it!
If you’ve even looked into different types of vinyl flooring in the last couple of years, you already know how popular this stuff is. But it can’t be all roses and rainbows, right? There have to be some problems with luxury vinyl tile, don’t there?
Well, yes and no. Luxury vinyl tile comes with tons of benefits, but all types of flooring have both pros and cons. And you need all the information—good and bad—if you’re going to make an informed buying decision.
We’re here to help. Below, we’re going to cover all of the perks and problems with luxury vinyl tile you need to know about. We’ll even discuss how it compares to the best hardwood floors and other hardwood floor alternatives. Plus, we’ll even go over some of the best LVT brands to look into.
Ready to learn all about the pros and problems with luxury vinyl tile? Read on, friend.
First of All: What is Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT)?
Let’s start with the basics. What is LVT? It’s a high-tech, multi-layer vinyl floor that mimics types of flooring like stone tiles or wood planks.
It’s constructed out of multiple layers, each offering a different kind of protection or function.
- The wear layer protects the product from scratches and damage. The thickness depends on the product—and generally speaking, the thicker the better.
- The design layer gives the product its appearance by using high-definition printing and embossing techniques.
- The core layer gives the product structure, and can be rigid or flexible. Rigid LVT is also known as EVP flooring (aka engineered vinyl plank).
Higher-end rigid core luxury vinyl flooring products like SPC flooring and WPC flooring mix different materials into this core layer for added durability and comfort.
What’s the Difference Between LVT and LVP?
Simply put, LVP (luxury vinyl plank) generally mimics wood planks—while LVT generally mimics ceramic or stone tiles. But really, the phrases LVP and LVT are used interchangeably these days.
Translation: the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring are going to be identical to the perks and problems with luxury vinyl tile. And the best vinyl plank flooring brands are going to be the same as the best LVT brands, too. After all, they’re the exact same thing!
It’s a much simpler explanation than trying to go into the difference between bamboo flooring vs. laminate or carpet vs. hardwood or some such.
For our purposes, we’ll be using the terms LVT and LVP interchangeably.
How Do You Install Luxury Vinyl Tile?
Let’s put it this way: the problems with luxury vinyl tile do not include “difficult installation”. In fact, LVT is some of the easiest flooring to install.
Broadly speaking, there are two different ways to install vinyl tile: glue-down or floating. Here’s how they break down.
Glue-Down Luxury Vinyl Tile
Glue-down luxury vinyl tile is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s (generally) the more heavy-duty installation method. For example, glue-down vinyl plank flooring is usually recommended if you want to put LVT in a commercial area. It’s not the easiest method, but it is hard-wearing.
That said, if you’re looking for a do-it-yourself flooring product, you can also find peel-and-stick vinyl plank flooring just about anywhere these days—though it’s more of a temporary solution.
Floating Luxury Vinyl Tile
What is a floating floor? It’s a surface that isn’t attached to the subfloor, meaning it’s quicker (and easier) to install. You can achieve a floating LVT floor using 2 different methods:
- Click-together flooring is the default option for most luxury vinyl products. Each tile locks into the one before it, creating a seamless (and waterproof) surface. This installation method is the norm for almost all of the best vinyl plank flooring products on the market.
- Loose lay vinyl plank flooring doesn’t use any glue or click-lock grooves. Rather, the weight of the vinyl tiles (plus a heavy-duty rubber backing) keeps the floor in place.
The Problems with Luxury Vinyl Tile
You’ve gotta eat your carrots if you want dessert—and you have to know about the problems with luxury vinyl tile before you hear about the good stuff. So let’s jump right in!
Your Subfloor May Require A Lot of Preparation Ahead of LVT Installation
Let’s quickly touch on subflooring. What is subflooring? It’s the layer of material that your floor sits on top of.
It depends on what materials and installation method you go with, but generally speaking, luxury vinyl tile necessitates a clean and level subfloor before installation.
Flexible LVT products can conform to (and show) imperfections in a subfloor. Rigid vinyl tiles may not be able to click together properly if there are too many bumps and dips. And if that’s the case, you can say goodbye to your floor’s waterproof seal.
This isn’t as much of a problem with luxury vinyl tile as it is a problem with all click-together floors, but it is worth mentioning (given that most LVT floors are click-together).
One of the Main Problems with Luxury Vinyl Tile: It’s Not Environmentally Friendly
Luxury vinyl tile is a type of PVC Flooring. And PVC is just another name for “plastic”.
Regardless of who makes it, plastic isn’t very environmentally friendly flooring. For that, we’d recommend something hemp flooring or certain types of tile.
There are some luxury vinyl products, like Proximity Mills, that are low-VOC and can be recycled. But they’re the exception rather than the norm.
LVT Can’t Be Repaired
Another problem with luxury vinyl tile: there’s no way to repair it. If you have extra material from your installation, you can save it to replace a tile if something happens—but there may be some color change from sun exposure so it’s not always an option. And if you have a click-together floor, you’d have to pull up the entire floor to fix one tile.
