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SmartCore Flooring Reviews: Is it Worth it?

February 16, 2021

Let’s talk about SmartCore flooring. Is Lowes’ in-house brand of LVP worth purchasing? Or is it simply another product in the already-crowded world of vinyl plank? 

We’ve discussed a lot of types of flooring here, including many of the best vinyl plank flooring brands. And below, we’re going to take an in-depth look at SmartCore Pro and SmartCore Ultra to see how they stack up. 

Then, we’ll take a deep dive into SmartCore flooring reviews, talk about its pros and cons, and help you decide whether it’s worth purchasing.

Table of Contents

What is SmartCore Flooring, Exactly?

Lowes’ SmartCore flooring is (with one exception) composed entirely of rigid-core luxury vinyl plank—aka LVP. It comes in two main collections which we’ll talk about in detail below:

  • SmartCore Ultra (which has an SPC core)
  • SmartCore Pro (which as a WPC core)

SmartCore Flooring Is Lowes’ Private-Label Brand

Once again, SmartCore flooring is Lowes’ private-label brand. That means you can only buy it at Lowes. 

There’s nothing wrong with that—many national chains have their own private-label brands. But we wanted to mention it because there have been many attempts by stores like Lowes and Home Depot to sell proprietary flooring products. And the results have been mixed, at best.

For example: Lowes cork flooring is…well, it isn’t exactly the best cork flooring out there. And if you’re hesitant about buying the product because of the well-documented disadvantages of cork flooring, the stuff isn’t going to change your mind. 

Look, we’re not trying to pooh-pooh the product by association. We’re just trying to give you some context before we talk about it.

SmartCore Pro vs. SmartCore Ultra: What’s the Difference?

The only major difference between SmartCore Pro and SmartCore Ultra is the material each product uses for its core—plus a little bit of design detail. Aside from that, there aren’t many differences in color, variety, even protection. 

Both products look good, both offer a great water-resistant wood flooring alternative, both can be used to create classic wood floor patterns… the point is, they’re very similar products. Here’s how they differ:

SmartCore Ultra Has a WPC Core…

SmartCore Ultra features a WPC (Wood-Plastic Composite) core. WPC incorporates an ultra-fine sawdust called wood flour into its construction. This gives the floor some extra “bounce” and makes it feel a bit more like authentic hardwood species. It also makes it a bit more sound-dampening, for a quieter surface.

Additionally: Lowes markets SmartCore Ultra as “Hi-Def” flooring—meaning there’s more detail in its design layer. 

…While SmartCore Pro Has an SPC Core

SmartCore Pro, on the other hand, features an SPC (Stone-Plastic Composite) core. SPC incorporates limestone powder into its construction, making for a (supposedly) more durable product. 

In general, SPC is more rigid than WPC—but that also means it’s not as shock-absorbing. Translation: the floors are going to be a bit louder.

SmartCore’s website says SmartCore Pro sacrifices a smidge of detail in the design layer for its enhanced durability. However: many SmartCore flooring reviews question this—not because the detail is affected, but because SmartCore Pro apparently isn’t that durable

Obviously, that’s a huge issue for any PVC flooring product marketed for its strength.

Which LVP Is Better: SmartCore Pro or SmartCore Ultra?

Obviously, the best vinyl plank flooring for you is the one that fits your lifestyle. But, given all the SmartCore flooring reviews we read through, we’d say that SmartCore Ultra probably has a bit of an edge over SmartCore pro. Why?

Most SmartCore Flooring Reviews Favor SmartCore Ultra 

It’s just that simple. Not all of the SmartCore Pro reviews are bad, but if you’re looking for the safer option, SmartCore Ultra may be the way to go. Its design layer is a little more detailed, and you’re not paying more money for an SPC core that apparently adds very little benefit.

What About SmartCore Naturals?

In addition to SmartCore Pro and SmartCore Ultra, Lowe’s also sells a third collection: SmartCore Naturals. This line is made of real wood with a bamboo veneer. Lowes markets it under the SmartCore brand name because, like SmartCore Pro and SmartCore Ultra, it’s supposedly waterproof. 

But Reviews for SmartCore Naturals Are…Not Great

However: nearly all SmartCore flooring reviews we dove into mentioned that this waterproof claim was… perhaps a little less than accurate. One SmartCore Naturals reviewer mentioned that “…it’s like SmartCore looked at all the pros and cons of engineered bamboo flooring—and only kept the cons.” Yikes.

Out of the dozen-or-so SmartCore Naturals products that Lowes offers, only one product has a 5-star rating—and that’s on Lowes’ own website. The remainder top out at 3.5 stars or fewer.

