For years, sheet vinyl flooring was regarded as the very best choice for locations where moisture- and stain-resistance was an issue, such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, and kitchens. But standard vinyl is made from a very thin layer of vinyl printed with a design layer and covered with protective coating; it is prone to gouging and tearing, and it can feel quite hard underfoot, especially if it is installed over concrete.
In response to this, manufacturers created a new form of vinyl, known as luxury vinyl flooring, or LVF. Luxury vinyl flooring is sold in semi-rigid planks (LVP) or tiles (LVT) and is installed using the same click-lock interlocking edges that are found in laminate flooring. Although luxury vinyl was introduced in the 1970s, it was not until the 1980s that it really took off as a flooring material. Today, it is challenging laminate flooring as the best second-tier choice after hardwood and ceramic or stone tiles.
Standard Vinyl vs. Luxury Vinyl Flooring: Major Differences
Standard vinyl flooring is sold either in flexible sheets or in square tiles. Standard vinyl consists of a thin backing layer of felt or fiberglass, to which a thin layer of solid vinyl is bonded. This vinyl layer is printed with a design, then covered with a transparent protective coating. Standard vinyl is flexible and quite thin, with a wear layer of only 10 to 15 mil (10/1000 to 15/1000 of an inch).
Luxury vinyl is a much different type of flooring, though it contains the same PVC vinyl as standard vinyl flooring. Luxury vinyl is sold in multi-ply planks or tiles with wear layers that range from 2 to 8 mm in thickness (roughly 8/100 to 3/10 of an inch thick). This makes luxury vinyl planks considerably thicker than standard vinyl, giving it a semi-rigid nature.
Luxury vinyl is made with six to eight layers of material, including a clear top-coat layer to add shine, a clear wear layer to protect the design, a design layer with the printed image, a cushion layer of foam to make the floor comfortable to walk on, a fiberglass backing layer, and solid PVC backing layer to add strength and rigidity. Stone-look luxury vinyl sometimes includes ground mineral content in its composition, usually pulverized limestone.
|Standard Vinyl Flooring||Luxury Vinyl Flooring|
|Cost||.50 to $2 per square foot||$2 to $7 per square foot|
|Thickness||Very thin||Thicker, more rigid construction|
|Dimensions||6- or 12-foot rolls; 6- to 18-inch square tiles||4 1/2 x 48 inch planks; 12- to 18-inch square tiles|
|Installation Method||Usually uses full-glue-down bond||Usually used click-lock edge joints; floating installation|
|Durability||Lasts 10 to 15 years||Can last as much as 25 yeawrs|
|Real Estate Value||Seen as "bargain" flooring||Considered more prestigious|
Standard vinyl sheet flooring or tiles traditionally have aimed at resembling ceramic or stone tile, though there are many, many designs patterns and colors available—including those that look like wood. But because the wear layer is a smooth, solid surface, the simulated cracks between "planks" are usually not very convincing with standard vinyl flooring.
Luxury vinyl planks (LVP) are usually designed to simulate the look of wood, as is most laminate flooring, while luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) are usually designed to simulate stone or ceramic tiles. The newest forms of luxury vinyl are quite convincing, giving laminates a good challenge as the most successful at mimicking the look of wood. Hundreds of colors and styles are now available.
Best for Appearance: Luxury Vinyl
Luxury vinyl planks or tiles are more realistic when it comes to mimicking the look of ceramic or stone tile, or wood.
Water and Heat Resistance
Both types of vinyl flooring have excellent resistance to water since the materials themselves are entirely waterproof. Both types of vinyl flooring make good choices for bathrooms, kitchens, and other wet locations.
Sheet vinyl may have a slight edge here, as it has fewer seams that can allow water to penetrate to the subfloor.
Luxury vinyl is a completely synthetic material that it impervious to water damage, but the many seams between tiles or planks make it possible for water to seep down to the underlayment.
Best for Water and Heat Resistance: Standard Vinyl
Standard sheet vinyl holds a slight edge over luxury vinyl since it has fewer seams for water to penetrate. Both types of vinyl flooring tolerate normal heat, such as direct exposure to sunlight, but they do not bear up well under extreme heat. This is not a good flooring material to place beneath a water heater or near a furnace, and beware of dropping hot skillets or heating appliances onto a vinyl floor.
Care and Cleaning
Both standard vinyl and luxury vinyl are cleaned using the same methods. Sweeping or vacuuming should be done each day, and spills and stains should be wiped up immediately. Once a week or so, damp mop the floor with warm (not hot) water mixed with a mild soap. Unlike old resilient linoleum floors, these do not require sealers or waxes, as these can dull the shiny wear layer.
Best for Care and Cleaning: Tie
Neither type of vinyl floor holds any advantage when it comes to care and cleaning.
Durability and Maintenance
Standard vinyl flooring is a fairly soft surface that can be susceptible to dents, scratches, and tears. Repairs to a damaged surface are hard to make convincing, and most people end up replacing or covering over the flooring once the wear becomes pronounced.
