Vinyl Plank Flooring (LVT | LVP) - Problems ?
(Which Vinyl Plank LVT | LVP Floor should I buy?)
Important Considerations when choosing your LVT | LVP Flooring
AKA: Luxury Vinyl Tile, Vinyl Laminate, Vinyl Plank Flooring, Vinyl Strip Floor
LVT | LVP (Luxury Vinyl Tile/Plank Flooring)
What are some of the potential problems with LVP | LVT vinyl plank flooring?
The main problems associated with vinyl plank flooring are:
1. Poor quality construction (delaminating of the layers, mis-cut / out of square tiles or planks)
2. Lack of balancing layers (gaps appear between tiles or planks with even minor changes of room temperature)
3. Low quality wear surface (Easily damaged / scratched, prematurely worn, difficult to maintain)
4. Poor Design (May lead to difficult installation and/or future issues such as broken locking edges, lifting, warping)
5. Use of contaminated recycled content or toxic chemicals
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: THE ABOVE PROBLEMS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH LOWER QUALITY LVT | LVP VINYL PLANK FLOORING - PURCHASING FLOORING FROM QUALITY MANUFACTURERS LIKE KARNDEAN FOR EXAMPLE ELIMINATES ALL 5 ISSUES LISTED ABOVE.
These are some considerations when looking at LVT | LVP Vinyl Plank and Tile Flooring, they are:
1. Method of Installation
The method of installation is a major factor when choosing a LVT | LVP floor. There are 2 main installation types with a few options within each type - these are equally important. The first main installation type is glue down (full spread adhesive) the second installation type is floating (glue-less). Let's start by looking at the glue-down option.
Glue-down Installation Type: Overall this type of installation will provide the end-user with the most benefits and in most cases, especially heavy use (commercial), wet and/or larger areas of installation it may be a requirement. A glue down floor installation will provide a permanent, solid floor installation that will also be impervious to water. There are 2 main factors when looking at a glue-down type LVT | LVP floor, the first is the type of adhering required by the manufacturer. Each manufacturer will specify a particular adhesive of adhesive type, these being mainly a wet-set, permanent bond type of flooring adhesive or a tack-set, pressure sensitive style of adhesive. The wet-set adhesive can be a bit tougher to use, requires more time and can get a bit messy if you're not careful. Typically we recommend leaving this type to a professional installer. The other type of adhesive - pressure sensitive, is applied directly to the subfloor and is allowed to tack (dry off a bit) - typically when the adhesive no longer transfers to your hand when touched, it's good to go. IMPORTANT: Some manufacturers still want the adhesive to transfer to the underside of the flooring and recommend working in smaller portions to allow the vinyl plank to be installed before the adhesive dries too much. The pressure sensitive adhesive is overall much easier and cleaner to work with; it also allows light foot traffic much faster.
Click together or Peel and Stick edge systems (Floating Installation Type glue less): Just the name of this type gives it a huge amount of appeal with consumers - but beware... some of the flooring in this category can be very difficult to work with, take even more time than some glue-down products, and most importantly, can come with all sorts of problems both now and in the future. Most issues surround the design and quality of the locking mechanism or type of adhesive used to bond the individual planks together. These edges can become loose, open up and/or just open up creating gaps between the tile/planks to which repair is virtually impossible. Installation of these types can also be difficult and time consuming depending on how nicely the locks fit together – keep in mind that it is not only the long edges that need to click together, these need to also lock into the end of the planks while locking into the long edges. This is why sometimes having a salesperson show how ‘easy’ these planks fit together while only locking in 2 long edges together can be completely deceptive of how the actual installation will proceed. The peel and stick system is another tricky install although as with the locking click system, once you gain some experience with them, they tend to go much easier. In the end, we regard these 2 systems as the least beneficial and most likely to have issues with, which is probably why many flooring stores are starting to shy away from carrying any of these installation types.
