Vinyl Plank Flooring Buyer's Guide: What to Look for Before You Buy
- Andrew Uhacz
Luxury Vinyl Plank
Are you looking to replace the existing flooring in your home or commercial space with vinyl plank flooring? Great! This flooring buyer's guide will help you see why vinyl plank flooring and luxury vinyl tiles are quickly becoming the most popular flooring option in America.
LVP / LVT Flooring Options
While we still recommend traditional wood flooring styles, vinyl wood flooring offers the look of real hardwood, the cost and ease of installation of laminate with a more durable surface. If you want something that is long lasting, affordable and easy to install; then luxury vinyl tile also known as vinyl wood plank flooring is the right choice.
Vinyl Wood Plank Flooring
Quality is everything, and the brand name matters as much as anything else you buy. One brand you can’t go wrong with is Armstrong Flooring. With Armstrong you'll have 2 options. Commercial for high traffic spaces or Residential for your home. We like to call this flooring VPF which stands for Vinyl Plank Flooring; when referring to the wood version of vinyl flooring.
What things should you look for before making your floor investment? Take a look at these fifteen things to give you a thorough analysis of how to shop for vinyl plank flooring with a more informed mind.
1. Commercial Vinyl Plank vs Residential LVP
Should you use vinyl plank flooring for your business, or just use it in your home? You can use it in both if you want a more rustic theme using hardwood. The great thing about Armstrong vinyl plank flooring is it gives the look of real hardwood without using the real thing.
Experts can’t even tell the difference when examining these floors at close range. The real difference comes in the price. Vinyl plank flooring is going to cost a fraction of what it would cost to buy real hardwood.
Buying this floor for your business has numerous advantages. Armstrong’s website tells you about various patented features they’ve added to the commercial version of their vinyl planks.
One feature to look out for is the ease in creating unique designs and patterns. Thanks to a large palette of coordinated colors, you can also customize, which is essential when choosing a commercial floor.
The look of hardwood comes from the use of high fidelity printing techniques and embossing methods. Ultimately, this brings more realism to make it convincing.
Above all, though, learn about Armstrong’s attention to durableness. No doubt your business receives a lot of foot traffic, especially if in retail. Using Armstrong’s vinyl plank flooring ensures holding up under the most intense situations.
In comparison, real hardwood would never hold up under these kind of conditions. Maintenance would never be as easy either as it is with Armstrong. With less cleaning time, you won’t have to disrupt your business during the busiest times.
Residential Vinyl Plank Flooring
For a home, it’s no different. You may entertain often at home and deal with heavy floor traffic during individual gatherings.
Armstrong allows you to expand the look of your vinyl plank flooring to not only achieve the essence of wood, but also stone. When looking for vinyl plank flooring, you’ll want to see how many imitation materials it gives you for the most diversity.
You’ll see that Armstrong is one of the best. Nevertheless, brands like MetroFlor often expands further to give you the look of ceramic, terrazzo, marble, and metal.
2. Looking at Size
Before you buy any vinyl plank floor brand, take time to look at the sizes you’ll need for your home or business.
The way you measure this is by a plank’s width and length. Armstrong certainly gives you plenty of sizing options for different rooms. In your home, you can get planks as small as 3-4 ¾ inches on up to a large 18 inches x 18 inches.
Wide planks are also available at 5 inches and up.
Sizes for commercial businesses are even more diverse. Armstrong helps considerably in this department, yet brands like Next Floor and Forbo also provide customized sizes.
Buying 6” x 48” for commercial use is the most commonly purchased size. A 4” x 36” size is equally popular.
No matter the shape of your rooms at home or in your business, you won’t have problems finding the proper size when shopping through the right source. Our comprehensive inventory at Floor City provides the most variety in vinyl plank size.
3. Thickness Level
One thing to pay close attention to before buying any vinyl plank product is the thickness level. Many other brands sometimes refer to the wear layer thickness rather than the full thickness of the plank itself.
Fortunately, brands like Armstrong provide information on real thickness levels, and it’s always measured in millimeters (mm). Generally, this is going to fall somewhere between 4mm and 8mm, with higher thickness giving better quality.
Many popular Armstrong vinyl plank products like Salvaged Plank White (in the PRYZM collection) run about 6.5 mm.
