When it comes time to replace your flooring, you have a lot of options. One of the more popular choices is vinyl. Vinyl covered floors have a lot of benefits and only a few drawbacks, and vinyl plank is the most sought after of all vinyl choices.
This article will review the best vinyl plank flooring on the market today. You will learn if this flooring type is ideal for your situation and budget. Plus, I will offer you purchase considerations as well as a full review of the best vinyl brands.
The Best Brands for Vinyl Plank Flooring
- 1 The Best Brands for Vinyl Plank Flooring
- 2 What is Vinyl Flooring?
- 3 Pros and Cons of Plank Floors
- 4 Considerations When Buying Vinyl Plank Flooring
- 5 Review: Best Vinyl Plank Flooring Brands
- 6 How to Install Vinyl Floors
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions
- 8 Conclusion
The top rated and best reviewed brands of vinyl flooring are:
- Shaw. Strong and durable with commercial grade applications.
- Armstrong. Scientific researched to increase wear and longevity.
- LifeProof. A Home Depot brand with incredible wear resistance warranties.
- NuCore. Featured by Floor & Decor with high style designs.
- Mohawk. Well respected name brand with more style options than most.
- Karndean. Exclusive, elegant and offers the rare loose lay.
- COREtec. Innovative design, added strength and a softer composition.
What is Vinyl Flooring?
Vinyl flooring is a synthetic material that emulates the look of wood, slate or other surfaces. However, unlike softwood, hardwood and laminate, vinyl flooring is water resistant . The layers in the sheets, tiles and planks give the flooring a versatile, durable and attractive finish.
Other flooring types are more natural, where laminate contains a wood-filler center, and linoleum is made from all natural materials, vinyl is completely synthetic.
This allows brands and manufacturers to combine various aspects to increase the durability or usability of the flooring style.
Pros and Cons of Plank Floors
As with everything else in life, vinyl flooring has advantages and disadvantages. Luckily, though, the floor type has more advantages than negative aspects. Let’s go through each of them now.
- Residential and commercial use. Since vinyl planks have various cores and layers, they are suitable for residential use as well as commercial applications, with various warranty lengths.
- Less expensive. The overall price of luxury vinyl plank (LVP) has come down in recent years for many reasons. Now, there is a style and type for every budget.
- DIY install. LVP is fairly simple to install, and homeowners with a penchant for DIY projects can save even more by laying the flooring themselves.
- More options. With options ranging from the core material, to the plank thickness and even the colors, designs or material emulation, there are a lot of choices. You can select a different style for every room in your home to match décor.
- Styles for every budget. While less expensive options in other flooring materials mean a lower quality, this isn’t always true with vinyl. You can maintain a durable and reliable floor regardless of how much you spend.
- Stain Resistant. Almost every brand, style and texture of LVP is stain proof, and those that aren’t are heavily resistant to staining.
- May off-gas. Since the plank flooring is synthetic, the materials used may need time to off-gas. This time can last up to a week and cause unpleasant odors. It isn’t permanent though, and most vinyl planking off-gases within 48 hours.
- Not easily repaired. Due to the construction methods, vinyl planks with gouges or punctures aren’t easy to repair. In most cases a replacement plank is needed.
- No added home value. Unlike hardwood flooring or wall to wall carpeting, vinyl flooring doesn’t offer a return on value if you plan to resell your home.
Considerations When Buying Vinyl Plank Flooring
Before you head out and purchase the next LVP that you see, there are several things you need to think about. Below, I cover the various features and options that are worthy of consideration before buying.
Vinyl flooring comes with a variety of core types. This is the base material inside the plank that gives it rigidity, strength and durability. The most common is called WPC or wood-plastic composite. The newer type is known as stone plastic composite (SPC). The differences aren’t slight, either.WPC is softer when you walk on it, is less durable to constant, heavy use and doesn’t do well under a lot of stress.
While there are WPC planks made for commercial use, it is more common in residential applications.
SPC, on the other hand is made from a limestone composite material for added strength and durability. SPC is also harder to scratch or gouge, making it ideal for commercial properties with shopping carts and heavy traffic.
The trade off is that SPC has less give, doesn’t absorb as much sound and can be difficult to replace.
When shopping for luxury vinyl planking (LVP) you will come across the thickness of the planks, measured in mil. For residential applications anything over 5 mil is preferred. The higher the mil number, the thicker the planks, which means they are likely to hold up longer.