Luxury vinyl is somewhat more durable since its wear layer is usually thicker. Moreover, when a plank becomes damaged, the flooring can be disassembled in order to replace the damaged plank. Luxury vinyl can fade over time if it gets too much direct sunlight, so manufacturers often recommend shading windows to prevent this.
Best for Durability and Maintenance: Luxury Vinyl
There is a thicker wear layer on most luxury vinyl flooring products, giving it more durability. And its easier to repair luxury vinyl.
Standard sheet vinyl is usually installed with a full glue-down bond that secures the flooring to the underlayment. Some types can be installed with a perimeter glue bond that secures the flooring only around the edges and along the seams. Standard vinyl tile is always secured with a glue-down bond.
Luxury vinyl planks or tiles are generally installed with a click-clock system by which the edges of the planks or tiles interlock. These floors float over the subfloor, which no glue-down bond necessary. Some forms of luxury vinyl also offer a glue-down option for certain circumstances.
Best for Installation: Luxury Vinyl
Luxury vinyl is usually easier for DIYers to install. Standard vinyl sheets can be awkward to handle and are normally installed by professionals.
Standard vinyl is quite affordable, with per-square-foot costs for materials ranging from $.50 to $2 per square foot when purchased at big-box home improvement centers. Professional installation costs for vinyl flooring are fairly affordable since the work generally goes quickly. Plan on adding $1 to $2 per square foot for professional installation.
Luxury vinyl purchased from the same outlets generally runs $2 to $4 per square foot. Designer styles of luxury vinyl purchased at specialty flooring stores can cost as much as $7 per square foot or even more. Many homeowners choose to install luxury vinyl themselves, as DIY installation is fairly easy.
Best for Cost: Standard Vinyl
Raw materials costs are lower for standard vinyl flooring, but the advantage narrows if you choose to install luxury vinyl flooring as a DIY project.
Standard vinyl flooring has an anticipated life expectancy of about 10 years, though better types may last as much as 15 years.
Luxury vinyl is more durable, generally lasting 20 to 25 years if it is well cared for.
Best for Lifespan: Luxury Vinyl
As a thicker, heavier material, luxury vinyl flooring generally lasts considerably longer than standard sheet vinyl.
Standard sheet vinyl comes in 6- or 12-foot-wide rolls. Tiles are generally 9 to 18 inches square.
Luxury vinyl flooring usually comes in either plank or tile form. Typical plank size is 48 in. x 4 1/2 inches. Typical tile size is 16 x 16 inches, though smaller and larger sizes are also available.
Best for Sizes: Tie
There is no notable size advantage of one type of vinyl flooring over the other.
Standard sheet vinyl flooring is usually seen as a bargain flooring material, and it does nothing to improve real estate value.
Luxury vinyl gets the nod over standard vinyl when it comes to real estate value.
Luxury vinyl planks or tiles do not have the cachet of solid hardwood or of ceramic or stone tile in most instances, but the latest luxury vinyl offerings are at least comparable—and perhaps better—than laminate flooring.
Best for Resale Value: Luxury Vinyl
Luxury vinyl planks or tiles will almost always carry more resale value than standard vinyl flooring.
Comfort and Sound
Sheet vinyl is a very thin material that can be quite hard and cold underfoot, especially when installed over concrete subfloors.
Because it is a thicker product, luxury vinyl feels somewhat softer underfoot and has better sound-blocking properties than standard vinyl flooring. This is especially true of luxury vinyl with cork or foam underlayment layers built into the product. Top-quality luxury vinyl is often superior to laminate flooring for comfort.
Best for Comfort and Sound: Luxury Vinyl
Luxury vinyl has the edge over standard vinyl flooring when it comes to underfoot comfort and sound transmission.
If you can afford it, luxury vinyl flooring is usually a better choice than standard vinyl by most categories of comparison. But standard vinyl might be preferable if you are on a tight budget, or for rooms such as family baths or utility laundry rooms, where its seamless construction makes for a totally waterproof floor.
Most major manufacturers of vinyl flooring now offer both standard vinyl sheets and tiles, as well as luxury vinyl planks and tiles. Major players in the vinyl flooring category include familiar big names:
- Armstrong: In addition to a full line of sheet vinyl and luxury vinyl planks and tiles, Armstrong offers a good line of "engineered" tiles, which combine luxury vinyl with pulverized mineral content, usually limestone.
- Shaw: This company offers a full range of premium-quality standard sheet vinyl as well as luxury vinyl planks and tiles.
- Mohawk: Offering an impressive selection of nearly 600 styles, Mohawk produces both standard sheet vinyl and luxury vinyl planks and tiles.
- COREtec: This company specialized in luxury vinyl only, both planks and tiles. These are more expensive products, at $6 to $8 per square foot, but COREtec uses a unique construction that features a cork underlayment layer that provides softness and good thermal insulation. Their products are known for easy, fool-proof installation.