Always know exactly what the thickness level is of your vinyl planks before you place a new floor in an adjacent room. When mixing two different thickness levels, it could lead to unevenness, something that wouldn’t go over well in a business or your home.
Also, related to thickness level is wear layer. This is going to determine directly how long your floor is going to withstand all that floor traffic in coming years. You’ll see this measured in mil (meaning one-thousandth of an inch). For higher quality planks, you should try to find something in the 20 mil or higher range. A slightly lower wear layer is still high quality.
Armstrong vinyl plank products like Plank Bamboo Carbonized have a guaranteed wear layer of 20 mil, which comes out to 0.5 mm.
4. Warranties On Your Vinyl Plank Flooring
Never overlook what kind of warranties you’ll receive in your vinyl plank floor. Typically, commercial and residential flooring have two different types of warranties for more than one reason.
With Armstrong vinyl plank floors, a commercial warranty generally lasts for 20 years. For a few commercial products, it’s sometimes less. The reason for this is a commercial floor is typically going to wear out faster due to more foot traffic intensity.
Most residential warranties are for life with Armstrong’s products. However, some products are different, depending on the materials used, type, and thickness. With the Cherry Maple Medium product, the commercial warranty is only 10 years.
You’ll want to look carefully at what Armstrong’s warranties cover and what they don’t. They won’t cover any damage caused by fire, flooding, or intentional abuse.
Any damage done using your own cleaning solutions or vacuum cleaner also won’t be covered. Mistakes made in installation are voided, including any construction damage done after installation takes place.
Keep in mind damage done to the subfloor due to standing water from flooding isn’t covered either. Nevertheless, Armstrong guarantees their vinyl plank products are 100% waterproof.
Before you install your vinyl plank floor coverings, you’re going to need to check your subfloor to see if it’s in good condition. If it is, and you don’t have any damage, you can probably install most vinyl plank flooring products directly on the subfloor.
In cases where the subfloor isn’t smooth or has damage, you’re going to need some underlayment.
For subfloors that might be prone to moisture, you should consider using some form of underlayment to bring more protection. Or, you may just need more height to your vinyl plank floor, including more cushion for comfort. You can use an underlayment on many vinyl floors that are above 4mm in thickness.
With Armstrong’s vinyl plank products, underlayment comes with the floor as part of the vinyl plank flooring installation. As an example, Salvaged Plank White in Armstrong’s PRYZM collection comes with an attached cork underlayment for a smooth placement over any subfloor. The underlayment is even more solid due to the floor’s ultra-dense core.
MetroFlor also gives you an attached underlayment with their vinyl plank floors. Their Dover Engage Genesis 1200 MW comes with an underlayment designed for sound absorption. In other words, it’s going to minimize all reflected or transmitted sound in your home or business.
Using underlayment to protect against sound is an important feature if you live or work around environments with loud sounds. No one wants to tolerate noises for long hours that potentially harms hearing. Industrial facilities are especially vulnerable to similar situations. In this regard, it’s a good idea to look for this underlayment feature in any vinyl floor product you buy.
6. Adhesive vs Peel and Stick vs Click-Lock Floating
The greatness of Armstrong is they provide very easy installation methods so you don’t have to worry about hiring someone to get it done.
Many of their vinyl plank products use an adhesive to make installation all the easier. They offer two ways to make installation more efficient: Gluedown or floating method.
Gluedown is the simplest way to install your floor. You simply use an adhesive that comes with the product, giving you a vinyl plank floor installation done in a few hours.
Most of the gluedown floors are available through Armstrong’s Natural Creations Classic collection.
Floating installation is quite different in comparison, though also relatively easy. This usually entails loose lay or click-lock flooring with the latter clicking planks together. The latter is the most common seen in Armstrong’s interlocking vinyl wood plank flooring products.
In the Salvaged Plank White floor listed above, you’ll find a locking mechanism that makes installing the planks just as easy. MetroFlor provides a floating installation using no glue.
No matter the brand you buy, you won’t need an expert to install vinyl plank flooring. If you still need any help, you can contact us at Floor City for directions.
7. Price Range
Obviously, price should become top priority when looking for vinyl plank flooring. One thing for sure is when you buy vinyl flooring, you’re going to save a tremendous amount of money compared to using real hardwood.
