When you look at luxury vinyl plank flooring from a distance, brands and types may seem to blend together. Even the lowest quality luxury vinyl plank floor can put on a good show when you don't examine it too carefully. But when you install the flooring, see it up close, touch it, and walk on it, the best types of vinyl plank flooring quickly rise to the top.
There are several main factors that differentiate better vinyl plank flooring from inexpensive flooring, such as thickness, core, wear layer, quality of register embossing, and the quality of the visual layer. Other points that help boost the quality of a brand or type of vinyl plank flooring include the size of the selection, the company's reputation and its longevity, and the flooring warranty.
Watch Now: 7 Things To Consider Before You Get Vinyl Flooring
Here are six vinyl plank floors or series of floors considered to be the best purchases for your home.
Home Depot LifeProof Vinyl Plank Flooring
Home Depot tends to be at the forefront of economically priced home products, including floor coverings. Often, what Home Depot lacks in its depth of selection, it makes up for with in-stock accessibility.
Home Depot's vinyl plank flooring, LifeProof, is worthy of notice, especially for its low price point. Like the popular Behr paint or Glacier Bay bath accessories, LifeProof is a Home Depot brand that can only be found in its stores. Connecticut-based Halstead International is responsible for producing LifeProof luxury vinyl flooring.
Thin vinyl plank flooring can be difficult to seam. LifeProof, though, is a full 7 mm thick, so the boards drop and lock with ease and manage to stay seamed without the distinctive parting that is found with many vinyl plank floors.
LifeProof's thickness means that this vinyl plank floor looks and feels like laminate flooring. Its thickness provides a soft footfall and some insulation against cold subfloors. Unlike laminate flooring, it will never absorb water and deteriorate since it is made entirely of polymer-based materials. LifeProof has an attached underlayment, a feature found in almost no other thin vinyl plank flooring product.
LifeProof's board patterns tend to be repetitive, but you can mitigate the problem by dry-fitting the boards in the preferred pattern before final installation. Open up several boxes at the same time to give yourself a full range of choices between planks to avoid repetition.
Qualities of Inexpensive Vinyl Plank Flooring
- Thinner top layer: 2 mm thick or less
- Repetitive patterning
- Shorter warranty
- Potentially inferior fold-and-lock system
Shaw Resilient Vinyl Flooring
Shaw is serious about luxury vinyl plank flooring. The major company's offerings encompass the full gamut of the upper-end luxury vinyl plank market, including three different lines named DuraTru, Floorté, and Floorté Pro. Within each of these lines you will find between four and 12 color or species variations.
Be prepared for Shaw's products to cost just a bit more, but it may be worth the price. Since luxury vinyl's quality is often based on its thickness, you'll find that Shaw's luxury vinyl plank flooring lines are all at least 5 mm thick, or about 0.197 of an inch thick. Additionally, Shaw's wear layers are a full 20 mil thick, or about 0.02 of an inch thick.
Top vs. Wear Layers
Know your layers when it comes to luxury vinyl plank flooring. Be aware of these two measurements that are often confused with each other:
- The top layer is the known as the plank thickness. The plank thickness is measured in mm (one thousandths of a meter).
- The wear layer is sandwiched between the printed design and the urethane finish. It is what determines how well the flooring will hold up over time. The wear layer is measured in mil (one thousandth of an inch).
Armstrong Luxe Plank: Vivero
Armstrong has long been a top manufacturer of floor coverings. Its major vinyl plank line is called Luxe Plank. Along with its large selection of luxury vinyl planks—currently, 108 species replicas—Armstrong makes your purchase decision simple by splintering its products into three quality designations: Good, Better, and Best.
Most of Armstrong's wood-style planks address safe, crowd-pleasing favorites like maple, oak, walnut, and jatoba. In the Best category, Luxe includes trendy wood treatments like weathered barn wood and amendoim, a type of Brazilian oak.
