Hardwood floors are extremely popular in the residential building segment. However, factors such as care and maintenance, moisture as well as cost influence homeowners to opt for more practical and resilient flooring choices, mainly products that promise the same timber appearance but with greater durability, easier installation and less maintenance, all in a neat little affordable package.
Luxury vinyl plank or tiles flooring ticks all the boxes when it comes to floors – choice of colours, textures and sizes, performance, long-term durability, ease of installation, underfoot comfort, moisture resistance, wet area application, ease of maintenance and a budget-friendly price.
Though vinyl floors were first introduced in the market in the 1930s, the material’s evolution into vinyl planks happened almost 40 years later in the 70s when it was launched in the form of cut planks designed to look like wood in a very realistic way.
Their distinct performance advantages over hardwood, engineered wood and laminate floors make luxury vinyl planks one of the most preferred and on-trend flooring choices in the world today.
Selecting vinyl plank flooring
There are several important considerations when it comes to selecting vinyl plank flooring for your home. Keep in mind that different brands of vinyl planks may vary on account of quality, size, wear layer thickness, finish, rating, resilience, compliance and warranty among others. While most vinyl planks are resistant to moisture and scratches, the higher quality options will have a thicker wear layer, which is measured in mils and contributes to the floor’s long-term durability and ability to withstand extreme (ab)use. The wear layer comes in standard thicknesses of 6mm, 12mm, 20mm and even higher, especially in heartridge vinyl flooring.
While a 12mm wear layer is acceptable for floors that are not exposed to a lot of activity, a 20mm or higher wear layer is recommended for homes with children and pets as well as areas that will be subject to a lot of traffic or heavy furniture. For commercial floors, the vinyl planks should ideally have a wear layer of 28mm or higher.
Vinyl plank flooring is typically rated for residential or commercial use with the wear layer thickness being the key differentiator. Planks with commercial rating come with extended warranties.
Image: Luxury Vinyl Plank Product Construction (ReallyCheapFloors.com)
The actual plank thickness is measured in millimetres (mm) and includes the top polyurethane surface (finish), the wear layer, the core and the backing. Lower quality vinyl planks are about 2-4mm thick with higher quality ones measuring 8mm or more. Vinyl planks come in narrow and wide formats in various lengths depending on the brand.
The core, which lies below the wear layer, is made from Wood Plastic Composite (WPC) consisting of plasticizers, or Stone Polymer Core (SPC) based on calcium carbonate; an SPC core is harder, and therefore, can withstand knocks better.
Authentic timber grains and texture
In terms of aesthetics, vinyl plank flooring is an excellent choice for a timber look floor. If you are looking for natural stone finishes, especially for your kitchens and bathrooms, explore the luxury vinyl tile range. Premium ranges of luxury vinyl planks (LVP) mimic the rich allure of natural timber in colour, grain and texture for a more authentic experience. Luxury vinyl planks are available in a broad range of light, medium and dark woods such as oak, teak, mahogany, blackbutt, spotted gum and maple among many more to meet any interior style from traditional and classic to contemporary and urban. Additives in the polyurethane surface increase the vinyl plank’s resistance to abrasions, scuffs, dents and scratches, making the flooring last longer both in visual appeal as well as performance.
The firmness of a luxury vinyl plank floor doesn’t compromise the softness underfoot – by absorbing pressure, the flooring adds to user comfort. Extra padding can be optionally added to the bottom layer for both walking comfort as well as acoustic benefits.
Water resistance, durability and slip resistance
One of the biggest advantages of vinyl plank flooring over hardwood is its water resistance. It can be safely installed in wet area applications such as kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms with no fear of mould, warping or rot problems from spills or humidity. Vinyl planks retain their stability even in environments exposed to extreme temperatures. However, installing a vapour barrier below the planks in damp areas would provide extra assurance.
Vinyl planks promise long-term durability and can survive everyday abuse from dirty paws, running feet and clumsy hands thanks to the protective or hardened top surface. The shock-absorbing luxury vinyl floors can withstand dents from dropped objects, scratches from pets and stains from spills. The surface is also easy to clean with a mop and a mild pH-neutral cleaning liquid. Premium quality planks can withstand exposure to sunlight too.
The textured surface, which replicates every grain and knot in the original timber species, adds to the floor’s slip resistance. The through-body colour imprint minimises visible damage from scratches, making the appeal last longer.
A vinyl floor is an excellent insulator, keeping you comfortable in summer or winter. Depending on the brand, you can even integrate a vinyl plank floor with a radiant heating system. Planks with acoustic backing support sound reduction, especially between floors in multi-storeyed residences or apartments.
Installing vinyl planks
Installation is a simple process with self adhesive vinyl planks offering peel-and-stick, glue-down or tongue-and-groove interlocking options. A professional installation is often recommended to avoid issues with warranties but those with DIY project experience can complete the task easily. The planks can be installed on almost any subfloor such as concrete, hardwood, engineered wood, natural stone, laminate, ceramic and porcelain, provided the right prep work has been done to ensure a flat, smooth, clean and dry surface. Just ensure the substrate has no rot, cracks or damp issues.
How to lay vinyl planks
Thinner planks are installed using the peel-and-stick method. Most vinyl planks in the market are designed to click-and-lock; depending on the nature of use, the planks can either be installed using the interlocking method for a floating floor or glued down to the subfloor using an approved adhesive. A glue-down vinyl floor is advised for busy areas.
