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types of vinyl flooring

Imagine you’re preparing to head to the store to choose a magnificent new vinyl floor for your home. The problem is, when you arrive, you’re overwhelmed by choice. There are far more types of vinyl flooring than you expected, and you just don’t know which one is right for you. As a result, have to learn more about your potential options to ensure you choose the best one for your needs.

Knowing the differences between various types of vinyl flooring is essential, as each has benefits and drawbacks. Sheet vinyl and peel-and-stick are the lowest cost but may be less durable. Luxury vinyl tiles or luxury vinyl planks offer better durability and a higher-end look but cost far more.

However, those aren’t the only types of vinyl flooring, and it’s only a quick glance at some of the pros and cons of each option. If you’re trying to choose a new material for your floors, here’s what you need to know.

What Is Vinyl Flooring?

Vinyl flooring is a synthetic floor material commonly designed to resemble other flooring types, such as hardwood or stone. It’s made of several layers, each featuring different materials that serve unique purposes.

The exact structure of vinyl flooring can vary by type. However, the base materials are either the same or incredibly similar. For example, each version may contain PVC, fiberglass, or similar materials known for durability and water resistance.

Benefits of Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring is popular because it offers many benefits over alternative flooring types. For example, vinyl is very durable, allowing it to stand up to foot traffic. Plus, it’s either water-resistant or waterproof.

Installing vinyl flooring is also easier than tile, hardwood, or many other widely used flooring materials. Prep work is minimal, and many vinyl floors can float, eliminating the need for glue. Some are even click-and-lock, which could make nails unnecessary, too.

Finally, vinyl has a printed layer that gives it its design. As a result, vinyl is available in a wide array of colors and patterns. Many are created to resemble other flooring materials, such as wood or stone. However, they can also feature unconventional colors and patterns, which aren’t as widely available.

However, it’s important to remember that each type of vinyl flooring has unique benefits and drawbacks. As a result, cost, durability, thickness, water resistance, and other points can vary. Since that’s the case, keeping your broader needs in mind is important, ensuring you can select the best option for your home.

Different Types of Vinyl Flooring

Generally speaking, there are five primary types of vinyl flooring: luxury vinyl tile (LVT), luxury vinyl plank (LVP), sheet, peal-and-stick, and composite tile. Each option has unique benefits and drawbacks.

For example, some are lower cost but may offer less durability. Certain vinyl floors are easy to install, while others are far more difficult, particularly in specific situations. Even the level of water resistance varies, which could play a big role in determining which version is best for your needs.

Ultimately, it’s wise to take a look at how each type of vinyl flooring stands apart from the others. Here’s a quick overview of what they bring to the table:

  LVT LVP Sheet Vinyl Peel-and-Stick Composite Tile
Durability High High Moderate Moderate High
Thickness Thick Thick Thin Thin Medium
Water Resistance High High High Moderate Moderate
Installation Easy to Moderate Easy to Moderate Easy to Difficult, Depending on Whether There Are Seams Easy to Moderate Moderate
Maintenance Low to Moderate Low to Moderate Low Moderate Low to Moderate
Price Moderate to High Moderate to High Low to Moderate Low Moderate
Best for Bathrooms, Kitchens, Living Areas, Bedrooms, Basements Living Areas, Bedrooms, Kitchens, Bathrooms, Basements Smaller Spaces, Particularly Bathrooms or Compact Kitchens Small Rooms, Particularly Bathrooms, Laundry Rooms, or Similar Spaces High-Traffic Areas, Popular for Commercial Applications

Sheet Vinyl Flooring

A flooring option that has been around for decades, sheet vinyl flooring is a reasonably durable option that’s easy to clean and maintain. Since it remains a solid piece, you don’t have to worry about dust and dirt getting into seams.

Plus, the solid-piece design makes sheet vinyl waterproof as long as there aren’t any seams. In most cases, it works well in smaller spaces, such as kitchens and bathrooms, as larger areas may make seams unavoidable.

Sheet vinyl offers solid durability overall. However, it’s softer than some other types of vinyl, so it may scratch with greater ease.

Generally speaking, sheet vinyl isn’t challenging to install. However, it’s incredibly flexible, so it needs a sturdy, even subfloor. Some versions require glue across the entire underside, making the process messier. However, certain types only need glue along the edges.

In most cases, sheet vinyl is one of the lower-cost options. As a result, more frequent replacements may not be as burdensome, making scratch-related issues less of a problem from a financial perspective.

Peel-and-Stick Vinyl Flooring

Peel-and-stick vinyl flooring is a low-cost option that can work well for DIY flooring projects. The adhesive to place the tile is already on the back. You simply remove the cover, apply the tile to the floor, and stick it in place with the recommended process.

Since it requires an adhesive and doesn’t interlock, peel-and-stick vinyl is water-resistant but not waterproof. While grout-able versions can offer more protection in kitchens and bathrooms, they still aren’t watertight in most cases.