The higher mil also offer a better warranty (more on this below), but they cost more per square foot to buy and install.
Commercial applications should aim for at least a 20 mil, though some smaller sizes like 12 mil can suffice, depending on the type of traffic over the floor.
Whether you are installing the planks as a DIY project or hiring a professional to do the job for you, there are three main types of LVP installations.
The most common is the gluing method where each piece is adhered to the floor with an adhesive spray, compound or flooring glue.
You also have the groove method, or interlocking planks. Each plank has a tongue and groove style edging that fits together with the adjoining piece.
As you lay the boards they lock together, forming a solid, immovable foundation when the last piece is locked in place.
Finally, there is the loose lay method. For these you need special planks that come with a rubber-backed bottom. Each piece lays in place without glue or interlocking.
As the name implies, the pieces lay loosely on the sub-flooring, with the rubber padding to prevent movement or slippage.
One thing you may want to keep in mind is the availability of the plank style you choose. This is often overlooked during the purchasing process. However, as new materials are made, different designs are released and other brands enter the market, you may not be able to find your style later on.
If you select a brand, style or design that may not be around in a few years, you will either need to pick up extra planks, or choose a different style.
I can’t think of anything worse than needing to replace a plank or two, only to discover an exact match isn’t available.
Unlike some other flooring types, vinyl has additional features that you may or may not find useful. For example, by nature almost all vinyl planks are moisture resistant, but you can also find planks that are waterproof. These are ideal for installing in laundry rooms or bathrooms.
You can also find textured tiles and planks that aren’t common (or even available) in other flooring types. This will include your wood grains, but also stone, tile, EIR (Embossed in Register), colors, patterns and even clear.
Since LVP is a compound of various composite layers, you can also find padded versions which feel soft and giving when you walk on them.
Regardless of your flooring desires, there is bound to be a vinyl option to match your needs.
Price and Warranty
Of course, your budget will come into play. Even with DIY options available, the installation can be tedious and expensive. You will want to find the right planking that is suitable to your décor as well as your wallet.
If you do opt for professional installation, you will need to ensure the quote covers everything such as timely delivery, removal of old flooring and hauling away of debris and left overs. You may be surprised what professional installers do not include in their quotes.
For commercial applications, you can expect a lower warranty period, but the time frame should still match the expectations. Anything less than 5 years may not be worth it.
Review: Best Vinyl Plank Flooring Brands
Below, I review and compare the best LVP brands. Each one will have unique advantages that may prove to be the selling point for your specific needs. You may also find that their small variances are enough to make you choose a different brand. Let’s find out.
Shaw Floors manufactures and produces some the most sought after and luxurious vinyl planks you can find. While they are a little more expensive than most, you get a high-quality, durable plank that exceeds your expectations.
For years, the flooring company has pushed out timeless classics in over 10 color families. There are three LVP styles to choose from. The DuraTru collection is the least expensive, and ranges from 5 mil to 7 mil in thickness.
For thicker flooring you can choose to go with the Floorte style. This is the mid-range of their collections and offers you over a dozen styles to choose from. Most residential applications come from this collection and it is easy to see why.
For commercial use or for a higher-end product the Floorte Pro is available. The prices will rise in this group, but with up to 30 mil thickness and a solid plank using SPC, it doesn’t get any better.
Most of the design groups from Shaw are also 100% waterproof, not just water resistant. They also have a wide range that are completely sourced in the USA.
The thicker mil also come with longer warranties, including commercial use. The average is a 5 to 7 year commercial warranty but it does rise to 20 years with the 30 mil options. For residential warranties, depending on the thickness you choose, you can expect a 7 to 20 year warranty on all models.
|Most options are 100% waterproof||More expensive than other brands|
|Huge color selection|
|Will match colors from a photo|
|Imitate stone, tile or wood|
When it comes to a name that stands the test of time, Armstrong is the best. For over 100 years, the company has produced flooring for Americans and the rest of the world. Their LVP line is nothing to complain about, either.
Armstrong relies mostly on wood grain appearances, including natural, low gloss and distressed. However, they also offer an array of stone and tile aesthetics as well. No matter what décor you go with, there is an Armstrong LVP to match.