Of course, you could always argue that the price to replace an entire LVT floor can be roughly the same as the cost to refinish hardwood flooring, but the fact remains.
Vinyl is Not a Zero-VOC Product
VOCs are volatile organic compounds found in many household items including flooring products. Luckily, it’s getting easier and easier to find low-VOC flooring options as more and more people become aware of different household toxins.
These days, there are plenty of low-VOC vinyl flooring options out there—but you need to make sure to look for them. One of the big problems with luxury vinyl tile is that not all products are low-VOC by default.
And remember: even if you install something super air-quality-healthy like non-toxic laminate flooring or low-VOC carpet, you’ll still want to keep good circulation in your home (with open windows and an air filtration system, if possible) for at least the first few days afterward.
Improper Installation (or Subfloor Issues) Can Lead to Peaking
Peaking happens when two vinyl tiles push together and lift up. This can happen when the flooring is installed without enough space for the flooring to settle and move.
As we mentioned earlier, this is also an issue when subfloor imperfections are present—they can lead to lifted seams, destroying the seamless nature of the floor (especially if you’re using a rigid product).
There aren’t many disadvantages of floating floors and installation is easy. But it’s important to follow all the guidelines and when in doubt, hire a professional.
Another Problem with Luxury Vinyl Tile: It Can Be Susceptible to UV Damage or Discoloration
UV damage and discoloration can happen with quite a few different flooring products. If you choose LVT for your sunroom flooring or another room that gets a lot of UV exposure, you may notice some fading in color over time. This is typically only the case with low-quality products, but it’s good to be aware of.
An easy solution here: get luxury vinyl that’s UV-resistant! Outdoor vinyl flooring tiles are available in tons of stores, and they’re some of the best outdoor flooring options available.
Grouting Vinyl Tiles Can Be Tricky for DIYers
To grout or not to grout, the option is yours. Some people like the look, and it can help with waterproofing if you purchase a peel-and-stick option.
Unfortunately, grouting is difficult. And you also need to make sure you select a groutable vinyl tile product in the first place. One big brand, Stainmaster luxury vinyl, offers a few groutable products—but they’re not fantastic.
Our advice? Chat with an expert at your local flooring store to see if this is the right option for you.
The Perks of Luxury Vinyl Tile
Alright! Now that we know all about the problems with luxury vinyl tile, let’s talk about the good stuff! What is it about LVT that makes it so popular with homeowners all over the globe?
LVT is Waterproof
Waterproof vinyl flooring is a great choice because you don’t have to worry about spills or moisture. Looking for mudroom flooring options that can handle wet shoes and tons of traffic? You found it. Something that can stand up to kids splashing in the bathtub? LVT is perfect for a faux-wood floor bathroom.
Even water-resistant wood flooring species like teak flooring can’t compete with LVT in terms of waterproofing. And fun fact: most fully waterproof hardwood flooring products actually use a rigid plastic core (essentially the same one you’d find in luxury vinyl tile) to achieve a waterproof surface!
Vinyl Tiles are Durable and Scratch-Resistant
LVT is a great scratch-resistant flooring choice. In fact, it can go toe-to-toe with the very best laminate flooring brands on the market in terms of wear layer durability.
Translation: if you buy a high-quality product from one of the best vinyl plank flooring brands, your floor is going to stand up to just about anything—even commercial-space-level foot traffic.
Pets and Kids are No Problem with Luxury Vinyl Tile
Maybe your home sees a lot of activity and you’re looking for flooring that can stand up to kids, pets, and anything else. Vinyl is a non-porous material, so it will not absorb odors and spills.
So: if you’re looking for the best wood flooring for dogs or kids, we’d recommend going with LVT instead. Even the most durable wood flooring can’t stand up to scratches, dents, and spills the way luxury vinyl tile can.
Maintenance and Cleaning are Simple with LVT
As with any flooring product, maintenance is important and you should always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. But LVT is very low maintenance and easy to keep clean, which is a huge advantage. Keeping your floors looking good is definitely not one of the problems with luxury vinyl tile.
By way of contrast: if you compare other flooring options (like tile vs. wood floors), you’ll see that yearly maintenance is required to keep both of these options in good shape. And one of the disadvantages of cork flooring and other natural surfaces is that you have to reseal them every few years.
LVT doesn’t require any sealing or refinishing.
Luxury Vinyl is Budget-Friendly
LVT is super budget-friendly as far as fake wood flooring options are concerned.
Price-wise, very few buyers have problems with luxury vinyl tile—in fact, even high-end vinyl tile prices are lower than low-end solid wood flooring costs (and a good deal cheaper the even the best engineered wood flooring). Plus, you can get the look of hardwood without going with a whacky alternative like concrete flooring that looks like wood.
LVT is One of the Easiest (And Cheapest) Types of Flooring to Install
Installation isn’t a problem with luxury vinyl tile either. The cost to install vinyl plank flooring is a lot lower than it is for many other wood alternatives for the reasons we explained above.
