There are tons of flooring options available for reasonable costs at any flooring or hardware store. There are so many options available however, it becomes a daunting task to choose what floor is right for you and your home. I’m going to talk about one type of flooring specifically – that’s luxury vinyl plank flooring (LVP). I’ll compare vinyl plank flooring based on a few (not all) attributes in an effort to make choosing the right floor easier.
Scope of LVP Comparison
I’m not going to cover ALL of the flooring options – like I said, there are a mind boggling amount of brands and sub-brands. I’ll cover a dozen or so widely available brands. Ones you can get at Lowes or Home Depot as well as from a flooring store. The prices I have listed are not characteristic of all of the flooring from that brand, only the specific floor that I researched – and that may not be true when you go to buy it. Remember, the information I’m providing here is accurate, yet relative and meant to help you do your due diligence before you get to the store.
Compare Vinyl Plank Flooring Size
Every brand of LVP out there has a few different size options. The smaller planks tend to cost less per square foot – I find smaller planks to be harder to work with, take longer to install, and don’t have the same quality look that the larger planks do. You’ll find plank sizes vary from about 36” – 72” in length and 3” – 9” in width. What you go with here really depends on your personal preference. Take a look at other peoples flooring, in real time, or just some pictures on the internet. It’s good to know what you’re getting into before you install or have the floors installed. I’ve never tried to box up a whole house’s worth of flooring and return to the store.
LVP Plank Thickness
Another major consideration when it comes to comparing luxury vinyl plank flooring is the planks actual thickness. Most LVP flooring planks I’ve seen are between 3mm and 7mm thick. This is relatively thin in comparison to hardwood or laminate flooring. Many brands of laminate are 8mm to 12mm thick. Obviously, the more expensive flooring brands tend to be thicker, but don’t let that deter you – all of the vinyl plank brands out there come with some sort of pre-installed cushion layer on the bottom.
LVP Water Resistance
If you’re looking to put LVP in your home it’s probably because of it’s water resistant properties (or at least that’s one of the reasons). LVP is inherently water resistant due to the V in LVP. Vinyl is a thermoplastic – it’s a linear polymer that allows for some cool properties like water resistance and durability, but provides a bit of flexibility as well. Viny plank wouldn’t fair well by itself due to the somewhat weak polymer bonds so all products on the market have some sort of wear layer to protect it.
LVP Wear Layer
Types and thicknesses of wear layers vary between brands and products. Some companies prefer acrylic wear layers, others urethane. Some more high-end brands have ceramic urethane wear layers for added strength. Wear layers are described by thickness, and in mils. A mil is a thickness measurement – 1 mil is equal to 1/1000 of an inch (0.001). You’ll see wear layer thicknesses anywhere between 6 and 20 mil for residential products, depending on the type of wear layer.
Wear Layer Thickness
When you compare vinyl plank flooring, there are a few key attributes to take notice of. The wear layer is one of these attributes, its purpose serves to protect the vinyl core and the pattern printed on it. The wear layer helps to keep the floors looking new over the years. After a quick search on the internet, the consensus is that 1 mil of wear layer is good for about a year of protection in a residential setting. I’d take that with a grain of salt though because of the different types of wear layers.
Compare Vinyl Plank Flooring Wear Layers
Warranties are something I’m usually skeptical about. You’ll see most of the warranties associated with flooring are “limited lifetime” or “limited 50 year” – they all include that one keyword – LIMITED. So again, take the warranty information for what it is. I like to think of it as a relative guide – considering that I will NEVER be able to actually get the floor replaced if something happened. So, if one brand has a 20 year warranty and another a lifetime, this tells me the floor with the lifetime warranty MAY be of better quality (and cost more too). Again, use this information as you will.
Cost of Luxury Vinyl Plank
I know the cost per square foot of flooring is one of the most important factors for most people – it was for me! Flooring can get quite expensive when you’re replacing it in an entire house. The products I researched here cost anywhere between $1.99 and $5.75 per square foot. This is quite a range, but keep in mind some LVP goes up to $8 or $9 per square foot – and hardwood can be north of $10 per square foot. These prices are only for material – installation is another story and as you probably guessed, I like to do this myself (and no I’m not a professional).
Compare Vinyl Plank Flooring – What is the Best Quality LVP?
I’m not sure that I can tell you which is the best quality, but I’m going to lay the facts out for you here. Below I will talk about 12 LVP brands / sub-brands that are widely available. Three of the lines are Lowes exclusives of which I chose to talk about because I have used and really like. I hope this information helps you, and if you do not want to read anymore, skip to the bottom to see the visual comparison.
