Vinyl Plank Flooring Buying Guide

Vinyl plank flooring is becoming increasingly popular. Unlike traditional vinyl flooring which was laid in large sheets across the entire surface of the floor, vinyl plank flooring provides a plank wood effect while offering all of the benefits of traditional vinyl flooring.

Vinyl has a long history. The material – which is made from polyvinyl chloride – has been around since the 1920s when businesses and home builders were looking for a cheap and hygienic way to cover floors. Since then, the market has generated all kinds of different uses for the material, and increasingly, vinyl is being seen as a luxury option. “Luxe” vinyl flooring options are now very much in vogue and highly sought-after by a broad spectrum of interior designers and homeowners.

With the focus on luxury applications, manufacturers are increasingly turning to the high end of the market. Vinyl isn’t just being used for industrial walk-in fridges and warehouses anymore: it’s being made with stone and wood effects, offering consumers an ersatz version of the real thing at much lower prices.

When deciding on a clean and durable flooring option, many people weigh up the pros and cons of choosing vinyl over, say, laminate. Laminate, which is wood- and plastic-based, offers a hardwood feel, but it isn’t as versatile as vinyl. Vinyl is a sort of chameleon – it can take on practically any appearance, depending on the needs of the consumer. If you want vinyl that’ll create a granite floor appearance on your kitchen floor, then you can do precisely that. Alternatively, if you want a bamboo-effect wooden floor, vinyl will oblige. In fact, vinyl can be placed in practically every room of the home and is especially suited for bathrooms, kitchens and high footfall areas.

As with any type of flooring, vinyl offers both pros and cons. Here, we’re going to take an impartial look at both the benefits and the drawbacks of going down the vinyl flooring route. Consider the following before making the decision to buy.

The Pros

Extreme Durability
In general, people want flooring that will last them for a long time. A single resurfacing should survive multiple redecorations. Also, it must be able to keep its look and style even in situations with high footfall.

Because vinyl flooring was developed to cater to the most demanding commercial flooring situations, including shopping malls, schools, and hospitals, it is exceptionally durable in the home. Many vinyl floors often come with 15-year warranties as a minimum – and that’s for commercial operations. As such, it’s a safe bet that home vinyl floors – which are constructed using practically identical methods – will last even longer.

Vinyl flooring is particularly suitable for young families. Manufacturers make vinyl so that it is resistant to water damage, staining, and scratches. That means that it’s perfect for parents with small children, as well as those who keep pets. Unlike many other forms of flooring, you won’t need to regularly clip your pet’s nails to prevent damage.

Cheap Installation
Vinyl floors are exceptionally cheap and easy to install. The reasons for this are twofold. First, vinyl floors can be laid over existing flooring. In the 1960s and 1970s, people put vinyl right over tiles, not because they were lazy, but because they could. This meant that the flooring underneath didn’t need to be taken up, saving on labor costs.

The second reason is that today’s modern vinyl is usually sold as planks. These “planks” can be laid down easily by qualified contractors, one next to the other, in a matter of hours. The tiles simply lock onto one another and usually don’t require any glue.

Hardwood and tile floors also need a flat surface. But because of the naturally malleable qualities of vinyl floors, a flat surface isn’t always required. Though it might sound like a simple operation, making sure a floor is flat is often very costly, especially in older homes. Vinyl provides a cheap, hassle-free solution.

No Complicated Maintenance Requirements
Anybody who has managed flooring made of natural materials will know that they can sometimes be difficult to maintain. Natural fibers and materials are at risk of degrading and breaking down, especially if they come into contact with water.

Vinyl, on the other hand, requires practically no maintenance effort at all. It resists spillages and stains, even from danger items, like red wine, ketchup, and orange juice. In the event of a spill, vinyl needs a quick wipe with a sponge or mop, and it looks good as new.

What’s more, when laid by professionals, vinyl plank flooring sits flat on the floor. This makes the job of vacuuming and sweeping up a lot easier. Thanks to its ability to resist scratches and dents, there’s nowhere for dirt to hide.

Soft Underfoot
Many people worry that vinyl won’t be comfortable underfoot because it is made from synthetic materials. But they are often surprised to discover how bouncy and plush modern vinyl is. Manufacturers have put a lot of effort into improving the tactile qualities of the material, and all their hard work is paying off in the form of real-life products you can buy today.

In any case, the experience of walking on plank vinyl flooring is vastly superior to walking on planks of wood. While wood can be harsh underfoot and can splinter, vinyl planks are soft throughout and pose no risk whatsoever to sensitive feet. Vinyl is also softer than laminate, providing a cozier indoor feel.

Vinyl is perfect for babies and young children who are prone to falling down. Vinyl can help make your home child-friendly.

A Huge Variety Of Flooring Options
As discussed in the introduction, vinyl offers consumers extensive choice. There are literally hundreds of different vinyl designs to choose from, all with a particular story to tell. For those who love interior design, vinyl provides extreme versatility, matching up to practically any decor scheme.

Today’s luxury vinyl comes with a thin layer of polyurethane. This allows the material to take on the feel and texture of clay tiles, stone or wood – it’s a miracle of modern science. This means that it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between the fake and the real thing.

Originally, vinyl was sold in rolls. But today, it also comes in the form of interlocking tiles and planks to more convincingly mimic standard flooring options.

If you want a clean look, sheet vinyl is a great option. Sheets of vinyl usually come in 6- or 12-foot widths, allowing you to place them on kitchen or bathroom floors in a single step. They make floors look neat and tidy.

Vinyl tiles are also popular. Usually, these come in one-foot-by-one-foot squares, but thanks to demand from consumers, there are many variations on the market today. If you want bigger tiles for the kitchen or smaller tiles for the bathroom, most suppliers will oblige.

Vinyl plank flooring comes at practically any length you want. However, standard planks are either 6 or 4.5 inches wide.

The Cons

Can Damage Resale Value
Despite their clear advantages, vinyl floors still aren’t too many people’s tastes. Notwithstanding the fact that they offer superior longevity, maintenance, and resistance compared to traditional flooring materials, they’re simply not as valued. Because of this, vinyl floors can actually slightly reduce home resale values. Buyers simply prefer stone and wood flooring.

Vinyl Is Not Easy To DIY
Although vinyl might look simple to lay, it’s not actually particularly amenable to DIY. In fact, thanks to the complicated locking mechanisms between tiles, DIYing it can be a disaster. Although professionals have no trouble carrying out the work quickly and cheaply, saving money by installing vinyl yourself isn’t a good idea unless you’ve had specialist training.

Qualified contractors are your best bet. They can prep the room, make sure that the surface is sufficiently level and adjust the shape of planks if the room requires.

Prone To Certain Types Of Damage
While some floors are prone to damage from children and pets, vinyl floors are surprisingly resistant. With that said, they can still be damaged under particular circumstances. Dropping a knife, for instance, will usually penetrate a vinyl plank.

In general, because of the polyurethane top layer, wood-effect planks are harder and more difficult to cut and dent than sheet vinyl. However, with sufficient force, they can still break. The good news is that cuts and rips in the material are easy to repair. All it involves is hiring a contractor to take out the old plank and replace it with a new one.

High VOC Content
VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. These compounds are found in all sorts of interior decor products, including paint and vinyl planks. They’re emitted as a byproduct of the production of PVC, a major constituent of vinyl flooring.

The good news is that VOCs aren’t nearly as damaging to health as people imagine. They can cause problems, such as eye and skin irritation and asthma if exposed to over an extended period of time, but the majority of people will remain unaffected.

What’s more, there’s a big variation in the amount of VOCs across different vinyl products. Cheap products are usually high in VOCs, whereas luxe vinyl planks are low. Manufacturers agreed to cut the amount of VOCs in their products in 2010, and continue to do so until this day.

The Cost Of Vinyl Plank Flooring

So what about the cost? How do vinyl planks stack up against other flooring options?

Vinyl planks are one of the cheapest flooring materials you can buy, beating out tiles, stone, carpet and even laminate.

Determining the exact price that you’ll pay is difficult, however, because the cost depends on a range of factors.

#1: Price Of Vinyl Planks
The first determinant of the cost is the price of the planks themselves. As with any flooring option, there are both budget and luxury versions. In short, the closer the planks look to the original material, the more expensive they will be.

#2: Cost Of Dismantling Old Flooring
Some types of flooring require more labor to remove than others. The cost of installing the vinyl will depend on whether the previous flooring needs to be removed. As discussed, some vinyl floors can be placed directly on top of existing floors, reducing cost.

#3: Cost Of Removing Furniture
If the room is cluttered, then you may have to pay contractors extra money to remove furniture. This can be costly, especially if there is a lot of stuff getting in the way.

Total Cost
The rates of floor installers vary depending on the quality and the type of work you need them to perform. Price varies according to the region, but most contractors charge anywhere between $25 and $40 per hour for a fresh installation. Ripping up old floors is usually about 25 percent cheaper.

So what’s the ultimate cost of laying a vinyl plank floor?

Vinyl plank flooring costs between $2 and $5 per square foot. With installation, this price rises by around $2.50 per square foot, on average, meaning that if you get a contractor to carry out the installation, you’ll pay between $4.50 and $7.50.

Not only is the price of vinyl plank incredibly low, but it’s also very long-lasting. Thus, any consideration of price must also consider durability. If you avoid dropping sharp objects onto your vinyl, it should last a very long time – upwards of twenty years. As a result, you should be able to go at least 15 years without seeing any visible signs of wear and tear. You could easily get through two carpets in that time, emphasizing just how cheap vinyl is compared to other materials.

So in conclusion, vinyl is just about everything you could want from a flooring product. It’s cheap (both in the short and long-term), versatile and practically indestructible. However, there are some downsides, including the slight negative impact it can have on the value of your home, as well as the fact that cheaper versions can emit VOCs which could damage your health.

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