Vinyl Flooring – Sheet Vinyl, Luxury Vinyl (LVT & LVP) and Engineered Vinyl Plank (EVP)
$0.60 – $12 per Sq/Ft (Materials Only)
Vinyl is your budget friendly, 100% waterproof, resilient flooring option for kitchens, bathrooms, basements and any other room in your home. Durable and attractive, vinyl flooring is easy to clean, easy to install and produced by all the biggest flooring brands including Mohawk, Shaw, Lifeproof, TrafficMaster and more.
Vinyl flooring has come a long way in recent years to the point where it is now one of the most popular options for a budget-friendly, attractive flooring material.
Gone are the days where vinyl flooring was synonymous with a thin plasticky sheet in an array of unattractive patterns. Today’s vinyl flooring is available in much more attractive and durable resilient luxury vinyl tile form, 100% waterproof resilient rigid core vinyl planks and improved vinyl sheet options too.
Available in a huge range of design styles – including wood look and stone look – the latest digital photography now allows for the vinyl flooring graphics to be as close to the real thing as possible. Plank and tile sizes also mimic the “real deal” so that you can have all the same kinds of layouts, including popular options such as chevron, herringbone and checkerboard.
In this article we offer an in-depth guide to vinyl flooring, including the differences between vinyl sheet, LVT and rigid core. We’ve put all the information in one place to help answer all your vinyl flooring questions. Find out if vinyl is the flooring for your project!
Here’s what you’ll find in this in-depth vinyl flooring guide:
Buying Guide: We’ll explain the different types of vinyl flooring currently available on the market including vinyl sheet and rigid core vinyl, and how to choose the best vinyl for your flooring project. We’ll look at vinyl flooring pros and cons, and at key elements such as trends and styles, durability, the leading brands and answer the most frequently asked questions.
Price Guide: Here we will cover all the important details regarding the cost of vinyl flooring, with a price comparison of different vinyl flooring types. We’ll also look at how vinyl flooring cost compares to other flooring such as hardwood and laminate, so that you can make an informed decision about whether vinyl flooring is a good investment for your home.
Installation Guide: We’ll look at the key differences between installing vinyl sheet, LVT and rigid core vinyl, including our top tips for the best installation and how to avoid common DIY installation pitfalls.
Cleaning and Maintenance: Finally, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about keeping your vinyl flooring looking good and performing well.
WHAT IS VINYL FLOORING?
If you’re considering vinyl flooring, then the first thing you need to know is that there are several different types on the market: vinyl sheet, luxury vinyl tile (LVT), resilient WPC and SPC vinyl, also known as rigid core, EVP or composite vinyl.
Here’s a basic overview of the main vinyl flooring differences:
|TYPE OF FLOORING||PROS||CONS|
|VINYL SHEET||• budget vinyl option
• good range of styles, and increasingly also available in fun, geometric styles
• water resistant
• low maintenance
|• not always waterproof
• thin wear layer, can dent easily and can also tear in high traffic areas
• visuals are sometimes not as realistic as other options
• not easy to DIY install
|LUXURY VINYL TILE (LVT)||• mid-range prices
• HD graphics and standard plank/ tile sizes makes it look very close to the real wood, stone or ceramic tile
• usually a decent wear layer, less prone to scratching or denting than vinyl sheet
• water resistant
• low maintenance
• relatively easy to DIY install
|• not 100% waterproof
• looks fairly authentic, but will never have the ROI value of real wood or natural stone
|WPC/SPC COMPOSITE VINYL (aka rigid core)||• 100% waterproof
• very resilient, virtually dent proof and scratch proof
• very realistic styles and looks
• low maintenance
• relatively easy to DIY install
• SPC is most forgiving on less than perfect subfloors
|• most expensive vinyl, particularly SPC
• looks fairly authentic, but will never have the ROI value of real wood or natural stone
Let’s look at each type in more detail.
Vinyl Sheet Flooring
Modern sheet vinyl floors are much better quality and better looking than ever, with an increasing trend of bright geometric patterns that are an excellent option for a fun flooring project (for example in the powder room).
