With the surging popularity of vinyl floors, there are dozens of brands to choose from and more popping up every day. The variety of options can be overwhelming. How do you know which brands offer a good quality vinyl floor and which brands might be overcharging for a low quality product? Here’s how to determine the quality of a vinyl floor so you get the most bang for your buck!
How is a Vinyl Plank Constructed?
Before we get into what makes a vinyl floor good quality, we first need to understand how a vinyl floor is made. A vinyl plank is constructed of 5 layers:
1) A coating or urethane to enhance durability
2) The clear “wear layer” that protects the printed design
3) The printed design
4) The vinyl core
5) A backing, which consists of vinyl, cork, or foam
What is a Wear Layer?
A “wear layer” is clear layer made from PVC film that protects the printed design of the floor. As the name implies, it shields the floor from everyday wear and tear. The wear layer is a huge factor in determining the quality and durability of a vinyl floor. The thicker the wear layer, the more durable the floor will be and the longer it will last.
Keep in mind that the thickness of the plank itself does not mean it will be more durable. In a vinyl floor, the thickness of the wear layer is ultimately what determines durability.
Wear layers are measured in ‘mils,’ which are equal to one-thousandth of an inch. This is not to be confused with millimeters, which are equal to one-thousandth of a meter. Typically, the thickness of a wear layer averages 6, 12, or 20 mils. The thicker the wear layer, the greater the durability. Products with thicker wear layers will cost more because of the higher quality.
But how thick of a wear layer do you actually need? Wear layers of 20 mil or higher are perfect for commercial environments. For a high traffic home, a wear layer between 12 and 20 mil should be suitable. If you are installing the floor in a low traffic area of the home, however, you may only need a floor with a wear layer of 6 mil.
Enhanced Coatings and Urethanes
When selecting a vinyl floor, check the product’s specs to see if it uses a special coating or urethane to provide additional protection to the wear layer. This can help extend the life of your floor and increase durability. For example, aluminum oxide is a highly durable coating.
Virgin Vs. Recycled Vinyl
Another spec to check to ensure the quality of your vinyl floor is the vinyl content used in the core and backing of the planks. Some cores and backings contain recycled content in addition to vinyl, while others only contain 100% virgin (non-recycled) vinyl. Virgin vinyl will be more durable than recycled vinyl and will hold up better over time.
Don’t Overlook the Backing
Though the wear layer and core of the floor are important, you don’t want to overlook the backing, either. For a higher-quality product, choose a vinyl that offers an attached cork or foam pad. This pad will provide more resistance to moisture and mildew. Additionally, a pad will offer more of a cushioned feel underfoot and help make the floor quieter. A vinyl floor without a pad may be cheaper, but it may also require purchasing additional underlayment.