Love the look of hardwood but don’t have the budget for it? Say hello to vinyl plank flooring—embodying the look and feel of hardwood in less than half the price. But before you run out to buy vinyl plank flooring, you must also know about their “dark side.“
Jokes aside, there are only a handful of disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring and a bunch of advantages. But it’s the drawbacks that we need to be aware of before making a purchase that’s going to stick with us for over a decade, to say the least.
So, let’s hop on our virtual time machine and fast forward to all the troubles you might get into if you choose vinyl plank flooring. Don’t worry; we will go through the perks of vinyl plank flooring, too.
Table of Contents
What Is Vinyl Plank Flooring?
First thing first, what exactly is vinyl plank flooring?
Vinyl plank floorings, aka luxury vinyl planks (LVP), aka luxury vinyl floors (LVF), are designed to look like hardwood and come in long, thin strips. But at its core, it is basically plastic or, more accurately put: PVC. Unlike sheet vinyl, vinyl plank is rigid and includes additional layers to support its structure.
Typically, vinyl plank flooring features four layers:
- Topmost layer: Made of aluminum oxide to protect it from light scratches and scuffs.
- Clear film layer: An additional layer of protection to protect the planks against rips and tears.
- Design layer: The design layer is what gives the plank vinyl the look of hardwood. It is made using different printing techniques to create realistic visuals.
- Backing layer: The backing layer accounts for 90 percent of the total thickness of vinyl planks. It is made of fairly rigid vinyl that supports the structure of the flooring.
Vinyl plank vs. vinyl sheet
Vinyl sheets have been around so long that the words vinyl and vinyl sheets are sometimes used synonymously. Adding to the sorrow of vinyl, most people still picture the old-fashioned roll of floral printed vinyl sheets that were in every kitchen in the 50s when they hear the word “vinyl flooring.”
So, what is the difference between vinyl plank and vinyl sheet?
Well, a vinyl sheet is generally a form of flexible vinyl consisting of two layers only: the printed layer covered by a clear wear layer. It doesn’t include any backing layer and is, therefore, more flexible than rigid. It usually comes in rolls that you can cut according to the size of the room.
Vinyl plank and vinyl sheets share many similarities as they come from the same material. Both are water-resistant, incredibly durable, budget-friendly, and easy to clean and maintain.
While sheet vinyl is also an incredible flooring option and has a certain time and place to shine, that’s not what we are dealing with today. So, for the rest of this article, we will limit our discussion to only the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Vinyl Plank Flooring?
Now, let’s get into what we came here for: the pros and cons of vinyl plank flooring. But we’re following a little unconventional path here. We will start off by discussing the disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring and then move on to the advantages because all flooring options come with a bunch of pros. But it’s the cons we need to be aware of the most.
The Disadvantages of Vinyl Plank Flooring
Vinyl plank flooring cannot handle the sun
Vinyl planks are the vampires of the flooring world: they cannot stand the sun. Sunlight exposure can highly damage the color of vinyl planks. So, try to keep it out of sunlight. Otherwise, the floor will lose the color and glamor of its own.
Maybe you don’t install vinyl planks in decks and sunrooms. But what about the spots in front of large windows that will surely get blasted in the sun? You can always cover those spots using UV-blocking area rugs for sure. But better yet, go for vinyl floorings with UV-resistant coatings in the wear layer for those sunny spots.
Some Vinyl Plank Flooring Can Off-Gas VOCs
Ever heard of VOCs? It stands for volatile organic compounds. An organic compound that is released by any industrially-made products, including vinyl plank floorings. These gases impact your health negatively in the long run and are not-so-good for Mother Nature either.
However, vinyl planks will typically off-gas VOC for a short period after installation and eventually stop over time. Although this small amount of VOC is not particularly hazardous, you need to be aware of its negative connotations. Especially if someone with respiratory problems comes in contact with these floors, it can cause headaches, dizziness, and allergic symptoms even on short exposures.
At the end of the day, you must be aware of bringing home any pesky compounds that will sneak into your system. If low-VOC is a priority for you, you can always opt for low-VOC vinyl flooring to keep you and your family safe.
Vinyl planks might get dents
Vinyl planks are super durable—without any doubt. But its durability comes from its bottommost backing layer, while the top layers remain vulnerable to dents and damages. If you drop something heavy and sharp, the wear layer will be penetrated and leave a gouged spot on the floor. Heavy furniture can also dent vinyl planks over time. This is why most manufacturers impose a weight limit up to which the floor can handle the pressure.
LVP is no friend to the environment
Vinyl plank is essentially plastic, meaning it’s not eco-friendly at all. Most of these floorings cannot be recycled or composted and will add to the existing landfills. Also, since LVP is nearly impossible to repair, they are more likely to end up in landfills.
However, one might argue that the long lifespan of vinyl makes it relatively sustainable. And with that, we agree. But there are loads of environment-friendlier flooring options out there that you need to check out if this concerns you.
Vinyl plank flooring is really hard to repair
Yes, vinyl planks might look similar to hardwood, but you will understand they are vastly different once you damage them. Damaged hardwood is super easy to fix; a little sanding and refinishing, and you are done. But that’s not the case with vinyl planks.
Vinyl plank flooring is extremely difficult—if not impossible—to repair. So much so that the only option you are left with is to yank it off and throw it away if it gets damaged. Although there are ways to remove light scratches from LVP and make them look new again, they work only up to a certain extent. If the damage reaches the design layer, there is not much left to do but to say goodbye to your flooring.
Vinyl plank flooring is even harder to remove
Even the goodbyes are difficult with vinyl plank flooring as it is often glued to the subfloor. Glued-down floors are a nightmare to uninstall. It is time-consuming to uninstall, even for professionals, which means it will cost you more to get rid of them.
