What is LVP Flooring? | Luxury Vinyl Plank 101

What Does LVP Stand For?

LVP is short for Luxury Vinyl Plank and is one of today’s hottest floors. It is designed to capture the rich beauty and texturing of hardwood flooring. While not quite the “real thing,” LVP offers lower cost, is easy to maintain, and is an upgrade from sheet vinyl. Most homeowners compare luxury vinyl planks with laminate before deciding which material is the best fit for their flooring project.

Last Updated: June 5, 2023, by: Jamie Sandford

This Home Flooring Pros report covers everything you need to know about LVP to make a buying decision – What is LVP? What are the options? Pros and cons? What about waterproof LVP? Installation and maintenance? Luxury vinyl vs laminate? What about the other acronyms like WPC and SPC? Finally we have FAQs to round out the discussion.

LVP flooring samples

Our approach is to start at the beginning, so that anyone unfamiliar with LVP can get up to speed on the basics before we delve into the finer points.

Note that you can also use the Navigation Box above to find exactly what you want, if you already have a basic understanding of luxury vinyl floors.

WHAT IS LVP MADE OF?

Vinyl is short for polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which is a plastic material used in a wide range of items because it is tough, durable and versatile. And it is inexpensive compared to natural hardwood.

You have three types of luxury vinyl plank flooring: Standard luxury vinyl planks, WPC and SPC flooring. WPC (wood-plastic composite) and SPC (stone-plastic composite) come under the title of EVP flooring (Engineered Vinyl Plank) and is also referred to as rigid core vinyl flooring. But since they’re constructed using PVC, we have included them in this discussion and you can consider them as the latest incarnation of LVP. Does that make sense? Let’s define things further!

LUXURY VINYL PLANK FLOORING DEFINED

Let’s define luxury vinyl flooring here, and then the differences between LVP and WPC/SPC are explored below.

LVP is a layered flooring. Each layer plays a role in the performance of luxury vinyl flooring.

1). The Wear Layer: Obviously transparent, this surface layer is a thin, hardened layer of urethane or PVC depending on the manufacturer. This layer is easy to clean and resistant to scratching and stains.

Note: Wear layers  for residential flooring are usually 6 mils thick (residential only) or 12 mils thick (residential and light commercial).

Commercial flooring often has a wear layer up to 30 mils thick, though 20 mils is standard.

Thicker is better – It wears longer, and if the wear layer is scratched through, there’s little choice but to replace that plank or tile. Repair isn’t an option.

2). Luxury Vinyl Print Layer: Often embossed with texturing molded from real hardwoods, it is printed with colors to mimic the look of wood.

3). Backing Layer: This bottom layer is usually thin PVC. In loose lay LVP, flooring that doesn’t have a click-together design, the backing layer is designed to “hug” the floor.

Is there a difference between LVP and vinyl plank flooring?

There is no difference between LVP and vinyl plank flooring. LVP is the acronym for Luxury Vinyl Plank.

What is the difference between LVP and LVT?

LVP and LVT are the same type of flooring but LVT flooring is designed in the shape of tiles (Luxury Vinyl Tile) rather than planks. And instead of wood looks, it often features a stone or ceramic tile appearance.

What about EVP or Rigid Core Vinyl Flooring like WPC and SPC?

WPC and SPC are commonly lumped into a rigid flooring category because of their wood/plastic core (WPC) or stone/plastic core (SPC) that stiffen the floor for strength and stability.

WPC planks and tiles have a high-density fiberboard core, or HDF core. Standard LVP does not have a rigid core, and so it is more flexible and also softer underfoot.

WPC’s core is sealed, and so it may be marketed as waterproof.

Terminology tip: The term engineered vinyl plank or EVP is  used for this flooring because of its wooden core which is similar to engineered hardwood flooring.

SPC flooring is often used in commercial settings, but it is residential-friendly too. The core is crushed stone encased in plastic or a polymer to form a very tough and durable floor. Most of it has a waterproof core.

WHAT IS LVP GOOD FOR?

LVP is a versatile flooring that goes anywhere in your home. And yes, it’s especially good to install where it might get wet – kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms – and it can be used below grade like in a basement.

IS LVP ANY GOOD?

Yes, LVP is a good choice when you want wood-like flooring but genuine hardwood flooring is not in the budget or you don’t want the higher maintenance issues it presents.

And if you want a reliably water-resistant flooring for wet rooms of your home, consider LVP.

Luxury vinyl plank flooring is also a good choice if you want a floor that is DIY friendly compared to real wood.

Related Reading: Cheap Flooring Options

Is LVP better than laminate? In many ways, they are similar wood-look flooring materials. This is a topic worth looking at in greater depth.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LVP AND LAMINATE FLOORING?

