If you’re in the market for new flooring this year, you may have seen this phrase “rigid core” popping up all over the place or heard about EVP flooring in flooring stores and online flooring related sites. You’ll even see it a fair bit right here on Home Flooring Pros. And you’ll possibly be wondering what actually is this new fangled rigid core luxury vinyl flooring type?
In this article we’ll explore Engineered Vinyl Plank flooring (EVP flooring for short) in more detail so you can understand what a rigid core vinyl floor is and why it might just be the best option for your home. If its not clear already, Rigid Core Luxury Vinyl Flooring and EVP Flooring are the same thing!
WHAT IS EVP RIGID CORE FLOORING: A REPLACEMENT TO LVT
You may have already heard of LVT or LVP, which stands for luxury vinyl tile and luxury vinyl plank. These are the ancestors of Rigid Core flooring, born out of the discovery that manufacturers could achieve incredibly realistic and textured digital images that could be adhered to a waterproof vinyl core.
EVP flooring takes that tech to a new level by replacing the more flexible vinyl core with a much more durable, dimensionally stable rigid core. So, essentially you can think of rigid core as a much improved luxury vinyl.
The basic structure of EVP flooring is:
- A wear layer – a coating on the top of the plank or tile that adds scratch and stain resistance; some manufacturers also add UV resistance.
- Vinyl top coat – a thin layer of vinyl for extra waterproofing.
- Design layer – this is the realistic wood, stone or concrete image that gives the plank or tile its character; sometimes this is referred to as EIR (embossed in register) which means that the design layer also has a realistic texture.
- The rigid core – made using different methods (see below) to create a solid, stable and 100% waterproof center.
- Attached underlayment – most rigid core flooring has this, made of foam or cork, to give added soundproofing and comfort.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF RIGID CORE EVP
Now, because vinyl flooring manufacturers don’t seem to have a full handle on agreeing terms (it’s the same with carpet!) you will see different terms mentioned in conjunction with rigid core and EVP.
Also, there are two methods for making the rigid core and these different rigid core options have subtle differences,
So, when you’re researching you might come across the following rigid core flooring terms:
- WPC – aka wood plastic composite/ wood polymer core
This flooring is made with a rigid core that is part wood pulp, part plasticizers, part foaming agents. This gives WPC rigid core a stable core and, some say, a more comfortable feel underfoot than other rigid cores.
- SPC – aka stone plastic composite vinyl/ solid polymer core
This rigid core is made by mixing limestone powder and plastic stabilizers for extra stability. SPC rigid core has a somewhat harder feel to it than WPC, and so an underlayment is often either already attached or recommended.
- Hybrid vinyl
Some manufacturers are rather coy about what exactly goes into their rigid core layer. The Pryzm collection from Armstrong is a case in point, which is simply described as having a hybrid vinyl core. After a little digging (and a polite email) we have discovered that it is in fact an SPC!
Whatever the rigid core type, if a manufacturer is promoting their vinyl plank flooring as being 100% waterproof then you can be pretty sure that your looking at one of the new EVP rigid core floors.
PROS AND CONS OF RIGID CORE FLOORING
The advantages of rigid core flooring are:
- Waterproof – the fact that these planks or tiles are made with polymers means that they are as water resistant as classic porcelain tiles.
- A large range of designs – available in every possible wood and stone design you can imagine. Some manufacturers are now even doing rigid core tiles that replicate encaustic cement tiles with on-trend geometric patterns.
- Authentic looks/ good value – some rigid core options are incredibly realistic and often offer you the chance to get an authentic look for less money than the real thing.
- Widely available – almost all major flooring manufacturers and retailers now have EVP product lines.
- Affordable – as EVP flooring is now more widespread it can be found at all budget points, from low to high end.
- Relatively easy to install – in most cases rigid core planks and tiles come with a click lock floating floor installation method which is relatively easy to master.
- Install anywhere – rigid core flooring can be installed on, below and above grade; in any room of the house; over most solid subfloors; and usually also over heated floors.
- More forgiving on subfloors – unlike ceramic tile, rigid core flooring installed as a floating floor does not need a perfectly smooth subfloor for a good result (though obviously the more even and smooth your subfloor the better, always.)
- No acclimation – usually you do not need to acclimate rigid core flooring, so you can get on with the project straight away.
- Easy to clean/ maintain – like other vinyl flooring, rigid core is easy to keep clean and maintain.
The disadvantages of rigid core flooring are:
- Hard and thin underfoot – some rigid core flooring can be quite thin and therefore won’t have the feel of authentic wood, and can be somewhat hard underfoot – hence underlayment is recommended.
- Underlayment needed – buyers be aware that if your preferred EVP doesn’t have a pre-attached underlayment layer, then we recommend that you add underlayment to your budget.
- Not always DIY friendly – most Engineered Vinyl Plank brands claim their product is easy to install, but floating floors are not exactly foolproof so, if you’re less than proficient at DIY, a professional installer is a better option.