The LVP models are mostly self-stick, though the list of floating planks is growing. The residential and commercial warranties aren’t as long as some of the other brands, with one exception.
The Armstrong Vivero Best line is one of the most durable and resistant planks on the market. Where other brands use silicone or ceramic beads in the manufacturing process to add strength and durability, Armstrong does not.
For this line, they use lab-created diamonds, creating a sheen and toughness not found anywhere else. This also allows them to offer a commercial warranty of 15 years.
The price range for Armstrong LVP is also considered mid-range, without there being a lot of price variance between models.
If you want selection, durability and a price you can afford, it is hard to go wrong with Armstrong.
|Elegant designs for wood tones, grains and stone or tile options||Most lines don’t offer the best warranties|
|Vivero Best is scratch, dent and scuff resistant||Lower range of floating LVP than other brands|
|Affordable for most budgets|
|Available almost anywhere you buy flooring|
LifeProof comes to you from Home Depot, a brand we all know and trust. Their LVP is one of a kind and is made to resist daily use in your home.
If you have high traffic areas that you want to look great all the time, then this may be the best LVP for you. There are several styles to choose from and you can even pick from 6 different colors.
The planks are thick, too which makes them a great option for smaller commercial applications that can’t afford high-budget flooring prices. Either in your home, or your business, these planks will get the job done.
One thing to note in residential installs, though, is that the setting time is a bit longer than most. Instead of the average 15 hour time to use, LifeProof recommends at least 24 hours.
Partly because of the thickness (22 mil) and partly because of the material properties, you are best to wait before moving furniture in the room. Once the expansion gaps are sealed, though, you will have a floor that is easy to maintain and withstands a barrage of daily traffic.
One of the biggest draws is that with only a few select exceptions, the price is the same for all LVP styles. There is no need to shop around for a better deal. Instead, find the style you like and head to the register.
For a more detailed look see our LifeProof Flooring Review.
|Excellent wear resistance||Only Available through Home Depot|
|Multiple design and style options||Longer time to set than other brands|
Another store exclusive brand is NuCore. Brought to you by Floor & Decor, the LVP is highly durable and resilient to every day foot traffic and resists scuffs.
Not only are the planks durable but they are also waterproof. It is the only brand that offers 100% waterproof across the entire line. All of their models are wood grain finishes to emulate a real hardwood floor.
NuCore also features an innovative design with a cork underlay that is hypoallergenic. This underlay also provides a softer floor when walking, absorbs more sound and warmer for colder climates.
The interlocking floating designs with this cork underlay allows you to lay more flooring without the need for transition molding. According to Floor & Decor you can lay up to 6400 feet of NuCore LVP without transition molding.
If that isn’t enough, you also get a lifetime warranty on residential installs . For commercial use there is a 15 year warranty. However, this warranty is prorated over the 15 years, so the longer it goes, the more it will cost you out of pocket for a replacement.
Maintenance is simple with regular sweeping and mopping required. Made to withstand pets, children and high traffic areas, NuCore is an optimal choice for any home looking to update the look and performance of its floors.
|Over 100 options to choose||Pro-rated commercial warranty (15 years)|
|Competitive pricing for a luxury style||Exclusive to Floor & Decor|
|Lifetime residential warranty|
When it comes to selection, value, price and options, no one out performs Mohawk. There are currently over 200 styles and installation methods to choose. Most of the lines use a wood grain finish to emulate hardwood flooring.
However, you can also find stone, mason and tile looks, too. Regardless of the size of your project or the final appearance you want, Mohawk has the LVP for you.
Because they offer such a large range of options, their prices also run the gamut for all budgets. Whether you want to lay a new floor in your apartment or in a classic car showroom, there is a price and style to match.
Mohawk offers LVP in sizes form 6 mil to 20 mil and most of the self-stick versions offer a 15 to 20 year warranty. Floating options are generally between 8 and 20 mil, all using a WPC construction.
The warranties aren’t as long with floating planks, but the thicker version do see up to 15 years under coverage.
Unlike some other budget brands, Mohawk offers many lines that are 100% waterproof, to help you with your everyday accidents . Ideal for homes with pets and small children, especially when you are on a budget, the brand is highly sought after and well reviewed.
