Pros & Cons of Vinyl Plank Flooring
Today’s flooring options are so widely varied that the average consumer is easily confused by the “alphabet soup” (remember our waterproof flooring blog?) of acronym product names in just one flooring type, let alone all the distinct choices in each category. Sometimes, it helps to narrow the focus a bit. Pare things down. So let’s do that, shall we?
Let’s talk Vinyl -- specifically vinyl plank flooring. Vinyl plank flooring is growing in popularity in both residential and commercial applications. But what are all of these acronyms? LVP? WPC? WTH? We’ll get into LVP, some SPC and some WPC for good measure, as well as the differences between them, and the pros and cons of each.
When we say “vinyl flooring” many people immediately think of the sheet/roll flooring Mom had in the kitchen of their childhood home or the stick down tiles from college – you know the ones that you ripped a hole in when you dropped stuff on them while making nachos to watch the big game?! If that’s what you’re thinking, that ain’t it.
The similarities between the great products offered in the world of vinyl today, and those of the past are pretty minimal: they’re both a synthetic, man-made variant, made to look like a natural material at a typically lower price-point.
However, vinyl flooring today is a highly engineered, robust product commonly referred to with those pesky acronyms: LVP (sometimes LVT), WPC and SPC. But what are the differences? Glad you asked. This piece will help you understand the differences between them but remember – your professional partners from The Good Guys know all of this like the back of their hand, and are available to answer any questions and address any concerns.
LVP is shorthand for Luxury Vinyl Plank. LVP covers all vinyl designed in planks, giving the look of wood floors with all the features and benefits of vinyl. You may occasionally hear people use the term “LVT,” which stands for Luxury Vinyl Tile. LVT encompasses all vinyl products designed to mimic tile or stone. Generally speaking, however, LVP is the more common and more frequently used acronym. For the purposes of this piece, let’s use “LVP” as the catch-all term, as it’s becoming in the flooring industry.
While all LVP is vinyl plank, not all vinyl plank is LVP. Confused yet? Let’s go a little deeper on LVP.
LVP is a composite product comprised of several layers, each working together to create a resilient, low-maintenance flooring. The bottom layer is a “backer board” – a flexible base made of PVC for stability. The central core is what makes most LVP “water-resistant” rather than “waterproof”, as the central core layer is often not fully waterproof, however, it does provide the strength for the flooring. On top of the core is the “vinyl layer” which is printed with the pattern and color – traditionally mimicking wood or stone. On top of it all, the most critical layer – the wear layer.
The wear layer is a thin, clear protective coating that makes the flooring scratch and stain-resistant. The wear layer thickness typically determines the usage – thinner are residential and thicker wear layer planks are used for commercial floors. Wear layer thickness varies from 6 mil on the thin end, and 30 mil on the high end. 12 mil up to 20 mil thickness are standard commercial wear layers; under 12 are rated for light commercial and residential use.
LVP is a more flexible product than some of the other vinyl products on the market, but its strength is aided by the fact that it is a glue-down flooring – permanently affixed to the subfloor with adhesive. These planks do not interlock or float like their Rigid Core counterparts.
Rigid Core WPC/SPC
Perhaps the most popular vinyl plank flooring product on the market today, and growing quickly, is Rigid Core Vinyl Plank. Rigid Core can be either WPC (Wood-Plastic Composite, or Wood-Polymer Core) or SPC (Stone-Polymer Core). While most frequently designed to look like traditional hardwood flooring, the first letter -- “W” or “S” -- refers to the composition of the core layer alone.
Similarly to LVP, Rigid Core WPC/SPC flooring is made up of layers, the combination of which leads to a flooring fit for residential, commercial, wet and dry spaces. The base layer is an attached underlayment of foam or cork, adding comfort underfoot and a small amount of sound absorption. On top of that is the core – where these Rigid Core flooring options get their names – made of a composite of wood or stone powder and plastic or resin. Immediately atop the core is the vinyl layer, using digital technology to add color and print perfection to your home. The icing on this flooring cake is the wear layer, bringing that scuff and scratch resistance.
Unlike general LVP, WPC and SPC flooring is waterproof and can be installed in wet areas of both residential and commercial spaces. The wood in the core will not warp, buckle or swell if it comes into contact with water in normal day-to-day use.
WPC and SPC vinyl are float-installed, meaning they are not “permanently” affixed to the substrate. No glue required! These flooring planks use interlock systems like tongue-and-groove to connect, which allow the floor to “float” above the subfloor beneath it. It’s available in a variety of thicknesses (5, 5.5, 6.5 and 8 mm traditionally) for lighter to more robust applications, as well as a comparably lighter or more robust impact on your wallet. By comparison, SPC vinyl flooring is generally thinner, and the density of the stone-based core allows for a much stronger plank with a thinner profile, 3.2 to 7mm vs. 5 to 8 mm. Either way – look to your friends at The Good Guys to help float the best option for your home. Thicker planks feel better underfoot and are stronger, so they don’t give as much under traffic. While all subfloors will require some level of floor prep before installation, the thicker rigidity of WPC or SPC flooring makes them a great option for uneven subfloors!
This hot new flooring option is available in a wide variety of colors and finishes to get that perfect look for the space.
What’s Good, What’s Not
So, we’ve reviewed these great vinyl plank flooring options and they’re all perfect. End of post. We’re done. Aight. Imma head out. Not so fast.
True, these are great options, but nobody – and no flooring – is perfect. Let’s look at the ups and downs of these vinyl floor types, the “pros” and “cons” if you will. You’re going to see some common themes. See if you can spot them!
It’s Cheap! (ok, relatively speaking)
LVP is a cost-effective way to make a big impact in your space, it’s significantly cheaper than traditional hardwood and can offer a similar look and incredible durability for your budget
It’s Got That Style
LVP has near-infinite options for looks mimicking other materials like wood and stone and can add splashes of color or patterns/grains to match any décor
It’s Versatile To A Point!
LVP is water-resistant, more so than even laminate floors. So, it can be installed in high traffic areas where you don’t have to worry about those spills or pet accidents immediately
It’s Tuff E’Nuff!
LVP is durable (remember those wear layers?!) scuff, dent and scratch resistant and can take the traffic of active households.
But nothing’s perfect. Let’s look at the Cons of LVP.
Installation Sometimes Stinks
While your flooring professional at The Good Guys will make this easy for you, LVP installation commonly requires glue. And gluing the flooring to the subfloor can take some time and leave some odor while the glue dries. It can make it slightly difficult to replace in the future as over time the glue may not want to release easily. However, when compared to WPC or SPC flooring, replacing one damaged slat of LVP is a breeze. Because these planks are not interlocking, you can pluck one out and replace it fairly simply. With WPC or SPC flooring, you would have to back the floor out to the damaged spot, replace the one damaged plank, and refit the remainder of the floor.
Sunshine, On Your Flooring, Makes You Happy?
Some less expensive LVP features thinner wear layers that offer limited UV resistance. If your room has a lot of natural lighting, this can lead to fading in exposed spaces over time. Want to rearrange your furniture? If you have faded areas, your guests will know where that chaise lounge and shag rug used to lay. Again, your Good Guys pro will help with this, but it should be considered if your home likes a lot of natural light.
Luxury, You Has It? – Let’s be real
LVP is not hardwood, and never will be. That is not a bad thing, but many buyers see it as such, so if you're planning on selling your home, vinyl plank won't get you the same return as solid hardwood. Also, LVP cannot be refinished like many hardwood floors can be.
As they’re similar products, let’s look at the two “PC” options together in terms of pros and cons:
Like LVP, WPC/SPC is a cost-effective, albeit more pricey than standard LVP, way to get that look you want with durability on a budget
WPC/SPC vinyl flooring has a seemingly endless palette of colors and patterns or grains. Offering the look of other materials like wood and stone and adding splashes of color or patterns to match a range of styles from traditional to contemporary
Installation Is A Snap
Let’s face it – installation is a breeze with your flooring pro partners from The Good Guys. But compared to other flooring options, WPC/SPC flooring is a much smoother install and can be tailored to your space. In some situations, it can be installed over other existing flooring!
Because they’re waterproof, WPC/SPC can be installed in wet areas other products like laminate cannot. Let’s repeat that so feel free to put in the kitchen AND the mudroom. The bathroom, the basement. The sky’s the limit! Or rather, the ground is the limit, I guess?
It’s Tuff E’Nuff!
WPC/SPC is durable, often even more durable than LVP. It’s scuff, dent and scratch resistant and can take the traffic of active households. And yes, this was just an excuse to use Tuff E’Nuff again.
But nothing’s perfect. Let’s look at the Cons of WPC/SPC.
Sunshine Go Away Today
Double-check the UV resistance, like you would with LVP if you have a bright space.
It Ain’t Wood, Babe
Let’s be real: Like LVP, WPC/SPC are not hardwood, and never will be. Can’t be refinished and won’t be for everyone, especially if you go to sell the home.
Money – Wait, how can something be cost-effective and pricey?!
Honestly, the variety of options in WPC/SPC from print, color, base layer material, wear layer thickness, and more, all can raise the price if you go nuts with options. While generally still cheaper than installed hardwoods, this is just something to be aware of when you’re choosing your options. You can blow laminate pricing out of the water (which won’t hurt the floor because, again, WATERPROOF!!) pretty quickly if you fall in love with the bells and whistles.
Remember, you don’t have to be an expert or memorize all of this. That’s why you have the pros at The Good Guys! Let them be the experts on this and you be the expert on being you.
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