Luxury Vinyl Tile/Plank

Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT), also referred to as luxury vinyl plank (LVP), has become hugely popular in recent years. It has cornered the hard surface market due to many factors. It’s waterproof, relatively easy to do-it-yourself, also cheaper to have installed professionally, has a tougher wear surface than most woods, is very dimensionally stable, and inexpensive compared to wood. If you’ve watched any home improvement shows, chances are you’ve seen someone installing LVT, and have seen how quickly and dramatically it can spruce up a room. Many LVTs are characterized by having an attached underlayment on their underside, either a closed cell neoprene pad or a layer of cork.

I like to tell people LVT is like tissue paper. The vast majority of it is structurally the same, and there are very few things that set it apart. The core and wear layer are the two most important features, everything else is just aesthetics and premium visuals.

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There are several main types of cores:

PVC- Polyvinyl Chloride
The traditional vinyl plank flooring is made with resins, calcium carbonate, plasticizers, fungicides, pigments and UV stabilizers which are heated and compressed. PVC is a component in almost all LVT.
WPC- Wood polymer composite
The WPC core came after the traditional PVC core, offering more strength and dimensional stability. WPC vinyl is thicker overall than PVC, still while being waterproof and can be installed with the familiar locking method.
SPC- Stone polymer composite AKA “Rigid Core”
The SPC came after the WPC, using limestone and stabilizers to create an even more stable core. SPC is much more dimensionally stable allowing homeowners to turn the heat off during the winter. SPC also offers more dent resistance than WPC. The added stability and dent resistance, coupled with the fact that SPC cores tend to be less expensive to manufacture and buy make the core very popular.
Hybrid
There are many LVTs manufactured with components of PVC, WPC, and SPC cores tailored to fit specific applications. These cores are typically high end and feature bells and whistles, but with premium features tend to come premium cost.

The wear layer on top of the vinyl plank is most often the most important feature. Wear layers are measured in mils, which are 1/1000th of one inch. Less expensive LVTs often have a 6 mil wear layer and have around a 5-10 year residential warranty. Johanna recommends at least a 12 mil for residential use, preferably 20 mil which often have lifetime residential warranty. Using a quarter, you can scratch a 20 mil wear layer and the quarter will wear down before the material scratches. I have demonstrated this with a 3x6” piece of LVT with a urethane wear layer over a 3-day convention dozens of times, the material did not scratch.

However, what your wear layer does make a difference. I generally rate them as follows from less effective to effective:

Polyurethane, straight urethane, urethane with ceramic bead, urethane with aluminum oxide and Mannington’s Diamond 10. Further, how it is applied differs through manufactures. Some of these processes are patented and they are all proprietary.

Aside from the core, attached underlayment, and wear layer the rest of the features LVT offers are purely aesthetic. These include plank width and length, color/look of the vinyl, beveled edges, and the planks being embossed-in-register. People tend to like wider, longer planks in larger areas although they look good in small bathrooms and entries as well. A beveled painted edge helps each plank stand out and sets the room further from looking like sheet vinyl. Embossed-in-register is the term used to describe the wear layer contouring to the image printed underneath. This makes the plank look and feel more like the real thing and is highlighted when light reflects off the surface of the product across a large span. Finally, there is color/style, manufactures with more colors tend to be more expensive due to the fact that they require a more extensive facility to produce their product.