Loose Lay (Floating Installation) – A more recent addition to the LVT | LVP vinyl plank world, there are some pretty strong benefits to this type of flooring. First of all, you still have 2 good options for installation depending on the project demands you are facing. This flooring can be floated using a band of adhesive around the perimeter of the room or it can also be fully adhered like a standard glue-down LVT | LVP floor. These vinyl planks are typically much thicker and heavier than a standard LVT | LVP and it also contains a layer of fiberglass mesh that gives it great stability (reduces the expansion / contraction of each plank). For larger installations or ones that will be subject to heavy rolling traffic or significant wetness, you can choose to fully glue this LVT | LVP floor down using the recommended adhesive (typically a easier to use pressure sensitive type). For typical use areas, you may want to choose a loose lay install which is very easy to install and still gives the added benefits of easy plank replacement as well as the ability to change your mind later on, and fully glue the floor down should it prove necessary. We carry 2 brands from Laurentian Flooring – Drop & Done and Flexiplank. We also carry a new product from 4Corners called Malibu.
2. Quality of Construction
As with all types of flooring, carpet, and most things in life… quality is typically related to price and while there can be good value products found at lower prices, the cheapest products still tend to be… well just cheap. For a manufacturer to make a product less expensive than a competitor, they will often find ways to cut corners to reduce costs. Some of these found in LVT | LVP Vinyl Plank Flooring are: 1. Using lower cost / lower quality materials in the backing for example, this can lead to elimination of balancing layers which are quite important as to how the plank or tile will remain stable (reducing shrinking or expansion) These floors will tend to gap or peak at the joints, even on glue-down installations. The other issue from using some lower cost material in the backing can lead to issues of smells or even toxic chemicals emitting from the flooring material. Good manufacturers avoid this by strictly controlling the material used all the way through the entire process. 2. The other issue we already discussed previously which surrounds the strength and design of the locking mechanism. 3. Is the quality and durability of the wear surface called the wear layer of the LVT | LVP… see the next topic below.
3. Wear-layer (Finish)
The finish or wear-layer of a LVT | LVP will determine how well the flooring will perform as far as overall wear and durability but also maintenance requirements. Quality plank flooring will have a thicker overall wear-layer but will also use a stronger finish coat such as a urethane coating. These heavier wear layers will usually be around the .5mm range but can go higher to even .7mm, both of these are considered heavy commercial use type of wear surfaces, a great choice for home use as well. Lower quality vinyl plank and tile will have much thinner top layers and should only be used in lighter use areas. In addition low cost floors may only have a standard vinyl wear-layer which will tend to scuff and stain significantly easier than a urethane finished floor.
4. Style and Design (Looks)
Obviously there are times this is going to be more or less an issue depending on the project you are working on. Some projects need something much more on the practical side where looks and style of the plank floor is secondary. Other projects such as a main area of a house or a retail area, looks and style are much more crucial. Some things you will want to look for are: 1. How realistic are the surface textures – these can look extremely real or very plastic looking. (HINT) For demanding traffic or wear situations, look for ‘distressed’ styles of texturing which really help hide wear and even some damage. 2. The print, are these prints / colours realistic, clear and sharp, and do they have a good range of variation (some lower cost vinyl plank flooring will have very repetitive patterns – each board has the same print or design) (HINT) This can’t be seen from simply looking at 1 pc of flooring or even from a larger sample, many times this won’t be realized until the installation – too late)
5. Air Quality Standards
Some LVT | LVP Flooring can contain VOC’s which continue to emit from the flooring and can cause some individuals to suffer side effects as well as giving off a strong, unpleasant odor. Better manufactures ensure of the materials being used in the manufacturing process as well as demanding standards of air quality are being met. Once again, lower cost options may use recycled content from unfavorable sources to reduce their manufacturing costs – even more unfortunate is the ease to which some of these off-shore manufacturers can fake certifications of meeting air quality standards. Stick to legitimate, brand named quality manufacturers such as Karndean, Laurentian, 4Corners, Richmond, etc.