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2024 Complete Guide To Luxury Vinyl Plank

Mother and Daughter Playing on Luxury Vinyl Plank Laundry Room Floor

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What is Luxury Vinyl Plank?

Vinyl flooring has undergone a lot of change in recent years. And none other than with luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring leading the charge. LVP has the look of hardwood but with the benefits of high durability, water resistance, and a more affordable price tag. There’s categories within the LVP space like Wood Plastic Composite (WPC) and Stone Plastic Composite (SPC), which we will dive into shortly. I hope this will provide insights to help you navigate the luxury Vinyl plank market. Which will in turn help you make the best choice for your space.

After you’re finished on this deep dive into luxury vinyl plank, you’ll be ready to tackle the purchase.  We’ve outlined that journey in our Process of Buying New Flooring Blog Post.

Luxury Vinyl Plank mimics natural materials like wood or stone with impressive realism. It consists of multiple layers: a wear layer on top, a luxury vinyl print layer, a core, and an underlayment. This multi-layer construction contributes to the durability of luxury vinyl plank. This makes it a popular choice for high-traffic areas. LVP is also very water resistant. This makes it perfect for water-prone environments like kitchens and bathrooms.

Wood Plastic Composite (WPC) vinyl plank flooring is a type of luxury vinyl flooring that features a core made of a wood plastic composite. This material is made by blending natural wood pulp with plastic. Which provides strength, stability, and comfort underfoot.

Alternatively, Stone Plastic Composite (SPC) vinyl plank flooring has a core composed of natural limestone powder, polyvinyl chloride, and stabilizers. This makes it incredibly durable and sturdy.  

Key Factors to Consider When Buying LVP

1. Wear Layer: The thickness of the wear layer plays an important role in the durability of luxury vinyl plank. The industry standard is between 6 to 20 mil (1 mil = 0.001 inch). Commercial spaces and high-traffic areas should opt for a thicker wear layer, while a thinner wear layer could be adequate for residential areas.

2. Vinyl Thickness: The overall thickness doesn’t necessarily mean it’s softer or more durable. It is a handy piece of information to have when comparing options. The wear layer is more important than the overall thickness in terms of durability.

3. Design: Luxury vinyl plank is known for its realistic designs. The quality and resolution of the print layer can significantly impact how authentic the flooring looks.  Also the texture.  If you want a smooth texture or Embossed in Register (EIR).

4. Installation: Consider the installation method suitable for your space and skills. In some cases, luxury vinyl plank can be installed as a floating floor (click-lock system) or glued down, each with its own pros and cons.

5. Price: Luxury vinyl plank flooring is generally cost-effective compared to hardwood or stone. Prices can vary based on the quality, design, and brand.

6. Finish: This applies to the type of finish that’s applied and can assist in its durability. Not all 20 mil wear layer’s are created equal. A 20 mil wear layer treated with Shaw’s ExoGuard finish will outperform others with a lesser finish.

7. Warranty: A solid warranty can be a good indicator of the product’s quality. Look for a product with a comprehensive and long-term warranty.

The Construction of Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring

The distinctive characteristic of luxury vinyl plank is its layered construction. LVP typically consists of four main layers, from top to bottom:

1. Finish/UV Layer: The finish of a luxury vinyl plank (LVP) refers to the coating applied to its surface. Primarily for protection against wear and tear.

2. Wear Layer: The topmost layer is a clear, protective layer that provides resistance against scratches, stains, and scuffs. It determines the durability of the luxury vinyl plank, with thicker wear layers typically offering more protection. Commercial grade wear layers can be up to 20 mils thick, while residential wear layers range between 6 to 12 mils.

3. Print Layer: Beneath the wear layer lies the vinyl print layer, which shows the design of the flooring. It can imitate a variety of surfaces such as hardwood, stone, or ceramic, providing a realistic look at a fraction of the cost.

4. Vinyl Core/Stability Layer: This is the waterproof core layer made from standard LVP, WPC or SPC material. WPC cores are composed of wood pulp and plastic composites, making them thicker and more comfortable underfoot. SPC coress are composed of stone, plastic composites, and are thinner but more dense.

us wearlayer gddiagram

*Picture shows a cutaway of Karndean Design Flooring with their K-Guard+ Surface Protection.

