Luxury vinyl flooring? Really?
Yes — but these products definitely are not the shiny orange sheet that covered your mom’s kitchen floor, or the old peel-and-stick school hall tiles your dad plopped down in the foyer. Modern luxury vinyl is a broad category that includes wood- and stone-look products with colors and textures good enough to fool the eye.
It’s a category that’s growing rapidly. Last year, the industry website Floor Daily called it the most dynamic category. Sales of luxury vinyl hit $500 million in 2011 — up 13 percent, Floor Daily reported.
For those who don’t choose carpet, hardwood or hard tile, luxury vinyl — instead of laminate — is likely to be the favorite option.
Flooring pros say they’ve seen the trend in their showrooms.
“It’s taking off,” said flooring expert Rodney Hughes of Hughes Flooring in Charlotte, N.C. “[Floor companies] are putting a lot of marketing money into it.”
If you visit your favorite home center or floors website, you’ll find lots of options.
There’s even a shorthand: LVT for luxury vinyl tile, and LVP for luxury vinyl plank.
These are products you can install yourself if you’re reasonably handy. Some products click together for ease of installation.
If you have the top products installed by a pro, though, you can pay about as much for luxury vinyl as for some standard hardwood or ceramic tile. Say, $8 to $10 a square foot installed, by some estimates. It’s not a price-point product, experts say.
Put it in the tub
So, if not for price, why choose luxury vinyl?
Again, the appearance is one reason. The tile-look products can be grouted, to make it look more like ceramic or stone. The wood-look planks feature rich colors and textures. Hughes said that the technology responsible for such looks is helping to drive the popularity.
It’s softer under foot than tile, and stands up to spills and large pets better than hardwood. Hughes said one huge advantage for luxury vinyl is that it isn’t damaged by moisture. “You can soak it in the bathtub and it won’t swell or buckle,” he said. “There’s no wood inside.”
Hughes still likes the high-end laminates, but manufacturers have never been able to fully eliminate that distinctive — and sometimes objectionable — clicking sound when it’s walked on.
Luxury vinyl has a couple of advantages for remodeling projects.
These floors can be glued down, or they can be “floated.” Individual tiles and planks can be clicked together and then installed without glue, to float on special underlayment. Floating floors can cover up minor imperfections in the subfloor during a renovation.
Luxury vinyl is thinner than hardwood, and thinner than stone or ceramic tile installed on the required underlayment. When remodeling, it’s easier to match a thinner product to the level of the surrounding existing floors, which leads to one common complaint about luxury vinyl.
There are few good-looking options for the edge, or transition, where luxury vinyl abuts another type of flooring or a floor that’s a slightly different level. They just don’t make the transition, experts say.
“They definitely need to make better trim pieces,” Hughes said.