Are you tired of painting or staining the wood floor in the sunroom, entryway, patio, or deck? Considering using something else to protect and enhance its look? Wondering, “can you use vinyl flooring outside?” We’re here to help!
Vinyl flooring is durable, water-resistant, easy to clean, comes in many visually appealing options, and can be used in protected outdoor spaces. There are even vinyl products designed for use outdoors that will handle the temperature and humidity changes most regions can experience. So, whether it’s a protected sunroom or full exposure deck, there’s a product for your project.
In this article, we’ll explain what vinyl flooring is and if it can be used outside, the benefits and downfalls of using vinyl planks outside, and how vinyl reacts to changing temperatures. We’ll discuss how waterproof vinyl flooring is and if it can be used on a deck, different types and styles, and how to install vinyl plank outside. We’ll also identify the best type of outdoor vinyl flooring to make your selection easier. Our goal is to provide you with the information you need to make decisions for your outdoor flooring project.
What is Vinyl Flooring?
Vinyl flooring commonly refers to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is a hard, strong, durable, waterproof, yet versatile material that was originally designed and sold as an alternative to linoleum.
Modern vinyl flooring comes in sheets or rolls, luxury vinyl planks (LVP), or luxury vinyl tiles (LVT). They typically have a hard durable wear layer, an image or print layer, a waterproof core, and a base layer, with some even having an attached underlayment layer too.
The tiles and planks are longer lasting and hardier or more durable than the sheet or roll vinyl. The planks mimic real wood in look and texture while the tiles often imitate real marble, stone, ceramic, or even parquet. Both LVP and LVT are usually cheaper than real stone, marble, or wood, and although they won’t last as long, they can be used in locations the other products may not work in.
Can You Use Vinyl Flooring Outside?
Vinyl flooring is a durable, robust flooring that typically is designed for indoor use. However, most products can be used on protected or temperature-controlled porches or decks, but won’t last as long as if used indoors. Extreme temperatures and UV rays can cause the flooring to discolor or fade, and the use of snow shovels on it can also scratch, gouge, or otherwise damage it.
Vinyl, whether plank, tile, or sheet, will expand and contract with temperature changes. When used indoors, those temperature changes are typically moderate, while outdoors they can range over the year from below -40°F to over 100°F in some areas. Extreme temperature changes can cause vinyl to wrinkle, warp, crack or swell.
If using vinyl planks, tiles, or sheeting outdoors, they should be glued to the subfloor to help moderate expansion and contraction issues. LVP, LVT, and composite vinyl flooring are multi-layered, moisture resistant, and will handle outdoor use better than sheet vinyl. However, it should be noted that vinyl can be slippery when wet or frosted.
Benefits and Downfalls of Using Vinyl Planks Outside
When considering installing vinyl planks outdoors, it is a good practice to consider the benefits vs the downfalls to help weigh your decision. LVP is considered one of the strongest vinyl flooring options, is reinforced for heavy traffic and furniture use, and often has a rigid PVC core.
LVP will expand and contract only slightly with temperature change, making it a good outdoor choice. Here are some other benefits and downfalls.
- Looks like real wood
- Won’t expand as much as other vinyl options
- LVP is waterproof
- Resistant to mold and mildew
- Easy to clean
- Low maintenance
- Easy to install
- Softer feel than concrete
- Install over wood, concrete, or tile
- DIY friendly
- Slippery when wet or frosted
- Can gouge, chip, crack, or scratch
- May fade with UV exposure
- Not designed for extreme temperature changes
- Difficult to remove when glued to the subfloor
- Warranty issues
How Vinyl Flooring Reacts to Temperature Changes
Vinyl flooring will expand in hot temperatures and contract in the cold. The amount of shrinkage depends on the type of flooring and whether it is glued to the subfloor, nailed, stapled, or floating. Most indoor installers expect some shrinkage and expansion, so leave a gap around the wall perimeter hidden by baseboards or molding.
Temperature changes can also cause the image or pattern to distort as different layers can stretch and shrink at different rates. Heat and UV rays may cause vinyl to discolor and patterns or colors to fade, and it may cause warpage or swelling at seams. Extreme cold can damage waterproof seals, degrade adhesives, and even crack vinyl. Typically, extreme temperature changes can shorten the lifespan of the flooring and even void warranties.
