What’s under your feet (or however you get around) is as important as anything when it comes to home. That’s why this fall, we collaborated with The Home Depot on an A to Z guide that’ll give you the confidence to make flooring choices you’ll love. Check out the A to Z handbook here.
Choosing the right flooring for your home means considering a laundry list of questions, from what kind of ambiance you’d like to how many shoes will be scuffling across it each day. When it gets down to decision-making time, though, the single biggest factor for most people is budget. Fortunately, there’s a material that’s accessible for almost everyone’s wallet: vinyl.
Vinyl might have a reputation for being cheap and flimsy, but this assumption belies the more modern versions on the market now. Today, vinyl is often manufactured to smartly mimic hardwood or tile, and is made up of a central core, a printed photo of the material it’s imitating, like distressed wood or ultra-sleek teak, and a clear, protective “wear layer” finish.
The Layers of Luxury Vinyl Flooring
The options for different looks are pretty much limitless — for example, The Home Depot stocks almost 1,000 options for vinyl planks — and on average costs much less than the flooring it’s emulating, between $2 to $5 per square foot. (In comparison, hardwood can go for upwards of $10 per square foot.)
Today, vinyl often means luxury vinyl
When people talk about contemporary vinyl flooring, they’re likely referring to luxury vinyl (LV) flooring, which is made in plank form or tile form — not the rolled out sheets of the past — and is a serious step up over former iterations of the material.
Vinyl planks can vary in thickness, from approximately 2 millimeters to 8 millimeters, and denser planks will be your best bet in busier areas of the home, like hallways and living rooms, due to greater stability.
If you’re searching for vinyl flooring that can really hang tough against wear, a high-quality version of vinyl planks known as engineered vinyl planks (EVPs) are created with a “rigid core” system that makes them extra sturdy even when faced with the rowdiest situations. (They’re also completely waterproof, unlike some vinyl, which is only water resistant.) Whatever density of vinyl you select, the material is well-loved for its springiness and warmth, which is welcoming underfoot.
It’s a DIY-friendly material
If simple installation is what you’re after, you can’t get much easier than vinyl. Some brands use the “floating floor” technology that’s also common with laminate, in which planks simply click and lock together atop pretty much any previously existing surface without the need for nails or glue.
Others use a self-adhesive material that can be applied directly to a subfloor in a method that’s as painless as applying a giant, super-strong flooring sticker. With vinyl tiles, there’s even groutable versions to further enhance their look-a-like nature.
Clean-up is less of a chore
Thanks to the wear layer on top (which can last upwards of 10 years with proper care), simply sweeping and mopping on a regular basis will keep your floors looking tip-top, no scrubbing required. In fact, using too much elbow grease is pretty much the only way to harm your vinyl floors, so stay away from any harsh chemicals, rough scouring pads or steam cleaning.
Because of its easy-cleaning nature, spills and messes are less of a worry with vinyl than with other flooring types, making it a strong choice for spaces like playrooms, where fingerpainting is common, or kitchens, where pizza slices might go splat. Basements and bathrooms, which can sometimes be challenging places to apply new flooring due to moisture levels, are also primo spots for vinyl due to the fact that it’s less likely to warp under even the most humid conditions.
Be mindful of the flip side
Of course, there are other aspects of vinyl to take into consideration before you choose it. Vinyl isn’t biodegradable, so if you’re looking to create a more sustainable home environment, it would be better to go with a different material, like cork or bamboo. While most versions will stand up against the scuffs and scrapes of day-to-day life, it can still be dented, particularly through moving heavy objects like furniture. And it won’t necessarily add long-term value to your home like actual hardwood or tile, so if you’re planning on selling or moving soon, don’t expect to make back your investment.
But if you’re in your home for the long haul and are looking for an inexpensive, easy-to-install way to update the look of your space? Vinyl just might be the answer.