Armstrong's luxury vinyl plank flooring uses a self-stick adhesive called FasTak to join the boards, whether alone or in conjunction with a click-and-lock function. Unlike flooring adhesives of the past, FasTak is a lower-tack, pressure-sensitive adhesive that can be repositioned a number of times.
Mannington Adura Rigid Plank
Mannington's Adura brand of luxury vinyl plank flooring is an industry mainstay. If you like tradition served up with your luxury vinyl, take a look at Adura.
Adura stands out as a cost-effective way to add quality luxury vinyl plank flooring to your home. The luxury vinyl plank flooring measures 4 inches wide by 36 inches long dimensions with a 4 mm or greater thickness. Adura's teaks, oaks, and maples are solid, basic replica wood species that are ideal for your moderately priced kitchen remodel, basement finishing, kids' bedroom, or second bathroom.
Mannington has added Adura Rigid to its rigid-core vinyl plank selection. The line includes full planks that are 6 inches wide by 48 inches long with micro-beveled edges and comes in numerous dark, soothing colors.
While the Adura Rigid Plank series is not its largest collection, it offers about 46 different wood species replicas with complex and true-to-life embossing. Adura Rigid is adequately thick at 5 1/2 mm.
Lumber Liquidators CoreLuxe Ultra
Shaw, Armstrong, and Mannington represent the flooring industry's old guard, but two decades ago, Lumber Liquidators became the disruptive upstart. Lumber Liquidators still markets products a bit differently and it's that rebellious quality that brings customers into their stores. You'll find flash sales, fall parking lot sales, grab-bag mystery products that simply go under the name Major Brand, and inexpensive clearance products.
Lumber Liquidators' best house brand for luxury vinyl plank flooring is CoreLuxe Ultra 7 mm. Lumber Liquidators calls its rigid core vinyl plank engineered vinyl plank (EVP). Currently, its selection of 7 mm CoreLuxe is limited to only 14 wood species, but some of the species are head-turners, like the heavily striated Timber Wolf Pine EVP, as well as its three whitewashed, aged plank products.
Lumber Liquidators carries its major house brand, called Tranquility. The luxury vinyl plank flooring is inexpensive, offering 5 mm thickness in planks that are 7 inches wide by 48 inches long. Even the most expensive Tranquility is still half the price of Shaw and Armstrong luxury vinyl plank products.
You'll find plenty of ultra-thin luxury vinyl plank flooring here. Lumber Liquidators carries luxury vinyl plank flooring (not EVP) that ranges to the almost unheard of thickness of 1.3 mm. While you may not want to install ultra-thin luxury vinyl flooring in the most visible rooms of your primary residence, the drastically low price may be a tempting option for fast installation in an outbuilding, rental, beach vacation house, or even as a temporary floor for an ongoing remodeling project.
Karndean Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring
Unlike the other manufacturers, Karndean is not a household name in the United States. Well-known to buyers in the United Kingdom for over four decades, Karndean has slowly been making inroads nationwide in recent years.
But Karndean wants to make one thing perfectly clear: its products are not mass-market, ultra-cheap, or boring. When you install Karndean flooring, it is assumed that you do not mind paying a bit more for luxury vinyl flooring that looks better and installs a bit differently than most other luxury vinyl plank products on the market.
Karndean offers unique wood parquet-look vinyl flooring that looks strikingly similar to the real wood product. Karndean tends to stay close to classic looks like lush oaks and maples, all in planks that are 4 1/2 mm thicknesses or more, with 20 mil wear layers.
Its products use a method of installation unique to Karndean, called Loose Lay. It doesn't rely on click-and-lock or adhesives to join the planks. Instead, Loose Lay's planks friction-grip the floor with a heavy, soft backing. Planks butt directly against skirt boards on the perimeter and against each other. This smooth method of laying vinyl plank flooring helps you avoid those inevitable bumps and ridges that develop from planks that refuse to click or fold into place.