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February 10, 2021
Do you keep seeing people mention PVC flooring when you’re searching for the best vinyl plank flooring brands? Wondering what the difference is between PVC flooring and vinyl? Confused by all the different acronyms that pop up like LVP, PVC, WPC, and EVP flooring?
We hear you. It’s a lot.
The world of vinyl plank flooring is packed with acronyms, and they’re difficult as heck to understand. Especially when it comes to something like PVC flooring.
That’s why below, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about this type of surface. We’ll explain exactly what PVC flooring is, the difference between PVC and vinyl plank, and talk about its pros and cons.
We’ll even talk about how much it costs and how to install it. So let’s jump in!
That’s right—PVC flooring is the exact same thing as vinyl flooring. It’s just a different name for it!
Why the different phrasing? Well, PVC is the third-most produced plastic polymer in the world. It’s used in lots of different applications aside from flooring—like pipes, siding, insulation, and even health supplies. And since many people are familiar with the material, PVC flooring has become a common synonym for vinylflooring.
Vinyl tile has the exact same properties as vinyl plank. It can come as a rigid or a flexible product, you can get WPC, SPC, or EVP cores, it’s waterproof, etc.
So what’s the difference between vinyl tile and vinyl plank?
Vinyl planks are made to look like wood. Vinyl tiles are made to look like—you guessed it—different types of floor tiles! We’re talking slate, granite, marble, you name it.
And that means they usually come in square pieces instead of rectangular planks. Again: all of these products—LVP, LVT, WPC, SPC, EVP—are just different types of PVC flooring (aka vinyl flooring).
Additionally: all of these types can be installed as click-together flooring, loose-lay flooring, or glue-down flooring. It just depends on the product.
#3. Sheet Vinyl
The third type of vinyl flooring is sheet vinyl. This is the old-fashioned, patterned vinyl flooring you probably remember from the kitchens and bathrooms of your childhood.
It comes in large sheets that are cut to fit your space, and then glued down. It isn’t among the easiest types of flooring to install, but it’s inexpensive and super durable. And yes, it’s also a type of PVC flooring.
The Pros and Cons of PVC Flooring
PVC flooring, like any other type of flooring, has both advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to get the full picture before moving forward with any decisions. Let’s review some of the main ones for vinyl.
Pro: PVC Flooring is Easy to Install
PVC flooring is relatively easy to install, which can be a huge perk. Both vinyl plank (LVP) and vinyl tile (LVT) can be installed as a floating floor. If you’re wondering what is a floating floor?, it’s an installation style that uses snap-together pieces—so the surface doesn’t have to be attached to a subfloor with glue or nails.
One of the downsides of both of these installation styles, though, is that they make PVC flooring rather difficult to remove.
Pulling up glued-down planks isn’t easy to do without damaging them. And with snap-together floating floors, you have to take the entire floor apart if you want to repair a single damaged plank or tile. It can be a hassle!
The biggest differentiator between vinyl plank vs. laminate (the two most common faux-wood options) is the fact that vinyl is waterproof.
Most of the other fake wood flooring choices available are not waterproof. For example, one of the disadvantages of cork flooring is that it can absorb water. This is a huge perk when it comes to choosing vinyl.
Also, remember that waterproof and water-resistant are different. You can find some water-resistant wood flooring options, but none of them will be completely waterproof. Teak flooring, for example, is water-resistant thanks to its natural resins and oils. But it definitely isn’t waterproof.
Con: Vinyl Is Not the Most Eco-Friendly Option
If you’re in the market for eco-friendly flooring, you won’t find vinyl at the top of the sustainability rankings. Because PVC is plastic, it requires a lot of resources to produce, and it’s less recyclable than other options.
It also won’t last as long as some other choices like ash flooring or other hardwoods—because solid hardwoods can be refinished for decades of use.
Pro: PVC Flooring is a Great Choice for Durability
If you’re looking for durability, PVC flooring is a great choice. Luxury vinyl planks and tiles are some of the most scratch-resistant flooring options around.
So whether you have kids running through your home, dogs wrestling on your floors, or just high traffic areas, vinyl flooring is definitely worth considering. Even the most durable wood flooring options don’t hold a candle to the luxury vinyl in terms of durability.
Con: There can be Quality Issues with Some Vinyl Floors
As with most shopping decisions, you should always read reviews before purchasing a product. There are some low-quality vinyl options on the market, and it’s important to avoid them. Example: Pergo Extreme reviews are excellent. Reviews for LifeProof flooring (Home Depot’s in-house brand) on the other hand… not so much.