However, peel-and-stick vinyl flooring is lower cost and easy to maintain. Just be aware that installation can be time-consuming. Additionally, since the pieces don’t interlock, it requires a lot of precision to keep everything in line.

Vinyl Composite Tile

More commonly found in commercial buildings, vinyl composite tiles are incredibly sturdy and durable. They hold up well to wear and tear and are impact-resistant. Plus, they’re water-resistant options that are incredibly easy to clean.

Generally, these are installed one tile at a time, often with glue. As a result, replacing a single tile is possible if one gets damaged, which is why they’re favored in organizations like schools, hospitals, grocery stores, and other high-traffic places.

However, they don’t have the same high-end look as certain other types of flooring. Most versions have a highly institutional aesthetic, aiming to blend in more than stand out.

Additionally, vinyl composite tiles require a sturdy, even subfloor. Without proper installation, they can become brittle, which may increase the odds of cracks or chips.

Luxury Vinyl Tile

A higher-end type of vinyl flooring, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is designed to resemble stone, ceramic, or porcelain tile. It usually comes in squares or thicker rectangles, though there can be other common tile shapes.

Overall, the vinyl layer in LVT is incredibly thick, increasing durability. Plus, some versions are waterproof when properly installed. Others are water-resistant, particularly the glue-down versions.

When it comes to installation, LVT is much easier than genuine tile. You aren’t dealing with grout. Plus, many can be placed over your existing floors, depending on the type of flooring in place.

In many cases, LVT also comes with attached underlayment. It reduces sound and makes the floor comfortable underfoot by absorbing shocks. Plus, it eliminates the need to install a separate underlayment, speeding up the installation process.

Luxury Vinyl Plank

Another higher-end option is luxury vinyl plank (LVP). Generally, it offers similar benefits as LVT. However, instead of being square and designed to mimic stone, porcelain, or ceramic, the flooring shape, color, and the pattern is akin to hardwood planks, which can lead to a more authentic look.

LVP is thicker and incredibly rigid, which can make them more durable. Plus, they’re highly scratch-resistant, and many versions are waterproof.

Aesthetically, LVP is designed to closely resemble hardwood. Often, the printed design features natural-style color variations, and the surface has texture. As a result, certain LVP flooring options can look like genuine wood floors.

When it comes to installation, most LVP floors are easy to manage. Tongue-and-groove options essentially snap together. It takes even less work if you go with floating options instead of glue-down. However, glue-down floors may offer slightly more durability but are commonly only water-resistant instead of waterproof.

Additionally, LVP can have an attached underlayment, eliminating the need for a separate one. That speeds up installation, all while providing some soundproofing and shock absorption.

The Layers of Vinyl Flooring

All types of vinyl flooring are designed in layers. While the exact nature of the layers can vary slightly – both in composition and thickness – the general construction is reasonably consistent. However, there are some exceptions, as noted below.

Backing Layer

The backing layer serves as a base for all of the upper layers. Its primary purpose is to hold the other layers in place and provide protection.

Any more rigid types of vinyl flooring can have padding on the backing layer, particularly higher-end versions. Usually, this serves as a built-in underlayment, giving the flooring some cushion and sound-dampening effects.

Core Layer

Overall, the core layer is what gives vinyl flooring its structure. With flexible options, like sheet vinyl and many peel-and-stick versions, the core layer is thinner and more pliable. Rigid tiles or planks are designed to stay flat and provide support.

The materials in the core layer can vary. Some vinyl flooring may have fiberglass, while others may feature PVC. If the flooring is waterproof, you may also find wood-plastic composites or stone-plastic composites in this section, which help prevent water from soaking into the material.

Printed Layer

Above the core layer is the printed layer, a common feature of all vinyl flooring and is the part that contains the visible design. In many cases, its purpose is primarily aesthetic.

Some printed layers may be pretty flat and smooth. However, others can have some level of texture, making them more closely resemble the material it’s designed to mimic.

Wear Layer

One of the upper layers of vinyl flooring is the wear layer, which primarily protects the underlying layers. It’s meant to shield the underlying design, provide durability, resist staining, and more.

Wear layers can vary in thickness. Generally, higher-end types of vinyl flooring – like LVT and LVP – have thicker wear layers than lower-cost alternatives. However, the thickness can vary between products in the same category, so it’s crucial to keep that in mind.

Top Coat

Depending on the type of vinyl flooring you purchase, your floors may also have a top layer. This is most common with LVP, as there may be a finish designed to mimic hardwood floors. However, it can be featured on any kind of vinyl flooring.

In many cases, the top coat serves two purposes. First, it allows the flooring to have a distinct sheen. Second, it defends the wear layer against damage, increasing the overall durability of the flooring.

