Luxury Vinyl Flooring that Looks Exactly Like Hardwood. Learn Why LVF is the Fastest Growing Flooring Segment— BYHYU 065
Listen, I know what you’re thinking when I say vinyl flooring…inexpensive, unattractive, linoleum-like floors. Not something that you would consider worthy of a new, custom built home. I used to think the same thing.
I always assumed that I would put hardwood flooring in my dream house. But, now I’m not entirely sure. I’ve seen more and more wood look alternatives that look exactly like solid hardwood. And what’s really intriguing is that I’ve seen these wood look alternatives in several luxury model homes. Plus, in doing a bit of Google research, I’ve read that many homeowners are specifically requesting wood look alternatives, even in high end custom homes.
This week, I’ll tell you about the pro and cons of wood look luxury vinyl floor planks and next week we’ll cover wood look porcelain tiles. Both are great options for the look of wood, without the cost and maintenance associated with solid hardwood flooring.
Before moving on to the mini lesson, let’s cover a few of Pro Terms.
Resilient flooring, linoleum and vinyl.
Resilient flooring is a category of flooring that sits somewhere between soft floors, like carpeting, and hard floors, like stone or hardwood.
Resilient flooring is defined by the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) as flooring that is firm, yet has a "give or bounce back."
Carpeting is not considered resilient flooring because, although it has “give,” it’s not firm. And hardwood flooring is firm, but has little “give”, so it’s not categorized as resilient.
Examples of resilient flooring are rubber floors, like you often find in gyms, plus cork, linoleum, and vinyl.
Which brings us to the next two Pro Terms.
Linoleum is a predecessor of vinyl flooring. It’s a natural product made of linseed oil, wood, limestone, cork, and resins. Linoleum was often used back in the day, but is now it's used mainly for those who want a vintage look, or a natural, green flooring option.
Vinyl flooring is by far the most popular resilient flooring used today and luxury vinyl flooring is the fastest growing segment of any flooring category. Many people think that vinyl is the same as linoleum, but it’s not. Linoleum is a natural product, while vinyl is a synthetic product made of resins and plastic polymers.
Ok, moving on to the mini lesson.
To my surprise, I’ve found that vinyl flooring is not what it used to be. It’s changed significantly in the past several years… for the better. Specifically, wood look luxury vinyl flooring now looks, well, luxurious and expensive and authentic.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ve never really been a fan fake or faux materials and finishes for the home. The faux painting craze of the 1990s…
I hated it. I never understood why homeowners and builders had columns painted to look like marble, especially when those columns never actually looked like marble. Same with other old school faux or fake materials—fake fireplace logs, faux granite countertops, or that faux leather finish that too many people used on the walls of their 1990s McMansions. Not cute.
But, many of the faux finishes and materials of today are beautiful and believable! One the best examples of a made-to-look-like material that really and truly looks like the real deal is luxury vinyl flooring that simulates hardwood flooring. I seriously can’t tell the difference by looking at it and I’m super critical when it comes to stuff like that. Wood look porcelain tile is also unbelievably believable. One disclaimer is that you’ll need to look for quality, brand name flooring because some of the low end, no-name imports still look cheap and fake.
Luxury vinyl flooring has been installed in commercial buildings for decades, but now it’s making its way into more and more homes. Luxury vinyl flooring comes in many patterns, including tiles that look like natural stone and planks that look like hardwood flooring. My experience and research have focused on the wood look vinyl planks and that’s what this week’s mini lesson will cover.
Here are the pros of LVF (there are lots of them)
1. LVF is softer underfoot. Because it has some bounce back, it’s easier on the feet, legs and body as compared with hard flooring, like hardwood and tile. So, if you do a lot of cooking, or other activities that keep you on your feet for long periods of time, you might consider LVF. It’s also easier on the knees of crawling babies and uncoordinated toddlers.
2. Dishes and glasses are less likely to break if dropped on LVF. Because it’s resilient and not hard, LVF has just enough cushion to allow glassware to stay intake when dropped, instead breaking, so it’s great for people who tend to be little clumsy.
3. If the flooring gets damaged, it’s easy to replace a single damaged plank or tile. Just make sure you order a few extra pieces in case of future damage.
4. LVF has a lower profile than tile or solid hardwood, meaning it’s not quite as thick. That makes it easier to work with around cabinets, existing door openings and transitions. Because it’s thinner than other options, LVF can often be installed over existing floors, so it’s a great for remodels.
5. LVF can be installed directly on plywood subfloors, as long as the wood is smooth, flat and structurally sound. Most vinyl should not, however, go over wafer board, particleboard or oriented strand board (OSB).
There are also some vinyl planks that can go directly on flat, cured concrete. The concrete must be free of powder, flaking, wax, grease, oil, paint and any other sealing compounds. Large cracks and expansion joints should be filled and smoothed out.
Although you don’t want any major high and low points on the floor surface, Many vinyl planks can be installed over concrete floors that have minor inconsistencies. Just make sure you look specifically for vinyl flooring that will work directly on concrete.
6. LVF can be installed quickly— in about half the time it takes to complete a comparable ceramic tile installation. LVF planks can be glued down or floated. This makes it one of the best flooring options for DIYers (although some flooring experts recommend that the floors be installed by professionals for the best results)
7. One the biggest pros of Luxury Vinyl flooring is its great durability and scratch-resistance. It’s an excellent choice for areas of heavy foot traffic or for households with pets. With the proper care, high quality, luxury vinyl flooring should last couple of decades before you see any signs of wear and tear.
8. LVF is comparatively warmer on your feet than tile, which is especially nice in colder climates.
9. Vinyl absorbs sound well, so it’s quieter than tile or hardwood.
10. LVF is low maintenance. It’s easy to clean and maintain and quality brands are guaranteed to keep there vibrant color much longer than some ceramic tile or regular vinyl.