Modern manufacturing means that vinyl sheet is made up of several layers:
- a protective polyurethane topcoat and a wear layer
- a pattern layer, with digital photography giving quite realistic patterns
- a foam gel cushion layer that combines polyvinyl chloride resins (PVC) with, pigments, plasticizers, UV stabilizer and fungicide to give the flooring texture, comfort, fade and mold resistance
- a fiberglass base layer to stabilize the sheet and make installation easier
Sheet vinyl flooring can be embossed during the manufacturing process to give added texture; the exact composition of the top layer results in a finish that is matte or glossy.
Vinyl flooring rolls are usually available in widths of 6 or 12 feet and cut in store to length according to your needs. Sheet vinyl flooring is typically 10 to 15 mil thick for residential or 20 to 256 mil thick for commercial.
Vinyl sheet is usually (but not always) made with impermeable, waterproof layers which makes it a decent option for bathrooms or kitchens. However, roll out vinyl is very flexible and soft, so it will dent easily and can even tear. It is not suitable for high traffic areas.
Vinyl sheet – as the names suggest – is one continuous surface, so there is no grouting to do. Conversely, you may need to cut vinyl sheet to fit around fixed fittings, such as toilets or doorframes. See the installation guide below for more about this.
Luxury Vinyl Planks/Tiles (LVP or LVT)
Designed to be a more resilient option compared to laminate flooring, luxury vinyl flooring generally comes in faux-wood or faux-stone designs, using high-definition digital images giving it a very realistic look.
As with all vinyl flooring it is made up of several layers:
- a water-resistant PVC topcoat and wear layer for protection
- a pattern layer, using very realistic HD graphics and usually imprinted with a slight texture
- a somewhat flexible plastic composite core, often mixed with high-density board fiber
- a plastic composite base layer for stability
Luxury vinyl was conceived primarily as an alternative to real hardwood and stone, so it is available in the kinds of sizes you’d expect for wood planks or stone/ ceramic tiles. You can also get LVP designed specifically to be laid in chevron or herringbone patterns.
The main consideration with luxury vinyl is that, whilst it is water-resistant, often the core layer is not 100% waterproof. You might want to have the benefit of both features; in which case you should look at composite vinyl, also known as EVP (see below).
Also, like vinyl sheet, luxury vinyl is tough, but still somewhat flexible and can be dented.
In terms of installation, there are four types of luxury vinyl tile: click-lock – where the tiles or planks click together; glue-down – with specific adhesive; peel and stick down – like a very large sticker; and groutable – which will give you more of a traditional ceramic tile look. Scroll down for the vinyl flooring installation guide below for more details.
Rigid Core 100% Waterproof Composite Vinyl
This flooring product is relatively new to the market and, depending on the manufacturer, goes by lots of different names including: composite vinyl, WPC or SPC, hybrid LVT, rigid core, engineered vinyl plank (or EVP) or resilient vinyl.
It is currently considered the best vinyl flooring product on the market due to being 100% waterproof, extremely resilient and durable. It is composed of the following layers:
- a topcoat and a wear layer that is usually considerably thicker than other vinyl flooring and gives it that extra durability
- a pattern layer, with the best realistic high-definition images and textures
- a non-flexible core layer that combines limestone powder with plastics and – for WPC – foaming agent
- a final pre-attached underlayment pad for sound absorption and ease of installation
The greatest benefit of rigid core is clear: it has a very tough, inflexible core so it is just like hardwood or real stone. It is very durable and resistant to denting and scuffing.
There are a couple of differences to note: WPC vinyl used to be made by also adding wood fiber and foaming gel to the mix. That is now no longer the case, but its composition still retains the foaming gel which makes it lighter and supposedly softer. There’s not much in it though really.
SPC vinyl does not have foaming gel in the core layer, so it is more dense and much harder to cut; also, the pattern and texture layer is thermofused on to the core allowing for a somewhat more embossed feel. Also, because of its very rigid core, SPC is the most forgiving for less than perfect subfloors.
Composite vinyl – both WPC and SPC – are entirely waterproof. Like LVT, composite vinyl designs mimic real wood or stone, and come in various plank and tiles sizes.
