When you think about luxury vinyl floors, what comes to mind? If you’re like many of the homeowners I talk to about LVT flooring, you harken back to those long-lost days of being a 70s, 80s, or 90s kid sliding across the “linoleum” kitchen floor in your socks. What we called linoleum back then was usually sheet vinyl, or later, adhesive-backed vinyl tiles.
The adhesive back made it a popular DIY project, and many a handy person cut out the shape of the bathroom in the vinyl (to varying degrees of accuracy) and carefully laid it into position (also with varying degrees of accuracy.)
Before we dive into the most comprehensive guide on luxury vinyl flooring on the Internet, let’s take a few moments for a stroll down memory lane as we recall the history and evolution of vinyl flooring in pictures:
Do you recognize any of these? Well, luxury vinyl flooring has come a long way, baby, and we’re here to tell you all about it.
What is LVT flooring?
Luxury vinyl flooring, more commonly known as LVT flooring, is soaring in popularity these days. Luxury vinyl tile and plank flooring look nearly indistinguishable from real hardwood and stone floors until you get painfully close with your naked eye.
Because of its incredible photorealism, and the authentic way it feels underfoot, the market for luxury vinyl flooring has grown at double-digit rates for the past few years, according to the current issue of Floor Covering News. And we’re seeing it here at Lifetime Hardwood Floors. More and more frequently, homeowners, rental property owners, and business owners are asking about luxury vinyl flooring, but they often have it confused with other flooring types, like vinyl and laminate flooring.
So here, we demystify LVT flooring so you can make the right choice for your home or business.
What is the difference between LVT flooring and LVP flooring?
Technically, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) refers to luxury vinyl flooring products that resemble ceramic or stone tile. And technically, luxury vinyl plank (LVP) refers to luxury vinyl that looks like real wood planks.
But their acronyms — and the terms “LVT flooring” and “LVP flooring” — are widely used to refer to both plank and tile luxury vinyl flooring products. Because these terms are so commonly interchangeably used, there’s some confusion over their differences. But the only real difference is in what material they’re made to look like.
What is the difference between vinyl and LVT flooring?
Sheet vinyl flooring became popular after WWII, because it was considered more modern, more durable, and easier to maintain than the linoleum flooring that was commonly used at the time.
Luxury vinyl flooring was developed in the 1970s to improve upon the realistic appearance of the design layer, and today, it has come even farther — it’s thicker and more durable, and it’s easier to install.
LVT flooring is next-generation vinyl flooring that’s made to look just like natural tile or stone — It’s hard to tell the difference without looking closely — but it’s more practical, less expensive, and easier to care for.
Vinyl flooring and LVT flooring are made of the same material — vinyl, obviously. They also have the same four layers:
- Backing layer. This is the bottom layer, made with sound-absorbing materials and a textured grip to help it strongly adhere to the subfloor.
- Fill layer. This layer provides stability and prevents indentations from heavy furniture.
- Print layer. The print layer holds the design. Manufacturers of LVT use realistic, 3D images that look just like ceramic, stone, or wood.
- Wear layer. The wear layer is a top-coat that protects the print layer from damage like scratches, gouges, and fading. Aluminum oxide is an extremely durable topcoat used on LVT.
So what sets LVT flooring apart from vinyl flooring? Well, it’s all in the amounts of materials used. Standard vinyl flooring is around a millimeter thick, which makes it vulnerable to damage. Luxury vinyl flooring uses more material to create a better-looking and more durable floor.
Overall, LVT flooring is around five times thicker than standard vinyl flooring, and the extra thickness is what makes it look and feel more like real stone or wood underfoot — and makes it a lot more durable — than traditional vinyl.
What are the pros of LVT flooring?
LVT flooring has a number of benefits over other types of flooring. These are some of the advantages of LVT flooring:
It’s easy to install.
LVT is installed in one of two ways: with glue or as a floating floor. Glue-down LVT…. Floating…. The ease of installation makes it a much faster job than installing hardwood, stone, or tile floors.
It’s super comfortable.
The surface of LVT is softer than wood and stone, which makes it more comfortable underfoot. It’s warmer on the feet than wood and stone, too, making a great choice for cold climates.
It dampens sound.
Luxury vinyl tile reduces sound, which makes it ideal for both commercial and home applications.
Hardwood and tile floors are more expensive to buy and install than LVT, and they cost more to properly maintain. The highest-end luxury vinyl flooring is even more economical than the lowest-end hardwood floors and natural stone and ceramic tiles.
LVT won’t chip or crack like tile, and it won’t scratch easily like hardwood. It’s resistant to stains and scuffs.
Some versions of luxury vinyl flooring feature a slip-resistant coating that helps prevent falls, making it ideal for commercial buildings, hospitals, nursing homes, and homes with elderly occupants.
Since LVT is moisture-resistant, it’s ideal for damp or humid spaces, like the basement, bathrooms, or kitchen. Many luxury vinyl flooring options are completely waterproof.
Some newer LVT flooring options are manufactured to channel static electricity away from the surface of the floor by sending it down through the flooring material.
LVT and LVP are available in a huge variety of colors, patterns, shapes, and sizes. LVT can realistically mimic any species or color of wood in any plank width, and LVP can look like any type or color of stone or ceramic tile. So you get the look of natural stone or wood without the expense.
LVT is built to last, and it meets LEED and WELL certifications standards for sustainability. It’s manufactured without phthalate plasticizers, which are terrible for the environment.
What are the cons of LVT flooring?
LVT flooring isn’t all rainbows and cupcakes. Here are a few of the disadvantages of luxury vinyl tile:
It’s not indestructible.
Luxury vinyl flooring is resistant to damage, but that’s not to say it can’t be damaged. It can get scratched or scuffed by dragging heavy furniture across the floor or dropping a heavy, sharp object. But it’s less prone to scratches and scuffs than hardwood floors — and you can remove a single damaged luxury vinyl tile or plank and replace it with a new one.
Installation requires a lot of prep.
Luxury vinyl flooring installation requires a very level subfloor. If the subfloor is uneven, LVT and LVP won’t line up properly. A poorly prepared subfloor ruins the look of the LVT flooring.
It won’t increase your home’s value
Although luxury vinyl flooring is, indeed, luxurious, it won’t improve the value of your home like hardwood or tile floors can. If you’re looking for flooring that will increase your home’s value for the long-term, hardwood flooring is your best option.
Is LVT flooring a good choice for commercial use?
LVT flooring is an excellent choice for businesses. It’s easy to clean and requires little maintenance. It’s durable enough to handle heavy traffic, affordable enough for even very large spaces, and attractive enough to give your business the vibe you want, from warm fashion boutique to large medical clinic.
What is the best luxury vinyl flooring?
Luxury vinyl flooring is manufactured by a number of brands. Some LVT flooring brands offer a product that’s well-made with high quality materials and keen attention to detail. Other brands, not so much.
One of our personal favorites at Lifetime Hardwood Floors is Evoke, which makes high quality, 5mm-thick luxury vinyl planks and also offers vinyl composite core flooring, including SPC and WPC — but those are for another article.
Should you install LVT flooring yourself or hire a professional?
While LVT is a pretty straightforward DIY project, it can easily go wrong, leaving you with a shaggy looking floor. The thing about LVT is, you’ve got to do the prep work properly. If the subfloor isn’t perfectly level, it’ll create visual and structural problems with the floor.
If you’re not a fairly experienced handy person, it’s in your best interest to hire a professional to install your LVT flooring to make sure your investment pays off in durability, strength, and good looks! Here are just a few of the LVT flooring projects Lifetime Hardwood Floors has worked on in the past couple of months:
Lifetime Hardwood Floors Does Luxury Vinyl Flooring Right
Lifetime Hardwood Floors is known for our impeccable prep work and attention to detail. We install LVT and LVP flooring in southwest Iowa and the Omaha area — and we do it right, every time, guaranteed.
If you’re looking for the look and vibe of wood or stone floors but you want something more affordable and less maintenance-heavy than wood or stone, LVT flooring is your man. Contact Lifetime Hardwood Floors today for a free consultation and quote, and we’ll help you make your home a beautiful haven, much like we did with Sabrina D.: