There’s a new, somewhat surprising trend going on in homes across the nation; surprising because it involves the words “vinyl” and “luxury”! That’s right – vinyl is now luxurious! In fact with luxury vinyl tile and vinyl plank flooring (LVT & LVP for short) what we’re dealing with is a whole new kind of vinyl, one that is indeed much more sophisticated and much more desirable than the plasticky sheet vinyl of the 70s. So what is LVT flooring and what makes it so different?
For a start, this is not vinyl in sheets, LVT flooring refers to vinyl tiles and LVP flooring is vinyl in planks. Secondly, and this is the most important bit, new printing and photographic technologies means that luxury vinyl flooring can be made to authentically mimic both the look and the texture of real wood or stone products (the best stone-look tiles will actually have limestone composite added to the vinyl mix for greater authenticity). But best of all, these “nearly real” luxury vinyl tiles and vinyl planks are often cheaper than the real thing!
It is this combination of price and fantastically improved realism that is proving the defining reason for the rise and rise of LVT’s popularity. As Annette Callari on the World Floor Covering Association website states, “the look and feel of nature’s best materials at a lower cost are a reality of luxury vinyl tile flooring manufacturing”. LVT is so realistic these days that you can even get specially formulated grout to finish off stone-look tiles for extra realism. And then when you add to that the inherent high performance, durability and easy maintenance of vinyl – you’re clearly onto a winner.
LVT also offers a lot of flexibility design-wise. Along with wood and stone looks, there are graphic patterns, block colors and unusual textures also available such as mosaic pebbles or indented steel panels – see below for our round-up of the biggest LVT design trends. What’s more, as vinyl wood flooring is often installed as a floating floor, it also offers less permanent flooring solutions than the authentic materials. This is a huge plus for both interior design magpies and people who aren’t yet living in their “forever home”.
For all of the above reasons, luxury vinyl planks and tiles are now being featured in all areas of the home. Whereas vinyl was once considered only suitable for less visible areas of a house like the laundry room, or in areas where you would expect its durability and water resistance to be useful like kitchens and bathrooms, designers are now using it everywhere!
Luxury Vinyl Tile Installation – DIY or Professional?
Another much touted advantage of LVT is that it’s easy-as-pie for DIYers to install. Well, you need to know that that is somewhat true, but NOT always! As with any home improvement project, the results will always reflect your level of experience. LVT flooring installation can be easy if you’re a relatively proficient DIY enthusiast and if you’ve taken time to consider all aspects of the project. Most important in this regard is to understand that the substrate that you apply the LVT to must be in top condition, perfectly clean and primed, level and of a suitable material. Referring to manufacturer’s guidelines is key here.
There are mainly two kinds of LVT installation methods depending on the tile you buy – ones that glue down with the recommended adhesive products and ones that don’t need adhesive but rather have an inbuilt interlocking or tape down system. Both types have specific guidelines for installation, and again we would urge you to refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
There are also a number of other technical considerations to be aware of, including correct tools, expansion gaps, edgings, cutting techniques, acclimatization time and installation time. For more detailed information on how to install luxury vinyl tile check out this great DIY article from The Family Handyman and here’s interior designer Jenna’s experience of installing luxury vinyl tiles with tips and tricks worth reading – SAS Interiors.
If all of this seems too much for you, or if you’re planning to install LVT throughout your home, you should opt for professional installers who will also guarantee their work. Finally, LVT finishes and performance really vary depending on the quality of the product. To this end we have reviewed some of the most trustworthy and top quality luxury vinyl tile brands below.
Luxury Vinyl Plank and Tile Design Trends
As luxury vinyl tile is a man-made product, you would imagine that there are endless design ideas to choose from. And yet, I think precisely because the point of LVT is to mimic authentic materials, most manufacturers tend to offer a fairly simplistic choice of either wood or stone look tiles.
Of course, within those two choices the sky is the limit! For just about every kind of “real” type of stone or wood flooring product, you’ll find its equivalent in luxury vinyl plank flooring or tile flooring, which means that you can recreate just about any interior design trend with LVT, be it rustic or minimalist. Flooring can be personalized in almost any style you like: luxury vinyl wood planks can be laid out in parquet style patterns, vinyl stone tiles can be set in checkerboard sequence, and many manufacturers are make luxury vinyl borders, medallions and insets to match their collections. From reclaimed, hand-scrapped, distressed wooden planks to whitewashed woods; from smooth as silk marbles to rougher slates, it’s all available in LVT.
However, some manufacturers are offering slightly more adventurous LVT products that are distinct in NOT attempting to mimic the real thing but instead offer decorative, geometric and graphic designs or overall floor patterns instead. You still get the great durability and ease-of-care benefits of LVT but these tiles are more like an alternative to carpet, and as such create quite a personalized statement. In particular, global giant Forbo Flooring Systems has an amazing commercial luxury tile collection called Allura and the Allura Form range features alternatively shaped tiles such as triangles and diamonds for ultimate creativity; their Allura Abstract range is also very impressive with striped planks and metal and textile inspired tiles. It can only be hoped that as luxury vinyl grows in popularity, these bolder floor designs will become more widely available. For now here are our luxury vinyl flooring reviews of the most popular and well known manufacturers.