Ultimately, this prefinished hardwood flooring collection is probably one to skip—it just doesn’t stack up against any of the best hardwood floor brands

Our opinion? At the end of the day, the best hardwood floors should be durable, beautiful, and comfortable—but they shouldn’t have to be waterproof. Even the best engineered wood flooring is water-resistant at best. That’s why most people debating between tile vs. wood floors end up going with something like wood-look tile instead—it’s just more practical. 

What Colors Does SmartCore Flooring Come In?

SmartCore offers a pretty decent color selection as far as faux-wood flooring goes. From the light touch of ash flooring to the jet-black of ebony flooring, SmartCore comes in a lot of hues and patterns. 

Lineup of different SmartCore Ultra and SmartCore Pro flooring planks

Love hickory but spooked after reading the pros and cons of hickory flooring? Get a hardwood floor alternative like SmartCore—it’ll give you the look you’re going for, without the actual, you know, disadvantages of hickory flooring. There’s a reason hardwood floor alternatives like SmartCore are so popular, after all.

Who Actually Makes SmartCore Flooring?

Lowes slaps its name on SmartCore flooring—but who actually manufactures it? As it turns out, that’s a little complicated. 

COREtec Makes Both SmartCore Ultra and SmartCore Pro

COREtec manufactures both SmartCore Ultra and SmartCore Pro. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because COREtec has been one of the top vinyl plank flooring brands for quite some time. 

But COREtec is Owned By USFloors… Which Is Owned by Shaw

That said, COREtec is actually owned by USFloors. And USFloors is actually owned by Shaw Industries—the second-largest flooring manufacturer in the world. Shaw offers everything from low-VOC vinyl flooring to just about every wood flooring type in the world, so at least you know SmartCore flooring is being made by people who know what they’re doing.

SmartCore Flooring Reviews Are Mixed Overall—But Most Say the Product Is Decent

Now that all the “paperwork” is out of the way, let’s get into the meat of this thing. Is SmartCore flooring good?

Overall, SmartCore flooring reviews are pretty mixed. We already mentioned that SmartCore Ultra generally has better reviews than SmartCore Pro, but there’s a lot to consider. 

But since we didn’t want to just copy-and-paste endless blocks of info and hundreds of comments, we’ve used them to create this guide to SmartCore flooring pros and cons! 

The Pros of SmartCore Flooring

First, let’s talk about the perks of SmartCore flooring—which, to be fair, are pretty much the pros of vinyl plank flooring in general. 

SmartCore Flooring Is Waterproof (Like All Vinyl Plank)

SmartCore flooring, like virtually every LVP product, is almost completely waterproof (we’ll revisit this later on). You should still clean up spills promptly, but SmartCore is a great option to use for bathroom or even mudroom flooring

That said, waterproof flooring isn’t as exclusive as it once was. Even laminate flooring comes in waterproof options now, like Mohawk’s RevWood (and you can check out this vinyl plank vs. laminate guide out if you’re curious about the differences between the two products).

How Much Does SmartCore Flooring Cost? It’s Pretty Affordable!

The big appeal of SmartCore flooring, of course, is the price tag. You can generally buy SmartCore for about $3–$4/sq. ft., which is a bit cheaper than what many of the best vinyl plank flooring brands charge, on average. 

To put that in context: buying SmartCore floors is head-over-heels more affordable than buying hardwood floors. Even moderately-priced wood flooring costs can get pretty high once you factor in installation.

SmartCore Flooring Reviews Usually Say That DIY Installation Is Easy

A good number of SmartCore flooring reviews confirm that SmartCore flooring installation is easy to DIY. It’s probably not as easy as peel-and-stick carpet tiles, but the interlocking click-together flooring tabs and optional adhesive don’t require a ton of experience.

And Professional Installation Isn’t Too Expensive Either

Even if you hire someone, the cost to install vinyl plank flooring is usually pretty reasonable. In most cases, it won’t even come close to the cost to replace carpet with hardwood or the cost to install engineered hardwood floors

Basically, unless you’re planning on using it to create some super-intricate parquet flooring patterns, you’re probably looking at a relatively inexpensive install.

Cleaning and Maintaining SmartCore Flooring Is Also Pretty Easy

All the best vinyl plank flooring is easy to clean. In fact, as far as fake wood flooring goes, LVP is probably one of the easiest surfaces to maintain.

Seriously—even some traditional types of floor tiles can be harder to clean than LVP because they’re more porous.

Side note: if you’re ever comparing tile vs. laminate, make sure to factor in your cleaning habits. They can make or break the lifespan of almost any types of tile.