According to some sources, many homeowners spend well over $4,000 when installing real wood floors. Soft woods are usually around $3 to $6 per square foot. Mid-range woods like teak or oak run a few dollars more.
Some of you may want a high-end wood like mahogany. These typically run up to $14 per square foot, likely making it out of reach for your limited budget.
Vinyl plank flooring is nowhere near this price. Armstrong already makes their products very inexpensive thanks to vinyl always being affordable. Even though it’s imitation wood, the photo-realistic look of wood is something to behold.
When you take a look at Armstrong’s commercial-grade vinyl plank flooring, you’ll be able to buy planks for under $3 per sq. ft. when you buy through us at Floor City. It’s the same with residential vinyl plank flooring. Within our entire inventory, vinyl plank prices never go over $4.
As you can see, there really isn’t any need to go with real wood when vinyl is so convincing and costs a quarter of the price.
Before you buy any vinyl plank floor, always ask about how easy it is to clean. The good news is that most products in this floor category make it very easy to maintain.
This doesn’t mean you can clean your vinyl plank floor with anything. Armstrong gives some smart tips on how to properly clean your floor so you don’t create any damage.
These floors are usually good at resisting stains, but you’ll still want to keep it clean on your own. Simply sweeping or vacuuming regularly will help clean dirt. Regardless, avoid using your beater bar on your vacuum since this is typically rough on vinyl.
To make things easier, Armstrong offers a Once ‘n Done® Floor Cleaner that’s perfect for occasional cleaning. They also offer a New Beginning® Floor Stripper when you need something to clean more thoroughly.
All you need is a mop with the above cleaning solutions. Remember to wait to use a mop until 48 hours after installation to avoid moisture affecting the adhesive bond.
If you don’t want to vacuum on your own, consider using a Roomba since these are gentle on all vinyl floors. Even better, you can just program a Roomba to vacuum on its own if you’re not home often. These work well for businesses as well if you don’t have enough time for maintenance.
Avoid using detergents or abrasive cleaners on your vinyl plank floor. These typically leave a dull film you can’t remove. Paste wax and solvent-based polishes should also be avoided.
High alkaline solutions are additionally damaging since this could loosen the adhesive on the planks.
9. Why You Might Want Commercial In Your Home
Another thing to consider is whether your home could use the look of commercial vinyl plank flooring. It’s something to think about if your home is such where you get as much or more foot traffic than your business does.
Not all homes are like this. Yet, if you have pets and a lot of kids, your vinyl plank floor is going to experience faster wear and tear.
Since many of Armstrong’s commercial vinyl plank products install with the gluedown method, you may prefer this for easier home installation. For basements, kitchens, and bathrooms this is often a popular choice if your household has parties or family gatherings often.
Water resistance is another good reason to use commercial in your home. You may have some minor flooding issues in recent years that a commercial vinyl plank floor would help prevent.
Of course, low maintenance is no doubt top of mind. The reason businesses choose commercial vinyl plank is because it won’t require downtime in doing maintenance. As a homeowner, you may have too busy of a life to bother with a floor requiring constant upkeep every month.
10. Colors to Consider
When considering color with your vinyl plank flooring, you have numerous things to analyze.
Fortunately, Armstrong is top-tier when it comes to providing one of the most comprehensive color lists for your floor. It’s essential to have a wide color palette to choose from, even though not all brands make it diverse.
The colors you’ll be able to find range from Wood Tones to standard colors like red, orange, or yellow.
Armstrong’s Natural Creations collection with Diamond 10 Technology gives you a mix of different colors designed to work in any room and match any setting. The ArborArt collection under this title gives you lighter colors like black/grey, neutrals, and even white. You can also find a multicolor option if you prefer a mix to match specific areas of your interior design.
Mystix is another Armstrong brand name within the National Creations collection. The color options here are a little brighter like blue, purple, and red.
Check out the color charts for the EarthCuts collection, Vivero Best, Vivero Better, Natural Creation Classics, Natural Creations with I-Set, Parallel 20, and Parallel. These colors are generally a little darker to give more earthy tones.
