Review of COREtec Plus | Waterproof luxury vinyl – Looks like hardwood and holds up to water
What is Coretec Plus?
Coretec Plus is the perfect blend of form and function. It’s a high quality luxury vinyl that looks (and feels) real, and it’s designed to hold up in spaces that may have moisture (such as basements, kitchens, bathrooms). Coretec looks like hardwood (the planks look like engineered hardwood…and look much more real than laminate)…in fact many of my customers don’t even realize they are looking at vinyl when they see the product – that’s how real it looks. This is probably the most innovative flooring product of this decade.
Coretec Plus comes in luxury vinyl planks that look like hardwood and luxury vinyl tile that looks like tile, natural stone and concrete. Personally, I prefer the hardwood plan options as they are more stylish and look more real. Here in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast, hardwood is strongly preferred over tile.
These high end vinyl planks (and tiles) are individual pieces with beveled edges and real texture and graining, so they look real (unlikely sheet vinyl or cheaper vinyls or laminate which has simulated graphics). The planks are installed in a randomized way so they also look more like real hardwood.
Coretec Plus gives you a high end look and provide the perfect solution when you want a hardwood look, but don’t want to worry about moisture/water. It’s a great product because you it solves many challenges at once so that homeowners don’t need to compromise. My installers love it because it’s a great product for customers and it’s one that you can really stand behind.
Coretec holds up to water and cleans up easily, so if you don’t need to worry about water issues in the kitchen (e.g. from moisture from dishwasher, spills while cooking, pet spills from water dishes).
Coretec Plus is made by US Floors, and they are a very reputable manufacturer. They make Coretec Plus, Natural Cork, Natural Bamboo and some specialized high end oiled hardwood floors. The product has a limited lifetime warranty and it’s GreenGuard certified. They really stand behind their product. US Floors was recently purchased by Shaw Floors.
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How is Coretec Plus constructed?
Coretec Plus is a rigid luxury vinyl constructed in 4 layers – 3 you can see and 1 you can’t. The top layer you can see is the luxury vinyl. It’s designed well from a color, graining and texture standpoint, so it looks and feels real. On top of this, there is the clear wear layer (.5mm) which protects against excessive wear and makes it easier to clean. The middle layer is recyled limestone, wood and bamboo dust and the bottom layer is an attached cork underlayment.
All 4 layers are waterproof (including the cork).
The cork underlayment helps in a few different ways. First, it adds a bit of cushioning. So, the floor has a bit more give and is easier on your feet. Also, it can help camouflage minor imperfections in the floor (note: it will not hide sloping or major unevenness…see below about that). It also gives a tad of insulation due to the air pockets in the cork. Cork is naturally antimicrobial so it’s resilient to mold/mildew. And, the attached cork backing will also help with sound absorption.
How is Coretec Plus installed?
Coretec Plus is floating floor, meaning that it clicks together (in the same way that a laminate is installed) and is secured at the edges of the room via the base molding/shoe molding. You can read more about a floating floor here: What is a floating floor? Because it’s a floating floor (and does not need to be nailed or glued), it has more flexibility as to where it can be installed.
It can be installed directly on top of concrete, and if you have minor discrepancies in the floor, you don’t need to worry about floor prep and smoothing the area out. This contrasts with a glue down vinyl which does require smoothing (usually via a couple of skim coats) as glue down vinyl will telegraph all the imperfections (i.e. you’ll see all the dimples and imperfections in the floor…see picture on the right). Because Coretec Plus is rigid and thicker than glue down vinyl, it will hide the minor imperfections in the floor. The attached cork underlayment helps with this as well.
While I would recommend professional installation, talented do-it-yourselfers could install Coretec, since it’s a floating clickable floor. If you feel confident installing laminate, you could probably install this floor as well. That being said, the tricky part with all floating floors are the edges.
This product can be installed below grade (i.e. in rooms that are below the ground such as basements), on grade (i.e. on ground level) as well as upper levels, so it’s a very flexible product.
Because it’s a floated floor (see above), it can be installed in any direction. It can be done in straight lay, or diagonal and it’s not dependent on your joist direction. Generally, I recommend following the longest length of the room as that is more aesthetically pleasing and makes your space look larger. You can change direction of the floor in different rooms, but usually, it looks better to just choose one direction and stick with it.
Other advantages of Coretec Plus
- Unlike engineered hardwood or laminate, Coretec Plus does not need to be dropped off for acclimation, so this shortens the timeline
- Coretec Plus can be installed on top of radiant heat
- It can also be installed on top of most surfaces (including concrete, tile and hardwood) provided that the floor is even/relatively even.
Color range and styles for Coretec
Coretec Plus has a wide range of colors – they have light (Rocky Mountain Oak, dark (see Deep Smoked Oak), reds (see Gold Coast Acacia), as well as some grays/white washes (see Ivory Coast Oak, Boardwalk Oak, Blackstone Oak, Alabaster Oak, Hudson Valley Georgetown Oak). The 7″ line has more white wash/grays.
Why is Coretec Plus better than laminate?
- Looks much nicer and more real. Planks are individual pieces (while most laminates are 8″ wide with a picture that simulates several pieces together.)
- Coretec Plus is waterproof and laminate is not. Further, laminate warps just with moisture (and once it’s warped it can’t be fixed. Laminate also tends to delaminate when it gets wet just from cleaning.
- Less noisy.
- More durable
- Doesn’t require acclimation (so you can install it faster)
- Disadvantage: It costs a little more than laminate (but well worth it and lasts way longer)
What are the advantages of Coretec over Engineered Wood?
- More durable, holds up better to scratches
- Waterproof and moisture proof
- Costs less
- Less noisy
- Doesn’t require acclimation (so you can install it faster)
- Disadvantage: It’s not real hardwood.
What are the advantages of Coretec over Tile?
- Easier on feet
- Warmer on feet
- Costs less
- Won’t crack
- Easier to clean
What are the Coretec Sub-lines?
This is the original product. It comes in 5″ and 7″ wide planks that are 4 ft long. It’s also available in tile options which are either 12″ x 24″ or 18.5″ x 24″ for a nice brick lay. (Note: as you go wider in the planks, it’s more important that your sub-floor is more even…the wider planks will show the unevenness more.)
Coretec Plus XL
Coretec Plus XL is a newer and upgraded option. This line has extra wide planks (9″ wide) and extra long (they are 6 ft long (rather than 4ft). They also have some very nice wire brushed styles. These planks do cost more. (Again, be careful if your floor is very uneven with the wider planks).
Coretec Plus HD
Coretec Plus HD used registered embossing (which means the surface follows the graining of the wood) for a more realistic look and feel. The planks are 7″ wide and 6 ft long (vs. the base line is only 4 ft long). In addition, the planks are a bit thicker (they are 8.5mm thick vs. the rest of line is 8mm thick. These planks also have 4 sided painted micro bevel edges for an even more realistic look. These planks do cost more. (Again, be careful if your floor is very uneven with the wider planks).
Here are some pictures of some of my favorite Coretec Plus HD shades.
Coretec One is a less expensive version of Coretec. It excludes the attached cork and in my opinion, the designs aren’t as nice and look a bit fake. This is NOT a product that I would recommend. The cork underlayment makes a big difference. It costs a bit less, but if you use it, you should buy a separate underlayment…and that neutralizes the cost difference.
Why does Coretec Plus XL cost more?
Cortec Plus XL has wider planks (9″ vs the basic line is 5″ or 7″) and longer planks (6 ft long vs. 4 ft for the base line). The designs are a bit more contemporary. All that aside, I think the basic Coretec Plus line looks amazing and it’s not necessary to upgrade (note: warranty/durability are the same). And, with the wider and longer planks, it’s super important that your sub-floor is flat/even as it will show more (see below related to floor prep/downsides).
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Coretec moldings and trim
Coretec has matching moldings (reducers, t-molding, baby threshold, stair cap and stairnose). Importantly, they also have matching quarter round (which really comes in handy if there are build in cabinets or paneled walls. Note: most vinyl and look alike products don’t have matching quarter round and only 1 option for steps, so this is another plus for this product and gives it a more finished look.