As a side note, we installed vinyl sheeting in the kitchen, bath, and bedrooms of an unheated summer residence in the early 1990s. The winter lows recorded inside the living area typically drop below -30°F while the summer highs often climb above 90°F inside. The flooring, granted it is indoors, has withstood the temperature extremes very well.
Is Vinyl Flooring Completely Waterproof?
Vinyl flooring that is 100% PVC is completely waterproof. Some products, however, may have a wood chip core that can be damaged if moisture penetrates into it, which isn’t very likely since it is embedded in PVC. So, water spilled on the surface won’t penetrate and damage the inner layers or subfloor strata. Unfortunately, though, seams may separate and permit moisture to seep through.
Vinyl flooring is ideal for kitchens, baths, laundry rooms, entries, and basements where moisture may be an issue, and for all other rooms too. It should be noted, though, that waterproof doesn’t mean floodproof. However, LVP and LVT can be removed, allowed to dry, and then cleaned, and once flood damage to walls and subflooring has been addressed, it can then be reinstalled.
Can You Put Vinyl Flooring on an Outside Deck?
When talking about a deck, it should be noted that a deck is not a patio. A patio typically is at ground level and made of concrete, brick, stone, gravel, or pavers, while a deck is raised, usually made of wood or concrete, and often attached to or abutting a structure. Additionally, patios seldom need a railing, but decks above a certain elevation do.
Vinyl is durable, cost-effective, hardy, visually appealing, and easy to clean flooring that can be used on an outside deck. Many products have a UV protective coating to decrease fading and discoloration, plus a strong protective layer that protects against scratches by pets, toys, and furniture.
Vinyl is also water-resistant, so it will help to decrease damage to wooden subfloor strata too. However, moisture should be mopped or wiped off and not allowed to pool on the vinyl as it can cause algae stains.
Most vinyl flooring is waterproof and warrantied to withstand moderate temperature fluctuations between 40°F and 80°F in climate-controlled or interior locations. Unfortunately, few types of vinyl flooring are temperature proof and can stand up to harsh temperature extremes and exposure to moisture, humidity, direct sunlight, heavy furniture, and high traffic.
Prolonged exposure to these conditions can cause the flooring to fade, crack, swell, separate, bubble, and otherwise reduce the flooring’s lifespan. It can also lead to mold, mildew, and rot in the subflooring.
Applying rigid-core vinyl plank, LVP, LVT, or composite vinyl flooring to a deck requires a bit of work and a quality outdoor-grade adhesive. Whether wood or concrete, the subfloor needs to be dry, clean, and smooth.
Vinyl should be installed when the temperature is above 50°F to prevent cracking or breakage due to the cold making it brittle. To protect from weather and temperature extremes and UV rays, it is also recommended the deck be roofed or otherwise protected.
The Different Types and Styles of Vinyl Flooring
Vinyl flooring comes in many colors and images and can look like real wood, tile, or stone. There are two styles of vinyl, inlaid and printed, which differ in their manufacturing process and cost. Vinyl also typically comes in three types – sheet, plank, and tile.
Inlaid vs Printed
Printed is simpler and less expensive, with a thin paper image being applied before the protective coating. Inlaid vinyl is more expensive and durable, and uses granules to optimize texture and color. The difference has been compared to a printed picture vs an oil painting – they both may depict the same image, but one looks and feels more authentic.
Sheet vinyl is available in rolls ranging from 6’ to 13’-2” and lengths up to 82’ or longer. It is easy to install, durable, waterproof, scratch-resistant, and low maintenance. The choice of images ranges from simple smooth finishes to textured tile, stone, marble, or wood plank, and can even be customized for individual jobs. The price per square foot ranges from $1.00 to around $6.50 depending on quality, grade, and image, with residential grades being less expensive than commercial grades. Installation and adhesive are additional.