This topic is covered in detail in our post What is Laminate Flooring?

Here’s a summary of what can be found there.

How they are similar: LVP and laminate flooring are both wood-look alternatives, sometimes called faux wood flooring.

What they are made of: Laminate features a fiberboard core covered in a digital image of wood plus a durable wear layer. LVP is mainly PVC with a printed image layer – and also covered by a tough wear layer.

Laminate often comes with attached pad that serves as underlayment. Click-together LVP sometimes has attached pad.

What do they feel like? Laminate is harder than LVP, though might be warmer to the touch than vinyl. Both come in smooth and wood texture surfaces.

Are they easy to install? Yes, both are DIY options for most homeowners with basic skills. Laminate is mostly click-together flooring. LVP comes in click flooring plus loose lay, in which planks butt and adjoin one another without being interlocked.

And while luxury vinyl can be cut with a utility or carpet knife, laminate requires a saw.

Related Reading: Cutting Vinyl Plank Flooring | Cutting Laminate Flooring

How much do they cost? Both start around $1.50 per square foot for materials. LVP tops out around $10.00 per square foot while laminate can range to $6.00 per square foot.

Related Reading: LVP Cost | Laminate Cost

Which has better return on investment? Currently, luxury vinyl flooring offers better ROI. It is popular and trending up. Laminate is beginning to trend downward.

Which is better, LVP or laminate? LVP has better resale right now. And it is more versatile – a better fit for any room in the house, while laminate is better used in areas of your home where floors stay dry. Laminate does feature a real image of wood, so it is hard to beat if wood-look flooring is your highest priority.

Related Reading: Best Flooring for Resale Value

HOW MUCH WILL LVP COST?

When you talk about flooring cost, you have to consider the flooring and underlayment, if needed.

How much is vinyl plank flooring?

The average cost for a 300 square foot room of vinyl plank flooring is $1,650 for the materials. If you have a flooring contractor install the material, the average total cost rises to $2,850.

How much is LVP per square foot?

The total cost for materials ranges from $2.19 per square foot to $9.00. The most popular LVP is priced $4.50 to $6.75 per square foot.

Pros charge $3.00 to $5.00 per square foot for installation. The smaller the room and the more trimming is involved, the higher the rate for labor.

BUYING LVP FLOORING – WHAT ARE YOUR LVP OPTIONS?

We’ve covered three choices.

Luxury vinyl planks and tile are the main product. However, luxury vinyl tile accounts for less than 10% of luxury vinyl flooring, so your choices are limited. LVP is the most common and affordable option. LVP gives you the best selection of colors, plank widths and styles.

Wood-plastic core vinyl flooring (WPC) is a good choice when you want a thicker floor to match up with floors like shag carpet or even hardwood.

Stone-plastic core flooring (SPC) is ideal for matching up to thinner floors like sheet vinyl or low-profile carpet. But its main use is in high-traffic residential and commercial areas – and it is more reliably waterproof than the other flooring types.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT LUXURY VINYL PLANK

Consider these options as you browse LVP as well as what might look best in your home.

Plank Width: Options are 4” to 12”. Wider planks are very popular and give a spacious feel that has a more casual vibe than narrow plank flooring. It’s ideal for an open floor plan. But for smaller rooms, planks in the 5” to 8” look more proportionally appropriate.

Wear Layer: You’ll pay more for a thicker wear layer, but the overall quality and durability of the flooring will be better. A quick survey from major manufacturers shows options from 6 mils to 30 mils with 12 mils and 20 mils being the most common by far.

Wood types: The woods replicated include oak, the most popular, plus pine, walnut, maple, hickory and some exotics like teak and ipe.

Related Reading: Hardwood Species

Colors: You’ve got a wide spectrum of vinyl hardwood colors to consider. It starts with light tones line sun-bleached and weathered wood. Much of the LVP you’ll shop is medium browns with highlights of yellow or red wood hues. Dark grays and browns, some nearly black, are available too.

Plank Thickness: SPC starts at a very thin 2mm. The thickest WPC vinyl flooring is around 15mm thick. Most LVP is 5mm to 8mm thick. Note thickness as you consider matching transitions from one flooring type to another.

Wherever dissimilar flooring meets, you’ll need transition strips. Strips are available that smooth height disparities, but the less the disparity, the less chance for stumbling and potential falls.

HOW TO CHOOSE LVP LIKE A PRO

Manufacturer and retailer websites are loaded with pictures of installed luxury vinyl floors. Why? So you can see what their flooring looks like in rooms and homes similar to yours.

Check out the sites, and look at room size, shape and the number of windows  before you focus on the floor. What looks good in rooms like yours? It will probably look good in your home too.

Some, like Armstrong, even have floor visualizers where you can either upload a picture of your room or choose from one of their demo rooms. Once you’ve done that, then you can choose the flooring you’re considering, and the room will be shown with that flooring in place.

Do your research. Take your time. This is the best approach to choosing flooring you will be happy with now and in the years to come.

Relates Reading: Best Vinyl Flooring Brands

BRIEF GUIDE TO LVP INSTALLATION 

While not a how-to guide, this section provides an overview of the process and what you should consider before you buy.

WHERE CAN YOU INSTALL LUXURY VINYL?

Anywhere. Gauge the level of resistance to moisture you need. Water-resistant LVP and WPC are fine for kitchens.

A waterproof WPC or SPC is a better fit for laundry rooms, bathrooms and basements.

LVP INSTALLATION FAQs

Can luxury vinyl go over concrete? 

Yes, LVP can be installed on concrete but a moisture barrier is required between the concrete subfloor and the flooring. This will prevent moisture that migrates from the ground through the concrete slab from getting trapped under the flooring and causing odors or a deterioration of the flooring.

Can LVP go on stairs?

Yes, you can install LVP on stairs. Pre-made treads are available, but costly. But so is hiring a contractor to get the work done – costs can reach more than $1,000 to install vinyl on a flight of steps. DIY is tricky.

Carpeting stairs is a cost-effective alternative, but if carpet isn’t in your design plans, you’ll have to weigh your options.

DIY TIPS

Before you open a box – bring all the boxes of flooring inside to allow them to acclimate to your home’s temperature and humidity for several days.

Is LVP a DIY flooring option?

Installing luxury vinyl plank is a DIY project. Loose lay vinyl planks are the easiest way to go. And they generally stay in place.

But if you prefer flooring that is secured together, then choose a click-lock floor. It’s a little like tongue and groove, and you’ll soon get the hang of clicking it together.

Read the Installation manual, watch a tutorial on the flooring brand you have, maybe wreck a few pieces practicing – and you’ll soon have it down.

Tip on aesthetics: Plan the floor installation so that the first and last planks along the longest walls are the same width. You don’t want a full 10” plank for example on the left side and a 2” plank on the right side. This is called a vinyl plank flooring pattern repeat.

Can you glue down LVP?

LVP can be glued down. Some flooring can be glued down as an option.  A few styles “must” be glued down. Installing with glue is more challenging, so read the installation guide and watch tutorials on the techniques to decide if you want to DIY or hire a contractor.

LVP MAINTENANCE QUESTIONS – DAILY AND LONG-TERM

LVP is a simple flooring to maintain. Learn how to clean vinyl plank flooring here.

First, follow the floor manufacturer’s Cleaning and Care guide. Do this, and your floor will keep looking good.

Most suggest sweeping or using a hard-floor vacuum (one without a rotating brush) as needed.

A lightly damp mop is OK, but ring or spin out the mop until it really is only lightly damp.

  • Get off stuck-on goo with a warm cloth.
  • Never use a steam mop!
  • Prevent dogs and kids from rampaging over the floor.
  • Lift and carry items over the flooring rather than dragging them.
  • Put pads beneath furniture legs.
  • Put shoe mats outside – on a covered porch or in the garage – rather than directly on vinyl flooring. Why? Moisture and grit can get trapped beneath them and damage the floor’s wear layer.

Just follow the brand’s do’s and don’ts, and you’ll be fine.

MORE FAQS

What goes under LVP?

Placing underlayment under LVP is a good idea to lightly cushion the flooring and to reduce sound transmission. A lot of luxury vinyl plank has underlayment attached from the factory.

Otherwise, you can choose a foam or cork underlayment for your project.

And remember, if the flooring covers concrete, a vapor barrier taped at the seams and around the edges is important.

Is LVP toxic? 

Some cheap, imported vinyl flooring contains high levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.

To avoid toxic VOCs, look for flooring certified to be low-VOC by FloorScore or GreenGuard Gold.

It still will smell for a few weeks to a few months, but at least the odors won’t be harmful.

About the Author: Jamie Sandford

Jamie Sandford, Owner and Editor of Home Flooring ProsJamie Sandford is the Owner and Chief Editor of Home Flooring Pros (find out more). After 12 years’ experience in screen and stage set construction, followed by a further 15 years working in the home renovation/remodeling business, he now writes and curates online home improvement advice.

“Buying and installing home flooring should be a fairly straightforward process, but often it isn’t. After more than 15 years experience in home flooring and remodeling, I started Home Flooring Pros in 2013 to help homeowners navigate the often-over complicated process of choosing, buying and installing a home floor. The aim is to save you time and money by helping you to make better floor buying decisions.”