Is Coretec Plus really waterproof?
According to the manufacturer, it’s “100% waterproof,” so the floors can be installed in “wet areas and will never swell when exposed to water.” Coretec is dimensionally stable and won’t expand or contract under normal conditions.
Please note that if you have a major floor or standing water, Coretec Plus (like ANY flooring) should be removed. Standing water can do a lot of damage to your home when it’s sitting there and being trapped. So, if you do have a major flood, I would recommend removing the Coretec Plus (carefully). Then, let it fully dry out and then reinstall it. (Virtually every other flooring would be destroyed, but Coretec Plus is resilient so it generally can be reinstalled.)
The one exception we have seen to this is if you have a sewage issue. If you have sewage, you want to remove the flooring…no matter what type it is (even tile needs to be removed). I think this is obvious (and goes without saying), but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. We did have a customer who had a sewage back up in their basement. Half of their floor had to be removed, but the remainder was fine and then half of it was replaced.
What are the downsides and watch-outs for Coretec Plus?
The biggest downside (in my opinion) is that Coretec Plus doesn’t work well when your floors are very uneven. Because it’s a floating floor (and clicks into each other), if your floor is rather uneven, the planks will depress/move a bit when you walk on them (in the same way that a laminate flooring or engineered hardwood floor would).
If this doesn’t bother you, it’s not a problem. If it does bother, then you would want to level out the floor before installing it (generally with self leveling mix and this does get expensive/adds extra costs). Note: If your floors are extremely uneven and you don’t invest in self leveling mix, the planks could snap apart.
The other minor downside is that the vinyl can scratch when you move heavy items (e.g. refrigerators) on top of it. Now that happens for virtually every other flooring surface. The thick wear layer gives it extra protection, but it’s good to avoid dragging sharp objects or very heavy items over these floors. Also, it’s relatively simple to replace a piece of two if you need to later.
Do-it-Yourself Installation for Coretec Plus – Video
For do-it-yourselfers, check out this video from US Floors to see how to install Coretec Plus. Soon, I will be adding links for the tools mentioned in the video.
DIY Tools mentioned in the video
If you click on the items below you can buy them Amazon. You can add them to your cart, even if you buy later.
- Safety glasses
- Pull bar
- Tapping block blade
- Carbide tipped blade
- 1/4″ expansion spacers
- Measuring tape
How do you clean and maintain Coretec?
Coretec Plus is easy to clean and you should use a neutral pH cleaner. The manufacturer recommends Bona stone, tile and laminate cleaner, and you buy that on Amazon. They also have a gallon refill bottle.
Final thoughts on Coretec Plus:
Coretec Plus is an innovative product that is durable and looks great. It solves many issues and it’s a wonderful option for areas that may get wet and have minor moisture. You know it’s a great product when your installers love it and recommend it. We have installed Coretec Plus in many basements (including high end $1-$2 million dollar homes), kitchens and whole apartments. We haven’t had any complaints about it from our customers (well except for the customer with the sewage issue – but that had nothing to do with us or the product. I highly recommend it.
Where can you buy Coretec Plus?
You can buy Coretec Plus in most local flooring and carpet stores. I don’t believe they are available in Home Depot or other big box stores, but that may change in the future. You can now buy some of the items very cost effectively on Amazon and I’m sure they’ll be adding the other colors soon. They also have samples you can order on Amazon. You can also check out other places online. They are reasonably priced and have free shipping (which will help you for when you actually order them as shipping on flooring can get costly).
Edit: Home Depot now has their own private label knock of product called LifeProof. It isn’t as good as Coretec Plus, so it’s not a product I would recommend, but it certainly is cheaper. It’s thinner (6.5 mm vs Coretec Plus is 8mm) and I’ve heard from installers that it doesn’t hold up so well to water (even though they claim it’s waterproof). I guess you get what you pay for. But, if price is your primary driver, you can check out their color choices here.
You may find these articles helpful:
- What is a floating floor?
- What’s the difference between laminate and vinyl flooring?
- Recommended cleaning products and accessories to maintain floors and reduce scratches.
Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors