If you’re in the market for new flooring, you must have encountered at least one salesperson trying to sell you on SPC flooring and telling you all about its wondrous benefits. But does it truly hold up to the hype? And more importantly—what is SPC flooring?
Stone Plastic Composite (SPC) flooring is a type of rigid core vinyl plank flooring and is often marketed as an upgrade to tiles and luxury vinyl floors—and, hence, more expensive than regular vinyl. Flooring experts are all aware of its amazing benefits. But as a layperson, you need to weigh the pros and cons of SPC flooring before you choose to pay the premium.
Here, we will break down the pros and cons of SPC flooring, starting by explaining its basic properties, how it’s made, and more so you can make an informed decision about whether you should give SPC flooring a chance in your home or not. Let’s go!
Table of Contents
What is SPC Flooring
SPC flooring, a.k.a. stone plastic composite flooring, has a stone-polymer composite core designed to improve the rigidity and durability of original vinyl plank flooring. Engineered with a blend of natural limestone powder, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and stabilizers, SPC flooring boasts a unique composition that sets it apart from traditional vinyl options.
What makes SPC flooring distinctive is its rigid core technology, making it 100% impervious to water. Its incredible water resistance makes it an ideal choice for areas prone to spills and humidity. Installation is simplified with a user-friendly click-lock system, allowing homeowners to achieve a professional-looking floor without the need for adhesives.
SPC flooring layers
UV Coating: Some SPC flooring features a UV coating on the wear layer, providing an extra layer of protection against fading and discoloration caused by exposure to sunlight. This UV coating helps maintain the flooring’s aesthetic appeal over time, especially in areas with significant sun exposure.
Wear Layer: The topmost layer of SPC flooring is the wear layer, a transparent protective coating that shields the floor from scratches, stains, and wear, ensuring long-lasting durability.
Vinyl Decorative Film: Beneath the wear layer lies the vinyl decorative film, which carries the aesthetic appeal by replicating the look of natural materials such as wood or stone, providing a diverse range of design options.
SPC Core Layer: The heart of SPC flooring is the Stone Plastic Composite (SPC) core layer, which is composed of limestone powder, polyvinyl chloride, and stabilizers. This rigid core lends strength, stability, and resistance to impacts and indentation.
Backing Layer: The bottom layer of SPC flooring is the backing layer, which enhances dimensional stability and provides additional support. Some products may include an attached underlayment for added comfort underfoot.
How is SPC Flooring Made?
SPC flooring undergoes a meticulous six-step manufacturing process, showcasing the precision behind its durable composition. The journey begins with the mixing phase, where raw materials are heated to 125–130 degrees Celsius, eliminating water vapor. The extrusion process follows, with temperature control ensuring correct plasticization as the material passes through five zones, gradually declining in temperature.
Calendering is the next crucial step, involving heated rollers that shape the material into a continuous sheet. The sheet undergoes embossing for texture, featuring designs from a light “tick” to a “deep” emboss. A scratch and scuff-resistant top coat is applied before the material heads to the drawer. The drawing machine transports the material to the cutter and makes equal cuts. Finally, an automatic plate-lifting machine lifts and stacks the finished product, ready for packing.
The Pros and Cons of SPC Flooring
Now that we know what SPC flooring is and how it’s made, let’s take a look into the pros and cons of SPC flooring.
Advantages of SPC Flooring
First, let’s dive into what makes SPC flooring so great, a.k.a. the pros!
The surface of SPC is completely waterproof.
Anytime you’re dealing with a wood look alike, whether you can use them in spill-prone or moist areas becomes a big question. Because including the real deal (solid hardwood), most hardwood alternatives don’t mesh well with water. But that’s not something you need to worry about with SPC flooring. In fact, they are one of the best flooring options for bathrooms.
SPC vinyl features a 100% waterproof surface that can even deal with standing water for days. But before you go splashing your SPC floor with water, note that the seams might not be completely waterproof, and water can still get under the floors through the seams and damage the subfloor.
SPC flooring is incredibly durable
The intricate process that SPC follows from the beginning till it gets delivered to your home should already give you an idea about its quality, which translates directly to its durability. The core is incredibly strong—protecting its structure throughout its lifetime.