Regular sweeping, dusting mopping, and wet mopping can prevent dirt or grit from causing scratches and marks. Avoid vacuuming, though, since that can scratch the vinyl floors.
11. LVF often costs less than hardwood flooring, but not always. Luxury Vinyl Flooring is not like regular sheet vinyl or peel and stick vinyl, which are usually pretty inexpensive. Sometimes LVF costs as much as some standard hardwood or ceramic tile.
Even if your Luxury vinyl materials cost about the same as hardwood or tile, you should save significantly on labor because the vinyl is easier and faster to install.
12. LVF planks look impressively like real hard wood— especially when the vinyl planks come in varying lengths and in wider widths, like you’d expect from genuine hard wood.
Because current printing technologies are so advanced, it’s almost impossible to tell that a Luxury vinyl floor is not solid hardwood just by looking at it. I literally have to touch most luxury vinyl floors with my hand to tell the difference. As you can imagine, the vinyl will be a bit softer to the touch.
13. Vinyl planks are water and stain resistant, so they are ideal for wet, messy areas like kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and mudrooms.
Moving on to the CONS:
1. Some brands lack attractive transition pieces. So, as the LVF transitions to another type of flooring, some companies only have metal transition pieces, which would stick out like a sore thumb and take away from the beauty of the floor. You could also get unfinished real wood pieces and have them stained to match the vinyl. But, that’s not ideal. So, before deciding on a specific brand of LVF, ask if it has matching transition pieces.
2. Some LVF can have high levels of VOCs. Pop Quiz: What does VOC stand for? We talked about off gassing and VOCs in episode 30 "Spray Foam Insulation and Rigid Foam Insulation".
Off gassing refers to the slow release of hazardous VOCs, which stands for volatile organic chemicals or compounds. "Volatile" means that the chemicals can easily evaporate. or get into the air, at room temperature. "Organic" means the chemicals are carbon based, like carbon monoxide.
Many brand name, higher end manufacturers of LVF have done better over the last few years of decreasing the level of VOCs, but high levels of VOCs can still sometimes be a problem, especially in low end vinyl flooring.
VOCs usually don’t cause problems immediately, but prolonged exposure to them can lead to health problems like asthma, and eye and skin irritations.
To make sure the brand of flooring you are interested in doesn’t have dangerously high levels of VOCs, check for Floorscore certification. The Floorscore measures the emission level of VOCs.
The Floorscore program tests for and certifies flooring products for compliance with indoor air quality emissions levels adopted by California. So, look for floorscore certification when choosing LVF.
3, Luxury vinyl flooring can dent and be punctured under the right circumstances. As I mentioned, thanks to the bouncy, shock absorbing quality of LVF, a glass is less likely to break when it hits the floor. However, if you drop a heavy pan, the vinyl could dent and a knife could leave an irreparable puncture in the vinyl surface. And high heels shoes may leave both puncture marks and dents. But remember, planks and tiles can easily be replaced if damaged.
4. Occasionally, homebuyers who are uninformed about LVF will be turned off that your house has vinyl flooring and not solid hardwood. Although it might not have a significant affect on the resale value of your house, LVF can make some buyers think twice about purchasing your house. The good news is that as more and more consumers are educated about LVF, many buyers will see the flooring as an asset, not a liability.
5. Luxury vinyl planks are suitable only for indoor use, because the vinyl can fade and start to deteriorate faster when exposed to direct sunlight and other outdoor elements.
Finally, let’s go over a few quick tips for buying LVF.
1. Choose high quality planks that are about 5-6.5mm thick, and avoid cheap, low quality vinyl planks that are 1.5 to 2mm thick.
2. Look for a thick wear layer. The wear layer is measured in mils. Typically the wear layer ranges between 6 and 30 mils. The thicker the polyurethane wear layer, the better the vinyl will be protected from scratching and gouging. Get the thickest wear layer you can afford.
3. Choose vinyl planks with deeper and more detailed texture embossing, as they will look and feel more authentic. Check the quality of the texture with your fingers.
4. Choose the highest quality flooring that you can afford because with LVF, you usually get what you pay for. The average price with installation $5.50 per square foot.
Well, that’s it for our lesson. I hope you’ll at least take a look at some quality Luxury Vinyl flooring as you explore what to purchase for your new home. I know you might be skeptical, but seeing is believing. So go by your local flooring store and take a look at this wood look alternative in person.
If you know someone who will be building in the the near future or who needs to replace their existing floor and you think this information would be helpful to them, you can share this episode by tapping the share icon, which is at the bottom left of the iTunes screen or towards the right of the podcast player if you are listening on the website.
Alright, let’s do a couple of quiz questions;
1. All of the following are pros of LVF except:
A. It will never dent or puncture
B. It is water, stain and scratch resistant
C. It is durable and low maintenance
D. It is easier on the feet and body than hard flooring surfaces
E. It is warmer and quieter than tile flooring
The answer is A. A is not one of the pros of LVF. Although dents and punctures don’t happen readily, LVF can dent and be punctured under the right circumstances, for example if a sharp knife or heavy pan are dropped on the flooring.
2. True or False: You should avoid LVF that is 1.5 to 2 mm thick.
That’s true. Look for more expensive flooring that is about 5-6.5 mm, with a thick wear layer. With luxury vinyl, you get what you pay for.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete, it’s subject to change and it may not apply to your project. In addition, Building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
Thank you for joining today. I hope learned as much as I did. Let’s do it again next week. Come on back for the next edition of Build Your House Yourself University—BYHYU.