Vinyl plank, and by extension SmartCore flooring, doesn’t have any special care requirements beyond a vacuum and the occasional mop. Just don’t use a vacuum with a beater bar or you’ll scratch your wear layer!

SmartCore Ultra and SmartCore Pro Are Both Low-VOC Certified 

The “VOC” in low-VOC flooring may seem like just another silly acronym—but this one’s actually super important. VOCs stands for volatile organic compounds, which are harmful chemicals released into the air by many plastics and adhesives.

Reducing VOCs is a priority in the industry and it shows in newer products like low-VOC carpet and non-toxic laminate flooring. SmartCore Ultra and SmartCore Pro are no exception, and are Greenguard Certified as low-VOC options.

SmartCore Flooring Can Be Used Outside (Though it Will Wear Out Faster)

Here’s one thing that separates SmartCore flooring from some other budget LVP brands: you can use it as an outdoor flooring option. You can even use it as sunroom flooring

Some types of vinyl will fade quickly in direct sunlight, but SmartCore flooring reviews seem to suggest that this isn’t a huge problem. However, it will wear faster if you put it in the elements.

Overall: we’d still recommend certain types of hardwood over LVP for outdoor use. If you look into some teak flooring pros and cons, for example, you’ll find that its natural resins make it great for patios, decks, and so on.

The Cons of SmartCore Flooring

And here’s where we talk about the bad stuff. SmartCore doesn’t do much to address the common disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring—which means the product doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. And because of a couple of big design flaws, it can actually add to them.

SmartCore Flooring’s Underlayment Does Not Protect it from Moisture

While most products sold by the best vinyl plank flooring brands have an attached underlayment, SmartCore does not.

That’s not a problem in itself, and Lowes pairs a recommended underlayment with the product. But: for some reason, this underlayment doesn’t protect it from moisture. So you’ll still need to buy and install another protective layer before putting SmartCore flooring in a basement, kitchen, or bathroom. 

SmartCore’s flooring’s installation directions note this is only relevant when it’s going over concrete subfloors, but SmartCore flooring reviews disagree (and you can check out our comparison of underlayments vs. subfloors to see why this matters to begin with).

Side note: if you want an innovative type of underlayment that also makes for easy installation, it’s worth checking out magnetic flooring.

SmartCore Flooring Reviews (Surprisingly) Say it Scratches Easily

Something very unusual about SmartCore—and particularly SmartCore Pro—is that it’s weirdly prone to scratching. 

Scratch-resistance is supposed to be one of the big advantages of vinyl plank flooring. but apparently, Lowes didn’t get that memo. Way too many SmartCore flooring reviews mention this issue for it to be a fluke occurrence; there’s clearly something wrong with the design.

With that in mind, if you’re looking for scratch-resistant flooring or a synthetic alternative for the best wood flooring for dogs, SmartCore probably isn’t it. 

SmartCore Flooring May Dent Easily Too (Especially SmartCore Pro)

And on that note, SmartCore flooring reviews also mention that the floor can dent easily. Again: dent-resistance is supposed to be a basic part of vinyl plank flooring. And SmartCore Pro’s SPC core is supposed to be extra dent-resistant. 

But again, the reviews disagree.

If you want something tough, consider looking for some of the most durable wood flooring, or frankly, a better LVP product.

SmartCore Pro and SmartCore Ultra Only Have One Wear Layer Thickness Option

SmartCore Pro only comes with a 12-mil wear layer. and SmartCore Ultra only comes with a 20-mil wear layer. Those are your options, take ‘em or leave ‘em. 

A 12-mil wear layer is actually pretty good (ignoring the durability concerns mentioned in SmartCore reviews)—but considering that so many top brands offer different wear layer options, it’s odd that SmartCore doesn’t.

SmartCore Flooring’s Lifetime Residential Warranty Is Very Limited

And here’s where things go from not-great to really not-great. The residential warranty for SmartCore flooring only applies if you hire a professional contractor. If you do a DIY installation and it breaks: no warranty

That’s not good.

There are also loads of other exceptions to SmartCore’s warranty policy. For example, the warranty doesn’t cover manufacturer defects once it’s installed—which is absurd. Also, the warranty only applies indoors.

Oh, and If you were discouraged from buying wood because of the cost to refinish hardwood flooring, you should know that if your SmartCore gets marked up, your only option is to replace all of it. Because replacing individual SmartCore planks is almost impossible without taking the entire floor apart. And just try not to damage planks when you’re taking them apart—hah!

Again: You Can Not Install SmartCore as a DIY Project Within Warranty

SmartCore is marketed like it’s the easiest flooring to install, so you’re supposed to be able to install it almost anywhere. But, if you want to stay within warranty, you can’t make it a do-it-yourself flooring project. So…basically, DIY-ers are out of luck.

