How to Select Vinyl Plank Flooring Thickness

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how to select vinyl plank flooring thickness

If you are searching for a new vinyl floor, you no doubt have come across Luxury Vinyl Planks or Luxury Vinyl Tiles (LVP/LVT) in your research.

One of the most notable and often overlooked features of LVP is the thickness.

While style, color, width and board length are all important, none may be more important than the board thickness.

Comfort, installation and even cost are all affected by the overall thickness of the planks and boards.

In this article we will explain LVP/LVT thickness and show you how to select vinyl plank flooring thickness so you get the right application for your project. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the LVP and how thickness matters to you.

Vinyl Plank Construction

Understanding the layers and possible attachments that affect board thickness is a must for Vinyl Flooring. Let’s get to know the planks.

  • Wear Layers. The top most layer, made of thin, clear PVC for protection.
  • Photo Layer. The image on the plank that gives it the look of stone, wood or some pattern.
  • Vinyl Core Layer. The main base of the plank, made from 2 to 4 pressed vinyl and PVC layers combined into one. Can have a stone plastic core (SPC) or a wood plastic core (WPC).
  • Backing Layer. The support layer that holds the other layers in place and offers support to the plank.
  • Underlayment Layer. An optional layer that adds stability, water resistance and comfort to the planks or tiles.

Why Vinyl Plank Thickness Matters

why vinyl plank thickness matters

Plank thickness is actually a dual measurement. For all matters the total thickness of the board is what you should be concerned with. This includes all 4 (or 5) layers as a whole. The second measurement is the thickness of a single layer, the wear layer.

Planks and tiles, as a whole, are measured in millimeters (mm) while the wear layer thickness is measured in mil (one-thousandth of one inch, or 0.001-inches). Is thicker always better? Let’s look at the consideration factors to find out.

Thickness Based on Subfloor

The subfloor material will play a small role in helping you which thickness range to go with. In general most subfloors will be plywood or concrete. However you can also install LVP over existing flooring, which then acts as the subfloor.

Concrete is cold, can become wet with saturation or humidity and has almost zero give. Thicker planks with a rubber underlayment work best here. Likewise plywood is warmer, has some give for comfort and you can save money with a thinner plank on top.

Stone-Look Vs. Wood-Look Plank Thickness

LVT is generally used to mimic floor tiles, which means they have a stone or rock photo layer. Tiles are usually glued down, so there isn’t a need for an underlayment in many cases, this also allows for thinner tiles to be used.

LVP is mostly wood look patterns designed to mimic hardwood flooring. It should remain rigid and strong to help sell the illusion. Cork and rubber underlayments are used a lot, which are thicker, but more comfortable.

Comfort Based on Thickness

That comfort is also a personal preference. Some people like their wood-look floors to be a little sturdier underfoot and may go with a thinner board for glue down applications, or a thicker board with a rigid core. This adds thickness to the plank or tile, but makes the floor harder.

Softer flooring needs thicker padding, a floating floor, or click-lock, installation and generally has a thicker plank over all. Thinner planks can warp or break when not glued down but are usually more cost-effective.

Underlayment Concerns

There are a lot of underlayment options including cork, rubber, wood, plastic or foam. Each one has a density, thickness and preferred application. While that aspect is out of the scope of this article, we have covered it for you here.

For the underlayment your choice (or what is already attached to the planks) will be a majority of the board’s overall thickness measurement.

LVP Brand Differences

Each brand will also have a default thickness or a thickness average. Higher quality brands tend to have thicker boards as they are less likely to break and warranties can be extended. Entry level or budget-friendly brands typically use less material to save money, resulting in a thinner board overall.

This may also mean that the underlayment is not attached, which will need to be accounted for in your final measurement.

Cost and Warranty Based on Thickness

As you can guess the thicker, stronger planks and tiles will typically cost more. On average, the top brands charge between $6 and $20 per square foot for their styles. More cost-effective brands may range from $2 to $8 per square foot, but the boards are usually thinner overall.

This also extends to the warranty. It is easier for brands and manufacturers to offer longer or better warranty coverage for a thicker board since it is less likely to have damage or need replacing as often as thinner boards.

Thin Vs. Thick Vinyl: Pros and Cons

pros and cons how to select vinyl plank flooring thickness

When shopping for your vinyl flooring, there are reasons to buy thinner boards and reasons to avoid thinner boards. The same is true for thicker boards as both have their own set of pros and cons.

We will attempt to explain these advantages and disadvantages here. Keep in mind, though, that this is only a general reasoning. Some brands offer very high quality planks and tiles that are thinner than other brands.

Not all of the pros and cons will fit for every brand or style available. You can, however, search this site for a brand review that will cover the pros and cons of those specific brands individually.

Thinner Vinyl

Thinner vinyl planks and tiles tend to get grouped in the “low-end” of the flooring type. They are more fragile in most cases, and installation can go slower because of the added level of care needed to not break them.

However, thinner vinyl is also great when space is a concern. If you don’t want to replace your baseboards or you have doors with low bottom clearance, it may be critical that you purchase thinner vinyl.

If you are gluing the planks to tiles directly to the subfloor, you will also want to ensure that a thinner vinyl is used. This will keep the thin vinyl secure and sturdy.

