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Vinyl Flooring: The Ultimate Guide

By Frank Jossi Rise Writer
Sep 20, 2021

For decades consumers have sought less expensive alternatives for wood floors. With wood's comfort, look, appeal, and durability, vinyl flooring is a popular choice for many homeowners.

Vinyl flooring is similar to laminate flooring with a crucial distinction. With just a handful of exceptions, vinyl flooring is almost entirely composed of plastic materials. But unlike laminate flooring, nearly none of it is derived from recycled materials. We already studied the advantages and disadvantages of laminate flooring. Let's explore vinyl plank flooring, which is an affordable but perhaps not a truly sustainable option.

Table of Contents

  1. What Is Vinyl Plank Flooring?
  2. How Is Vinyl Plank Flooring Made?
  3. Is Vinyl Plank Flooring Bad for the Environment?
  4. How Long Does Vinyl Plank Flooring Last?
  5. Is Vinyl Flooring Expensive?
  6. How Much Does It Cost to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring ?
  7. Are There Different Types of Vinyl Flooring?
  8. Does Vinyl Flooring Come In Different Sizes?
  9. What Is The Wear Layer on Vinyl Flooring?
  10. Is It Easy to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring?
  11. Which Way Should Vinyl Flooring Be Laid For Installation?
  12. What Should You Use To Cut Vinyl?
  13. Is Vinyl Plank Flooring Easy to Remove?
  14. What Is the Best Way to Clean Vinyl Plank Flooring?
  15. How Do You Repair Vinyl Plank Flooring?
Vinyl Flooring Close-up

What Is Vinyl Plank Flooring?

Vinyl flooring debuted in the 1970s and has grown a significant share of the flooring market over the decades. Manufacturers create the flooring, starting with a bottom layer of floor felt covering a thicker fiberglass section composed of polyvinyl chloride resins (PVC). Melted and combined with stabilizers and fungicides, the resins form the core of vinyl flooring.

Atop the resin layer, manufacturers add another decorative sheet embossed with the floor pattern. Finally, a transparent wear layer protects the flooring from spills, scratches, and other damage. Typically, vinyl flooring comes with a 3/8" thickness but vinyl tile and vinyl sheets thin from 1/8" to 3/16."

How Is Vinyl Plank Flooring Made?

Vinyl comes in two types, printed, sometimes called roto vinyl, and inlaid. Manufacturers print patterns on a paper topcoat positioned on a thin vinyl layer. Then they cover it with a wear protection layer. Inlaid vinyl applies vinyl granules that seep up through to the wear surface. The process saturates the vinyl, making it more durable and long-lasting.

Harbinger Vinyl Flooring
Harbinger Vinyl Plank Flooring. Photo Credit: Harbinger

Is Vinyl Plank Flooring Bad for the Environment?

Understanding the manufacturing process leads to the question of whether vinyl flooring, primarily composed of plastic, qualifies as "sustainable." Unlike laminate, vinyl flooring sometimes includes recycled PVC. Despite less environmentally materials, the vinyl industry seeks to reduce its environmental impact in several ways.

The Vinyl Sustainability Council works with members to divert 1.1 billion pounds of vinyl from landfills for repurposing, feedstock, and other uses. The council reports the vinyl industry has reduced emissions by 84% since the 1980s. Nor does the industry use cadmium or lead.

One type of vinyl planking includes recycled plastic composites and recycled wood pulp. Wood Plastic Composite (WPC) forms the core of some vinyl flooring and carries the same attributes as other vinyl products – it's affordable, waterproof, quiet, waterproof, and comfortable to walk on. Study the different brands to determine which one incorporates the most post-consumer waste into vinyl sheets and boards.

It should also be mentioned that vinyl flooring can release VOCs into your home due to its chemical makeup. It is, however, much less of an issue than with vinyl sheet flooring. If you notice an odor, boards can be left in the garage to off-gas before installation.

Vinyl flooring is often recyclable. However, finding facilities that recycle it can be pretty challenging. Look for brands with take-back programs that will facilitate recycling their product at the end of life.

Armstrong Vinyl Flooring
Armstrong Luxe Vinyl Flooring. Photo Credit: Armstrong

How Long Does Vinyl Plank Flooring Last?

One of the benefits of vinyl flooring is longevity. The thicker the vinyl, the more durable the product, with 25-year warranties not uncommon for higher quality brands. Thinner vinyl plank flooring may last only ten years, especially in high trafficked areas such as entrances, kitchens, and great rooms. The product also suffers if homeowners do not take great care when moving heavy furniture.

Vinyl offers other pluses. It has a soft feel that consumers find comfortable to walk on and serves as a less destructive landing paid-for fallen dishware. The water-and-scratch-resistant flooring works well in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. Because it cleans easily, the plank flooring handles the abuse of being in high trafficked areas.

Is Vinyl Flooring Expensive?

The cost of vinyl varies based on thickness, quality, and type of flooring. Homeowners should expect to pay $2 to $7 per square foot, on average, for vinyl plank flooring. Some luxury brands range as high as $10 but come with added benefits such as durability, higher-end, or more environmentally friendly materials.

How Much Does It Cost to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring ?

Contractors peg the cost at $1 to $4 a square foot for installation. Laminate costs around the same amount, give or take. Hardwood runs from $5 to $10 per square foot. A 100-foot square foot basement room could run $2,000 to $7,000. One strategy might be to buy better vinyl to install in main rooms and entries and less on vinyl in basements, basement bathrooms, or rec rooms.

Are There Different Types of Vinyl Flooring?