Reviews of Top Luxury Vinyl Tile Manufacturers & Brands
Mohawk – Mohawk bills itself as the “world’s largest flooring company” so you would expect it to have a more than decent range of luxury vinyl tile, and indeed they do not disappoint! However, less is more at Mohawk with only 52 different but quality stone and wood LVT products, of which 14 are available with their Uniclic glueless installation technology. Mohawk recommend that all their LVT products are installed as a floating floor and they have an in-house range of cleaning products specially formulated to keep their flooring in top condition. Prices are cheaper at between $3 and $4.
Karndean Designflooring – Having first established themselves 40 years ago in the UK and now a global player, Karndean were the first kids on the block with luxury vinyl tile and rightly respected as the luxury vinyl tile specialists for both residential and commercial property. Not only do they have a very extensive range of LVT including unusual options like their Galician Quartz pebble mosaic tile, they also have decorative strips, borders and medallions so that you can really go for a customizable look (see image below) and there is also a fantastic 20-year warranty on some of their products. A quality product but with higher prices, expect to pay anywhere between $4 and $8 per square foot.
Harbinger Floors – US based flooring company Harbinger has mostly been recognized for commercial flooring, but their LVT products are equally usable in residential contexts too. They have three ranges of LVT – the Contract, Signature and Craftsman series – all of which feature intricately rendered wood and stone designs. The Signature series is particularly impressive to my mind, with a focus on grey toned woods that are very much on trend at the moment – the Heritage Wrought Iron wood plank tile is truly lovely and the fabric-like Grasscloth tiles in four different color ways offer a different and refined textured look. No pricing details at this time.
Armstrong – As you would expect, flooring maestros Armstrong have got one of the most extensive ranges of LVT product ranges currently available anywhere, with 181 different tiles to choose from! Their ranges include all kinds of looks, from distressed wood to overall graphic patterns, but their specialty is stone effect luxury vinyl tile. Their limestone enriched process give a high quality result ensuring that “each floor tile faithfully captures the authentic look of natural stone” and, to whet your appetite, the design idea images on their website are the ultimate inspirational eye-candy, as illustrated below with their gorgeous Classico Travertine tile in Sandstone/Blue. Average prices are between $5 and $7 per square foot.
Mannington – Adura, Mannington’s residential LVT range, boasts a comprehensive 116 different tile looks including stone, wood and graphic designs. The stone tiles can be used with or without grout, and to this end Mannington have their own Adura grout which is highly recommended. A particularly nice touch in the Adura range is the 12”x24” rectangular stone-look tile that enhances the illusion that your synthetic tiles are the real thing! For near authenticity in vinyl wood flooring, go for their Distinctive Plank collection which features variable widths, realistic colors and surface textures, like the Dockside LVT plank below. Prices range mainly between $3.50 and $5.50 per square foot.
Forbo Flooring Systems – This global company is primarily known for its commercial flooring ranges, and their commercial LVT range is extremely impressive – especially the Allura range which features classic and more offbeat, alternative designs for those looking for something a bit more edgy. However Forbo also offers a fantastic range of residential LVT too, which whilst being a bit more classic, is nevertheless the kind of superior product that you would expect from a company that places “excellence in flooring” at the heart of its mission statement. Expect to pay between $5 and $8 per sq/ft.
Other LVT Flooring Info
Protective top layer – luxury vinyl tiles typically comprise four layers, and the top layer is the one that protects the tile from scratches and stain absorption. It is best to opt for tiles that have a urethane or polyurethane top layer and the thicker the better. Measured in mil, products that have top layers under 20 mil are best used in areas of light traffic; the ideal is at least 20 mil – anything higher is going to perform excellently (and generally would be classified as a commercial LVT).
Thickness gauge – the overall thickness of the luxury vinyl tile or plank is an important factor when planning your floor project, particularly if you are only using LVT tile in one room and expect it to meet another type of flooring (this often happens at doorways). Also note that standard vinyl sheet is often a different thickness gauge than LVT.
Edging/ finishing – thankfully, as LVT’s popularity increases, more and more manufacturers are now offering luxury vinyl tile moldings and edgings to complement the tiles, so that you can create a flawless finish to your flooring project. Moldings Online seem to offer a particularly extensive range of options, including stair nosings.
Acclimatization – Before you install your luxury vinyl floor it is important to allow it to acclimatize to your home’s usual temperature for a minimum of 48 hours, as like hardwood flooring, vinyl tile expands and contracts depending on the temperature and humidity in the air.
Expansion gap – because of the inherent expansion in vinyl tiles, some manufacturers also recommend leaving an expansion gap when fitting a floating interlocking (i.e. glueless) vinyl plank or tile flooring.
Cleaning and Maintenance – of course the main selling point of luxury vinyl tile has got to be its easy maintenance, essentially all you need to do to keep it clean is regularly sweep or vacuum and then damp mop with a neutral or peroxide cleaner from time to time. Be careful not to use abrasive cleaners and make life easier on your flooring by adding doormats at the entrances to your home. Tiles that have been UV cured polyurethane coating are best for ultimate longevity.
VOC emissions/ environmental issues – it has to be said that luxury vinyl tile has earned a bad reputation with regards to the environment. The nature of the chemicals involved in its production and the possibility of it emitting VOC gases once it has been installed have raised questions about its suitability for long-term use. However, reputable LVT manufacturers have made great efforts over the years to address these concerns and meet low-VOC regulations. If you are concerned about these issues we strongly urge you do further research and look into alternatives before choosing luxury vinyl tile for your home.
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