Brown is the most prevalent color in all vinyl plank products. With 106 products using this color, you can see how brown (or hints of brown) fit most residential or commercial environments. You’ll find other brown-colored planks from prominent names like Johnsonite, Flexco, MetroFlor, Forbo, and Next Floor.
One thing to remember when you buy from us at Floor City is to order a sample so you’re sure you receive the color you want. Colors seen on your computer screen might look different from the actual product when you receive it.
Ordering a sample is a service we provide exclusively through our website. We do our best to give you a sample matching exactly what you saw during your online research.
Dye lot variances are sometimes a challenging problem. Still, we’ll work closely with you to ensure you receive the color you truly need.
Any incorrect color samples we send will have a full refund.
11. Checking Out LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile)
Sometimes you’ll see vinyl plank flooring listed as LVP, which stands for Luxury Vinyl Plank. You’ll also see this written as LVT, standing for Luxury Vinyl Tile.
With tile, you’ll have more material options like the look of stone and other natural tiles. The visual appeal here is very popular, especially through Armstrong. Latter’s Mystix and Earthcuts collections give you myriad materials to enjoy with embossed or textured surfaces.
Once again, you’ll save money using LVT because you can use different patterns and styles that would cost a fortune if using real materials.
When shopping for the best LVP flooring, you’ll want to make sure it has scuff, stain, and scratch resistance. Customer reviews have told us that most people love Armstrong vinyl plank flooring because it's thicker and more resilient than low grade vinyl that you'll typically find at a big box store.
Performance levels are important when looking at floors for a commercial interiors. The multi layered composition makes Armstrong vinyl planks the best floor for an office, school, hospital or high foot traffic commercial space that demands a tougher surface. A great example of where vinyl plank flooring is used is in Grocery Stores. When you have heavy shopping carts being pushed around day after day the wear and tear could wreak havoc on most surfaces but not commercial vinyl plank flooring.
Don’t hesitate to consider LVT for your home, though. These tiles offer sound absorption, heat insulation, and feel good to walk on.
As with typical vinyl plank flooring, it also has resistance to water so you don’t have to worry about causing damage after a liquid spill.
In Armstrong’s Mystix LVT collection, you’ll also have their famous Diamond 10 Technology, which uses real diamond properties to create the resistance to scratches. Stream Bracken in the Mystix collection provides a subfloor of wood, concrete, ceramic, terrazzo, marble, metal, and existing resilient.
Earthcuts brings even more unique patterns and textures. It adds Diamond 10 Technology as well for continuing endurance.
Try Raw Crete Cool Stone in the Earthcuts collection. Not only do you get variations of organic stone here, you’ll be able to have various distinctive woven textiles. Like the vinyl plank products mentioned earlier, this uses a glue-down method for installation.
12. Finding Quality Online Rather Than Home Depot or Lowe’s
Big box stores that sell home products aren’t always the best place to buy flooring products. While you might find some good deals with other home items, flooring is sometimes inferior in places like Lowe’s and Home Depot.
Generally, they only sell medium to low-grade floors. For vinyl plank, especially, you won’t find much in the way of quality, let alone even finding the product itself.
Most of the time, you’ll only find 6-12 mil thickness on the box store floors. Clearly, that’s very low quality compared to the 20 mil thickness you should see in the best vinyl plank flooring.
With this in mind, avoid going to any of the above stores to shop for flooring. You’re better off buying online where you can find the best deals.
To further clarify this point, take a look at advice on a Houzz Q&A where it’s noted box stores sub out all installations. They’re also far more expensive than what they let on with their flooring products. It proves many of those sale ads you see for flooring are mostly hype.
Here at Floor City, we’ve changed the game on what it means to buy vinyl plank flooring and all other floors. Buying from us is going to mean excellent customer service, including snail-mailing you samples before you buy.
Best of all, you’ll find more discounted prices on vinyl flooring than any other online store. Ordering is just as easy, including shipping out the same day. Pickup is equally convenient thanks to having pickup centers across the country. You can pick up your floor in almost every U.S. state.
13. Looking Out for Green/ Eco-Friendly Qualities
Buying flooring products with green materials is always a plus. If this is important to you, then you’ll want to look out for any vinyl plank brand using sustainable materials.
While vinyl as a whole isn’t always the best for the environment, Armstrong made all their floors sustainable so you know you’re investing in something truly eco-friendly.