SPC VS WPC VINYL FLOORING
WPC composite vinyl
SPC composite vinyl
|100% waterproof & water resistant||100% waterproof & water resistant|
|Very tough & durable||Very tough & durable|
|Available in wood look and stone look||Available in wood look and stone look
Thermofused design = somewhat more textured
|Has foaming agent in core composite||Doesn’t have foaming agent|
|Slightly softer and lighter||Harder and denser|
|Somewhat easier to cut||Need specialist tools to cut|
|Usually has attached underlayment||Usually has attached underlayment|
|Install using floating floor method||Install using floating floor method
More forgiving of less than perfect subfloors
Generally speaking, rigid core vinyl is installed using a floating floor click-lock technique and has an integrated underlayment pad for this very reason.
Related Reading: Vinyl Vs Laminate Vs Hardwood Flooring
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST VINYL FLOORING
Now you know the basic differences between vinyl flooring types, let’s look at the key factors to consider when choosing vinyl flooring for your home.
Water resistant or Waterproof?
When it come to this key feature, the devil is in the detail, because water resistant is not the same thing as waterproof.
For flooring like luxury vinyl tile (LVT) which often has a permeable central core, you’ll see it being labeled as water resistant. This is because the top layer is polyurethane and if you take steps to quickly clean up the odd splash or spill of water it won’t penetrate down to the other layers.
But this kind of LVT flooring is not completely waterproof. If it is steeped all day in a bucket, for example, the core layer will absorb water. Similarly, if you don’t deal with a spill quickly, water can trickle through the joints and reach the core layer. If the core absorbs too much water then, eventually, the plank will warp.
However, all the components used to make vinyl sheet and rigid core composite vinyl flooring are both water resistant and 100% waterproof. If you took a rigid core plank or a piece of vinyl sheet and left it overnight in bucket of water, they would not swell or warp.
So, opting for rigid core or vinyl sheet for best performance against possible water related accidents makes sense, right?
Well, yes, but – and this is a big but – there is no vinyl flooring of any type that will remain unscathed in a flood!
This is because typically, if your home floods it will take quite a while for it to dry out. During that time, water will have seeped through the joints of the planks or tiles, or under the vinyl sheet via the tiny space by the baseboard joint.
This can lead to the damage of your subfloor, the adhesive failing, and potentially mildew and mold growth underneath the vinyl flooring. Some of this damage may not be immediately visible, since – as you’ve read above – the actual vinyl flooring may look completely fine.
So, the big takeaway is that if you’re installing vinyl in your basement, bathroom or laundry, then do choose one that is labeled as 100% waterproof: it will not swell or warp if conditions are very humid and in a worse-case flooding scenario you may be at least able to salvage the vinyl flooring.
The single most important factor in terms of durability and resilience of vinyl flooring is the wear layer: the greater the wear layer, the longer lasting the flooring will be.
For increased strength, hardness, scratch and scuff resistance, wear layers are usually UV cured and made using polyurethane with aluminum oxide or ceramic bead, and in the case or Armstrong actual cultured diamonds!
Wear layers can range from a very thin 4 mil (for the cheapest vinyl sheet) to up to 20mil (for the top end rigid core vinyl). Note that the other general rule of thumb is that the greater the wear layer, the more expensive the flooring.
In the case of vinyl flooring and durability, you get what you pay for. So, aim to buy the vinyl at the top end of your budget. A mid-range wear layer of no lower than 8 mil for vinyl sheet, and 12 mil for LVT and rigid core is a good level to aim for: at these ranges, a vinyl floor will be suitable for most residential purposes with average footfall traffic.
The wear layer is also what will determine the kind of warranty you can expect with vinyl. For vinyl flooring with wear layers of 10 to 20 mil, you should be getting a lifetime warranty for residential use.
Of course, no matter how long the warranty, it will be null and void if you have failed to follow correct installation protocols. Always check the product installation details before purchase and make sure your vinyl floor is suitable for your project.
All vinyl flooring is made from different composites of plastic materials, which run the risk of off-gassing toxic substances into your home. Most reputable flooring manufacturers make sure that their floor is safe; but for your own peace of mind that you have safe air quality in your home, be sure to check that your vinyl flooring has been FloorScore certified against volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs.
Along with VOCs, phthalate chemicals have been a concern in the production of vinyl flooring. These chemicals were used to make vinyl softer and more flexible. However, increased understanding of how toxic they are, has led most reputable manufacturers to produce phthalate-free vinyl flooring. So, this is another factor to check when choosing vinyl for your home.