However, if you opt for floating installation, then you will not run into this issue. But vinyl floors are glued down in most cases so that furniture movements and other activities don’t affect its positioning. So, if you plan to change your floors after a short period, you are better off with other floating floor options.
Vinyl planks don’t have good resale value
If you aim to resell your home down the line, you might want to consider how the floors you are installing will affect its resale value.
Typically, hardwoods—especially exotic hardwood species—add heavily to the resale value of a home since they last for decades and can be repaired easily. But something like LVP will not serve the same way. But it will not affect the resale value negatively either.
The Advantages of Vinyl Plank Flooring
Vinyl plank flooring is water-resistant
This is probably the biggest selling point for vinyl plank flooring: it is water-resistant and even waterproof at times! It is naturally water-resistant since it is made of plastic. It is perfect for places like bathrooms and kitchens where spills are bound to happen. However, water might seep through the planks’ edges and damage the subfloor. So, you should still clean up any spills as soon as possible.
LVP is an excellent hardwood alternative
We can guarantee that at some point, you have stood on what you thought was hardwood while you were actually standing on LVP. With advanced embossing and 3D printing techniques, it is becoming harder and harder to tell the two apart.
But other than looks, what makes LVP the perfect alternative to hardwood floors is it makes up for some of the hardwood’s weaknesses. For example, unlike its more expensive counterpart, LVP can handle water and humidity. So, it is a much more suitable choice if you live somewhere humid. Vinyl is also much more affordable and easier to install when compared to hardwood.
Vinyl planks are affordable
Vinyl planks have a relatively wider price range, starting from only $1 and going all the way up to $8. But even if you choose exclusive designer luxury vinyl, it will still cost you less than solid hardwood while serving the same look. You will also save money installing it even if you go with professionals, as it will require less time and labor.
Vinyl is a friend to the furry family members
If you have pets, then solid hardwood is nothing but a nightmare and a source of constant worry. Whereas vinyl planks will stand a better chance at surviving your furry friends as they are scratch and water-resistant.
Vinyl has a non-porous surface. So, it won’t absorb any of the “little mishaps” your cat or dog might have on the floor. You also won’t have to worry about lingering odor as long as you find the spot and give it a good wipe-down.
Vinyl is safe to use with radiant heat systems
Vinyl planks are composed of PVC (vinyl), fiberglass, plasticizers, and a thin print layer on top, sometimes with an addition of cork or foam backing. All of these materials tolerate heat well up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. However, depending on the manufacturer and the prints, keeping the heating below 80 degrees is recommended to prevent color degradation or shrinkage.
Vinyl plank is extremely durable
The durability of vinyl planks is no joke. Unless you drop something sharp or heavy, these guys won’t budge. They are so durable that many manufacturers now offer a lifetime warranty on their LVP. So, any future replacement you are looking at will be a long way ahead, even without much maintenance.
Vinyl plank resists scratch
As if you weren’t sold on vinyl planks already, now it comes with scratch resistance. The sturdy wear layer is very hard to scratch, making it pet- and kid-friendly. However, if you drop a knife or a 20 lbs dumbbell, no wear layer can save your floors from damage.
LVP is a friend to the DIYers
Vinyl plank flooring comes in a tongue-and-groove installation method, which is super easy to install. You just need to place the planks according to the floor plan and use the interlocking mechanism to connect them. This type of installation is also known as “floating floors” since it actually floats on the subfloor.
Extremely easy to maintain
If you are used to having hardwood floors, you will love vinyl for finally having a floor that is easy to maintain. You can clean it with water and won’t need fancy products to maintain it. The water resistance means you don’t need to clean up the spills right away. The scratch resistance of these floors also gives you some breathing room to let your kids and pets play around without constantly worrying about the floors.
Alternatives to Vinyl Plank Flooring
Hardwood Flooring: Since hardwood is the one we are trying to go after with vinyl planks, let’s start with that. Hardwood flooring is a classic—no doubt about that. It exudes timeless elegance and can elevate the ambiance of any room. With a wide range of wood types and finishes available, you can achieve a look that’s both warm and inviting. While it may be pricier than vinyl planks, the lasting beauty and value it adds to your home are worth every penny.
Laminate Flooring: There is no true winner when comparing vinyl planks to laminate. Each comes with its unique flaws and perks. Laminate also replicates the appearance of wood with incredible accuracy and comes in various styles. Its easy installation and resistance to scratches and stains make it a practical choice.
Engineered Wood Flooring: Combining the beauty of hardwood with enhanced durability, engineered wood flooring is an attractive alternative. Engineered hardwood brings a hint of real hardwood at a discounted price. Its layered construction makes it less susceptible to moisture-related issues, making it suitable for various areas in your home.
Ceramic or Porcelain Tile: For areas prone to moisture, like bathrooms and kitchens, ceramic or porcelain tiles are excellent alternatives. Although tiles offer a completely different look compared to vinyl planks, they present endless design possibilities with an array of colors, patterns, and sizes. Plus, they’re easy to clean and exceptionally durable.
Cork Flooring: Cork flooring is a fascinating option if you’re after a soft and comfortable feel underfoot. It’s an excellent insulator, naturally resistant to mold and mildew, and eco-friendly as it’s sourced from cork oak trees without causing harm. It’s quite easy to assemble as well. And the cost? Competitive to vinyl plank flooring: only $3 to $12 for each square foot.
Carpet: Seeking comfort and warmth? Carpeting might be your solution, especially for bedrooms and living rooms. We admit carpets and vinyl planks cannot compete head-on since they are totally different flooring options. Still, modern carpets come in a plethora of colors, textures, and patterns, letting you infuse your style into your space—an alternative worth exploring.
Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring, will you still go for it? Comment below and let us know!