Invented during the 1930s, vinyl flooring first made an impact on the architectural world in the years following World War II. By the 1950s, it was a very popular flooring material and had all but surpassed linoleum’s position as the best low-cost water-resistant flooring option for locations such as bathrooms and kitchens.
A variety of desirable characteristics continues to make this versatile flooring material a popular option to this day. However, there are some drawbacks to using this material in your home. Consider both the merits and drawbacks when deciding if resilient vinyl is the choice for you.
Types of Resilient Vinyl Flooring
There are several categories of vinyl flooring, and while all are grouped under the label "resilient," they have very different methods of installation and some different merits.
- Resilient sheet vinyl: This is the most common form, consisting of a thin flexible sheets of vinyl bonded with a printed design and transparent wear layer. Sheet vinyl comes in 6- or 12-foot wide rolls, which means that the flooring can be laid with very few seams. This makes it the best (and cheapest) form of vinyl for wet locations, such as bathrooms. Sheet vinyl is normally installed with a glue-down bond, although there are some forms that are installed with just a perimeter bond.
- Resilient vinyl tiles: This product is largely the same as sheet vinyl, except it is sold in boxes of square pieces, which are either glued down with troweled-on adhesive or by a pre-applied adhesive exposed when a peel-off backing is removed.
- Luxury vinyl: This is quite a different material, a thicker, semi-rigid form of flooring that is manufactured in either long planks (known as LVP, or luxury vinyl planks) or tiles (known as LVT, or luxury vinyl tiles). Marketed as rigid-core vinyl by some manufacturers, these products are made with relatively thick layers that give the flooring some rigidity. Either way, luxury vinyl tiles or planks are usually floating floors that snap together at the edges and rest over an underlayment with no glue-down bond. Of all the forms of vinyl flooring, this is the most prestigious, and in the right application, it can actually add real estate value to a home. The plank forms generally are manufactured to resemble wood, while the tile forms are made to resemble ceramic or stone tile.
Resilient Vinyl Flooring Cost
At the low range, vinyl can cost as little as $.50 per square foot, and most never exceed moderate cost levels. At big-box home improvement centers, for example, it is rare to pay more than $1 to $2 per square foot for sheet vinyl. Costs are similar for standard vinyl tiles—a little more for the peel-and-stick variety.
At the high-end, luxury vinyl flooring can cost as much as $10 per square foot, though this is still less expensive than premium flooring choices, such as stone. At big-box home improvement centers, most of the luxury vinyl flooring ranges from $3 to $5 per square foot. The difference in price of resilient vinyl flooring is governed by the quality of the material and the design options found on the surface.
Professional installation of vinyl flooring is fairly inexpensive, since it is uncomplicated and fast. Flooring installation pros generally bid their work by the square foot, which can range from $1 to $3 per square foot, which is added to the cost of the materials. Where the labor bid falls within this range depends on how much labor is anticipated. An easy material such as sheet vinyl laid over a perfectly flat underlayment can cost $1 per square foot or even less, while a job that features a more complicated flooring like vinyl planks, or one that requires a lot of subfloor preparation, can add $3 per square foot to the cost, or even more.
Sheet vinyl costs about $3 per square foot for materials plus installation, vinyl tile averages about $5.50 per square foot, and luxury vinyl planks or tiles averages about $7 per square foot.
Watch Now: 7 Things To Consider Before You Get Vinyl Flooring
Maintenance and Repair
Vinyl flooring is relatively easy to care for. You have to make sure that grit and dirt are kept swept free to maintain the surface of the floor. Then, you can use a damp mop and an approved vinyl floor cleaner to remove stains. Few flooring options are as easy to care for as vinyl.
Printed vinyl tiles and sheets, as well as luxury vinyl tiles and planks, have a clear wear layer that acts as a surface barrier, protecting the floor from stains and spills. These materials are very easy to clean and maintain. While vinyl is generally resistant to stains, it is susceptible to discoloration when it comes in contact with rubber. Mats that have a rubber backing, or rubber shoe heels that scuff against the floor, can cause a chemical reaction in the material that can permanently discolor it.
As with any building material, the durability of vinyl flooring varies according to its quality. High-quality vinyl will be extremely durable, while low-quality material will be susceptible to rips and tears. Unfortunately, vinyl flooring cannot be refinished, so when it is damaged it needs to be removed and replaced.
A well-installed vinyl floor is almost impervious to water penetration, making this the perfect material for use in a bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, or other high moisture space in the home. It is also a perfectly serviceable flooring material for mudrooms and some recreation spaces. Luxury vinyl tiles or planks with a convincing look of wood or stone can even be used successfully in more formal rooms.