Of course the biggest benefit is the cost. In almost all cases, the thinner vinyl options will be the most affordable. They can also have a thicker wear layer to help prevent water damage, scratches and even denting.

The downside is that the warranties are typically lower, cover less and are harder to make a claim on. This is a trade off that you have to expect, though.

Thinner vinyl planks and boards have their place. They are best used in low traffic areas or where height and clearance is a concern. 

Thicker Vinyl

Thicker vinyl is usually noted as anything above 6 or 7mm in total height. In almost all cases the additional thickness appears in the core layers. This is good because it adds stability to the planks allowing for a more substantial flooring underfoot. When installing as a floating floor, you typically want a thicker board.

You will need to account for the underlayment, especially if one is not included. As a floating floor installation, thicker boards give you better protection against warping, popped seams and even scratch and dents.

Of course, it is possible to get a thick core board with a thin or weak wear layer which will show scratches and maring much more easily.

However, because of the additional stability a thick plank offers, the warranties are generally more inclusive. You can also easily replace a single board or two if damage does occur because the board isn’t glued to the subfloor.

This also inflates the price. In most cases (with a few rare exceptions) thicker planks, tiles and boards will cost more than their thinner counterparts. In many brands the difference between their thinnest board and their thickest can be a difference of up to $10 per square foot.

Thick vinyl planks are great for floating floor installs. They do cost more, in most cases, but you have a more sturdy and giving board that allows for heavier furniture. It is also ideal for medium to high traffic areas. 

How to Hire Professional Installers for Vinyl Flooring

how to hire professional installers for vinyl flooring

Installing vinyl plank flooring has come a long way and is generally seen as one of the easiest DIY flooring installation options available.

However, just because it can be a DIY project, doesn’t mean it has to be. If you don’t have the time, knowledge, skill or simply the desire to install new flooring yourself, you can hire a professional to install it for you.

Choosing the right contractor, though, is a chore in and of itself. You need to know who to trust, if they have the proper licenses and insurance. You also need to rate their experience, run a background check and read reviews and testimonials from other consumers before you make a decision.

You also need to get a few estimates and find out which option is the best fit for your project, budget and needs. This can take time and effort, or you can let us help.

If you want everything mentioned above already done for you (except the estimates) we have the tool for you! We have partnered with Netwox to offer you a free to use tool that finds the results you need.

You can get up to four results from your query with fully vetted and licensed professionals. All you have left to do is make a few phone calls and set up estimate interviews. The best part (besides being free to use) is that all results will be local to your immediate area.

Frequently Asked Questions

faq how to select vinyl plank flooring thickness

In this section we will answer some of the most common questions about vinyl and board thickness. If you have another question not listed here, or a concern about vinyl in general, use the comment section below the article.

Q. What is the best thickness for vinyl plank flooring?

  1. Thickness measurement will depend on your installation location, method and expected foot traffic in the room. For residential applications anything between 4 and 8mm is a good place to start. 4mm vinyl is sturdy enough to install anywhere. However, it won’t hold up well in high traffic areas.

For your more frequently accessed rooms, entry ways, hallways and kitchens, for example, you want a thicker board (generally). However that can all be changed depending on how you install the vinyl. Glued down boards can be thinner, but floating floor applications should be on the thicker side.

Q. Will thin planks wear faster than thick planks?

  1. The wear of a vinyl tile is determined by the thickness and durability of the wear layer, or the thin, clear layer on the top of the plank. Any wear layer with at least 4 to 6 mil will not show any wear for a long time. Scratches and denting are still possible, of course, but normal wear and tear are at a minimum, regardless of tile or plank total thickness.

However, for wear layers that are 2 or 3 mil thick, they can wear away in high traffic areas fairly quickly. To save time or money, you can install planks with thin wear layers in rooms or areas not often used. For everywhere else, though, it is a good idea to go with a thicker wear layer.

Q. Does vinyl plank thickness change how it is installed?

  1. In most cases, no. Thin or thick vinyl can be glued, nailed or installed as a floating floor. It is better to stick to the norms, though, where thinner vinyl is glued down, medium grade vinyl can be glued for additional support, or nailed down, and thicker planks should be installed as floating floors.

Q. Does vinyl thickness affect cleaning?

  1. The wear layer, plank construction and installation method will all have more to do with how you clean the flooring than the thickness. That being said, though, thicker boards are generally better suited for wet areas or rooms that are constantly wet mopped. They will hold up better under the added moisture compared to thinner boards, in the long run.

However, as a synthetic flooring, vinyl is generally 100% waterproof, with rare exceptions. Once installed, you can have floods, wet mops or big spills without much worry. 

Conclusion

Vinyl plank flooring comes in a wide range of styles, colors, patterns and thicknesses. While the thickness does matter to a certain degree, it shouldn’t be the only factor you base your decision on.

When shopping for the best vinyl plank flooring for your home, you should choose your brand and styles first. Then from those options decide if a thicker or thinner option will suit your needs best.

Hopefully you understand how the thickness of vinyl planks affects your price, installation and location. Choosing the right board comes down to a lot of factors, thickness is only one of them.

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AUTHOR

Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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