Cleaning up a Mohawk LVP floor is quick and easy. A basic sponge or string mop is all that is needed to keep the floors looking new for many years.
|Over 200 styles in all colors and appearances||Some warranties may not offer long enough coverage|
|Model lines made for every budget|
|Up to 20 mil thickness|
If there was a brand that produced 100% waterproof LVP, resistant to stains, pets, kids and offered a lifetime warranty , you would jump at the chance to own it. Karndean is that brand.
Not only do they offer all of that, but they also offer the rare and elusive loose lay planks. Made with a resilient rubber backing, you don’t need to bother with interlocking planks and fitting pieces together while trying to get under doorjams.
Simply lay the planks down in place and push together. The rubber backing prevents the planks from bowing, moving or shifting and the result is a near soundproof floor that is soft, comfortable to walk on and looks incredible.
If you aren’t a fan of the loose lay floor systems, Karndean has self adhesive and tongue and groove styles as well. With over two dozen styles in wood, stone or tile designs to choose from, you will find a match for your décor in no time.
The lifetime warranty isn’t pro-rated, either. Should anything ever go wrong within the normal wear and tear of the floor, you are covered.
Some models do require professional installation for the full warranty to take effect, though. Be sure to read all of the fine print prior to making a purchase.
|Loose lay options available||May require professional installation|
|Easily find the look and feel you desire|
|100% waterproof on all models|
COREtec, made by US Floors, is a brand synonymous with high-style and high-quality and simple cleaning . You will pay more for the flooring than with most other brands, but you get what you pay for.
It is suggested that you have your COREtec floors professionally installed. COREtec offers White Glove services, including installers for an additional charge. Using this service though, will give you the full warranty on all installations and you can use the floors as soon as the job is complete.
Of course, we are covering LVP, and that is among the easiest flooring types to install, so the DIYer of the house can still have the highest quality materials and do the job themselves. Some lines in the COREtec arsenal, though, will have a reduced warranty period (usually dropping from 15 to 10 years) when installed by the homeowner.
You aren’t without choices here, either. There are 5 major lines, including Original, Pro, Stone, Wood and One Plus. Each line has its own models of LVP, with the Original and Pro series offering over a dozen choices, each.
Commercial or residential applications are available and you can find planks in multiple widths, colors and thicknesses from 12 mil to 20 mil.
With the exception of the COREtec One series, all lines and models have an attached cork pad. Generally this is 1.5mm thick. On the COREtec Premium, though, it is doubled to 3mm. This promotes a softer feel under foot and superior sound absorption.If you are willing to spend a little more, a high-quality LVP is waiting for you at COREtec.
|Cork pad on all models (except COREtec One series)||Highest price on this list|
|Lifetime warranty on every LVP offered||Professional installation recommended|
|Over 200 options available|
How to Install Vinyl Floors
Installing LVP is a time consuming process, but generally not a difficult one. You will need some tools and materials, of course. If you decide to install yourself, there are simple methods to use. On the other hand, if you choose to go with professional install, there are things you should expect.
The vinyl planks are needed, of course. However you will also need a few tools to ensure you do the job correctly.
- Chalk line. This will help you measure the room, find the center and allow you to mark a starting line with the expansion gap clearly identified.
- Utility knife. You will need to cut a lot of the pieces to size. The first row, for example, must have the tongue side removed. Certain types of planks may require a power saw instead of a knife.
- Bubble level. To ensure everything matches and that you are working on an even surface, you will need your level.
- Crowbar. Before you begin, you will need to remove the baseboards and trim. A crowbar will make the process easier.
- Hammer. Many installers use a rubber mallet or a standard claw hammer. This will help you lock end pieces into place or to get under doorjams.
- Square. You may be surprised to find out your room isn’t square. A square tool will allow you to mark the right angle to start laying planks.
- Personal Protective Equipment. You need to protect yourself from injury. Gloves while using the knife are recommended, as well as knee pads to help prevent fatigue or bruising.
DIY LVP Installation
DIYers love to install LVP. The process can take some time, but the rewards of a well planned and thorough job are worth the time it takes. Here is a brief overview of what you can expect when installing vinyl planks on your own.
Two day (48 hours) before you install the new flooring, place the planks in the room and let them acclimate to the atmosphere and temperature.
As you install your rows, use planks from different boxes. This process isn’t mandatory, but will mix the slight variances in dyes and colors as well as patterns and grains to give you a more seamless and uniform appearance when you finish.
