Updated for 2021
What Is The Best Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring?
New engineered vinyl plank flooring, known as EVP or rigid core flooring, is the best luxury vinyl on the market today. Prices range from $1.60 to $9.60 per sq/ft so finding the best quality amongst the brands is crucial.
Welcome to our updated review of the best luxury vinyl flooring currently available in the US. Both vinyl plank flooring and vinyl tile flooring are now well established home flooring options. In the last few years we’ve seen an evolution of luxury vinyl flooring as more and more manufacturers have started producing rigid core vinyl planks and tiles that not only look great but are super durable.
In our extensive guide we will show you exactly what luxury vinyl plank and tile flooring is, the pros and cons, the latest styles and trends, how it’s installed and, most importantly, reviews of the best vinyl plank flooring brands and manufacturers.
If you want to install luxury vinyl plank flooring in your home then be sure to read right to the end. Use these quick links for your convenience.
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What is LVT & LVP Flooring
So what is LVT & LVP flooring and what makes it so different?
For a start, this is not vinyl in sheets, LVT flooring refers to luxury vinyl tiles and LVP flooring is luxury vinyl plank flooring.
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 the 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.
LVF (luxury vinyl flooring) 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.
While 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!
Pros and Cons of Luxury Vinyl Flooring
We’ve already touched on some of the advantages of luxury vinyl flooring but here is a simple and straightforward breakdown of the pros and cons.
Pros of Luxury Vinyl Flooring
- Comparatively low-cost with great durability
Priced between $2 and $7 per square foot it’s cheap compared to hardwood, carpet or decent tile
- Easy DIY installation or cheap professional installation
Proficient DIYers can do the work themselves and professionals get the job done quickly and cheaply
- Water resistant
The most waterproof flooring available
- Easy to clean and maintain
Use a vacuum, broom or mop
- Stain resistant
As long as you don’t leave a stain sitting on the floor for weeks you’re good
- Keeps your floors allergen free
Unlike carpet, dust and dander won’t get embedded in vinyl.
- Warm and soft underfoot
Compare to tile or wood luxury vinyl flooring is kinder to your body all round
Cons of Luxury Vinyl Flooring
Not an issue in your home but something to consider if you’re concerned about environmental costs when disposing of this flooring
- VOCs and off-gassing
Look for LVT with FloorScore IAQ certification to avoid vinyl that might emit VOC’s in the first couple of years.
Most LVT ends up in a landfill when disposed of, not great for the environment.
- Possibility of discoloration
Don’t put ribber backed mats on LVP or LVT flooring. And cheap luxury vinyl made fade with prolonged exposure to strong sunlight.
You may want to read our in-depth post on the Pros and Cons of Vinyl Flooring
What to Look for in a Quality Vinyl Plank Floor
Not all luxury vinyl flooring is created equal. It will quickly become apparent that vinyl planks and tiles vary in price between $1 to $8 per sq/ft, so what explains such a variation in price?
Here are the features you should be looking for when choosing the best vinyl plank flooring, the more features the floor has the better the quality.
- Tough wear layer – this is top of the list in terms of durability and quality. Look for a brands that offer lifetime warranties on their products.
- Embossed in Register (EIR) – the better quality vinyl plank floors don’t just look realistic they feel realistic too thanks to this method manufacturers use to create texture to the surface of their planks.
- Rigid core – the newest wave of vinyl plank floors have a solid core which gives the plank greater stability and durability. Choose between an SPC or WPC core for best performance.
- Waterproof – most of the new rigid core vinyl planks are 100% waterproof allowing for installation in any part of your home including bathrooms and basements.
- Attached underlayment – You will need an underlayment for your vinyl plank floor so obviously the better products will already have underlayment attached. The best vinyl plank floors will have a cork underlayment pre-attached for greater comfort and noise reduction.
- Design choice – typically the more you pay the greater your choice when it comes to style. The best luxury plank is also the most visually unique.
Installation of Vinyl Plank Flooring
Another much touted advantage of luxury vinyl flooring is that it’s easy-as-pie for DIYers to install. Well, sometimes this can be the case… but NOT ALWAYS!
As with any home improvement project, the results will always reflect your level of experience. LVP 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 LVP 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 LVP 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 planks 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 – jennaburger.com.
If all of this seems too much for you, or if you’re planning to install LVF throughout your home, you should opt for professional installers who will also guarantee their work.
Finally, LVF 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 flooring brands below.
Luxury Vinyl Plank and Tile Floor Design Trends
As luxury vinyl plank & 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 LVF is to mimic authentic materials, most manufacturers tend to offer a fairly simplistic choice of either wood look 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 LVF, 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 LVF.
However, some manufacturers are offering slightly more adventurous LVF 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.
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.
Vinyl Plank Brands Reviewed
NuCore vinyl plank is one of the new ranges of rigid core floors that have recently come to market and this particular brand is exclusive to speciality flooring retailer Floor & Decor. It is essentially their own store brand. NuCore’s main selling point is its 100% waterproof qualities, making it suitable for any area of your home.
NuCore vinyl flooring offers good value for money and is family friendly. The majority of Nucore floors are wood look with just a small selection of stone look tiles. Most planks are embossed, giving them a textured, more realistic feel. A cork underlayment is pre-attached which makes this flooring quieter than other brands. Overall, with prices below $4 per sq/ft, Nucore offers good value for money.
To learn more click here for our full Nucore review.
COREtec Plus from US Floors
The first COREtec Plus floors were launched back in 2012 making US Floors the first flooring manufacturer to patent a rigid core, 100% waterproof luxury vinyl product. Since then almost every reputable flooring manufacturer has produced their own version of a rigid core vinyl plank or tile.
Because they have been producing COREtec for so long there is a large and diverse range of collections to choose from in both wood and stone look plank and tile. To give you some idea of the choice, there are over 230 wood look planks and over 50 stone look tiles. The wood look planks are offered in 7 widths and 8 lengths!
COREtec is sold by local flooring retailers and online at sites like FlooringInc. It isn’t cheap, with prices ranging from $3.89 up to $8 per sq.ft. but quality is good and a lifetime warranty offers peace of mind.
Styles and collections have grown and changed over time so head over to our COREtec flooring review for the latest info.
If you were tempted by COREtec but put off by the price tag then we suggest you take a look at SmartCore rigid core vinyl. SmartCore is Lowe’s own store brand but is manufactured by, wait for it, US Floors using the same COREtec technology.
SmartCore is a smaller range of flooring but still offers four different collections in different price brackets starting from as little as $2 per square foot and peaking at $3.80 per sq.ft which is the entry point price for COREtec flooring.
To find our more read our SmartCore flooring review
Lifeproof luxury vinyl flooring is Home Depot’s exclusive in-store brand of LVT. It has a rigid core construction (rigid base, ISOCORE pvc foam core with a vinyl top layer). One of the main attractions of Lifeproof vinyl is the price, flooring ranges between $1 and $4 per square foot.
The range isn’t huge, but LifeProof does come in three different thicknesses and comes in both wood-look and stone-look styles. Lightweight and durable with an easy interlocking installation system, Lifeproof vinyl is readily available and a good product to consider as you start your research. For further information, read our in-depth LifeProof Vinyl Flooring review.
When you think of Pergo you usually think of laminate flooring, like their Pergo Portfolio or Pergo TimberCraft collections, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this flooring giant has now moved into both engineered hardwood and rigid luxury vinyl.
Pergo’s rigid core vinyl is called Pergo Extreme and comes in four different collections. Pergo really goes the extra distance in terms of durability claiming their LVP is 100% waterproof, 100% kid and pet proof and dent resistant. Given it’s high quality construction it is perhaps no surprise that this flooring prices in the $3.99 to $5.99 per sq/ft range.
For the complete lowdown you can check out our full review of Pergo Extreme here.
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 19 are available with their Uniclic glueless installation technology. Check out our SolidTech vinyl plank flooring review.
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.
If you’re on a budget and aren’t particularly interested in the new range of waterproof rigid core vinyl products then you might be interested in Home Depot’s exclusive TrafficMaster line of luxury vinyl. TrafficMaster Allure (basic), Allure Plus (better) and Allure Ultra (best) offer homeowners a low cost luxury vinyl option that range in price from roughly $1 to $3 per sq.ft.
Sometimes you’re just looking for a decent, cheap flooring product to do a job, like preparing your house for resale, decorating a laundry room or 2nd bathroom or kitting out a rental. TrafficMaster Allure flooring fits the bill in these situations. For more detailed information hop over to our Allure flooring review.
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.
Read our in-depth review of the new Karndean Korlok rigid core vinyl plank flooring.
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 speciality 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.
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.
For more on Mannington Adura and Adura Max flooring check out our review here
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 for Best Quality
Protective top layer
Luxury vinyl planks & 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 LVF).
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 vinyl plank flooring 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 LVF.
Thankfully, as vinyl planks 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.
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.
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 one of the main selling points 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.
When choosing a vacuum for vinyl flooring you want one that is designed for hard or tiled floors. 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 luxury vinyl plank 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 flooring for your home.