Into Wood Looks? You Won’t Have Any Problems with Luxury Vinyl Tile
LVT comes in a huge range of wood looks. Options can mimic everything from hickory to maple, and they can be installed in classic wood floor designs like herringbone parquet flooring.
How Long Does LVT Last?
Luxury vinyl tiles will last decades, and many products come with lifetime warranties. On that note: warranties are good indicators of a product’s quality, and we’d recommend reading them thoroughly.
Some products, like NuCore flooring, have prorated warranties that reduce protection each year. Obviously, that speaks to some potential durability problems with these luxury vinyl tiles. Other warranties, like the ones for LifeProof vinyl flooring, only cover the original homeowner.
Will Luxury Vinyl Increase Your Home’s Value?
Choosing a quality LVT product is a smart move for people looking to sell their homes. According to The Financial, luxury vinyl tile can help increase resale value! This is especially true if you’re using it to replace an older surface like carpet. The cost to replace carpet with hardwood can be steep, so LVT is a great alternative.
What are the Alternatives to Luxury Vinyl Tiles?
If the problems with luxury vinyl tile make it seem like it’s not the right floor for you, don’t worry—here are some alternatives to LVT and explanations of how they stack up.
Stone and Ceramic are the Original Tiles
Tile floors are always popular. They’re waterproof, they’re beautiful, and they’re timeless. But: these days, there are way more wood floor colors and designs offered in LVT products than there are in ceramic wood-look tile products.
Plus, tile is some of the hardest flooring to install. Even “DIY-friendly” products like snap-together tile flooring require grouting.
Solid Hardwood Flooring is Beautiful, But it Requires Maintenance
If you’ve seen the gorgeous ebony flooring or rustic wide plank wood flooring looks that are so popular these days, you can appreciate the beauty of hardwood flooring options. Luxury vinyl can take on the appearance of different hardwood species and different wood floor patterns, but without the maintenance.
What kind of maintenance? Well, hardwood generally has to be refinished every so often. Depending on what types of wood flooring you’re interested in, this may be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Or, it could happen a bit more regularly.
Just make sure you’re educated when buying hardwood floors and you’ll be fine. Ash flooring, for instance, is pretty standard when it comes to durability. A look at any list of hickory flooring pros and cons, on the other hand, will reveal that it’s a more durable choice.
Engineered Hardwood has the Same Issues as Solid Hardwood
What is engineered hardwood? It’s a type of hardwood that combines a real wood exterior with a core made of high-performance plywood.
Unfortunately, it comes with many of the same issues as solid hardwood. Plus: one of the biggest engineered wood disadvantages is it can’t be refinished indefinitely (unlike solid wood). And that means you might have to replace it sooner, especially if you don’t opt for a UV-cured factory finish.
The cost to install engineered hardwood floors is pretty similar to the cost to install LVT. But at the end of the day, all the best engineered wood flooring brands are going to cost more for materials.
Carpet is the One of the Only Products Softer Under Your Feet
If you just absolutely love the feeling of fuzziness under your toes, you might find yourself back at carpet. Many people go back and forth between carpet or hardwood in bedrooms and we’d say that vinyl offers some of the benefits of both.
However: while there are lots of options when it comes to Berber rugs, plush piles, and even peel and stick carpet tiles, these surfaces still require a lot of maintenance and don’t have the lifespan that a durable LVT product will have.
Laminate Offers Fewer Water-Resistant Options
What is laminate flooring? It’s another multi-layer hardwood alternative. So what’s the big difference between vinyl plank vs. laminate? Laminate isn’t primarily made of plastic—meaning that, unless you go with a specialty waterproof product like RevWood, it’s not going to be as water-resistant.
That said, laminate doesn’t share some of the typical problems of luxury vinyl tile. It’s reasonably eco-friendly, it’s generally (mostly) recyclable, etc.
What are the Best Brands of Luxury Vinyl Tiles?
Shaw is one of the biggest names in the flooring industry. Tons of products can be traced back to Shaw (including Lowes’ in-house vinyl brand, SmartCore Flooring). But Shaw has its own line of LVT too, called Floorté.
COREtec flooring reviews really speak for themselves, and the company is constantly rolling out advances to remedy common problems with luxury vinyl tile. COREtec is even easy to install even over radiant heat—so if you’ve been googling heating wood floors, this just might be your best option.
Proximity Mills is a newer company with some incredible reviews. And unlike their competitors, Proximity Mills LVT floors can be recycled (fixing one of the biggest problems with luxury vinyl tiles in general).
Conclusion: The Problems with Luxury Vinyl Tile Shouldn’t Remove it as an Option
There are pros and cons with every type of flooring, and LVT is no different. As long as you go into your buying process aware of both the advantages and problems with luxury vinyl tile, you’ll be able to make an informed choice!
And this isn’t just true for LVT. If you research the best cork flooring, make sure to look up the pros and cons of cork flooring too! That way, you know what to expect once it’s actually in your home.
We hope this article has been helpful and, for more information, we would recommend going to a flooring store near you. Flooring retailers know just about everything there is about all of these products. They’re the real experts!
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