Vinyl planks are prefinished and, unlike hardwood floors, do not require refinishing after a few years. Luxury vinyl planks have a lifespan of about 12-20 years depending on the wear layer. In the event of damage, you can simply replace the individual plank.
Disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring
While there are many positives to installing a vinyl plank floor, there are a few shortcomings too. Vinyl has always been associated with hazardous emissions. Vinyl flooring contains toxic chemicals such as benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) and dioxins, which have been linked to respiratory and reproductive diseases, skin allergies and even cancer. Technological advances in manufacturing have addressed these concerns with most brands in the market now offering phthalate-free vinyl flooring.
Though luxury vinyl planks deliver an almost authentic timber floor experience, they have a limited lifespan compared to natural hardwood, which can be refinished periodically to refresh the look and can last for more than 100 years. Vinyl flooring is not practical for households where a wheelchair may be in use. Environmentally speaking, vinyl is non-biodegradable; however, it can be recycled instead of being sent to the landfill.
Vinyl vs Laminate flooring
Both vinyl plank flooring and laminate flooring are considered as alternatives to hardwood or timber floors. While they share advantages such as durability, a broad range of styles and colours, simple installation and maintenance, and pet-friendly surfaces, each flooring option also has its unique attributes – both positive and negative. Laminate floors can get chipped at the corners or suffer scratches, and cannot be cleaned with a wet mop. However, unlike vinyl flooring, laminates can be restored to their original shine, and even have their scratches repaired. Laminate floors are also less likely to fade over time.
Top 7 vinyl planks for your floor + vinyl plank flooring prices
1. Polyflor - MiPlank
MiPlank is designed purposefully for Australian homes and busy families. Featuring longer, thicker planks, MiPlank is easy to install and quiet underfoot.
By utilising a PUR coating and heavy-duty commercial wear layer, MiPlank is designed to last.
Thicker and longer design of the planks also means MiPlank adds a feeling of spaciousness to any room.
MiPlank is suitable for installation to homes as well as a range of heavy duty commercial spaces.
More details here.
2. Karndean Designflooring – Korlok - Natural Blackbutt
Part of Karndean’s premium Korlok range of luxury vinyl planks, Natural Blackbutt stands out for its natural grains and texture, and is perfect for contemporary or traditional interiors. Korlok planks come with a special acoustic foam backing to reduce noise transfer to the rooms below.
Key features also include a 5G vertical click locking system for easy installation, durable 0.5mm wear layer, 6.5mm thickness, R10 slip rating, lifetime guarantee and plank size of 1420mm x 225mm.
Price: $55 per sqm
More details here.
3. Armstrong Flooring - Pryzm - Coastal Spotted Gum
Pryzm is the latest innovation from Armstrong’s luxury vinyl planks that combines high performance, durability and beautiful timber-look aesthetics to meet the demands of busy lifestyles.
Key features include realistic timber textures, 100 percent waterproof, easy cleaning with steam or wet mops, ability to withstand heavy furniture as well as daily wear from pets and children, 6.5mm thickness and plank size of 1208mm x 167mm.
Vinyl plank flooring cost per square metre: $74
More details here.
4. Godfrey Hirst – Orion – Riverstone
Orion by Godfrey Hirst is a range of super wide luxury vinyl planks featuring authentic timber grain you can see and texture you can experience underfoot.
Key features include a protective wear layer for added durability, Direct Stick and Hybrid constructions to suit the installation space, Hybrid boards incorporating a cork backing for a quieter, softer and warmer floor, 4mm/ 6mm thickness, and plank size of 1530mm x 253mm (Direct Stick) or 1522mm x 238mm (Hybrid).
More details here.
5. mFLOR - Burr Oak – Lifestyle
mFLOR vinyl planks add a stylish and practical edge to any interior design plan. Designed for simple maintenance and maximum comfort underfoot, mFLOR vinyl flooring is recommended for both residential and commercial interior environments.
Key features include maximum wear resistance, 20-year residential warranty, and versatile application across high traffic rooms, living spaces, dining room, children's playroom, bathrooms and kitchens.
More details here.
6. Serfloor - Golden Oak
Golden Oak is part of Serfloor’s commercial grade timber look vinyl planks designed for high performance, low maintenance and simple glue-down installation in both commercial and home interiors.
Key features include 100 percent water resistance allowing wet area application, 30-year residential wear warranty and 15-year commercial wear warranty, 0.5mm wear layer, R10 slip rating, UV protection, low VOC emissions, fire, oil and stain resistance, and plank size of 1219.2mm x 184.2mm.
More details and best reviews here.
7. Hanwood - The Urban Collective
The Urban Collective by Hanwood is a collection of luxury vinyl planks in earthy wood motifs, moody shades and matt finishes for contemporary interiors. The collection is a perfect fit for open plan interiors with an industrial vibe featuring concrete surfaces, exposed timber beams, and metallic elements.
Recommended for city apartments, converted warehouses and modern business offices, The Urban Collective comes in a Super Matt finish with non-bevelled edges, 2.5mm thickness and plank size of 1220mm x 185mm.
More details here for laying cheap vinyl plank flooring for floors or even stairs. Many of these products are also available from Bunnings.
Images: Luxury Vinyl Plank Product Construction Diagram (https://www.reallycheapfloors.com/blog/what-is-luxury-vinyl-plank-flooring/)