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Updated January 8, 2023
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.
👉 If you are looking for alternativesto SmartCore, we would highly suggest Proximity Mills or Newton. They compare very similarly in price to SmartCore however Proximity Mills and Newton both have much better consumer reviews.
To skip to our “is SmartCore worth it” judgment call, click here!
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.
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. Ultra: What are the Similarities? What’s the Difference?
The only major difference between SmartCore Pro and SmartCore Ultra flooring 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.
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 noise-reduction.
Additionally: Lowes markets SmartCore Ultra flooring 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 and offers professional results. 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 flooring 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. SmartCore Naturals 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.
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 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 floors are 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
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.
SmartCore Flooring Offers Easy Maintenance
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 in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)
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.
Some types of vinyl flooring 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 Attached Pad Does Not Protect it from Moisture
While most products sold by the best vinyl plank flooring brands have an attached underlayment, SmartCore floors do 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.
Side note: if you want an innovative type of underlayment for your floors 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.
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.
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.
DIY Installation + Warranty:
The warranty for SmartCore flooring is even more limited for DIYers. If you DIY installation and the flooring breaks, then there is 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.
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.
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 look elsewhere. Here’s how SmartCore stacks up against other vinyl flooring manufacturers.
Proximity Mills Vinyl vs. SmartCore Vinyl
Proximity Mills is our go-to example of a great vinyl floor that isn’t sold at a huge markup. The company is all about building “performance” flooring (a word you’ll see a lot on their website), and their LVP, in particular, is excellent.
For a lower price than SmartCore, Proximity sells LVP products with better wear layers and high-quality SPC cores. Plus, every one of their products is low-VOC or entirely VOC-free. We wrote a whole Proximity Mills review that shows why we’d recommend it (or similar brands) over a box store offering like SmartCore.
Newton is a value-focused brand, which means their products are going to come in right around (or below) the price of SmartCore vinyl. Now, we wouldn’t say that Newton’s products are head over heels superior to SmartCore’s in general—but at the price, they absolutely are. We often cite this company as an example of what a “budget brand” can be if they do flooring the right way.
Doma isn’t a direct competitor to SmartCore, in that Doma’s vinyl plank is a bit more pricey—but it more than makes up for this in just how gorgeous it is.
If you’re looking for a much wider variety of unique wood floor designs (that are more durable and only marginally more expensive than SmartCore’s) we’d check them out. Oh, and Doma (really, all of these other brands) 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 and to make a smart choice, 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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