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
WPC- Wood polymer composite
SPC- Stone polymer composite AKA “Rigid Core”
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.