You begin by removing the old flooring, if you want to. Vinyl planks can lay on top of any other flooring type. The one exception is if the other layer is also free-floating.
You also want to remove any trim or baseboards in the rooms you work in. Sweep, mop or vacuum the space to clean up any large debris.
Next you will want to measure and mark the center of each wall and tape off the lines to give you a square grid to work from. If you don’t want to tape you can use a chalk line to mark the lines. You will then want to start from the middle of the room and chalk a line to the corner along the edge of all four walls.
Finally, you want to measure the room to find out how wide your final row will be. The basic formula is the width of room (W) divided by width of an individual plank (P). If you end up with the final row being less than one third the size of a plank, you want to cut 1/3rd off of the first row. This will ensure your starting row and final row are the same width.
The first row is the most tedious to install as you will need to cut each plank before placing on the floor. Cut off the tongue side of the plank for each piece on this starting row and lay then along the chalk line, cut-edge facing the wall.
Make sure you leave the expansion gap as you go, clicking each plank into the end of the previous one.
The second row needs to be offset 6-inches from the first. This means that the end-joint where the two pieces in the same row come together needs to be 6-inches from the joint in the previous row.
Cut your first piece of the second row accordingly and lock it in place using the groove of the first row. The next piece should join the first end to end, and then insert into the first row, pushing down until it clicks into place.
Repeat the process for the entire second row, and each row throughout the remainder of the room.
Doorjams and corners
When it comes to getting under a doorjam, you will need to bend the plank underneath. It is much easier to lock the plank into place with the previous plank, and then bend under the doorjam, not the other way around.
If you have difficulty getting the piece to lock into place after inserting under the jam, use a tapping block, light hammer or a crowbar to lift the previous row.
If your room has corners or protrusions, you will need to cut the pieces to fit accordingly. Each corner and adjoining wall space need to maintain the 5/16th expansion gap. Otherwise, you lay as outlined above.
When the room is complete, all that remains is to reinstall the trim and baseboards. However, many people find that transition pieces make a nice addition to the room.
If you use transition boards, make sure you secure them with finishing nails to the walls, and not the vinyl planks, which need to expand and shift over the next several hours.
Frequently Asked Questions
I will now answer some of the questions people often ask about vinyl plank flooring. Do you have any other questions? Use the comments below for any further help you may require.
Q. What’s the difference between traditional vinyl and LVP?
- The main difference is the amount of vinyl and composite materials used in manufacturing the planks or tiles. Luxury Vinyl Planks generally start at 5 mil and go up from there, with the thickest versions topping out at about 30 mil. In comparison, traditional vinyl is only about 1 mil thick.
Obviously, the thicker planks mean a sturdier board, more resistant to wear, warping or scratches. Traditional vinyl only comes in sheets, though it is a lot cheaper, often coming in under $1 per square foot. LVP is more expensive, but most find it worth the cost.
Q. What happens if I get scratches on my LVP? Can it be repaired?
- LVP cannot be repaired, sanded or stained. If gouges and scratches occur, that plank will need to be replaced. This is a difficult process, as you will need to remove the rows piece by piece to get to the damaged plank.
Q. What type of maintenance does vinyl flooring require?
- LVP is a generally maintenance-free flooring option. Sweeping, mopping and dusting are all that is needed to maintain the planks for upwards of 20 years. When you do mop, though, make sure you do not use a mop with a scrubbing pad, as this will scratch the surface.
Q. How long does LVP last?
- Well maintained LVP can last 15 years or more. IN lighter traffic areas or rooms where the vinyl isn’t exposed to direct sunlight and heavy furniture, installs are known to last over 20 years.
Q. Can I use the flooring as soon as it is installed?
- If you plan to install the floor and replace the furniture the same day, you need to make other plans. After the planks are installed they need time to expand and settle. Different brands will recommend different times, but the minimum amount of time before you can use the floor is about 15 hours.
After the setting time, you can then walk on the floor and bring in your furniture. However, if you attempt to do so before the flooring settles, it won’t expand correctly which can lead to gaps, warping or bowing of the flooring material.
As you can see, vinyl flooring is a simple to install, low-cost solution to your flooring needs. The best vinyl plank flooring will give you years of trouble-free use, is easy to maintain and suits the style and décor of your home .
The brand you choose to go with should fit your budget as well as your specific needs. Hopefully, this article has helped you find that perfect fit.