How durable is vinyl plank flooring?
May 8, 2017 12:18 PM   Subscribe

We've decided that it's time to get rid of the wall-to-wall carpeting that came with our house. We have pets and allergy problems, which means replacing it with new carpet isn't an option. We're leaning toward click-lock vinyl plank, but I'm concerned about how it holds up to wear and tear, and wondering if the installation is simple enough for a DIY project. Details below.

After looking at material options, we've decided against hardwood due to cost -- we're not sure how long we'll be in the house, and don't believe enough of the investment in hardwood will pay off in the sale price of the home. The vinyl plank stuff obviously isn't going to have the same sturdy feel as hardwood, but the modern products seem at least as strong as the laminate floor we put in one of our rooms, and won't warp from pet messes, leaky flower pots, etc. Engineered hardwood seemed like a good compromise, but the pricing on it is just a bit below the "real" thing, and we'd have to worry about water / pet messes getting in the seams and causing problems.

The major concern I have with vinyl plank is that, while the body of the planks feels pretty sturdy, at least on all the samples I've collected, the layer that actually has the print on it is paper thin -- something between resume paper and thinner card stock. This makes me think that it might only be a few years before high traffic areas start to show signs of scuffing / wearing of the pattern. Have I just looked at crappy brands, or is it usually the case that the upper layer of vinyl is so thin? Or maybe this "luxury" vinyl plank stuff just cheapo junk that flooring shops have been able to market well?

The other thing I was wondering about is installation. We teamed up with my parents-in-law to knock out a laminate floor job in a ~270 sq. ft. room in a day. My understanding of the vinyl plank stuff is that it's generally a similar install, and that some of it even has built-in padding so there's no need for underlayment. Is it reasonable to expect an easy install with this stuff, or should we pay the ~$2/sq. ft. to have a professional do it for us? It's going to be a big job -- about 1200 sq. ft. of flooring -- so if the degree of difficulty is higher than for laminate, it might be more than we can handle right now.
posted by tonycpsu to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've used stuff like this in high-wear areas of my house (entrance ways, bathroom) and it has held up really well after 10 years. This isn't click-lock stuff, but instead the planks stick together with overlapping glue strips. Once it is stuck together it makes a solid, water proof surface, so you can use it in places like bathrooms. It was easy to install, but if you ever make a mistake in sticking the planks together you are screwed. The bond is permanent, and the planks will rip before the glue bond comes apart. I know this from experience... fortunately only 1 box into the installation. It comes in a bunch of different patterns, not just fake wood. No underlayment was needed, and the only tools required was a straightedge and a knife.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:57 PM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

The paper thin part is true of Laminate as well. The part that has the picture of the "wood" on it with coating over that is paper thin in both cases. The only major differences is Laminate has a picture of wood on top of fiber/particle board and vinyl has it on top pf plastic. The tend to both be more durable than hardwood, but when hardwood is damaged you have a scratch that adds character when fake wood floors are scratched you scratch through that picture of wood and get very obvious damage. (but it's not hard to swap out a piece if you keep spares around)

Installation of Vinyl depends very much on the product. Simpler vinyl products without a backing can be a little harder to install than Laminate because they are a little bendy-wobbly-ier so having them look straight and flat can get tricky. But thicker products with the padding/backing and snap together, are essentially the same on a level floor as laminate.

Good luck!
posted by French Fry at 12:57 PM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Click-lock is pretty easy to install and it's a reasonable DIY even for a novice, as long as you're generally okay with saws. More sq ft just means it takes longer. Unless you have an odd-shaped room(s) with various halls and closets, then it gets more complicated and you might consider pro help.

We've been happy with 3/4 engineered hardwood: the material cost was as high as regular hardwood flooring, but the install time/cost was much faster/cheaper.

If you go with vinyl, just don't get the thinnest/cheapest product. You'll get better wear and comfort the more you spend. The laminate layer does look thin, but it's fairly durable- within reason.
posted by ovvl at 1:17 PM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

We replaced our carpet with 'luxury' vinyl plank flooring a little over a year ago, and love it. It's in high-traffic areas, lived in by the World's Worst Dog that loves to mark everything as his own (and is a sneaky little jerk about it), and it is not showing any wear, other than a few scratches from being careless about moving furniture.

We got it installed, so I can't comment on the ease of that.
posted by Fig at 1:38 PM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

My vinyl-floored kitchen has held up really well to 4 years of human foot traffic, but there's an area that's my neighbor dog's favorite place to play - when our friends come over to visit and bring their dog, there's a great ball run path tht's partially in the kitchen. And that area is scratched up. It's not particularly unsightly, it would probably look worse on hardwood because the textured vinyl hides the scratches better than a smooth glossy surface would. But I'm still really disappointed that it's taken a such beating.
posted by aimedwander at 1:41 PM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I wheedled my ex-boyfriend, who installs flooring for a living, into putting a floor in a bedroom for me, he went with vinyl plank because he found it easier to install than laminate.