Printed vs. Inlaid Vinyl: What’s the Difference?

The design you see on vinyl flooring is applied in two ways: printed and inlaid. Each creates a somewhat unique result, which could cause you to favor certain vinyl flooring options over others.

Usually, printed vinyl has a thin sheet of paper-like material that features the design. While some texture-like details may be printed on the surface, the print is smooth. The image is positioned over the core and sealed, ensuring the design is protected and visible.

With inlaid vinyl, there are granules involved in the process. This creates genuine texture, making vinyl flooring look like the material isn’t meant to resemble. Additionally, you may get more natural coloring and color variations.

In general, printed vinyl is more affordable. However, it may seem less genuine than the material it’s replacing. Additionally, it can be less durable than inlaid alternatives.

Inlaid vinyl isn’t only tougher, but it looks more high-end. Since it costs more to produce, it comes with a higher price tag. As a result, it may not fit in everyone’s budget.

What’s the Difference Between Rigid-Core and Flexible-Core Vinyl Flooring?

As you explore vinyl flooring options – even within the same category – you may find that some versions are rigid-core while others are flexible-core. These terms reference the flexibility of the materials in the core layer.

Typically, rigid-core vinyl flooring has a more inherent structure. Additionally, the tiles or planks may be thicker than their flexible-core counterparts. As a result, they usually offer more overall durability and often feel better underfoot.

Flexible-core laminate is more pliable. While this doesn’t mean it’s automatically lower-quality than rigid-core vinyl, it may offer less overall durability. Additionally, since it’s typically thinner, standing on or walking across may be less comfortable.

It’s also important to note that you may get a better warranty with rigid-core vinyl flooring. Since higher durability means it can naturally last longer, many companies offer more protection with rigid-core products.

Otherwise, the two are very similar. They’re easy to install, many come with attached underlayment, and they can be waterproof when put in correctly. Additionally, they can come in similar designs and colors, so you can get the same aesthetic either way.

Does Vinyl Flooring Need an Underlayment?

Whether you’ll need to add an underlayment before installing your new vinyl floors depends on your chosen flooring product. Some versions come with an underlayment attached, while others don’t.

Typically, luxury vinyl tile and luxury vinyl plank come with underlayment built into the design. As a result, it’s less common to need a separate underlayment with these products, though there are some exceptions in the category. As a result, you should check the packaging to see if you need to put down an underlayment first.

With lower-cost vinyl options, an attached underlayment may or may not be present. Including the underlayment means more materials, which bumps up the price. As a result, it’s usually not included on budget vinyl flooring.

You can find peel-and-stick vinyl flooring with built-in underlayment, though many versions don’t have that feature. While there’s some debate about using underlayment with peel-and-stick vinyl flooring, going without means less cushion and can impact durability and moisture resistance. As a result, it can be a wise addition, but you have to ensure it’s perfectly smooth and clean before applying the tiles.

Many sheet vinyl flooring products don’t have underlayment either. Since the material is thinner, you want an even surface when installing it. As a result, an underlayment is usually recommended, as that can help cover dips or bumps, all while providing some cushioning and acting as a vapor barrier.

How to Choose a Vinyl Flooring Material

To choose the right vinyl flooring material for your project, you’ll need to consider a few key points.

First, go over your budget. Prices can vary dramatically in the category, with options like sheet vinyl often being much less expensive than LVT or LVP. As a result, the overall cost may determine which types of vinyl flooring you can reasonably consider.

When looking at the price, make sure to factor in the underlayment cost if one isn’t attached. That ensures you get the full picture, allowing you to make a wiser decision.

Next, consider the size and needs of the space. Sheet vinyl is hard to use in large open spaces, as you may end up with seams. As a result, if you go that route, you might have to hire a professional installer to ensure seams aren’t visible or go with vinyl flooring that’s more suitable for large rooms.

It’s also wise to determine if water-resistant is enough or if you need the flooring to be waterproof. For kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry areas, waterproof versions can give you more protection from splashes, spills, and leaks, so it may be best to choose that option. However, for living areas or bedrooms, water-resistant could be enough.

Finally, factor in the aesthetics. LVP and LVT usually look far better than the alternatives if you want to mimic genuine stone or hardwood. However, if you’re okay with the flooring not completely passing for the real deal, another choice could be worth considering.

What’s the Best Type of Vinyl Flooring?

When it comes to the overall look and durability, luxury vinyl plank and tile flooring usually outperform the others. However, it can cost substantially more. As a result, some people may prefer sheet vinyl since it’s easy to install and affordable. Others may like peel-and-stick for small spaces. Ultimately, the best option is the one that fits your budget and provides you with the right benefits.

Did you learn everything you wanted to know about the types of vinyl flooring? If so, please let us know in the comments below. Also, if you know someone who’s trying to decide between different types of vinyl flooring, make sure to share the article.