CALI Vinyl Pro / Pro Classic
CALI brand LVP is sold at hardware stores and flooring stores – they are well known for bamboo flooring. They’re LVP is on the higher end, price wise compared to the other brands I researched for this, but other than that, they seem to be on par with industry standard. Most product comes in 48 in x 7 in planks, 5.5mm or 6.5mm thick. CALI luxury vinyl plank floors boast a 20-mil acrylic wear layer and a 50 year residential / 15 year commercial warranty. Prices vary, but the two product lines I looked at were $3.99 and $4.69 per square foot.
Mohawk is another huge flooring company that you can expect quality products from. They also have other brand lines out there including Pergo. The two lines of Mohawk I found were not identified by any sub-brand, just Mohawk LVP. Options included either 48” x 7” planks or 60” x 9”. The 48” planks are sold in 5mm thickness and the 60” in 6mm (I can’t stand how manufactures use both the imperial and metric system). The latter appeals to many because of the luxurious look of larger planks. For the smaller planks, they sell at Lowes for $4.89 per square foot and the larger $5.75 per square foot. Both product lines are protected by a 20-mil urethane ware layer and a limited lifetime residential / 20 year light commercial warranty. There they go with that “LIMITED” word again!
Pergo DuraCraft + WetProtect
Again, Pergo is a Mohawk brand and is reasonable similar to the Mohawk products in respect to the attributes in comparison here. Pergo commonly comes in 48” x 7.5” x 6mm planks and has a price line a bit lower at $3.99 per square foot. Pergo has the same 20-mil urethane wear layer as Mohawk yet has a bit better warranty. This product shows it has a lifetime residential and 20 year light commercial warranty.
ProCore seems to be a Lowes exclusive brand, not to be confused with SMARTCORE, another Lowes exclusive that is actually a Shaw product (which we’ll get to shortly). Procore has similar specs to other brands – common 48” x 6” x 5mm planks and a limited lifetime warranty. The wear layer on the product here is a bit thinner at 12-mil (urethane) and the cost reflects that at $3.31 per square foot.
Shaw Matrix / Parallax HD Plus
Shaw Matrix seems to be a lower end product – and that’s not to say it is bad. Its price point is impressive at $1.99 per square foot (remember, this is water resistant vinyl plank). It boasts a 30-year limited warranty and comes in that common 48” x 6” x 3mm plank size. The wear layer is only 6-mil, but Shaw uses a urethane-ceramic material. This is urethane embedded with tiny ceramic molecules that strengthen the coat and make it last longer. I’m assuming this is why only 6-mil is required.
The Shaw Parallax HD Plus is roughly the same size but much thicker at 8mm and with a 20-mil wear layer and a lifetime residential and 10 year light commercial warranty. Shaw’s higher end flooring is around $4.55 per square foot.
SMARTCORE PRO and ULTRA
SMARTCORE is a Lowes exclusive brand manufactured by Shaw. SMARTCORE offers a few levels of quality – hence the PRO and ULTRA. ULTRA comes in 72” x 9” x 7.5mm planks and PRO in 48” x 7” x 6mm. Both come with a limited lifetime residential warranty – and PRO with a 10yr commercial, ULTRA a 5 year commercial warranty. Overall, the brand lines are similar with the exception of the wear layer. SMARTCORE PRO is outfitted with a 20-mil urethane ceramic wear layer whereas ULTRA comes with a 12 mil acrylic layer. Make your judgments as you will. Prices are the same at $4.29 per square foot.
STAINMASTER and STAINMASTER PetProtect
The STAINMASTER lines come in similar dimensions, both 48” x 7” – the regular at 6mm thickness and the PetProtect at 7mm. Both products have a limited lifetime warranty for residential use but the PetProtect boasts a 5 year longer commercial warranty that is 20 years compared to the other line’s 15 years. The only real difference in the two product lines is the wear layer. The PetProtect has a 20-mil urethane/ceramic coat and the regular line a 12-mil urethane/ceramic coat. Prices here are similar as well, $3.49 and $3.89 per square foot.
Compare Vinyl Plank Flooring – Top Choices
Compare Vinyl Plank Flooring Takeaways
As you can see, all of these brands have something a little different to offer. If you’re more concerned about the wear layer, you can see the STAINMASTER PetProtect is the way to go. On the other hand, if it’s the cost you’re worried about, there are great options, even with better than run of the mill wear layers. If you think bigger is better, SMARTCORE Ultra has 72″ planks to suit your needs! Whatever it is, if you’re updating an older house, building an addition, or just tired of your current floors, I hope this comparison of vinyl plank flooring served to inform your decision!