With literally hundreds of color and pattern options, you have a good chance of finding a vinyl flooring material that produces exactly the look you want. But be aware that while good vinyl flooring in a kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room should have no negative impact on real estate appeal, it can seem cheap when installed in other rooms of your house. This is most true of standard sheet vinyl or tiles, but much less so with luxury vinyl. Well-chosen luxury vinyl planks can even add real estate value to your home, though it will never have the prestige of solid hardwood or natural stone flooring.
In some cases, low-quality vinyl flooring will yellow with age. Interaction with direct sunlight can fade the material, and dirt can become trapped beneath a wax layer on a vinyl floor, discoloring the material. However, high-quality modern vinyl floors have good resistance to this type of discoloration.
Vinyl Flooring Installation
Installation methods for vinyl flooring vary depending on the type. Sheet vinyl is normally laid out over the floor, cut to fit the space, then glued down with a troweled-on adhesive. Standard vinyl tiles are glued down one-by-one, either with troweled-on adhesive or by removing the protective backing on peel-and-stick tiles and pressing them down into place. Luxury vinyl planks or tiles are fitted into place one by one using a click-lock edge connection feature. Luxury vinyl usually "floats" over the underlayment, with no glue-down bond.
Whatever type of vinyl flooring you use, layout is critical to ensure that patterns and rows are square and symmetrical within the room. Careful measurement and planning are important. It is also critical that the subfloor is as flat and smooth as possible. Sheet vinyl and standard vinyl tile are relatively thin materials that can allow imperfections in the subfloor to "telegraph" through to the surface.
DIY installation is fairly easy for standard vinyl tiles and is certainly possible for luxury tile planks and tiles, which are installed in a manner similar to laminate flooring planks. Sheet vinyl, though, is surprisingly awkward to handle for DIYers, and it's often worth it to pay a little extra for professional installation, since pros do the work very quickly.
Top Brands of Resilient Vinyl Flooring
The major manufacturers offering vinyl flooring are nearly all familiar names to consumers:
- Armstrong: This industry giant offers a wide range of sheet vinyl (more than 200 options), luxury vinyl planks (well over 100 wood-look options, known as rigid-core flooring in Armstrong's vocabulary), and luxury vinyl tiles (also with more than 100 options in both wood-look and stone-look varieties). Their products are widely available both as specialty flooring stores and big-box home improvement retailers. This is one of the more affordable brands for vinyl flooring, and perhaps the most widely available.
- Mohawk: Originally best known for carpeting, Mohawk also offers more than 200 sheet vinyl products and nearly 300 luxury vinyl planks and tiles. CoreTec, a very well-regarded luxury vinyl line, sells for about $3 per square foot, making it one of the most affordable luxury vinyl options
- Shaw: This is another flooring giant that offers carpet, laminate, wood, and stone, as well as a good selection of sheet vinyl, standard vinyl tile, and luxury vinyl. Prices generally fall in the moderate range. The Coretec Plus line is a very well-reviewed line of luxury vinyl, but one that is also somewhat more expensive, costing up to $6.50 per square foot.
- Karndean: This company offers both glue-down tiles, as well as luxury vinyl flooring (marketed as rigid-core). This company is known for its very high-quality products that earn high marks in product reviews. Their products are sold mostly at specialty flooring stores and decor stores.
In addition, there are many proprietary brands of vinyl flooring, produced by other manufactures to be specific to particular chain retailers. For example, LifeProof is a proprietary brand for Home Depot, made by Halstead New England Industries, a well-respected manufacturer. Major chains generally do a good job of vetting their products, and you should have no qualms about buying products from these proprietary brands.
Comfort and Convenience
Vinyl does not get cold in the winter and it is generally softer beneath your feet than wood or ceramic tile floors. Some products also have a padded underlayer that can make walking on these floors even more comfortable.
The chemicals used in the manufacture of vinyl flooring can cause a toxic out-gassing to occur after the floor is installed. This can release volatile chemicals into a household, which may lead to respiratory problems, eye irritation, or asthma reactions, especially for people with pronounced sensitivities. The level of outgassing in a vinyl floor will be related to its chemical makeup and the age of the floor, as most outgassing occurs early on.
Vinyl flooring is not biodegradable and does not break down naturally into the environment in a short period of time. It is also very rarely recycled, which means that old, worn-out materials often end up taking up space in landfills. Vinyl floors also consume non-renewable natural resources such as petroleum and natural gas during the manufacturing process.
Is Resilient Vinyl Flooring Right for You?
Vinyl flooring is an excellent choice in rooms where moisture-resistance and easy cleanup is needed, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Vinyl is an economical flooring choice—and it is recognized as such by real estate professionals. In most cases, this is not a flooring that will add real estate value to your home. An exception is luxury vinyl, which has more prestige than standard sheet vinyl and is a better choice if high-end appearance is important to you. But be aware that this is not a "green" choice if you are concerned about the environment.