Pro tip: one of the easiest ways to find a higher quality PVC floor is to look at wear layer thickness. A minimum of 12 mils thick is recommended for residential buildings. Another way to find a high-quality product is by asking your local flooring store.
Is PVC Flooring a Healthy Option?
We’re not going to sugar coat it: vinyl flooring is made of plastics, which means that chemicals are heavily involved in the manufacturing process.
When those chemicals off-gas, they’re known as VOCs—volatile organic compounds. When VOCs off-gas in your home, they can affect your indoor air quality—potentially harming your family’s health.
PVC flooring generally has a lifespan of 12 to 15-ish years. It can last much longer if it’s cleaned and well-maintained, though. But if you go with lower-quality flooring, it may not have that long of a lifespan.
That said, some companies offer lifetime warranties, so it all depends on the product.
PVC Flooring vs. Laminate Flooring
Vinyl and laminate flooring have a lot in common—affordability, ease of installation, and durability.
Because of this, many of the same arguments made in favor of laminate in the tile vs. laminate and carpet vs. laminate debates also apply to vinyl flooring. However, there are also significant differences between the two.
Vinyl is entirely synthetic, whereas laminate does contain some natural materials. Vinyl also has some benefits that laminate doesn’t—it’s heat-resistant and waterproof. Those factors may be extremely important for you depending on where in your home you’re installing your new floors.
If you’ve been shopping for laminate, it would be a great idea to include PVC flooring in your search as well. Along with wood-look tile, it’s one of the best faux wood options for high-traffic areas. Not to mention, you can find PVC options that resemble everything from wide-plank wood flooring to thin-strip parquet.
Is PVC Flooring Waterproof?
It sure is! All the best types of vinyl flooring are 00% waterproof. This means that PVC flooring is a great choice for bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, kitchens, or even mudroom flooring—any damp spaces or places with a chance of wet feet or spills.
Flooring costs vary depending on your location, materials, labor, and more. Here are some of the current national averages for labor and materials to help you make a more informed decision.
PVC Flooring Rolls (aka Sheet Vinyl)
For sheet vinyl, the national average ranges between $3 and $4 per square foot for material and installation. This material cost is cheaper than the other options, but the installation is more difficult—and therefore can be a bit more expensive.
PVC Flooring Tiles (aka LVT)
The national average, according to HomeAdvisor, is $7 per square foot for material plus installation. However, vinyl tiles are still cheaper to install than nearly all types of tile made from natural materials—even porcelain snap-together tile flooring.
PVC Flooring Planks (aka LVP)
LVP is priced similarly to LVT at around $7 per square foot for materials and installation. This is still a more affordable choice compared to the cost to install engineered hardwood floors. Vinyl planks are a great option if you want wood-look flooring without paying the price. Plus, the price of a new vinyl plank floor is similar to the cost to refinish hardwood flooring, but with way less hassle and mess.
Installing PVC Flooring
Vinyl is known as an easy-to-install type of flooring. Many DIYers are able to put this in themselves without issues. Even if you have to hire a professional, it’s a relatively affordable installation compared to the cost to replace carpet with hardwood, for instance
Maintaining any type of flooring is important, and while PVC is much less maintenance-heavy than some other floors (including nearly all types of wood flooring), there are still some best practices.
It’s best to clean with water and a mop weekly. If there are any stubborn stains, using vinegar or gentle cleaners. Make sure to use furniture pads, especially with anything that moves around to protect that top layer of the vinyl. And when you vacuum, do not use a beater bar. By following these tips, you can make your PVC flooring last!
PVC Flooring is a Great Choice—So Here’s What to Do Next
Make a plan to get to your local flooring store to talk to an expert. They can answer your questions, cover different brands, and help you decide if PVC flooring is the right choice for you.
You can ask about cool new products like magnetic flooring for a super easy DIY install, or have them install some classic floors for you. Either way, it’s always good to have an expert to chat with. And as always, we’re happy to answer any other questions you have!
And for more info on all things flooring, check out:
Steph is a book nerd, rule follower, and pizza lover who can't get enough of playing outside. She was raised on the ice rinks of MN and currently resides in sunny San Diego. As a freelance writer, she loves research, producing content, and organizing information for a wide variety of clients. She currently has at least 10 browser windows open at all times.
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