LVP or Luxury Vinyl Plank
LVP is durable, water-resistant, easy to install, and has the appearance of natural wood flooring at a fraction of the cost. It is available in different widths and picture-perfect images that mimic natural plank flooring. Expect to pay between $2.00 and $4.00 a square foot depending on quality and image, with installation being extra.
LVT or Luxury Vinyl Tile
LVT, like other vinyl floorings, is durable, water-resistant, and can imitate almost any other tile or wood flooring. Commonly manufactured using 3D imaging technology and embossing techniques, it can mimic wood, stone, marble, mosaics, porcelain, ceramic, and even parquet. The cost per square foot ranges from around $4.00 to $8.00 depending on quality and image.
How to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring Outside
Installing vinyl plank flooring outside on a deck, patio, porch, stoop, or veranda involves several extra steps or differences from an indoor installation. Most LVP flooring comes in 36” or 48” lengths with seams that may interlock, click-lock, snap-lock, T&G, or lap.
They may be designed to ‘float’ on the subfloor or an underlayment, be peel-and-stick, or rely on friction to stay in place. Select a plank without an attached underlayment or one with synthetic or rubber backing that won’t be damaged by moisture.
It should be noted too that vinyl flooring is designed for indoor use, so using it outside will likely void the warranty. If installing on concrete, make sure the surface is smooth and any chips, nicks, or cracks are filled and level, and it is clean and free of any debris.
If laying the planks on a wooden subfloor, all screw or nail heads need to be flush, plus any seams and holes need to be filled and level. Any unevenness will transfer through the vinyl and leave lumps, bumps, and depressions in the planks.
The first difference when using vinyl planks outdoors is that all their end seams be staggered. Once the first row is placed, make sure each successive row’s end seams are 2” to 3” beyond the end seam in the previous row. This will create a luxurious staggered or step pattern that is strong and durable.
The second difference is adhesion. Vinyl flooring will expand and contract more outdoors if allowed to float. This means furniture sitting on it could pin the flooring down with its weight and cause the vinyl to wrinkle or buckle as it expands. Look for a PVC rated outdoor or marine adhesive to secure the LVP (or rigid core plank, LVT, composite vinyl flooring, or even sheet vinyl) to the wood or concrete surface. Follow the directions of the adhesive for the best hold.
The combination of staggered end seams and adhesive will prevent separation between planks which could cause gaps where moisture could penetrate. The glue will also help prevent moisture from seeping under the planks and damaging any wooden substructure.
Additionally, the adhesive will prevent the planks from shifting, separating, or wrinkling around furniture feet, fusing it to the surface underneath, and keeping moisture, dust, dirt, and debris from migrating beneath the flooring.
If the perimeter of the deck or patio doesn’t butt to a wall, consider adding molding to create a lip for the vinyl to butt against. Use the waterproof adhesive to secure the trim. The trim and glue will help prevent moisture, dust, and dirt from seeping in under the exposed edge of the vinyl.
What Is the Best Outdoor Vinyl Flooring?
The best vinyl flooring for outdoors depends on the climate extremes and how much direct sunlight it will be exposed to. LVP, LVT, and composite sheet vinyl flooring will all do well in a protected outdoor environment like a screened porch, sunroom, or covered porch or patio. However, their lifespan is typically shortened based on their exposure to the elements.
High-quality, UV-protected, waterproof LVP or rigid core vinyl tiles or planks are better suited for exterior use than other vinyl floorings. Rigid core planks also have better dimensional stability than softer core planks.
The thicker and more rigid they are the more stable and durable they tend to be, and the better they will endure high summer traffic and winter cold. You may want to look for commercial-grade vinyl plank flooring as they tend to be thicker, stronger, and more durable too.
Vinyl flooring is designed for indoor use and for specific locations and temperature ranges, so use outdoors usually voids the warranty. Having said that, though, vinyl flooring can successfully be used on enclosed, covered, or protected outdoor spaces; it just won’t necessarily last as long.
Select a thick, high-quality, UV-protected, waterproof vinyl for the best results. Rigid core planks and LVP are more dimensionally stable than sheet vinyl, so are better suited for more exposed outdoor use. Hopefully, we’ve provided you with helpful information for your outdoor flooring project.