Maybe you’ve asked yourself this question—or are wondering, “What is Luxury Vinyl Tile?” Glad you asked! Luxury Vinyl Tile, or LVT for short, is made up of tiles or planks that mimic the appearance of natural materials like ceramic or hardwood. Like anything else, there are different types of LVT, with variations ranging from price to features to material composition. One example is engineered vinyl plank, which is designed to look like authentic hardwood and boasts of being waterproof!1 (Read more about EVP here).
LVT is comprised of layers of various materials and diameter which determine its quality. Julie Sheer, contributor at Houzz, explains here how the “…thicker the wear layer [AKA top layer], the more durable and long-lasting the tile or plank.” This top layer also features a “urethane coating”2, like in refinished hardwood, to help preserve the tiles/planks. Below this is an image intended to mimic the appearance of natural materials such as wood or stone2. Some LVT is also “groutable,” further imitating natural materials2.
Beneath the top layer is a thick layer of vinyl, giving LVT its name, which provides the flooring with stability; this is sometimes backed with underlay, usually cork, to provide cushioning2. Another type of LVT, rigid-core vinyl, features a core of stone or engineered wood, making it sturdier than its “just vinyl” counterparts2. LVT also varies in installation type: self-adhesive, glue-down, interlocking, and loose lay, with each type pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll briefly cover each method here before diving deeper later on. Self-adhesive LVT has a peel-off backing to reveal a sticky side which is placed down and adheres to the floor beneath. These tend to be a more affordable version, and come “all-in-one”—no need to purchase additional supplies like glue or nails3. The glue-down type requires you to purchase an adhesive to apply before laying it down3. Interlocking LVT does just that—it interlocks, or clicks into place when joined to other tiles/planks, which is a popular option3. And lastly, as the Flooring Stores blog explains, loose lay LVT employs a “…method that uses the weight of the planks—plus a rubber backing—to keep them in place rather than glue or nails”, which boasts of easy installation and removal.
Why Get LVT?
Now that we’ve looked at what LVT is and a few different types, let’s talk about why it can be a great choice for new floor installation. One obvious reason is the similar appearance it offers at a fraction of the price of natural materials. And with countless options to choose from design-wise, you’re not left having to choose an additional stain or treatment to achieve your desired look, making it a convenient choice as well. And not only is it cost-effective upfront with the purchase of materials, but it can save you money in the long run, as it tends to hold up well for a number of years. But going with LVT brings other benefits as well. LVT also boasts of quick and simple installation, and can be relatively easy to replace if need be, depending on the type5. Additionally, LVT tends to be water-resistant and some kinds are even waterproof, making it a smart option for places in the home with a greater risk of water exposure/damage, like kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc. It’s also easier to maintain than hardwood or natural tile. With its top wear layer mentioned above, LVT doesn’t require additional protective coatings as often as its counterparts6, and can handle a heavy amount of foot traffic, making it a smart choice for areas most susceptible to wear2. It’s also more resistant to dents and scratches than hardwood.1 And types that feature a cushioning underlay, like EVP, provide additional comfort and sound absorption6.
Like anything, LVT does have some down sides, and we’ll look at a few here. If you’re looking at increasing the value of your home, hardwood is going to be the more worthy investment1. However, with carpet and laminate tile being outdated, LVT can be a more affordable option to update and increase the value of your home. Another potential downside that Bryan Sebring describes here is that it can be tricky to find materials to transition from LVT to other types of flooring in your home, but not unsolvable; he recommends installing wood thresholds stained to match your LVT5. And despite the relative ease of installing LVT, it may require extensive prep work if you have an uneven sub-floor; EVP or interlocking LVT will show unevenness more easily, so if you want to avoid subfloor repair, glue-down will be your best bet here6.
How to Install
We looked earlier at different types of LVT based on installation method, and we’ll go into more depth here and discuss the pros and cons of each. We recommend using a contractor, and yes–we install LVT! But whether you decide to install yourself or hire a professional, it’s helpful to know the different installation types to decide which is best for you.
Self-adhesive LVT is applied by removing the backing and applying it directly to the subfloor, so you’ll want to make sure it’s level prior to installation. But one pro is that it can be easily removed and replaced if need be, in addition to being a more affordable option than other types. It can even be applied directly on top of existing vinyl flooring. Be mindful, however, that repairs may need to be made to the subfloor upon removal7. Another potential issue is that the adhesive backing may not be very “sticky,” or may wear over time, requiring the application of additional adhesive upon installation or as a reinforcement down the road7. And while self-adhesive tile may be a more affordable option, it may not be the most environmentally friendly. But all things considered, if you think “peel and stick” LVT may be right for you, check out The Spruce’s recommendations for top brands here.
Next, let’s take a deeper look at “glue-down” LVT. This type requires a separate adhesive, and is glued down to the subfloor itself, as opposed to potentially on top of existing floors like with some self-adhesive options5. This can make for a more secure installation that’s less prone to “unsticking,” but it does mean more difficult removal should it need to be repaired or replaced. It’s also more time-intensive than self-adhesive, as you’ll want to give ample time for the glue to dry. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re using the right adhesive. You can check out this article for tips on which glue to use for your project. Glue-down LVT tends to be more forgiving than some of its counterparts when it comes to an uneven subfloor—imperfections may still show without leveling beforehand, but they won’t be as noticeable as with, say, interlocking LVT1. Depending on how much time, money, and labor you’re willing to invest, glue-down LVT could be just the right option for you.
Interlocking, or “click-lock” LVT has become a popular option as of late, not requiring any sort of adhesive like its precursors. Like its name suggests, it is designed with grooves that “click” into adjoining planks and are secured into place with a few taps of a hammer3. This makes it more DIY-friendly and time-effective than types that use adhesive, and easier to remove/replace. This type tends to be “floating,” meaning it sits on top of the subfloor as opposed to adhering to it, providing more cushioning and warmth than thinner types.1 Interlocking planks also tend to be waterproof, as opposed to just water-resistant like some of the other types. As previously mentioned, this type does require leveling of any unevenness in the subfloor, as it’s more unforgiving and prone to show imperfections more obviously; the planks may not “click” into place seamlessly with significant differences in floor height3. For more information on installing interlocking LVT, you can check out Home Depot’s video/article here.
And lastly, we have loose lay LVT. This type requires employs neither adhesive nor interlocking qualities. Rather, it has a rubber-like underside that is placed on top of subfloor to prevent it from sliding out of place5. This rubber backing also helps cut down on noise by acting as a natural sound absorber4. Loose lay LVT even be placed over existing flooring in some cases, like with other installation types—you’ll of course want to make sure it’s level first4. Loose lay also boasts of easy installation and removal. One tile or plank can be removed and replaced without causing damage to surrounding tiles, unlike with adhesive methods, or having to remove several click-lock planks to reach the piece you need to replace4. Loose laying also helps prevent any moisture from reaching the subfloor when installed correctly3, and this type doesn’t usually expand like cork or wood does. However, while it’s certainly a doable DIY project, you’ll want to ensure each plank or tile is laid with precision—otherwise, any gaps created from improper or uneven installation could allow for shifting and moisture to seep in and potentially damage the subfloor4. But if you’re meticulous and patient enough to see it through, loose lay LVT could be a great option for you. For suggestions on brands, you can check out the Flooring Store’s recommendations here.
How to Care For It
Do you feel like an LVT expert yet? By now you may be considering it as an option for your home—and maybe even have an idea of which installation type you’d like to use. Or maybe you already have some LVT in your home. In either event, knowing how to care for it is crucial to maintaining your investment and the value of your home. So let’s take a look at a few tips to keep it in top shape. One perk of LVT is that it is pretty easy to care for! Regular light cleaning, such as routine sweeping and mopping with warm water (or an all-purpose cleaner—for stubborn stains, The Flooring Girl recommends Bona’s Tile and Laminate cleaner 1), will go a long way. And while LVT tends to be waterproof or at the very least water-resistant, cleaning spills up right away will help prevent seeping and potential subfloor damage3. For pet urine or other spills requiring the use of disinfectant, you’ll want to be sure to make sure any chemicals used are absorbed properly, as they can pose issues for adhesive if used to install your LVT. Sometimes, regular cleaning doesn’t quite remove all staining or return your LVT to that “like new” state. In these cases, mechanical cleaning can be employed. And while we recommend you leave that to the professionals (like us!), here are some tips should you decide to do it yourself.
Another tip is to use entryway mats and area rugs/runners in high-traffic areas, which will also minimize general wear and tear9. Using felt pads under furniture legs, plastic mats under rolling chairs, and avoiding dragging furniture over the floor or frequent traffic with heeled shoes, will also mitigate potential damage to your LVT floors. You’ll also want to pay attention to warranties and see which things are covered and which are not, so you know specifically the things to avoid to prevent damage that may not be backed by the manufacturer9.
Whether you’re relatively unfamiliar with LVT or it’s something you’re well-versed in, hopefully you’ve learned something new about it today! As we’ve looked at, there are not only numerous types of LVT itself, but also multiple installation methods and countless design choices, making it a versatile option for updating or replacing floors in your home or business. While it may not increase the value of your property quite like genuine hardwood or stone, LVT tends to be more cost-effective, durable, and easier to maintain than natural materials, making it a great option in the long run. Restore My Floor both installs and offers maintenance cleanings of all kinds of LVT for residential and commercial clients. We offer no-cost estimates, and are happy to answer any questions you may have about LVT or any other kind of flooring! You can contact our office at 603-