(Whichever you go with, pay attention to how slippery it is. The stuff he installed is super slippery to walk on, as is the laminate my parents installed in their kitchen. But I have vinyl in other rooms and they have laminate in other rooms that's not slippery, so it has to do with the specific brand.)
posted by metasarah at 2:41 PM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Even easier and cheaper for the time being is plain vinyl sheet flooring. You can stick it down to the subfloor around the perimeter with double sided tape. It's super easy to install once you get all the tack strips up and if your room isn't too wide there are no seams. Later, when you want to sell, you can take it up in an hour and put down hardwood or laminate planks.

The only fiddly bit is cutting the edges to fit under the baseboards, but it's easy enough. Just leave a bit extra the first time you cut.

Good laminate plank flooring has a 1/16th" hardwood veneer with a polyurethane finish, by the way. It holds up to traffic reasonably well. It can generally be sanded (very carefully) and refinished at least once, but it's a lot easier to permanently destroy than actual hardwood.
posted by wierdo at 4:12 PM on May 8, 2017

A friend of mine installed the vinyl plank flooring in two rooms, high traffic with pets. It is visible as soon as you walk in that it is Not Wood, just like with laminate, but feels different to walk on from laminate. But it has held up really well for them, even with the pets, and they are very happy with it. I don't think it added a ton of value, but neither did the gross carpet that was there before.

They did pick a brand that claimed to be "commercial grade" or something like that, which might have helped with the durability.

There is laminate in the place I am sitting in right now, and based on how this has aged in just a few years I would not go with laminate in most situations. My friend's vinyl is wearing much, much better.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:30 PM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Look for a line of waterproof vinyl. It's the best thing ever. You can dump water on the floor,leave it, come back later and nothing will have been damaged. I have waterproof vinyl in my bathroom and it looks great even after tons of abuse.

But even regular vinyl will hold up a bit better than laminate, although it feels a bit different underfoot(most vinyl has a textured or satin finish that you can feel a bit). Laminate will lift,peel and warp really easily simply because the core of the planks are particle board which doesn't like any moisture or heat.
posted by InkDrinker at 9:57 PM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hey, I just installed loose lay waterproof vinal plank flooring this weekend; the stuff that doesn't need an underlay. I did this in my kitchen/dining room area. I had some odd areas to cut around (island in the middle, and we did flooring under the sections for stove/dishwasher/fridge. I used floor adhesive around the perimeter of the install.

When we looked at a lot of the click in place stuff, the interlocking parts seemed a bit flimsy. I suspect that in some of the edge locations (places where I needed to cut out a 5/8 inch strip 8 inches in from an edge), that the click stuff would have made this hell. Similarly at one house we did the overlapping adhesive tiles, and I found that it could be difficult to get the piece perfectly tight because the glue areas would come into contact.

In the world of flooring, I've self-installed click together laminate, overlapping adhesive vinyl and now loose lay vinyl. The loose lay way the easiest install I've had. My one complaint is that the fridge is so heavy, and difficult to roll that pushes non-super-securely glued tiles while "rolling". If I could go back in time I'd have done things differently around the fridge.

It took one person two half days. Since I wanted to not have hell trying to switch out potentially damaged planks I let the floor adhesive around the perimeter dry a few hours before putting down the planks.
posted by nobeagle at 6:41 AM on May 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

We used the Trafficmaster Allure stuff from Home Depot. Definitely an easy DIY job. We did the whole house in a few weekends with just the two of us.

The fact that it was waterproof was amazing, and with two large and one giant dog, it held up really well. As in, the old hardwood in the house was getting ruined to the point of there being ruts worn down in high-traffic areas, and this stuff looked great years later when we sold.
posted by thejanna at 8:11 AM on May 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'll post a separate AskMe for this if necessary, but just in case anyone still has this in their recent activity: why is it so hard to find vinyl plank flooring in anything other than wood grain patterns -- specifically, ones with more of a ceramic tile look to them? We're looking to start with the kitchen since it's a smallish room and the current floor is in such bad shape, but we don't want to go with a wood look in the kitchen.

So far our trips to Home Depot and Lowe's have turned up a grand total of three tile/stone looking patterns. There are a lot more of these patterns available in sheet vinyl and the sticky-backed vinyl tile stuff, but everyone we've talked to says to avoid those. Is it just because the seams on the vinyl plank don't look right with a tile pattern, or is there more to this?
posted by tonycpsu at 2:43 PM on May 23, 2017

I've definitely seen stone look plank-type flooring on This Old House recently. Maybe check their website or watch the last couple of seasons on the PBS app to figure out what brands exist. Sorry I can't be more specific, they all kinda run together, but I vaguely recall the family they are following this season choosing some grey stoneish vinyl for their kitchen a couple of episodes ago. I could be wrong, though.

Whenever it was it looked decent enough in 1080p, for what little that's worth.
posted by wierdo at 4:06 AM on May 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

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