SmartCore Flooring’s Commercial Warranty Is Even Worse

The commercial warranty for most LVP products that have a 12-mil-or-thicker wear layer is roughly 10 years. SmartCore’s commercial warranty is only 5 years—and all of the “exceptions” outlined above still apply. 

This kind of suggests that SmartCore flooring simply isn’t the best for commercial locations—or perhaps anywhere that sees consistent foot traffic.

SmartCore Flooring Isn’t Environmentally Friendly

Earlier, we noted that SmartCore flooring is low-VOC certified. But there’s no way around it: this isn’t environmentally-friendly flooring. Of course, this isn’t a SmartCore issue as much as it is an LVP issue in general. Still, there are some vinyl plank brands—like Proximity Mills—that are more focused on recyclability.  

Either way, if eco-friendly flooring is a priority for you, we’d recommend going with sustainable wood flooring or hemp flooring instead. Even the best bamboo flooring is notably greener than LVP—and you can even refinish bamboo flooring when it’s worn out instead of having to replace the whole thing.

The Core of SmartCore Flooring Isn’t Particularly Special

If you’re researching the best types of vinyl flooring, you’ve probably found a lot of acronyms (EVP flooring, LVT flooring, PVC, WPC, etc.)

It can be overwhelming to compare them all, especially because so many brands use rigid cores these days.

However, SmartCore flooring doesn’t really do anything here that’s outside of common industry practice. That’s not to say the WPC core of SmartCore Ultra isn’t good—it just isn’t special. 

And, well, reviewers aren’t fond of SmartCore Pro’s SPC core.

Where Can I Install SmartCore Flooring?

Technically speaking, you can install SmartCore Ultra or SmartCore Pro anywhere you would install any other type of vinyl flooring. But like we said, you’re going to need an additional moisture barrier to protect your subflooring if you want to put it anywhere it might deal with excessive moisture (you know, like anywhere you’d usually want to install LVP?

SmartCore Flooring Installation: How Does it Work?

We briefly mentioned this earlier, but installing SmartCore flooring is pretty similar to installing snap-together tile flooring. Because both SmartCore Pro and SmartCore Ultra can be installed as floating floors. What is a floating floor? It’s a surface that clicks together and doesn’t have to be attached to the subfloor. 

Or, if you don’t want to deal with the disadvantages of floating floors, you can glue your SmartCore flooring down too.

Which is Better: LifeProof or SmartCore Flooring?

If you read our review of Home Depot’s LifeProof vinyl flooring, you might have noticed that this review is relatively similar. Both SmartCore and LifeProof flooring are private-label LVP floors offered by big box stores, right? 

Yes and no. To be blunt, SmartCore and LifeProof are close in price—but SmartCore is absolutely the better of the two. It doesn’t offer as many varieties, but the SmartCore flooring reviews we’ve read are much more positive regarding quality and DIY-friendliness. LifeProof flooring reviews are…lukewarm at very best.

So: Is SmartCore Flooring Good? It’s Alright.

Is SmartCore flooring good? To paraphrase Hamlet, “that is the question.” Ultimately, you might say SmartCore flooring is a good budget option. 

However: if you ask us, it’s… average. And more importantly, there are better options out there for the price.

SmartCore Flooring Reviews Suggest it Doesn’t Stack Up Against High-End LVP Brands

If it wasn’t clear, we’ll spell it out here: SmartCore flooring is fine, but it’s not the best. If you want something great, we’d recommend that you check out some Pergo Extreme reviews or a top brand like Raskin or Proximity Mills.

Many of these top brands offer a much wider variety of unique and wood floor designs that are more durable and only marginally more expensive. And they offer better warranties, too.

Conclusion: SmartCore Flooring Is Decent—But There’s Better LVP On the Market

There’s really no other way to say it: SmartCore flooring, including both SmartCore Pro and SmartCore Ultra, is just decent. SmartCore flooring reviews agree: it’ll get the job done but better options exist.

We mentioned Proximity Mills before, but really, you have a lot of options.

If you want excellent LVP for virtually the same price, find a top-rated flooring store in your area! To be honest, independent flooring stores will be able to sell you a much better product at a much better price than any box store. 

Alternately, check out some more articles to learn more!

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About The Author

Christian Southards

Take any subject and there’s a good chance Christian has written about it. From marketing and international relations to wildlife (hobby!) and sports, Christian writes, edits, or helps publish just about everything that’s resigned to written form. His love for home design and remodeling began with his first job working for his uncle’s property management business.

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