Pros and Cons of Luxury Vinyl Flooring (LVP and LVT). And, what is Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring? What about Engineered Vinyl Plank?
This article explains what Luxury vinyl is, the pros and cons for luxury vinyl, the different types/forms of the product as well as the acronyms/abbreviations used in the industry (e.g. LVP, LVT, EVP, EVT).
As you’ll see, vinyl has come a long way since its original introduction in the 1930’s. There are now options that look and feel so real, many mistakenly think they are hardwood.
Please note that this article may contain affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.
What does LVP stand for? What does LVT stand for?
First, LVP stands for Luxury Vinyl Plank and LVT stands for Luxury Vinyl Tile. As the name implies, Luxury Vinyl Planks look like planks of hardwood floors; and Luxury Vinyl Tile looks like Tile (or natural stone). They are individual pieces of vinyl (not sheet vinyl), so they look very similar to the real thing. Most luxury vinyls are waterproof (or highly water resistant).
Now, there are multiple types/forms of Luxury Vinyl and different grades, as I’ll discuss below. (The cheaper ones are often water resistant rather than waterproof.) And, you are more likely to find cheaper ones and knock-offs in the big box stores, so don’t be fooled.
This is the fastest category and in the market and the innovation in this area has been exploding. There are more and more color and form options, so it makes it very exciting.
What is the definition of EVP?
EVP stands for Engineered Vinyl Plank. It’s a segment of Luxury Vinyl Flooring. Engineered Vinyl Plank (EVP) has an incredibly realistic hardwood look (and feel) and is exceptionally durable. It’s waterproof and has a strong high density fiberboard core.
Engineered vinyl plank is much thicker than the typical glue down vinyl. It’s usually 8 mm thick, so it’s similar to an engineered hardwood (or laminate flooring). Like engineered flooring, it’s constructed in layers. The top layer is vinyl, the middle is a high density core board and usually there is an attached back underlayment (e.g. cork) for more cushioning. Like laminate, these floors are clickable so they are easy to install.
As I mentioned, it’s similar in form and look to an engineered hardwood (and in my opinion looks better) and laminate flooring, but it’s much more versatile and resilient. The biggest difference is that engineered vinyl plank is WATERPROOF.
Coretec Plus is an example of an engineered vinyl plank. Coretec Plus is the originator of this segment of the market and the biggest player. You can read a full review of Coretec Plus here.
Engineered vinyl plank has become a new alternative vs more expensive engineered hardwood flooring, and a more attractive (and more resilient) option vs. the cheaper looking vinyl floors and laminates (both of which can curl up over time).
What are the different forms of luxury vinyl flooring?
Years ago, luxury vinyl was only available in a glue down form. These vinyls could be glued down directly to a concrete sub-floor or plywood. They are thin so they when they are glued directly to a concrete sub-floor, they just lay on top of it without providing any cushioning, so it’s almost as if you are walking on top of a concrete floor (hence, it can be hard and cold).
Also, because the vinyl is thin, imperfections in the sub-floor can telegraph through (and show the imperfections of the sub-floor). So, it’s critical that you smooth out the floor before installing vinyl (usually you would do 2 skim coats to prep the floor).
Years later, they started to come out with variations on these vinyls where the vinyl was “floating.” Floating means that the floor wasn’t glued or attached to the sub-floor. This made it easier for novices and do-it-yourselfers to install. And, if you wanted to replace the floor, it was much easier to rip up.
They have some of these versions available at the Big Box Stores. The problems with these initial entrants is that they weren’t very durable. Many would curl up over time and delaminate (especially if the area got damp or wet), and if your sub-floor isn’t even, the pieces wouldn’t line up, and then over time as the floor was used more, the pieces would separate and create tripping hazards.
Then, in 2012, US Floors came up with the unique solution of an engineered vinyl plank (Coretec Plus). These are WATERPROOF (like most glue down vinyls), but they are thicker and click together. So, they look much nicer and feel like a real floor. They provide a bit of a cushion and insulation from the sub-floor below. They also stay in place.
These engineered vinyl planks look and feel amazingly realistic. Unlike laminate flooring, they look and sound very real. And, they are available in super stylish colors.
In my opinion, I prefer the engineered vinyl plank flooring as it looks and feels more real. But, there are definitely some circumstances where this type of product doesn’t make sense (see below) in which case I would then recommend a glue down luxury vinyl. I would generally eliminate the other thin floating options as they do not hold up well (and often have issues within 6-12 months).
What are the advantages of an Engineered Vinyl Plank such as Coretec Plus?
- Looks and feel very real – It’s incredible how real Luxury vinyl looks, especially engineered vinyl plank. Many of my customers mistake it for hardwood. Also, with the thicker/more rigid planks, it feels more like a real floor.
- Waterproof – Yes, this is a huge benefit as it holds up to moisture and water. So, engineered luxury vinyl is a great selection for areas prone to water, such as kitchens, basements and mudrooms.
