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Vinyl plank flooring buying guide

Vinyl plank flooring buying guide

Kate, Flooring Expert, Swansea

Guide written by:

Kate, Flooring Expert, Swansea

18 guides

Vinyl plank flooring has really taken off in recent years with an explosion of offerings on the market. But it can be hard to find your way, especially as click, glue down and loose lay vinyl planks all tend to look the same! Read on to learn all about the differences and find the perfect vinyl plank flooring for you.

Important features

  • Style
  • Installation
  • Thickness
  • Strength
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When choosing vinyl plank flooring, it may be useful to refer to the European standards to ensure you pick the right flooring for your needs.

These standards may be indicated on the packaging or in the product specifications.

Vinyl plank flooring classes

Class

Use

Room

21

Low or intermittent footfall - Light domestic use

Bedroom, hallway without outdoor access

22

Moderate footfall - Moderate domestic use

Living room without outdoor access

23

Heavy footfall - Heavy domestic use

Living room or bedroom with outdoor access

31

Low or intermittent footfall - Light commercial use

Home office, waiting room

32

General public, commercial or administrative use - Moderate commercial use

Meeting or conference room, library

33

Public, commercial or administrative use with heavy footfall - Heavy commercial use

Classroom, shop, stairway, shared office

34

Public, commercial or administrative use with very heavy footfall - Very intensive commercial use

Multipurpose hall, pharmacy, newsagent, museum

41

Public, commercial, administrative or industrial use with very heavy footfall

Cafeteria, hypermarket, shop (various)

The first digit of the class corresponds to the type of location where the vinyl plank flooring will be used:

  • 2 for domestic use;
  • 3 for commercial use;
  • 4 for industrial use.

The second figure refers to the type of footfall the flooring has to withstand:

  • 1 for low or intermittent footfall;
  • 2 for moderate footfall;
  • 3 for heavy footfall;
  • 4 for very heavy footfall.

The strength and class rating of vinyl plank flooring depends on the wear layer on the surface of the planks. This can range from 0.15 to 0.7 mm.

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Vinyl plank flooring

Vinyl plank flooring is a thinner alternative to hardwood and laminate floors. It is made to look just like wood and even features a similar texture. In fact, the finish of these floors is so good, it is often referred to as luxury vinyl plank (or LVP).

Thanks to advanced printing technologies, vinyl floor planks can replicate pretty much any colour, pattern or wood species – but that's not all! You can also find vinyl plank flooring made to look like materials like cement tiles or concrete.

The plank dimensions are similar to ordinary hardwood floorboards with most standard boards measuring about 15 cm in width and 120 in length. When it comes to style, you're sure to find a vinyl plank floor to match your interior.

Vinyl plank flooring is generally categorised according to how it is installed. In other words, it may be glue down, loose lay or click. It is important to think carefully about this characteristic when making your choice as it will determine the features of the flooring as well as how easy it is to lay.

Glue down vinyl plank flooring

It is possible to find glue down vinyl plank flooring. This type of flooring is fitted in a similar way to traditional sheet vinyl flooring. The planks themselves are very thin – usually 2 to 2.5 mm maximum – which makes them very easy to cut using a utility knife.

Like when laying a hardwood or laminate floor, you should start in a corner of the room. You simply need to coat your surface with a vinyl floor adhesive before laying the planks over the top.

For this type of installation, your surface must be perfectly level, dry, clean and prepped. It's important to note that vinyl plank flooring will not tolerate any surface flaws.

While glue down floors are very affordable, they are trickier and more time consuming to install. You will also need to add the price of the adhesive and installation accessories to the overall cost. For a perfect finish, it is important to pay attention the glue setting times.

Once the floor is glued down, you won't be able to remove the vinyl planks without damaging your surface.

Loose lay vinyl plank flooring

Loose lay fitting is an alternative method of sticking down flooring as outlined above. These planks are generally a bit thicker than glue down planks and measure about 4 mm thick on average.

However they come with one undeniable advantage – they can be removed! It is even possible to change a single plank in the middle of the room if you need to carry out repairs.

You will also be able to access the surface below the floor (to reach cables, for example) without causing damage. These planks can be laid using a tackifier to keep them in place.

Like for any vinyl floor, the surface must be flat, clean and dry prior to installation. It is also recommended to pour a self-levelling compound before you start.

Self-adhesive vinyl plank flooring

Self-adhesive vinyl planks have become quite a popular option on the market and it's easy to see why – these planks are the most DIY-friendly option out there!

They are supplied pre-coated with adhesive on one side. The adhesive may be permanent like for glue down floors or it may be possible to remove the planks as you can with a loose lay floor.

Simply remove the paper film from the planks and install them over a perfectly level surface. This type of installation is really very straightforward and does not require a lot of skill. The only tools you'll need are a utility knife and a straight edge to make your cuts.

While the cost of this type of flooring can be higher, many manufacturers now offer budget ranges. That said, be sure to check the class ratings of the planks. Easy and quick installation is one thing; having to start from scratch sooner than you'd like is another!

Click vinyl plank flooring

Click vinyl plank flooring is the most advanced product on the market and the most similar to laminate flooring though it is thinner.

Click vinyl planks are usually about 4 to 5mm thick, depending on their wear layer, and are designed to simply click together without the need for adhesive. However, it is highly recommended to install underlay first.

This type of floating floor is completely removable and you won't risk damaging your surface. You can also make your cuts using a basic utility knife.

Nonetheless, there are a few constraints when it comes to installing this type of flooring. Firstly, you need to leave an expansion gap around the room and it's best to avoid installing click flooring in areas with significant temperature changes.

Otherwise, as the PVC is not held firmly in place, the planks will move and may disconnect from each other. This type of flooring is therefore not recommended for sunrooms!

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Utility knives

No matter which type of vinyl plank flooring you choose, your choice will mainly be guided by your style preferences. But be sure to check that you choose the right type of installation for your needs and do not hesitate to call a professional if you aren't confident about your skills.

If you do decide to install yourself, read all instructions carefully. Remember – if you make any mistakes during installation, your warranty will probably be voided!

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Guide written by:

Kate, Flooring Expert, Swansea, 18 guides

Kate, Flooring Expert, Swansea

Flooring is my life. I love what I do, and I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. So, I'm not bragging when I tell you I know all there is to know about every flooring product. From laminate, parquet and linoleum to PVC, carpeting and tiling, my workdays are spent learning about manufacturing processes, composition, performance, laying techniques and maintenance methods. I've certainly seen my share of mistakes made on construction sites because of what was essentially a lack of information or understanding of the product. Flooring elements are constantly evolving and being improved upon - even us pros can find it hard to keep up! Some of us in the industry use language that is overly technical or loaded with jargon you'd have to be an expert to understand. What's more, flooring salespeople are often so focused on closing the sale that they don't take the time to explain the products in any detail. That's why I want to pass on my knowledge in a way that's clear and accessible, and maybe a bit fun too. Because flooring shouldn't be a chore!

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