The Definitive Guide to Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring has come along way in durability and style. Take a look at today's options. 

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Tough, durable, and waterproof, vinyl flooring (AKA resilient flooring) is the shape-shifter of flooring. In one guise it’s inexpensive and plain, in another it’s expressive and chic. It doesn’t fit every situation, but it comes close.

So you know, vinyl flooring is often called resilient flooring because of its ability to bounce back after being compressed underfoot. This resilience gives vinyl flooring a slight cushiony feel. Some types of resilient vinyl flooring have a layer of extra cushioning for added comfort. Others in the resilient category include cork and linoleum.

The durability of vinyl flooring depends largely on its wear layer. The wear layer is a clear plastic film that’s applied to the top of the flooring. The thicker the wear layer, the more long-lasting the flooring. Typical wear layers are 6, 12 and 20 millimeters thick. If you’re installing vinyl flooring in a room with low foot traffic, a thinner wear layer—and less expensive product—will probably work just fine.

Vinyl flooring comes in a mind-boggling array of colors and patterns. Some are made to look like real wood and stone. All vinyl flooring products are low-maintenance and clean up easily.

Vinyl flooring needs to be installed over clean, blemish-free subfloors. For retrofits, you can install vinyl directly over existing wood and concrete that’s free of bumps and other imperfections that could show through. In some cases, you can avoid tearing out old flooring by first installing a layer 1/8-inch plywood to create the smooth surface needed for vinyl.

Types of vinyl flooring include:

Sheet vinyl flooring comes in 6- and 12-foot-wide rolls. Because installations are almost seamless, sheet vinyl is a good choice for bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms where splashes and spills are likely. Sheet vinyl can be tricky to install and it may be worth it to hire an experienced pro to get the job done right. A pro charges $1 to $3 per square foot for installation, depending on the complexity of the project.

Vinyl tiles—sometimes called vinyl composition tile (VCT)—are great for DIY projects. The tiles usually are 12 inches square and easy to handle. Peel-and-stick vinyl tiles include adhesive so you don’t have to apply adhesive. Because the individual tiles have many seams where moisture could seep through, they aren’t a great choice for kitchens and bathrooms.

Solid vinyl flooring tile (SVT) has a higher vinyl content than regular vinyl tile, and is also more durable. The high vinyl content allows tiles to be made with embossed surfaces that give the tile a textured surface.

Luxury vinyl flooring tile (LVT) is on the high end of the vinyl flooring quality spectrum and is used to replicate the look of natural stone, wood, concrete, metal and other materials. Popular vinyl plank flooring comes as individual “boards” and does a great job of mimicking real wood flooring.

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