- Can be installed on top of virtually any surface (as long as it’s flat). Engineered luxury vinyl can go on top of concrete, plywood and tile. It can even go on top of radiant heat. Engineered Vinyl Plank can go on top of concrete, plywood, vinyl and even tile.
- Saves you money – Generally, this is less expensive vs hardwood or tile, And, you can often avoid tile rip up which can add a lot to your labor costs)
- Gives more insulation and sound proofing vs glue down vinyls and laminate.
- Easier on your feet. Yes, Coretec Plus and other engineered vinyl planks are much more comfortable on your feet, and it feels as if you are walking on a real floor. And, Coretec’s cork underlayment helps give he floor a bit more give. (Note: While most engineered luxury vinyls have an underlayment some don’t (and I would avoid these) and some have alternative cushioning.
- Does not require tile removal. You usually do not need to rip up tile or other surfaces (unless they are crumbling or falling apart). If there is a height restrictions (e.g. due to appliances), you may consider ripping up what you have, but it’s usually not necessary.
- Fits into kitchens with cabinets already installed – It’s easier (as it’s thinner), so you usually won’t run into height restrictions with appliances (especially dishwashers). Sometimes, solid hardwood or tile adds too much height if you already have the cabinets installed before the flooring.
- Easy to install; It’s a great Do-it-Yourself job, if you are very handy.
- Relatively easy to repair and super easy to clean. Most all purpose cleaners will work. If you get damaged planks, you can pop them out and replace them. Compare this to cracked tiles which are is next to impossible to repair. And, if you decide in 20 years to replace the floor, it is easy to rip up (I don’t mean to imply that you will need to replace them at 20 years, but if you want a color change, this flooring is easy to rip up an replace). Coretec actually comes with a lifetime warranty.
- Great stylish colors – They have many great options for grays, as well as farmhouse or distressed looks. In these colors/styles, it’s often more challenging and/or expensive to find in hardwood and tile. Coretec Plus has super looking options at a much more affordable price.
What are the downsides to Engineered Vinyl Planks?
- It doesn’t improve the value of your home in the same way that hardwood or tile does. But, it’s certainly a preferable and longer lasting option vs laminate flooring or your basic cheap vinyl.
- It can scratch, especially with heavy objects such as appliances. It’s more scratch resistant than hardwood and bit less resistant than laminate. Note: you can replace pieces if they get scratched, so keep the extras.
- May require a lot of floor prep if your floor is uneven or wavy. If your floor is very uneven or wavy, Engineered vinyl planks (which are rigid) will not line up well, and they can bounce (just as any floating floor can). So, if your floors are wavy or uneven, you will probably want to either add self leveling mix (which can be a bit costly) or consider a glue down installation.
When does it make sense to do a floating engineered vinyl plank rather than a glue down luxury vinyl?
- When your floors are flat and level, you can use whichever type of vinyl (or other flooring you want). In these circumstances, most customers prefer an engineered vinyl plank such as Coretec as it looks and feels nicer (and it often costs a bit less, too).
- When you want a floor that is water proof and moisture resistant. Engineered vinyl plank is perfect for this, and a way better option vs laminate (or engineered hardwood) that can become ruined just from moisture, let alone a floor or water leak.
- When you’re looking for more stylish colors. Because the engineered vinyl planks are newer and more popular, they are rapidly expanding their lines and color selection. It’s often easier to find more options in the more recent hot trends for grays, weathered woods and farmhouse looks in the engineered planks. There are generally fewer options in the glue down versions.
- Engineered vinyl plank is generally better over tile than a glue down vinyl. If you install a glue down vinyl over tile floors, the shape beneath can telegraph through and you would need to fill all the grout lines. This can get expensive. It usually works better to install an engineered vinyl here (plus it’s easier on your feet).
- If you have asbestos tile, then engineered vinyl plank is a great option. (And, glue down vinyl is a terrible option…as you should not glue flooring to vinyl asbestos tile…because when it’s ripped up in the future, the asbestos can become airborne, and then it can be dangerous. But, using a floating floor, such as engineered vinyl plank is a great option as you are not disturbing the asbestos and you are encapsulating it.
What are the advantages of Glue down luxury vinyls? When would you use a glue down vinyl?
- When you have a very wavy or uneven floors – A glue down vinyl can be installed without the need to do self leveling mix. This reduces the cost for floor prep. But please note that the glue down vinyl will still show the waves in the floor (unless you level it).
- When there isn’t enough clearance – If you have very tight height restrictions (e.g. due a metal door or appliances), a glue down option may be better as it’s thinner and can easily fit.
What are the downsides to Glue down luxury vinyls?
- Imperfections in the floor can telegraph through, so you will need to do some floor prep/smoothing
- Can be colder and harder on your feet, if it’s installed directly on top of concrete
- Very hard to remove (adhesive bonds with concrete). And, after you remove it, you will likely need to smooth the floor.
- Most are waterproof, but some of the cheap ones are just water resistant. Some of the super cheap ones may have adhesive issues over time, especially if they get wet.
Which Luxury Vinyls are higher quality?