LVP Finishes

Here are some of the common types of finishes applied to LVP:

1. Urethane Finish: Urethane, also known as polyurethane, is a commonly used finish on luxury vinyl plank. It offers a good balance of durability, scratch resistance, and affordability. Urethane finishes can be either oil-based or water-based. The oil-based variants offer higher durability but take longer to dry, while the water-based variants dry faster and are more environmentally friendly.

2. Ceramic Bead Finish: Some luxury vinyl plank manufacturers infuse their urethane finish with tiny ceramic beads to enhance durability and scratch resistance. The ceramic bead finish is tougher and more resistant to scratches and dents, making it a great choice for high-traffic areas. The ceramic beads also add a bit of texture to the surface, making the floor feel more like natural wood or stone.

3. Aluminum Oxide Finish: A finish that combines aluminum oxide particles with urethane or acrylic sealers creates one of the toughest finishes available for luxury vinyl plank. The tiny, hard aluminum oxide particles provide an excellent barrier against scratches, stains, and everyday wear and tear. This type of finish is often used in commercial-grade luxury vinyl plank and in residential spaces that see heavy foot traffic.

4. Enhanced Urethane Finish: This is a specific type of urethane finish that has been treated to offer better stain and scratch resistance. It requires less maintenance compared to standard urethane finishes, as it does not need to be waxed or polished as often.

5. Acrylic Finish: While not as common as urethane, some luxury vinyl plank come with an acrylic finish. These are often more affordable and offer decent protection against scratches and stains. They also tend to provide a glossier look, which some homeowners prefer.

Acclimation

Acclimation is an important step in the installation of many types of flooring, including some types of luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring. Acclimation is the process of allowing the flooring material to adjust to the temperature and humidity conditions of the installation site before laying it down.

For many types of flooring, especially natural materials like hardwood, failure to properly acclimate the flooring can lead to issues like gapping, warping, or buckling as the material expands and contracts in response to changes in temperature and humidity after installation.

However, one of the advantages of luxury vinyl plank flooring is that it’s much less susceptible to these types of issues. The synthetic materials used in luxury vinyl plank do not expand and contract to the same degree as natural materials, making them more stable and resistant to changes in environmental conditions.

That being said, it’s still a good idea to allow your luxury vinyl plank to acclimate to the installation site for a period of time before installing it. The specific acclimation time will depend on the manufacturer’s instructions, but a common recommendation is to let the material sit in the installation site for at least 48 hours prior to installation. This allows the luxury vinyl plank to adjust to the temperature and humidity of the room and can help ensure a more successful and trouble-free installation.

However, do note that some newer luxury vinyl plank products boast of requiring no acclimation time at all. This feature is often highlighted as it simplifies and speeds up the installation process. But it’s always a good idea to follow the specific recommendations of the manufacturer to ensure a successful installation and validate the product warranty.

Expansion Joints

When installing a floating floor, such as luxury vinyl plank, SPC, or WPC flooring, it’s crucial to leave a gap around the perimeter of the room. This gap, known as an expansion joint, allows the flooring to expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity. This natural movement is common in flooring materials and can be particularly notable in larger rooms.

Without an appropriate expansion joint, the planks may push against each other when they expand. This can result in issues like buckling, warping, or separation of the joints, damaging the flooring and affecting its longevity and appearance.

The specific size of the expansion gap will depend on the manufacturer’s instructions, the size of the room, and the specific product being used. A typical recommendation is to leave a gap of about 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch around all edges of the room, including around any fixed objects like columns or kitchen islands, and at doorways.

Expansion gaps are usually covered by molding or trim, such as baseboards or quarter round, so they won’t be visible once the floor is installed. For larger rooms, an expansion joint might also be needed in the middle of the floor. In this case, a T-molding or other suitable transition strip can be used to cover the gap.

It’s also worth noting that while most luxury vinyl plank flooring is designed to handle a reasonable range of temperature and humidity, extreme conditions can still cause problems. Therefore, it’s important to maintain a stable indoor environment as much as possible to protect your flooring.

Lastly, always follow the manufacturer’s specific installation guidelines for the product you’re using. Failure to do so could void the product warranty. 

Patterns

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Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP) flooring is quite versatile and can be installed in a variety of patterns, allowing you to customize your space to your aesthetic preferences. Here are some popular installation patterns:

1. Straight Lay: This is the simplest and most common installation pattern for luxury vinyl plank. The planks are installed parallel to each other from one wall to another. It’s simple, straightforward, and allows the design of the planks themselves to take center stage.

2. Diagonal Lay: In this pattern, the planks are still laid in straight lines but at a 45-degree angle to the walls. This can make the room appear larger and more open and adds a unique visual interest to the space.

3. Herringbone Pattern: This is a more decorative pattern, where the planks are laid in a zigzag pattern. Each plank is placed at a 90-degree angle to the next one, creating a “V” shape. This classic pattern can add a sophisticated and elegant feel to the room.

4. Chevron Pattern: Similar to the herringbone, the chevron pattern also creates a “V” shape, but with the ends of the planks cut at an angle to create a continuous zigzag pattern. This pattern can create a sense of movement and direction in the space.

5. Random Pattern: In this pattern, planks of different lengths and colors are used to create a varied and unique look. This pattern can be particularly effective when using LVP that mimics the look of natural wood, as it can add to the realistic appearance of the floor.

6. Staggered Pattern: The staggered pattern (also known as a running bond pattern) is a common pattern for luxury vinyl plank, especially for wood-look styles. Planks are installed end to end with the end joint of each plank staggered from the next, usually by half the width of the plank. This helps to avoid noticeable joint patterns and makes the floor installation look more natural.

Before deciding on an installation pattern, it’s recommended to consider the size and shape of the room, as well as the type of LVP being used. Some patterns may require more cutting and fitting of the planks, which might lead to more waste and a more complex installation process. 

Shade Variation

Shade variation refers to the color variation or differences from tile to tile or plank to plank in the case of flooring. This term is often used in relation to ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone tiles but it is equally applicable to luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring, especially those that mimic the look of natural materials like wood or stone.

Shade variation can be both intentional and unintentional. In many cases, manufacturers deliberately create a degree of shade variation to give the flooring a more realistic look. This is particularly true for LVP flooring designed to look like natural wood or stone, where natural color variations are part of the charm and character of the material. A degree of shade variation in these cases can make the flooring look more authentic.

Manufacturers typically use a shade variation rating system to guide consumers on what to expect from their product. While the specifics can vary from one manufacturer to another, here is a general guide:

1. V1 – Uniform Appearance: Differences among pieces from the same production run are minimal.

2. V2 – Slight Variation: Clearly distinguishable differences in texture and/or pattern within similar colors.

3. V3 – Moderate Variation: While the colors present in a single piece of flooring may be indicative of the colors to be expected in another, the amount of colors in each piece may vary significantly.

4. V4 – Substantial Variation: Random color differences from tile to tile, so that one tile may have totally different colors from that of other tiles. Therefore, the final installation will be unique.

Shade variation is not a measure of quality; rather, it’s a matter of aesthetic preference. Some people prefer a more uniform look (V1 or V2), while others like a floor with more color variation (V3 or V4) to add character and visual interest to a space.

When choosing a LVP product, be sure to look at several samples to get a good sense of the range of color variation. This can help you to choose a product that will give you the look you’re aiming for in your finished floor.

Kid and Pet Friendly

Dog Laying On LVP

One of the key advantages of luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring is its suitability for homes with children and pets. Here’s why:

1. Durability: Luxury vinyl plank flooring is known for its durability. It can withstand heavy foot traffic, and is resistant to scratches and dents, which can often result from children playing or pets running around.

2. Waterproof: Most luxury vinyl plank flooring is waterproof from the top down, which makes it great for handling spills, pet accidents, or the general mess that can come with active children. This waterproof feature also means it’s easy to clean and maintain.

3. Comfort and Warmth: Unlike some other hard flooring options, LVP tends to be softer underfoot and warmer, making it more comfortable for kids to play on and for pets to walk and sleep on.

4. Noise Reduction: LVP can also help dampen noise, which can be a bonus in homes with active children or pets.

5. Hypoallergenic: Many types of luxury vinyl plank are also hypoallergenic, meaning they don’t trap dust, pet dander, and other allergens.  LVP also has low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)

6. Slip Resistance: Many luxury vinyl plank options offer good slip resistance, which can prevent accidents for scampering pets or children at play.

7. Easy to Maintain: As mentioned, the durability and waterproof nature of luxury vinyl plank make it easy to maintain. Routine sweeping and mopping should be sufficient to keep the floor looking good.

With these benefits, luxury vinyl plank is a fantastic choice for families with kids and pets. However, it’s important to note that while LVP is resistant to scratches and dents, it is not completely immune. Very sharp objects or heavy furniture can potentially cause damage, so care should still be taken, and felt pads are recommended under furniture legs. Also, while LVP is waterproof, it’s still a good idea to clean up any spills or accidents promptly to prevent any potential damage or staining.

Maintenance

LVP flooring is renowned for its low-maintenance nature. Here are some general steps and guidelines to follow to keep your luxury vinyl plank flooring looking its best:

Routine Cleaning:

  1. Sweep Regularly: Use a soft broom or dust mop to sweep your luxury vinyl plank flooring regularly. This helps remove loose dirt, dust, and debris and prevents it from scratching the surface of your floor.
  2. Vacuum: You can also vacuum your luxury vinyl plank floor. Make sure to use a vacuum cleaner without a beater bar or one where you can turn the beater bar off to avoid potentially damaging the flooring.
  3. Mop: For a deeper clean, mop your luxury vinyl plank floor using a damp (not soaking) mop along with a cleaner specifically formulated for vinyl flooring. Avoid using harsh cleaning products or ones that are oil-based as these can damage your floor.

Spills and Stains:

  1. Clean Spills Promptly: Any liquid spills should be cleaned up immediately to prevent potential staining or water damage. Use a soft, absorbent cloth to blot spills.
  2. Spot Cleaning: For tougher stains, you can spot clean using a vinyl floor-approved cleaner. Make sure to follow the instructions on the cleaner.

Preventative Care:

  1. Use Protective Pads: Attach felt pads to the bottom of furniture legs to prevent scratching or denting your luxury vinyl plank floor.
  2. Use Doormats: Place doormats at entryways to catch dirt, grit, and moisture from being tracked onto your floor.
  3. Avoid Rubber: Avoid using rubber-backed mats or rugs as they can stain the floor over time.
  4. Protect from Sunlight: Long-term exposure to direct sunlight can cause discoloration. Use blinds or curtains to limit this exposure.
  5. Avoid Heavy Weights: While luxury vinyl plank is durable, it’s not indestructible. Try to avoid dragging heavy furniture or appliances across the floor. Use plywood or hardboard when moving heavy objects.
  6. No Wax: Never use wax on luxury vinyl plank flooring. It has a built-in shine that doesn’t require additional wax.

Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s care and maintenance guidelines for your specific LVP product. 

With its combination of durability, affordability, and aesthetic appeal, LVP flooring has emerged as a versatile choice for diverse spaces. From homes to commercial environments, it serves as a practical solution that doesn’t compromise on style.

The variety of finishes, constructions, and types of luxury vinyl plank ensure there is a perfect match for every taste, need, and budget. Brands like Shaw, Karndean, Cali Vinyl, Coretec and Next Floor are at the forefront, offering a range of options that cater to different preferences.

In your quest for the perfect flooring, remember to consider factors beyond the visual appeal. Installation methods, compatibility with your existing subfloor, color and pattern variations, and comparison with other flooring types are all equally essential. The more comprehensive your understanding, the more confident and satisfied you will be with your final choice.

Choosing new flooring is an exciting journey, a chance to transform your space and truly make it your own. So, dive in, explore the world of luxury vinyl plank flooring, and let your perfect floor find you!

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