On top of that, SPC features a wear layer that protects the layers underneath. It also makes it resistant to scratches, dents, and even damage from UV exposures.
In fact, its guaranteed durability and strength has given most manufacturers the confidence to provide a 15-year warranty on their SPC flooring. It can even last over 20 years if well-maintained. Aside from the typical SPC flooring you find in the market, there are also fiberglass-reinforced SPCs that are designed to sustain heavy-duty usage.
SPC offers a wide range of styles and selections
Since the final look of the product depends on whatever you print on the design layer, you can probably imagine the abundance of styles and choices you can get with SPC. Love the rich brown shade of teak flooring? SPC got you covered. How about the gorgeous, deep texture of mahogany? It’s got it all!
And if you’re not looking for a wood look-alike but natural stone or ceramic tile with better underfoot comfort, SPC is the way to go!
SPC is affordable
Now, affordability is subjective. Yes, there are more affordable flooring options out there, but for what you get with SPC, it’s a pretty sweet deal. If you’re going for a natural floor duplicate, you will be saving quite a bit of money while not compromising on quality and durability.
Most SPCs come with a click-and-lock mechanism that will save you even more money on installation. And if you’re a DIY wizard, you can install them yourself and call it a day.
But don’t forget to stagger them for stable flooring. Click here to learn how to stagger vinyl plank flooring like a pro.
SPC is easy to clean & maintain
There is nothing I hate more than having a floor that is super high maintenance. I mean, there are better things to do with our time than constantly worrying and cleaning something that is literally all over our entire house, right?
If you share the same philosophy as me, then you’re going to love SPC flooring. Cleaning it is super simple—just run a sweep or a vacuum over the floor and follow that up with a damp mop. You don’t even have to sweat scratches or spills, thanks to the protective wear layer.
SPC is stable with temperature and humidity fluctuations
Generally, SPC products don’t expand or contract due to temperature and humidity changes. Which eliminates the need for expansion gaps or transition profiles between rooms. This creates a stable floor without any chances of creaking and gaping floorboards.
SPC is environmentally friendly (or friendlier)
SPC isn’t purely made out of PVC, unlike the typical luxury vinyl floors. However, since it still uses a large amount of polymer, it only makes that much difference. But what adds to its eco-friendliness is the fact that many SPC manufacturers use recycled materials to form SPC.
Another point to note is the top SPC brands make low-VOC emitting floors. Without delving much into the details of VOC or volatile organic compounds, these are harmful chemicals that you don’t want to welcome into your home.
SPC is compatible with radiant heating
If you already have radiant heating in your home or plan to include it in the future, you should consider floors that are compatible with it. And SPC flooring is one of them. However, you should still check with your manufacturer to make sure their product is up to the standard.
Disadvantages of SPC Flooring
Now that we know all the good, good, good, let’s hear some bad, bad, bad. Or at least things you should be mindful of before installing SPC flooring in your home.
SPC requires the “perfect” subfloor
Although this isn’t necessarily a disadvantage of SPC flooring, it is something you need to take into consideration. The subfloor should be smooth, perfectly level, and squeaky clean for the SPC to go in. So, put some time into preparing the subfloor, especially if you have some damages and dents on it.
Otherwise, it will cause lumps and bumps on the surface of the SPC, which will eventually lead to rips and tears on the floor.
SPC is more expensive than ordinary luxury vinyl
Given the intricacy and the detailing that go into making SPC, you probably already knew that these would be slightly more expensive than ordinary luxury vinyl. The average price of SPC floors is around $4 per square foot, while luxury vinyl averages at $2 to $5 per square foot.
Although the actual price difference depends on the brands and quality, typically, the same brand runs its SPC line at $1 more per square foot than its ordinary luxury vinyl line.
SPC doesn’t have a great resale value
Even though SPC is a great alternative to hardwood or natural stone, at the end of the day, it is not the real deal. Generally, in the real estate market, the polymer composite does not improve the resale price much.
SPC isn’t as comfortable as other luxury vinyl variants
We already know SPC floors are extremely durable, but that comes at a price. The extreme rigidity and hardness make SPC less comfortable to step on when compared to other luxury vinyl variants. However, you can counteract it by using an underlayment with more cushioning.