These flooring products are going to bring a better green sensibility than using real wood or stone. Once your real hardwood or stone floor wears out, you can’t really recycle it efficiently. Ultimately, you’ll have to replace a floor using real materials every few years.
Through Armstrong’s name, you can depend on various sustainable elements. Mind you, the term “eco-friendly” can come from different angles you maybe didn’t expect.
For instance, durability factors into this so you don’t have to replace your floors so quickly and add to the constant stream of waste. Floors manufactured here in the U.S. matters as well to reduce the fossil fuels burned to transport the product.
Using recycled materials also makes a difference, including those materials being renewable. Making sure the product doesn’t emit volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) should be on your radar as well.
You may want to know Armstrong continues to focus on sustainable flooring through various floor products and collections. Their Alterna LVT collection is one that uses a minimum of 40% pre-consumer recycled content. While it’s very eco-friendly, it provides a wide range of styles ranging from marble to concrete and linen.
The company has even focused extensively on bio-flooring, plus a commercial floor recycling program. For the latter, Armstrong works with their customers to recycle qualifying vinyl flooring with or without an adhesive.
They’ve additionally created an eco-friendly I-Set installation system. It uses a factory applied, non-wet adhesive system to avoid any dangerous fumes.
It’s worth mentioning that thanks to the low maintenance on vinyl plank flooring, you won’t have to worry about using polishes. If you have any experience using the latter, you know they aren’t exactly wonderful for the environment.
14. Look for a Low LEED Score and FloorScore Certification
Those of you who don’t know what a LEED score is should know it’s an acronym for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.” LEED is the standard rating system for any sort of green building and to recognize sustainability achievement.
To continue your search for eco-friendly vinyl plank flooring, you’ll want to see what the LEED score is on each product. Similarly, you’ll want to look for a FloorScore certification. FloorScore ensures the product contributes to good indoor air quality.
Armstrong makes a strong effort to present LEED scores and FloorScore certification on all their products. They do this through their Armstrong Product Declarations (known as APD’s) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPD’s). Each of these will give you all the data you need to make a good educated decision on which flooring is best for your environmental needs.
LEED scores are usually categorized by Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The LEED-certified level is what you want to look for to determine the floor product adheres to being a leader in the industry.
For more clarification on Armstrong’s LEED designation, they give plenty of details about LEED 2009 certification and LEED v4 certification.
Likewise, they offer information on their FloorScore certifications to show how comprehensive they are. Their list shows what these certifications are for their vinyl tile/plank products and how they provide the necessary qualifications.
Currently, the FloorScore certifications are valid starting September 1, 2018 and last until August 31, 2019. It’s all certified through SCS Global Service, which is directly associated with FloorScore.
Keep in mind this applies to all of Armstrong’s vinyl plank collections ranging from Abingdon to Vivero.
Fortunately, you can depend on Armstrong and many other vinyl plank brands to live up to their LEED and FloorScore hype. When shopping for vinyl plank flooring, always look up the details online to ensure these certifications are accurate.
15. Figuring Where You Can Use Your Vinyl Plank Flooring
It also helps to have a flooring company give you suggestions on where vinyl plank flooring could work best in your home or business.
The good news is Armstrong makes it easy to use their vinyl plank flooring in any environment.
Those of you in health or hospital environments can use LVT in dining areas, elevators, gift shops, laboratories, and waiting rooms. All of these floor spaces receive heavy floor traffic every day for long hours.
Vinyl plank flooring is also used often in assisted living facilities, educational environments, retail stores, corporate environments, hospitality, industrial centers, and military housing. Other overly busy public environments like airports, or museums are additionally worth looking at.
Always look carefully at where you can use your vinyl plank floor so you’re sure it’s appropriate for the particular space.
Where to Buy Vinyl Plank Flooring Online
At Floor City, we carry all Armstrong vinyl plank flooring collections, plus the best vinyl flooring brands mentioned earlier. We’re there to help you place the order you need and get it shipped out quickly, including samples before final commitment.
Call Floor City (800) 898-9540
Monday - Friday 7:00 am to 5:00 pm Pacific Time
It’s time to shop smarter when you realize how important flooring is to your business or personal aesthetic.
- Tags: Vinyl