Vinyl planking comes in a variety of styles that mimic not only wood but stone and other materials. Wood colors come in oak, walnut, hickory, ebony, white, and cherry. Manufacturers offer a wide variety of stone and tile decorative patterns to fit nearly any need.

Consumers can choose from several formats of vinyl. Vinyl plank offers peel and stick installation and remains the least expensive option. WPC and stone plastic composite vinyl (SPC) flooring provide a rigid core considerably harder than vinyl plank. Though they're similar, SPC is thinner, lasts longer, and offers better performance in rooms with high humidity and significant temperature changes. WPC provides more comfort and sound insulation.

Cashmere Finish WPC Vinyl Plank Flooring Overstock
Cashmere Finish WPC Vinyl Plank Flooring. Photo Credit: Overstock.com

Does Vinyl Flooring Come In Different Sizes?

Buyers of vinyl flooring will find three alternatives: Sheet, tile, and plank. Vinyl sheeting comes in 6 to 12 foot wide sections with an adhesive on the underside. Tile planks measure 12" by 18" or 12" by 12" and sometimes get categorized as "solid vinyl tile" or SVT.

Tiles and other forms of vinyl planking come as self-adhesive pieces that can be installed by do-it-yourselfers. Vinyl planks, like laminated planks, span 4" to 6" wide by 3 to 4 feet and get categorized as luxury vinyl tile (LVT). These products offer the highest quality and most realistic replication of wood flooring.

What Is The Wear Layer on Vinyl Flooring?

Buyers should also pay attention to the wear layer. Vinyl no-wax, a clear vinyl top coating, is less durable and needs polishing to stay fresh. Urethane-coated finishes provide outstanding resistance to daily wear and stains, with no polish ever required. More sophisticated coatings, such as aluminum oxide, offer excellent protection.

Installing Vinyl Plank Flooring

Is It Easy to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring?

Start by calculating your room's total square footage. How? Multiply the length and width of the floor. Study vinyl flooring packaging to see how many square feet each box covers before unwrapping it and allowing 24 hours before installation as it acclimates to the room temperature. Buy a bit more than you need just in case of mistakes or other problems.

Next, remove existing floors and check to ensure your subfloor is level. Make repairs if necessary. Remove all baseboards and vacuum the installation area. Gather the equipment you will need: Measuring tape, a sharp utility knife, marker, spacers, chalk, tapping block, level, T-Square, tile cutter if needed, jigsaw, brad nailer, and finishing molding.

Which Way Should Vinyl Flooring Be Laid For Installation?

Figure out how many planks or vinyl pieces you need to cover the width of your room. Lay them out from the widest side of the room, starting from the left and moving right. Most vinyl flooring boards have jutting lips. Cover the lips with each new board you lay. If the flooring has a tongue and groove, you can snap it together.

Vinyl pieces have a peel and stick adhesive or snap together via a tongue and groove system. Take care to measure when applying either of these systems. A handful of products require using glue to a floor with a roller before arranging planks. Again, take care to measure well. YouTube features lots of good vinyl installation videos, including this one.

Cutting Vinyl Plank Flooring

What Should You Use To Cut Vinyl?

Use an industrial strength utility knife, not the more common box cutting varieties. You can use a miter saw for thicker vinyl pieces but wear protective earwear and a face mask. For vinyl tiles, a vinyl tile cutter works best. Other options include laminate and vinyl floor cutters and specialized floor cutting saws.

Is Vinyl Plank Flooring Easy to Remove?

If your vinyl flooring was installed before 1980, it likely has asbestos. In that case, you should put new vinyl on top of it or get a professional to remove it. For more recent vinyl, start by clearing the area. Remove trim around the perimeter by using a trim puller. And take out anything keeping the floor in place, such as molding. Then cut a line down the middle of the floor, an area without adhesive. Begin cutting pieces into 12-inch squares and rolling them up for disposal. After removing those sections, use a scraper to loosen adhesive materials. A heat gun can help eliminate stubborn pieces. Sweep up and vacuum the debris before installing a new floor.


What Is the Best Way to Clean Vinyl Plank Flooring?

Cleaning and caring for vinyl flooring does not take a great deal of expense. Daily cleaning requires just a broom, sweeper, vacuum, or dust sweeper. Don't bother with beater bars on vacuums. A hand mop with a bit of water mixed with vinegar or a cleaner specially created for vinyl flooring – plenty exist – also does the trick. Avoid abrasive cleaners because they can mar the surface.

How Do You Repair Vinyl Plank Flooring?

If a cut happens to your vinyl floor, keep the area clean and cover it up. You do not have to replace a damaged area with a new plank or tile. You can remove the damaged section and clean beneath it. Match the pattern with a piece of vinyl scrap before gluing it into the floor.

Vinyl Plank Coretec Cordova Oak Avalon Flooring
Vinyl Plank Coretec Cordova Oak. Photo Credit: Avalon Flooring

Vinyl flooring is an affordable choice for those looking for a durable and attractive flooring product. Vinyl creates a floor soft enough to walk barefoot and can still take the wear and tear from young children and pets. But, it has drawbacks related to materials and potential off-gassing. As a buyer, you must decide whether the pros outweigh the cons for you and your family.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2024-01-29T14:17:11+0000
Frank Jossi

Article by:

Frank Jossi

Based in St. Paul, Frank Jossi is a journalist, editor and content strategist. He covers clean energy in Minnesota for Midwest Energy News and writes frequently for Finance & Commerce. His work has appeared in more than 70 local, national and international publications.