SPC cannot be refinished or repaired
SPC, like all other PVC floors, cannot be refinished like hardwood floors. So, once it is damaged, you have pretty much no other options left but to replace them. But the good news is replacing a damaged SPC tile or plank is convenient and easy. However, the situation gets a lot more difficult when you’re dealing with SPC sheets. So, you might need to consider damage repairs before investing in the sheet version.
SPC isn’t very eco-friendly
Although they are better than ordinary luxury vinyl since they are partially made of stone powder, they still include a large portion of PVC, which makes most SPC non-biodegradable. However, some manufacturers have embraced recyclable SPC flooring options.
The environmental concerns don’t stop there. Over time, as SPC flooring wears down, it releases chemicals into the environment, contributing to pollution. It’s a concerning side effect of the longevity that makes SPC flooring so attractive. Also, the manufacturing process of SPC flooring demands a significant consumption of natural gas, petroleum, and other non-renewable resources.
How Much Does SPC Flooring Cost?
On average, SPC flooring costs range from $3 to $7 per square foot, making it a cost-effective choice. When compared to hardwood flooring, which can reach $8 to $25 per square foot, or even ceramic tiles, averaging $5 to $10 per square foot, SPC stands out as an affordable yet resilient alternative. Remember, prices may vary based on factors like brand, design, and installation requirements.
While SPC often boasts a DIY-friendly click-lock system, professional installation may range from $1 to $3 per square foot, impacting the overall project cost. Prices can vary based on factors like brand, design, and installation requirements.
How to Install SPC Flooring
Installing SPC flooring is a simple process, making it an attractive option for DIY enthusiasts. Begin by ensuring a clean, level surface. SPC often features a click-lock system, allowing planks to interlock seamlessly.
Start in a corner, laying the first plank with the tongue facing outward. Continue across the room, leaving a 1/4-inch expansion gap at the edges. Use a saw to trim the last row for a snug fit.
Remember, proper acclimatization to the room’s temperature is crucial before installation. While SPC allows for a DIY approach, seeking professional installation ensures a flawless finish, especially in larger or more challenging spaces.
SPC Flooring FAQs
What is the difference between SPC and vinyl flooring?
The main difference between SPC (Stone Plastic Composite) and traditional vinyl flooring lies in the core composition. SPC has a rigid, stone-based core, making it more durable and resistant to impacts than standard vinyl.
Additionally, SPC is typically thicker and offers better stability. Both share waterproof qualities, but SPC’s rigid core gives it a sturdier feel underfoot. Traditional vinyl flooring, while versatile, lacks the same level of impact resistance and thickness found in SPC flooring.
SPC vs WPC: Which is better?
The choice between SPC (Stone Plastic Composite) and WPC (Wood Plastic Composite) depends on specific needs. SPC is more rigid, ideal for high-traffic areas, and fully waterproof. WPC, while less rigid, offers a more comfortable feel underfoot and is also waterproof. Both are durable, but SPC might be preferable in areas with extreme temperature fluctuations. Consider SPC for a stiffer, more resilient floor and WPC for a softer, more comfortable option.
Where is the best place to use SPC flooring?
I can’t count the times I had company, and they freaked out seeing my SPC flooring in the bathroom. I had to explain that SPC flooring is ideal for high-traffic areas and spaces prone to moisture, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Its water-resistant and durable properties make it a smart choice for these environments. Additionally, SPC flooring is suitable for commercial spaces, offering resilience against heavy foot traffic and wear.
Can you use SPC flooring outside?
No, SPC flooring is not recommended for outdoor use. It is designed for interior applications and may not withstand the exposure to elements, extreme weather conditions, and UV radiation commonly encountered outdoors. Using SPC flooring outside can lead to deterioration and reduced performance.
Is SPC cheaper than vinyl?
No, SPC (Stone Plastic Composite) flooring is typically priced higher than traditional vinyl flooring. While both options are cost-effective compared to hardwood or stone floors, SPC’s rigid core technology enhances durability and resilience, making it an attractive and economical choice for those seeking a long-lasting flooring solution.