SmartCore Flooring | 2022

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SmartCore Flooring – In Brief

SmartCore specializes in LVP (vinyl planks), manufactured with a four-layer design to protect against wear and water. This is a Lowe’s exclusive LVP brand, developed for the budget market in four different styles. You’ll normally pay between $2.50 and $4 for each square foot of SmartCore planking.

SmartCore luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring is one of the highest-quality budget flooring options available. While it isn’t the perfect solution for every home, it might be the ideal solution for your home.

This article will take a close look at the brand and help you decide if your next flooring project should come from SmartCore.

SmartCore Flooring Features

  • DIY installation. SmartCore’s interlocking planks make it easy for anyone to install.
  • Budget-friendly. An elegant solution for those on a budget.
  • Lowe’s exclusive. SmartCore is easy to find being sold in every Lowe’s across the country.
  • Underlayment included. Each plank has a padded underlayment already attached.
  • Multiple style options. There are four styles to choose from, each with their own colors and patterns.
  • 100% waterproof design. With the ability to install in wet areas, SmartCore is perfect for every room in the home.

What to Expect From SmartCore Flooring

what to expect from smartcore flooring

SmartCore is a flooring company that began in earnest in 2013. The company is a part of the COREtec brand by USFloors. Now part of a larger family, the vinyl has seen an increase in production and in sales. Since 2017, Shaw flooring purchased USFloors and further upped their quality.

The main reason is the higher quality standard. SmartCore is a budget brand, being thinner and less durable than the larger names in the brand like COREtec and Shaw. However, some of the technologies from these high-quality brands are now used in SmartCore design.

When you purchase SmartCore you are getting the SmartCore colors, styles and thickness, along with the COREtec core layer system and the Shaw wear layer.

It is still not as high quality as the other two, but it is a lot better than it used to be.

With four styles to choose from (Base, Pro, Ultra, Naturals) you have selection, price and functionality. It is an ideal flooring solution for those with less space to cover, or those that might be on a tighter budget.

The planks have great aesthetics, excellent wear and a great warranty. Compared side by side by some of the flooring leaders, you will see where it is lacking. However, on its own and installed in your home, it is an ideal solution.

SmartCore Construction

The SmartCore planks are made up from four layers. Each layer plays a part in the overall construction, looks and durability. You have a choice between the four style options and the main difference will be the wear layer or the core layer. Let’s break it down.

The Wear Layer

The top most layer, often referred to as the wear layer, is the clear protective layer that you walk on. With SmartCore, this layer is between 2 and 5mil thick, and offers scratch protection and keeps the lower layers protected.

While each individual plank is water resistant and some are even waterproof on their own, it is the wear layer that offers the most moisture protection when the install is complete.

This layer forms a water-tight seal over the planks, and helps reduce the width between the planks where dirt and dust can collect.

The Image Layer

Directly below the wear layer is the photo-realistic image layer. This thin layer is nothing more than a strip of vinyl with a picture on it. Most images are of wood grain, but also come in stone, slate and travertine.

This is the layer that gives the planks their wood-like appearance (or stone, if you choose) and it is important when installing (see further below) that you pull planks at random from the boxes you have purchased.

Each box will have more or less imk distribution in the images, and this, when installed correctly, offers a more natural wood appearance with slight color variations throughout the floor.

The Core Layer

The core layer is where all of the magic in these planks resides. You have two options for core material. The most widely used is wood-plastic core (known as WPC). This is a wood pulp, bamboo dust and PVC plastic composite that offers high strength and durability.

In the SmartCore Pro line you will find the stone-plastic core (SPC). This is a composite made of ground stone, pulp, bamboo dust and PVC.

It is more durable and rigid than WPC, but offers a longer life plank. The one downside is that the plank is less forgiving underfoot, making for a more solid or hard walking surface.

One thing to note is that COREtec planks use the patented COREtec WPC extruded wood core technology. This is not carried over to SmartCore, as it would add to the overall cost, making SmartCore more expensive.

The Underlayment

The bottom layer is usually cork or some other rubber material. With SmartCore, there are two base layer options.

The first is an enhanced acoustical pad. This is a redesign from the Shaw brand underlayment that adds extra softness to the plank and helps absorb more sound. This, like the SPC core, is found on the Pro line. It helps offset the extra stiffness of the SPC.

The other option is called the UltraSoft (registered trademark) Underlayment. It does absorb some sounds, but not as much as the acoustical pad. Instead it offers a flooring plank that feels soft underfoot, in an almost spongy feel. The planks do sink and rise, almost like a memory foam mattress.

Found on the Ultra line, the UltraSoft underlayment brings comfort and warmth to an otherwise hard and cold flooring option.

Installing SmartCore Planks

installing smartcore planks

Installation of LVP is one of the easiest DIY flooring options available. However, not everyone is excited to take on floor installation, no matter the level of simplicity. Sometimes you just don’t want to crawl around the floor for several hours.

In these instances, you can hire a professional to install the flooring for you. It is suggested that you get at least three quotes. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when going this route, though.

Most quotes will include the price of the materials. Make sure if you have already purchased your LVP, that this is reflected in the quote.

You also must realize that a lot of contractors will include clean up as a part of the quote. While this is ideal, it also means that some of them can take the remaining materials. If you have boxes of LVP left over you will need to keep them. Make all of this clear when going through your quote.

DIY Installation

If you plan to install the planks yourself, there are a few different methods. The best is to just slow down, take your time and go one row at a time. Here is a brief overview of the overall (and basic) process.

  • You will need to acclimate the planks to the room being installed. Place the boxes in the empty room at least 24 hours before installing.
  • Clean the floor and remove any trim molding, baseboards or other items that may interfere with the installation.
  • Mark the floor with a chalk line. You will need to find the middle of the longest wall, move 1/8 to 1/4-inch away from the wall and mark the spot. From this spot, run your chalk line to the ends of the room.
  • Note: In the above step you want to mark away from the wall as this will help prevent installing along a line with a warped wall. You also need the space to allow for expansion when complete.
  • Remember to pull planks from alternating boxes to get a good mix of image layer coloring.
  • The first row is the most important. You will want to cut the first plank at least 6 inches shorter. Doing so will help maintain the offset in future rows. Follow your chalk line and keep the edge lined up with your mark.
  • Each successive row should maintain that 6-inch offset so the end joints do not line up with another row. Continue locking planks together, row by row until you reach the final row.
  • The final row will need to bend and twist to get into place, but isn’t difficult. Make sure all the pieces are locked together, using a mallet or knocking hammer to get them in place.
  • SmartCore requires 15 to 24 hours to expand after installation is complete. Once your installation is done and you have removed any spacers along the walls, leave the room and try not to walk on it for at least 24 hours.
  • After the waiting period, you can move your furniture back in and begin using your new floor. Enjoy!

Care and Maintenance of SmartCore Floors

Once the installation is complete, you only need to perform regular cleanings and periodic inspections. It is a relatively simple process.

Like all flooring, any spills or messes should be cleaned up as soon as possible. While LVP is stain-resistant and waterproof, it isn’t going to last forever. Letting spills set on the floor, or colored liquids, mud or other chemicals, you only open yourself up to problems in the future.

Aside from these random clean-ups, you should maintain a regular cleaning regimen that mainly consists of sweeping or vacuuming. If you do decide to vacuum, you should ensure your cleaner doesn’t have a rotating brush roller or has one that can be turned off.

Brush rollers can scratch the wear layer, leaving your planks looking dingy or marred. Every now and again you will also need to mop.

You can use specialized vinyl cleaning chemicals, but warm water is just as good. There isn’t a need to wax or polish the planks and clean, warm water will remove the dirt and debris, leaving your planks looking new.

While cleaning, you should inspect the planks. Make sure they are seated correctly, and that there isn’t any warping or bowing. If any planks peel up, warp or bow, they will need to be replaced.

SmartCore planks are not thick enough on the wear layer to allow for sanding or repairing. Instead, the broken planks need to be pulled up and replaced, which can be a daunting task, especially if it is in the middle of the room.

Cost and Warranty

smartcore warranty

SmartCore planks are sold by the square foot. Each style will come in a box that will cover approximately 18 to 24 square feet. Once you measure your space, you will need to find the style you prefer and find out how many boxes you will need.

Based on averages of the brand widths, weights and room sizes, an average home replacing the entire floor space will need about 75 boxes (1400 square feet). The SmartCore planks average between $2.50 and $4 per square foot.

When it comes to the warranty, SmartCore comes with a limited lifetime warranty for residential installations. You will need to read the agreement to know what is covered and when some coverage stops.

For example, manufacturing defects, cracks or other functional issues are covered for 90 days or until installation. This allows you to replace broken planks prior to installation.

The majority of the warranty covers normal wear and tear. It is important to note that if the planks are installed in a commercial setting (considered light traffic, not mild or heavy) the warranty period is only 5-years.

Comparing SmartCore to Other Popular Brands

SmartCore isn’t your only option for LVP. There are many brands out there, each with their own benefits and negative aspects. Below, I will compare SmartCore to a few of the most popular brands of LVP flooring.

SmartCore Vs. LifeProof

LifeProof is the biggest competitor for SmartCore. LifeProof is also a big box retailer exclusive. Instead of Lowe’s though, LifeProof is found at Home Depot.

Both LifeProof and SmartCore offer a variety of colors, styles and thicknesses, both are also 100% waterproof and boast a lifetime warranty.

The biggest difference is in the core choices and premium options. SmartCore is slightly more expensive, but has a better underlayment and stronger core. Both also offer professional installation through their respected sellers.

One thing to note about LifeProof, though, is that not all styles are available in all regions. Home Depot does limit which styles are available through online purchase, so you will need to go in person to the store to get the widest selection.

SmartCore also limits online availability, however, they make up for this by offering store to home shipping of any styles in stock locally.

SmartCore Vs. Karndean

Karndean is a brand not often talked about, but should be. The LVP is an elegant solution that offers some of the most realistic photo layers in the industry. They also have textured wear layers on some models to fully mimic hardwood flooring.

One of the biggest draws to the brand is that they offer the loose-lay installation method. This takes the already simple DIY install of LVP and makes it even easier. With loose-lay there aren’t any interlocking pieces. Instead, each plank has a rubber padded footing.

You simply place the planks on the floor and lightly tap them together. The rubber backing adds sound dampening, slip resistance and removes the need to use tongue and groove locking planks.

Like SmartCore, Karndean also has tongue and groove planks as well as self-adhesive installation types. They also offer more style options than SmartCore and a lifetime warranty on all styles that don’t pro-rate as time goes by.

Karndean is much more expensive, though and for larger projects, the overall cost of materials can get quite high.

SmartCore Vs. Shaw

Shaw is generally seen as the LVP leader. Now that Shaw owns USFloors, they also own the SmartCore brand. Several improvements in the SmartCore design have resulted from this acquisition.

Still, Shaw saves the best for themselves. They are not generally marketed to the budget-friendly crowd and their planks can get quite expensive. However, you get what you pay for.

Shaw has the thickest mil planks with amazing wear protection, scratch resistance and waterproofing. The SPC and WPC cores are even stronger and more durable than SmartCore, allowing Shaw to have better and longer commercial warranties.

You will also find a large selection of colors, styles and brand-lines than the more limited SmartCore.

What to Like About SmartCore Flooring

  • Simple, fast, DIY installation.
  • Readily available online at Lowe’s website or at any Lowe’s store.
  • 100% Waterproof design for installation in any room of the home.
  • Lifetime residential warranty.
  • All planks have underlayment attached for comfort and sound absorption.

What to Dislike About SmartCore Flooring

  • SmartCore doesn’t have an antimicrobial layer like some other brands.
  • Warranty drops to a mere 5-years when performing light commercial installation.
  • Repairs are near impossible, requiring plank replacement if there is damage.
  • Higher cost compared to other similar brands in the quality range.

Frequently Asked Questions

smartcore faq

Now, I will answer some of the most common questions about LVP and the SmartCore brand in particular. If you have further questions, you can use the comment section below.

Q. How do I install SmartCore LVP?

  1. Installation isn’t much different from any other LVP flooring option. There are extensive videos and tutorials found on YouTube. If you prefer PDF instructions or videos made by the brand you can find them for all four styles on the SmartCore website.

Q. Who makes SmartCore and where is it sold?

  1. SmartCore is a part of the USFloors family. Now owned by Shaw Floors, you can find SmartCore exclusively at Lowe’s home improvement stores or on the Lowe’s website.

Q. Can I install SmartCore in my kitchen or bathroom?

  1. SmartCore LVP is 100% waterproof. You can install the planks in any room of the home, including wet areas. Depending on the location of the room (subterranean, above ground, second floor, etc.) you may find variance in the durability. Placing heavy items like washers on top of the flooring may also result in cracking or bowing.

Q. Does SmartCore require professional installation?

  1. No. If you are familiar with the USFLoors family, you know that COREtec floors offer a “white glove” installation program where your floors are highly recommended to be installed by a trained professional. Failure to do so can result in a reduction of the warranty period. However, SmartCore does not fall under this same restriction.

Q. How long will SmartCore LVP last?

  1. SmartCore is designed for residential applications. When installed correctly and maintained well, with regular cleaning they can last a long time. Most SmartCore planks will maintain their appearance and functionality for 20 or more years.

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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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