- US Floors Coretec Plus
- Armstrong Luxe with Rigid Core
- Armstrong Alterna Tile (glue down)
- Karndean (glue down)
- Amtico (glue down)
Luxury Vinyls to avoid
- Coretec One (this does not have the cork underlayment; instead, get the regular Coretec Plus)
- Most that you will find in Big Box stores, especially Allure. These do not hold up.
- Konnecto – This is the same as Allure (private label). Adhesive that attaches this floating floor doesn’t last and edges curl up (usually within 6 months).
- Super cheap ones, especially ones that may be $1.99 or less. You do get what you pay for. And, most of these are imported from China.
- I would be skeptical of NuCore. This is private labeled and mysteriously there are no product reviews. You should note that this is a thinner and flimsier product (it’s only 5.5 mm vs Coretec Plus is 8 mm).
- Home Depot’s Lifeproof. This is their private label brand and it’s thinner than Corectec Plus (it’s only 6.5mm thick) and I know some installers that have reported that it’s not actually waterproof (even though they claim it is). Most likely, it’s just water resilient.
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Where can you buy Luxury Vinyl?
- You can order samples on Amazon (and they have some colors available to buy in bulk)
- Your local flooring store (most carry them; avoid Big Box stores as many have lower quality products that are thinner and NOT waterproof, even though they claim to be.
- Online at FlooringInc
- If you’re going for super cheap (and quality is not a concern), you can check out Home Depot’s Lifeproof (see notes above).
Frequently asked questions about engineered vinyl planks
How do you clean engineered vinyl planks?
One of the great things about vinyls is that they are easy to clean and virtually any all purpose cleaner will work. But, I have head of a few people having some challenges, so I called US Floors (makers of Coretec Plus) to see which product they recommend. They recommend Bona Tile and Laminate cleaner (which you can purchase on Amazon following that link or clicking on the picture)..So, I think you’re safer with this one, especially for engineered vinyl planks.
How does the luxury vinyl stay in place if it’s a floating floor?
Engineered vinyl planks are clickable (in the same way that a laminate is). The more you lock together, the heavier the flooring becomes, so the weight helps it hold it down. And, very importantly, it’s secured around the edges with either base molding or quarter round. They come with matching transitions for the edges for doorways if you need them.
Do you need a vapor barrier underneath the floor?
You will see conflicting information about this – both on the web and in store, because the truth is it DEPENDS. Coretec Plus comes with an attached cork backing, and the product itself is waterproof when water is on top of the floor.
HOWEVER, if you are installing luxury vinyl plank on top of a concrete slab that is isn’t sealed, you are much safer installing a a vapor barrier. Why? Because if you have an unsealed slab (e.g. in the basement or on the ground level of your home, it’s possible that at certain times of the year, due to hydrostatic pressure from the ground water, water may enter your home from below the ground.
This sometimes happens when there has been excessive rain fall, a storm or lots of snow melting coupled with rain. When the ground gets over saturated, the water needs to go somewhere and if you’re on a slab, some of it may enter your home (no matter what type of flooring you have).
This doesn’t happen every year, and sometimes, it’s barely noticeable. But, it can happen.
So, if water enters the home and is trapped under the floor, this can cause mold or mildew (regardless of what type of flooring you have). So, you are much safer installing a vapor barrier in these cases.
If you are installing LVP on top of plywood or in apartments that have concrete sub-floors (provided you’re not on the ground floor), then, you do not need to install.
How do you install luxury vinyl planks (LVP)
As you’ll see from this video from US Floors (makers of Coretec Plus), you’ll see that it’s relatively easy to install these plank floors. If you’re a handy do-it-yourselfer, this project may be right up your alley and save you a nice chunk of change.
Can you install engineered vinyl planks on steps?
Yes, you can, but I would highly recommend against this Why? Because they not very safe and look sloppy. Engineered vinyl planks are floating floors and as a result, they are not nailed into the floor, so they can easily become detached and cause someone to slip.
These floors would need to be glued, and over time that glue can become detached, especially as the glue does not adhere very well to cork. Also, as the glue dries out, it can harden and also become detached. Further, you will need to install stair noses on the front of each tread, and these stair noses are raises (as these are floating floors and it’s the only way to attach them), and the height difference can create a tripping hazard. And, of course if the step underneath isn’t even, the flooring may bounce. And, you will also need to install shoe molding or quarter round around all of the edges, and this in my opinion looks sloppy and cheap on the steps
So, I would avoid installing these on steps. Instead use solid wood treads or carpeting.
Luxury Vinyl Planks are the fast growing segment in the market place, and the EVP (Engineered Vinyl Planks) are the most rapidly accelerating sub-segment. They provide an amazingly real and contemporary look, and they are higher durable and versatile. Customers love that they are waterproof, so they are great for water or moisture prone areas such as kitchens and basements.
Luxury vinyl tends to hold up much better than laminate and engineered hardwood and they can be installed on top of virtually any type of surface.
Related Flooring Articles:
- Coretec Plus engineered luxury vinyl plank review
- Is laminate flooring waterproof?
- Items that will help protect your floors