At its heart, plank vinyl floor, also called luxury vinyl plank (LVP) or luxury vinyl floor (LVF), is simply vinyl flooring that comes in long, narrow strips rather than the traditional square tile shapes. But structurally this is a different product. Sheet vinyl is generally flexible vinyl with a printed top layer covered by a clear wear layer, while vinyl plank flooring is a multi-ply product that features four layers:
- A topmost layer of aluminum oxide, designed to prevent light scratching and scuffs
- A clear film layer that protects against more severe ripping and tearing
- A design layer that provides the photo-realistic look of wood or stone
- A backing layer made of fairly rigid vinyl, comprising almost 90 percent of the total thickness of luxury vinyl
You can even find vinyl planks with a heavily antiqued or distressed look, hand-scraped, dinged, scratched, and peppered with nail holes. But these products are more expensive, since the planks need to be quite thick to handle such deeply textured embossing.
Vinyl flooring planks typically are 48 or 36 inches long. With most planks, the width is about 6 inches, though some go as much as 7 3/4 inches wide.
Rarely, if ever, will a vinyl plank floor cost as much as genuine wood flooring, which is usually five to 10 times more expensive than vinyl planks. Prices for materials usually range from $2.50 to $5 per square foot. Professional installation can add $1 to $3 per square foot, but this one of the easier flooring materials to install yourself—comparable to plastic laminate flooring planks. Overall, the cost of vinyl planks is about the same as for laminate planks, though vinyl planks are arguably a superior flooring material.
This is one of the easier floors to maintain. Most manufactures recommend simple sweeping daily, and a weekly damp mopping with a mild detergent and mop, or with a Swiffer-type cleaning pad. These floors should never be steam-cleaned, however. While the flooring itself is impervious to moisture, the pressure of a steam cleaner can potentially drive moisture down through the seams to the wooden subfloor.
Repairs can be a little tricky with vinyl plank flooring. You may be able to repair small areas of damage with a vinyl repair kit chosen to match the color of your flooring. The patched area will usually not be a perfect match, though. Replacing entire planks usually involves disassembling the floor from one wall up the damaged plank, installing a replacement plank, then reassembling the floor back to the wall.
Vinyl plank flooring is offered in hundreds of colors and patterns from the major flooring manufacturers. Interior designers and real estate professionals regard it as a superior flooring to sheet vinyl and laminate flooring, but still considerably less prestigious than solid hardwood or porcelain tile.
Vinyl plank flooring uses a click-lock system in which the edges and ends of the planks snap together. This flooring is generally installed as a “floating floor” that simply rests on the underlayment with no glue-down bond necessary. While the subfloor and underlayment should be as flat as possible, vinyl planks are considerably thicker than sheet vinyl, making it more forgiving of small imperfections in the underlayment—flaws that can telegraph through to the surface on sheet vinyl.
Vinyl plank flooring offers much of the easy-care convenience of sheet vinyl, but because it is a thicker material, it has slightly more “give” underfoot, making it more comfortable. Because it is made from waterproof materials through and through, this is a much better flooring for damp areas than laminate flooring or hardwood. In a kitchen, bathroom, mudroom, or laundry, few flooring materials are better choices.