One of the features of vinyl flooring is that it uses digital photography for its visuals, so there is any number of different flooring designs and styles available, from traditional wood planks to geometric cement tiles, from classic stone to modern metallics.
Vinyl and rigid core planks and tiles come in the sorts of sizes that are standard for the “real deal”, but also in smaller tailored lengths to set as chevron or herringbone formation; meanwhile with vinyl sheet you can buy every imaginable flooring pattern including faux hexagon tiles.
So, once you’ve decided on the look – the main consideration is to find the best version of that look. Here the rule is to go as expensive as you can afford: the graphics and texture will be of the best quality, and the pattern repeat should be less pronounced to give a more realistic look.
Radiant Heating and Basements?
Good news – all types of vinyl flooring can be installed over radiant heating. For below grade installation, like basements, you should opt for rigid core vinyl composite tiles or planks which will not be affected by humidity.
We’ll go into more detail about this below, but all vinyl flooring is very easy to clean and maintain – which is one of its main attractions for many families!
VINYL FLOORING BUYING SUMMARY
- There are three main types of vinyl flooring: vinyl sheet, luxury vinyl and rigid core composite vinyl.
- The wear layer is very important: aim to buy vinyl flooring with the greatest wear layer.
- Good quality vinyl will come with a lifetime warranty for residential use.
- Not all vinyl flooring is both water resistant and waterproof.
- Be sure to check for FloorScore certification for air quality and that it’s phthalate-free.
VINYL FLOORING PROS AND CONS RECAP
Read more on luxury vinyl plank pros and cons.
Vinyl Flooring Buying Guide FAQ’s
Q: Can I install vinyl flooring in my bathroom?
A: All vinyl flooring is water resistant, but not all types are fully waterproof. We recommend rigid core vinyl composite flooring for bathrooms. Read more in our in-depth Vinyl Flooring In Bathrooms article.
Q: Is vinyl flooring cold and uncomfortable underfoot?
A: Not particularly. In fact, since it is made with plastics, vinyl has about the same feel underfoot as wood, but is much warmer underfoot than real stone or ceramic tile. Rigid core vinyl flooring usually comes with a pre-attached cork or felt underlayment to add a little extra cushion underneath.
VINYL FLOORING PRICES & BRANDS
Vinyl flooring is available at every price point, but vinyl sheet is the cheapest and rigid core tends to be the most expensive. But, there are exceptions, with some made to order vinyl sheet manufacturers offering really fun and unusual designs (more like wallpaper for your floor) that are in the upper price bracket.
Generally speaking, vinyl sheet ranges between $0.60 to $5 per square foot, LVT ranges between $1 to $7 per square foot, and rigid core ranges between $2 to $12 per square foot.
Vinyl Flooring VS Hardwood, Natural Stone and Other Flooring
It is often cited that vinyl flooring is significantly cheaper than hardwood or natural stone.
Whilst that is somewhat true for most vinyl flooring options, some of the top-end rigid core vinyl floors can retail for as much $12 per square foot, which is similar to good quality hardwood and decent marble tiles.
When you look at the comparisons, you can also see that vinyl flooring is amongst the most budget-friendly options. Vinyl is price-matched to laminate flooring but has the advantage because many vinyl flooring options are completely waterproof (unlike laminate).
Here’s a comparison chart for vinyl against other types of flooring. Note that these prices do not include installation (see below).
TYPE OF FLOORING
PRICE PER SQUARE FOOT
|Bamboo||$3 – $9|
|Carpet (wall to wall)||$1 – $20|
|Ceramic tile||$0.50 – $15|
|Concrete||$0.60 – $2|
|Cork||$3 – $12|
|Hardwood – solid||$1 – $18|
|Hardwood – engineered||$3 – $16|
|Laminate||$0.70 – $5|
|Linoleum||$3 – $8|
|Natural stone – slate||$3 – $15|
|Natural stone – marble (basic range)||$4 – $15|
|Natural stone – marble (top range)||$10 – $45|
|Rubber||$1 – $12|
|Vinyl – Sheet||$0.60 – $5|
|Vinyl – Luxury vinyl tile (LVT)||$1 – $7|
|Vinyl – Composite (aka rigid core, WPC / SPC)||$2 – $12|
We have an in-depth report on the cost to install vinyl plank flooring.
