Luxury Vinyl Plank, or LVP, has taken the flooring industry by storm. You may know it as SPC (stone plastic composite), WPT (wood plastic composite), LVT (luxury vinyl tile), EVT (engineered vinyl tile), or VCT (vinyl composite tile). All of these names are generally referring to the same concept with some minor differences. Often times, our customers who are initially interested in laminate end up going with LVP, and there’s good reason for it. So, what is it and what makes LVP the ‘floor of the future’, as we call it? It comes down to three main factors: the construction, the look, and the convenience.
To best understand what makes luxury vinyl plank so special, it’s helpful to know what it isn’t. Many people hear “vinyl” and have flashbacks to printed sheet vinyl in kitchens and bathrooms throughout the 80’s and 90’s. However, LVP is actually a rigid plank format, sold in boxes, not rolls. It’s a floating floor, which means it isn’t glued down but rather ‘clicks’ together using a tongue-and-groove system. The advantage here is twofold. First, with no need for glue, installation is much faster and less sensitive… in fact, we can move furniture to one side of a room, install the bare portion, then move the furniture right back onto the new LVP to do the second half. Freshly-installed LVP can be safely walked on immediately, with no worries of shifting like there is with tile. Secondly, it means that in many cases we’re able to install directly over existing hard surface flooring. For example, in an entire downstairs of tile with a small area of carpet, we’ll pull out the carpet, install a flat subfloor in its place to be level with the tile, and then install over everything evenly with LVP. This comes down to weighing out the cost of demoing the existing floor vs. installing a subfloor to equal what’s there, so we make this decision on a case by case basis to save you money.
By far, the biggest advantage of LVP is that it is 100% waterproof. You can completely submerge a plank in water, take it out and wipe it off, and install it. We actually had a customer whose laundry room flooded a month after installing LVP. We took out the planks, set them on racks over the weekend while the leak was fixed, and re-installed the same planks just as they were! We highly recommend LVP in wet areas like kitchen, bathrooms, laundry rooms, bars, or houses with pools.
How is this possible? It’s all about the construction. Varying from manufacturer to manufacturer*, LVP is frequently 8-12mm in thickness, and at the core of that is the synthetic-composite core layer. This layer is what gives the planks their rigidity, strength, and waterproof quality. On top of the core layer is a .5mm (20mil) wear layer, which is where the material’s photographic print and the plank’s textured embossing sits. This is the visual presentation of the plank which also acts as one of the benchmarks of its quality. The authenticity and resolution of the photograph itself, the accuracy of the print, and the way the print aligns with the textured embossing all lend to the overall aesthetic of the floor. Finally, under the wear and core layers, is the 1.5mm acoustic layer; and unlike laminate flooring, this is adhered to each plank individually right from the factory. This is an antimicrobial and acoustic padding, dense and rubbery in texture, that provides a small amount of give under each plank. This helps absorb small imperfections in the slab or subfloor, as well as reduces the brittle, ‘clicky’ sound that laminate is known for.
As mentioned above, the wear layer is the main component in the look of your LVP flooring. A subpar plank against a quality plank is easily identifiable. These images start as photographs of physical material that has been either naturally treated using stains or acid washes, or enhanced and edited digitally at the photograph stage. The best images use original, high-resolution photography done in-house for that product specifically. As a cost-cutting measure, many companies will repurpose or duplicate another manufacturer’s image, but at a price: these images often have lower resolution, where the colors are visibly separated (think poorly-printed newspaper photo) and the detail is soft (think photocopy of a photocopy). The textured embossing is also critical. We have had the misfortune of opening a box of LVP only to find that random planks had their texture patterns mistakenly shifted down the length of the plank during production, resulting in an abrupt stop of all woodgrain texture, with the last few inches having a perfectly smooth finish. We no longer sell that product.
Then comes the choice between beveled or square edges. This is referring to the edges of the plank that butt up against the planks next to it. A square edge has the profile of a hard 90-degree angle, so the wear layers are perfectly (or almost perfectly) level with each other. A beveled edge has a slightly angled profile where the planks meet, so putting two together shows the definition between each plank. The difference is very subtle, but when looking at an entire floor of one or the other, it makes a big impact. When viewed from an angle under ambient light especially, a room of square-edge planks will sort of ‘blend together’ and can sometimes look like a high-quality sheet vinyl since there’s no bevel to catch the light. On the other hand, many people prefer that look over separated planks, and dislike the bevels between them. At Langdon Floorcovering, we have both options to suit your taste.
Now onto colors! Since around 2016, grays have been big. Thanks to the restoration movement inspired by Pinterest and HGTV (looking at you, Chip & Joanna), the farmhouse look is everywhere. Even those not fully committed to aged tin, burlap, and twine can still appreciate the simple and modern appeal of a more neutral color palette. Grays mean you can completely freshen your home by re-painting a single accent wall here or there, rather than the whole place. It also means that subtle pops of color like desaturated blues, copper, or deep reds will always tie together.
Well, right around the time we hit our Gray Period, LVP became a household name. Because of this, manufacturers smartly chose to design for where the puck was going, not where it was currently, and now LVP has an unmistakeable fashion-forward style. There’s a faint echo of gray undertones in most of the luxury vinyl plank we’ve seen on the market, with some product lines outright celebrating it. Along with these more muted and authentic colors, you’ll often find subtle hints of white paint residue embedded in the knots of planks; an homage to the resurfaced wood look made popular in DIY design. Finally, a de-lustered finish means the Sheen Of The 90’s (no, not that Sheen) has been traded for a matte, sometimes even wirebrush wear state that suggests cozy, but without compromise. Because of these factors, LVP can help instantly modernize a home, which is great to keep in mind for remodels, or when listing houses for sale.
“How do I clean it though?” This is a common question for a new product, and we’re happy to report a crazy-convenient solution: a bucket of warm water and a tablespoon of your favorite dish soap. That’s it. Like any floor, it’s important to make sure your water is clean as you go, so this may take multiple sections with fresh buckets depending on the area and soil level. For light cleanings in between, a Swiffer works just fine. One consistent thing we hear with LVP customers (including Barbara, our She-E.O., who is a self-described clean freak) is how easy it is to maintain. Spills wipe right up, it doesn’t trap dirt, and doesn’t attract that impossible-to-clean filmy residue like laminate and some tile. Kids, pools, and pets are a few of the keywords we listen for when customers are looking for the right floor and LVP is an option. (If nothing else, dogs and cats getting used to reduced traction is good for a laugh... just set up some bowling pins and grab the popcorn.) We’ve had large family parties on our own LVP floors, including animals and spills of all kinds, and never have to worry about it surviving to see its next cleaning. Maybe we should try breakdance battles on it next?
Maybe you’re trying to freshen up an old home as part of a larger facelift, maybe you’re getting ready to sell (or moving in!), or maybe you can see your sensitive wood or laminate floor curling up in the fetal position as your new pool is installed. Maybe it’s the fact that roughly two-thirds of Langdon Floorcovering’s 2018 work has been LVP installs, or your friend down the street told you about it. Whatever the reason, we’d be happy to set up a free estimate to measure your home or business for luxury vinyl plank, so you too can walk on the floor of the future.
*Note: The information in this article is based on the specifications of our preferred LVP manufacturer’s products. Other companies may use different terminology and slightly different specifications, but the overall concept of LVP is the same, even though the quality may vary between companies.