- Beware stain and scratch resistance – buyers must remain realistic about what any type of flooring can take. Rigid core, like all other flooring, is pretty durable but it is not immune to damage if abused.
- Not the real deal – there will always be detractors of these types of “faux” wood and stone flooring, though this is becoming less relevant as the designs get more and more realistic.
PRICE OF RIGID CORE LUXURY VINYL
As there are a lot of flooring manufacturers now making rigid core, there is a rigid core range to suit most budgets with prices as low as $1.60 per square foot to as high as $8.00 per square foot.
The average price is $3.00 – $5.00 per square foot and this compares favorably against other “faux” wood and stone products and to the real deal, as you can see from the table below:
|Type of flooring||Average price, per square foot|
|Rigid Core Vinyl Flooring||$3.00 – $4.00|
|Wood Look/ Stone Look Ceramic Tile||$4.00 – $6.00|
|Solid Hardwood Flooring||$4.00 – $10.00|
|Natural Stone Tiles||$5.00 – $10.00|
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST RIGID CORE FLOOR?
There are so many EVP floor options now that it can seem overwhelming. So how do you choose a good one? Here are our top questions to ask so that you can choose the best luxury rigid core brand for you:
- What’s included in the wear layer? Usually stain and scratch resistance is mentioned, brands that also include UV protection are worth spending more for, especially if you plan to use rigid core flooring in a sunny room as sunlight can cause fading and discoloration.
- Does it have integrated underlayment? Not all rigid core flooring has this. If the brand you like doesn’t have a pre-attached underlayment, then that’s not a problem, but you will need to consider adding to your budget to get extra underlayment.
- Is it suitable for my room? Some rigid core collections are not suited to rooms that have great temperature fluctuations, such as sunrooms or winter cabins. If you need a rigid floor for that kind of space, make sure it’s one that can be installed with the glue down method.
- Are there matching moldings and/ or transition strips? The best-looking floors installations are the ones that pay attention to these small details to give a seamless, pro finish.
- Can I get a sample? Floor colors can change a lot depending on where they are. Make sure you can get a sample to take home so you can see if it still looks good when it’s not in a showroom!
- What other factors should I consider? There are plenty of other factors to consider, and so we’ve selected our best rigid core floor brands below accordingly.
BEST EVP BRANDS
Here is our round up of the best rigid core brands currently on the market, and why we like them!
- Best Budget Brand – NuCore
Available exclusively at Floor & Décor, NuCore retails between $2.35 and $3.80 per square foot. Whilst not bargain basement cheap, it is still affordable and, better still, offers a decent quality, value for money product.
At the time of writing there were over 100 designs, including 90 wood and 10 stone look options, in a full range of color tones from light naturals, through warm browns, to grays and deep mahogany.
With so many designs, there is something for everyone here: rustic weathered planks, authentic hand scraped hardwoods, classic marble, contemporary linear designs.
So NuCore is great for budget and for choice!
Another budget brand to consider is LifeProof which is available at The Home Depot and retails between $2.70 and $4.40 per square foot. There are a lot fewer designs than NuCore, but what they do have are all very good-looking planks.
- Best Brand for Choice – COREtec
COREtec created the original luxury vinyl flooring, and has remained an industry leader in the resilient vinyl flooring industry.
Over the years they have adapted their products to the new rigid core composition, with all of their ranges now available as either WPC or SPC rigid core.
Since rigid core flooring is the only type of flooring they do, they far outweigh all other brands in terms of choice – not just in terms of style, but also in terms of plank or tile size.
The COREtec Original is a great example of the sheer volume of options. The range divides into no less than 15 different collections, each collection offering a specific feature, including planks made specially for a herringbone parquet layout.
With so many different ranges and collections, there is a huge choice of both wood look and stone look styles.
And of particular interest is the COREtec Stone range that has 26 different stone and tile designs! Most other rigid flooring brands tend to focus more on wood look and don’t have nearly as many stone look designs.
Furthermore, there is another brand – SmartCore, available exclusively at Lowes – that uses the COREtec technology. So whilst supposedly being a different brand, it is the really same flooring and that offers even more choice!
Note that NuCore (see above) comes in a pretty good second in this category as they also have a lot of designs – including more on-trend designs (such as distressed, weathered or high gloss looks). COREtec tends towards more classic styles.
But, if you’re looking for lots of choice in plank/tile sizes AND looks, then COREtec is worth looking into.
- Best Brand for Easy Installation
This is a tough category to judge since installation success depends a lot on how much experience you have, how much dexterity you have and whether or not you have the best tools for the job!
Almost all rigid core flooring is installed using the floating floor method, which requires some understanding of how that works. In particular, how to incorporate expansion gap requirements and, if you’re laying a large floor or more than one room, transition strips.
You’ll also need to invest in good tools for cutting rigid core – the very nature of this flooring is to be tough and durable, so choosing a good cutting tool is essential for a good finish.
Assuming you’ve done careful reading and research into the method, have good tools, and correctly prepared your subfloor, most actual rigid core planks are very easy to install using some version of a click lock edging on each plank to secure each plank to the next one.
Many brands use the Uniclic locking system on the edges of their planks, and that has a good reputation of being easy to get the hang of.
So, for that reason alone, we would choose Mohawk SolidTech as one of the easiest rigid core brands to install. Mannington Adura Rigid uses a similar system and is also known for being relatively easy to install.
- Best Brand for Realism
With advances in digital photography, you’ll find that most good quality rigid core brands feature authentic images, but one brand that really stands out for this is the Karndean Korlok Select collection.
The collection has 24 wood designs, mostly of domestic woods (and one exotic koa), that tend towards a more classic and rustic style. The highlight for us is the English Character Oak design which has just the right level of grain detail.
Perhaps because the overall style is more classic, the images are that much more realistic. Rigid core planks that featured distressed or reclaimed wood patterns can sometimes look a little fake – polymer composite materials just don’t give that real flaky, aged feel that real old wood has.
We also like the Karndean Korlok Select options that are sized ready for a herringbone parquet layout. Each of the planks has enough variety of tone that you can lay the pattern to look pretty authentic.
If you’re looking for stone look rigid core, then a close runner up for realism is Pergo Extreme. They have 15 beautifully detailed natural stone and tile options, including two that look like encaustic cement tiles and one like terrazzo stone!
- Best Up market Brand
Karndean Korlok (see above) and the Armstrong Pryzm hold joint place for best up market rigid core brand, with their products retailing at $4.50 – $8.00 per square foot.
Both brands are well respected and get good customer service reviews, and their products are beautifully detailed, durable, versatile and easy to install.
Armstrong Pryzm has a slight advantage to Karndean Korlok as the Pryzm floors can be installed both using the floating method and the glue down method, depending on the environmental factors of your room.
Glue down is the best option for rooms that get lots of prolonged direct sunlight, such as sunrooms.
However, Karndean Korlok beats Armstrong Pryzm in terms of aesthetics as the Pryzm collection is very much on-trend and – whilst that is great for now –we’re not sure about the longevity of some of the more contemporary looks.
The Korlok collections are more classic, and are going to stand the test of time.
Either way, they are both great options – in the end it comes down to looks and needs.
HOW TO INSTALL RIGID CORE LUXURY VINYL
Almost all rigid core brands have similar installation instructions, but it pays to check the brand you choose for details. For the most part the following installation aspects apply to all rigid core:
- Acclimation – you do not usually need to acclimate rigid core flooring to your home’s environment, so you can start your project as soon as your planks arrive!
- Subfloor preparation – rigid core can be installed on any solid, clean, dry and even subfloor (ceramic tile floors should be prepped with a leveling compound first). Whilst the floating floor installation method is more forgiving than glue down, you still need to ensure your subfloor is well prepared for best results.
- Install anywhere (except wet rooms) – rigid core flooring is the most versatile floorings on the market as it can be installed almost anywhere, though it is not recommended for rooms with high humidity levels such as wet rooms or steam rooms! And it can be installed over concrete floors with hydronic radiant heating systems as long as you do not let the temperature go above 85°F.
- Installation method – most rigid core floors are installed with a floating floor method. However, if you’re installing in a room with lots of direct sunlight (like a sunroom) you should check to see if the brand you’ve chosen can be installed with the glue down method, as floating floors tend not to perform so well under direct sunlight.
HOW TO CLEAN RIGID CORE FLOORING
For most people the best thing about EVP rigid core flooring is how easy it is to clean and maintain. Here’s our top tips:
- Vacuum or sweep and damp mop – regular sweeping or vacuuming with a hard surfaces attachment is usually sufficient. This can also be followed up by a damp mop to deal with any remaining dust or sticky stains.
- pH neutral detergent – many manufacturers have their own in-house flooring cleaning product, but for most rigid core floors a generic pH neutral floor cleaner will be fine. Do not use oil or wax polish on rigid core floors.
- Don’t allow water to pool – whilst rigid core floors are waterproof, they are not designed to withstand prolonged contact with pools of water. Cleaning up spills and splashes quickly and efficiently is always best practice. And that’s also why we say us a damp mop.
- Use furniture protector pads and area rugs – rigid core flooring is made to be very durable, and usually incorporates a scratch resistant wear layer, but should still be treated with respect like real wood floors. Use felt pad or casters on the bottom of your furniture and rugs and doormats for high traffic areas.
- Sun protection – like other vinyl products, some EVP floors can fade or change color if exposed to prolonged direct sunlight. Consider using blinds and drapes in rooms that get lots of sunlight to avoid this.