As mentioned, the prices above do not take into consideration the cost of professional installation.
No website can give you a completely accurate installation quote as the exact cost of your vinyl installation will vary depending on several factors, including where your house is located, whether the installer needs to remove the existing flooring, how much work needs to be done to the subfloor before installation and the relative experience/ reputation of your installer. For a quote tailored to your specific needs, we recommend you click here.
Nevertheless, we can say with some certainty that because vinyl flooring is quite easy to install (certainly easier than say real marble tiles) you are likely to find that the installation costs are relatively affordable.
On average you can expect the following installation costs:
- Vinyl sheet = $1 – $5 per square foot
- Luxury vinyl tile = $2 – $6 per square foot
- Composite vinyl (rigid core) = $3 – $7 per square foot
This compares favorably to installing hardwood ($3 – $9 per square foot) and natural stone ($7 – $12 per square foot). You can save yourself some money by learning how to pull up vinyl flooring yourself.
BEST VINYL FLOORING BRANDS
Most of the big flooring players such as Shaw Floors, Armstrong, Mannington, Mohawk, MS International, Karndean, Pergo, Tarkett and Congoleum now have vinyl flooring in their inventory.
Note that CoreTec were the original developers of WPC and SPC rigid core vinyl and have a huge range of options.
There are also some well-respected in-house brands available at the big home improvement stores such as LifeProof and TrafficMaster (Home Depot) and SmartCore (Lowe’s). Check out our reviews of the best luxury vinyl planks.
Here is a round-up of current prices for various, big name vinyl flooring brands.
PRICE PER SQ/FT
|Armstrong||$0.65 – $1.60|
|Congoleum||$0.90 – $4.00|
|Mohawk||$0.60 – $2.75|
|LifeProof||$1.30 – $1.50|
|Shaw Floors||$1.25 – $2.10|
|Tarkett||$0.50 – $2.80|
|TrafficMASTER||$0.50 – $2.75|
|LUXURY VINYL TILE / PLANK|
|Armstrong||$2.60 – $3.00|
|Home Decorators Collection||$1.95 – $3.00|
|Mannington||$3.00 – $3.50|
|Mohawk||$1.25 – $2.70|
|LifeProof||$2.70 – $4.00|
|TrafficMASTER||$1.55 – $2.40|
|EVP/ RIGID CORE/ WPC/ SPC|
|A&A Surfaces||$2.40 – $3.50|
|Armstrong||$3.00 – $8.00|
|Congoleum||$2.50 – $3.50|
|COREtec Plus||$6.50 – $9.60|
|COREtec Pro||$4.80 – $7.50|
|Karndean||$4.50 – $7.00|
|Mannington||$3.50 – $6.00|
|Mohawk||$3.50 – $6.25|
|MSI||$1.60 – $3.50|
|NuCore||$2.35 – $3.80|
|Pergo||$3.90 – $6.00|
|Shaw Floors||$4.60 – $10.20|
|SmartCore||$2.00 – $3.70|
VINYL FLOORING INSTALLATION
One of the biggest claims about vinyl flooring is that it is easy to install by yourself. But is this really true?
IS VINYL FLOORING GOOD FOR DIY INSTALLATION?
Well, the fact is that vinyl flooring can be easy to install if you have very competent DIY skills, if you’re very sure that your subfloor is in its optimal state and that you have all the tools for cutting vinyl if necessary.
If this description does not match your personal profile, then we highly recommend that you look for an experienced installer!
In particular, installing sheet vinyl can be tricky – poor installation risks having air bubbles and there is also the not-so-easy task of cutting negative space in order to fit vinyl sheet around fixtures and fittings, and the task of welding vinyl sheet seams together if necessary.
Note that the different types of vinyl flooring call for different types of installation and have different factors that will affect your successful installation.
These are summarized here:
LVT – Luxury Vinyl Plank or Tile
(aka Rigid Core, WPC/SPC)
|Floating floor/ click lock||
|Perimeter Bond Method||YES|
|Peel and Stick||
|On, below & above grade?||YES||YES||YES|
|Needs to acclimate?||YES||YES|
|Easy to cut||YES||YES||YES – except SPC needs a power saw or tile cutter|