Luxury vinyl plank flooring is a considerably new material that came to the market to replace laminate. But despite its novelty, it is rapidly gaining popularity and crowding out competitors. This is due to several reasons:

  1. Easy installation process
  2. Relatively cheap cost compared to other floor coverings
  3. After installation, it looks luxurious, similar to natural wood
  4. It’s easy to clean and maintain
  5. It’s 100% waterproof

To save money, many homeowners decide to buy and install vinyl plank flooring on their own. As an installer, I often have to deal with the consequences of the mistakes my customers make when buying vinyl plank flooring. Below I will talk about those 5 common mistakes and explain how to avoid them.

1.  Wear layer thickness of luxury vinyl plank flooring

Each vinyl plank consists of several layers. As a rule, the most accurate layer is transparent and it is called a wear layer. It is he who is responsible for how quickly the floors will wear out, how resistant they are to scratches and stains. Its main task is to protect the next layer – luxury vinyl print, from stains, scratches, and other damage.

The thicker the wear layer, the longer your vinyl plank flooring will look like new and will not scratch. The thickness of this layer is measured in “mil”. For example, Home Depot building supermarket chain produces and sells its own brand of floors – LifeProof vinyl plank flooring. The thickness of the wear layer of these floors is 6 mil. This is a very small wear layer, which is why if you read the reviews on the Home Depot site for these floors, you will see that many buyers complain that they are very easily scratched and wear out quickly.

Personally, I would not install at my home less than 20 mils (0.5 mm) wear layer vinyl plank flooring. This is a comfortable figure for me, below which I think you shouldn’t go down. That is why in our online store we sell floors with a wear layer of at least 20 mils. I have been repeatedly asked to add 12 mil wear layer vinyl plank flooring in my flooring store. But I think that it is not right to sell floors that will wear out very quickly and will be easily scratched.

Summary. The wear layer is the most important layer in vinyl plank flooring. Before you buy vinyl planks, check the box or ask the seller how thick the wear layer of the flooring you are planning to buy. The higher the number – the better. I suggest keeping it 20 mils or above.

2.  Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring Underlayment

            Vinyl plank flooring underlayment – is a thin layer of material made from recycled fibers installed between subfloor and vinyl plank flooring. Previously, the underlay was sold in rolls separately from the floor and had to be installed before installing the floor. But in modern vinyl planks, the underlayment is glued to each plank.

Vinyl plank flooring is needed for:

  1. Sound absorption
  2. Compression resistance
  3. Thermal insulation
  4. Subfloor imperfection absorption
  5. Moisture protection
  6. Provides a softer underfoot feeling

            As you can see the underlayment serves an important role, so I highly recommend buying vinyl plank flooring with the attached underlayment as we sell. Or if you are buying vinyl planks that do not have attached underlayment, make sure to buy underlayment separately, even if it is written on the box or in the instructions that it is not necessary or required. Still buy it and use it, that’s advice from an experienced vinyl plank flooring installer.

!!! Please, use only one layer of underlayment, unless the other is recommended by a manufacturer.

!!! Please, use the only underlayment recommended or approved by a manufacturer.

Summary. Vinyl plank flooring underlayment performs many important functions. Buy vinyl planks that have underlayment attached. And if it is not attached, then be sure to buy it and use it. Do yourself a favor – don’t skimp on this.

3.  Total vinyl plank thickness

The total thickness of the vinyl plank is the summary of all layers of the vinyl plank including the wear layer and underlayer which I mentioned above. Before you buy vinyl plank flooring, be sure to find out how thick it is. The rule is very simple – the thicker the vinyl planks, the better. Let’s see why this is so.

Thick luxury vinyl plank flooring will provide better thermal insulation, can absorb more sub-floor imperfections, and provide a softer feel underfoot. At my home, I would install a vinyl plank flooring with a thickness of 7mm or more, this thickness includes both the vinyl planks and the underlayment.

On the other hand, if you buy thin vinyl planks for example 3mm, the following consequences are possible:

1.If the subfloor is not perfectly leveled, then after a month or two vinyl planks will take on the shape of all the subfloor imperfections and irregularities.

2. If you install thin vinyl planks on a concrete subfloor, then vinyl floors will always be the same as the subfloor, and they will also feel harder under your feet. This will be especially tangibly if no underlayment was used during installation.

Summary. The rule is very simple – the greater the overall thickness of the vinyl plank flooring, the fewer problems you will face after installation.

4.  Availability of trims: t-molding, reducer, end cap, and stair nose or stair treads

Each vinyl plank flooring box contains installation instructions written by the manufacturer. Each instruction states that it is necessary to leave a gap between the floor and each immovable surface, for example, a wall, cabinet, balcony door, etc. This requirement is due to the fact that vinyl planks tend to shrink and expand with changes in temperature, humidity, and other external factors.

In order for the vinyl planks to:

  • look beautiful after installation,
  • keep the seams closed
  • do not move the whole flooring,

all gaps must be covered and secured. The easiest way to do this is near the walls, where can we install quarter rounds or baseboards. But in order to cover these gaps in other places or to make a smooth transition from one material to another, for example, when vinyl planks are installed in one room, and carpet in another connected room. We use trims, there are usually three types of them: t-molding, reducer, end cap. And for installing vinyl plank flooring on stairs, there are two more trims: vinyl plank stair treads and vinyl plank stair nosing.

It is highly desirable that all of them be produced by the same manufacturer as the floors. Otherwise, they may differ in color and height. The first can lead to the fact that the project will not look pretty, and the second – to problems during the installation process.

In the state of Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, I very often come across a situation when a seller sells to client floors that are in-stock here on the island. But he doesn’t mention to the customer the fact that trims for these vinyl planks are on special order only, and shipping time is four to ten weeks. Or that the seller doesn’t supply trims at all. And the client finds himself in a difficult situation when he has already bought the floors, but he cannot install them, since the seller does not have trims.

Summary. Before you buy vinyl plank flooring ask your seller if he has all needed for the installation trims in stock. Also, visually check all trims to make sure you like how they look because ofter trim color is slightly different from the flooring even if the manufacturer is the same.

And so, let’s summarize all of the above. Before buying vinyl planks, be sure to check the thickness of the wear layer, underlayment availability, total vinyl plank thickness, and availability of all trims needed for the installation.

This concludes part one of my article “4 Things to Consider When Buying Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring”. In the next article, I will share four more very important things to keep in mind when buying vinyl floors or otherwise it could lead to financial losses.

Here at Best Flooring Honolulu we know about all those issues and make sure our customers get the best positive experience. If you are ready to take action and replace your old flooring with new luxury 100% waterproof vinyl plank flooring, please click free flooring estimate now, fill out and send the form on the next page. And our sales manager will call you on the same business day. Or if you are just shopping around visit our flooring store to see all your vinyl plank options.

I love to hear the feedback from my reads. Please, let me know in the comments below if you ever faced any of the problems described above? What happened? what consequences have you experienced?

June 15, 2021 — Borys Rasin

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