Vinyl flooring has come a long way since it was introduced in the 1930s. Most homes built or remodeled in the late 1940s, and decades thereafter, boasted patterned vinyl sheet flooring. It was a cheaper alternative to linoleum tile flooring and was available in a wider range of colors and patterns — such as the harvest gold and avocado green so popular in the ‘70s, which ‘80s homeowners couldn’t wait to rip up.
Today’s vinyl flooring has the same selling points as its previous versions: it’s easy to care for, lasts for many years, and is available in a multitude of colors, patterns, and textures. Vinyl flooring, whether it’s in 6- or 12-foot-wide sheets or individual vinyl tiles is relatively inexpensive compared to wood, ceramic or stone tile, or other popular flooring options. Furthermore, it’s suitable for just about any room in the house.
If you’re sold on the idea of vinyl flooring, you have two basic choices: sheet vinyl or luxury vinyl tile flooring, also known as LVT. Which is right for you?
Create a similar look with MSI's Coastal Mix LVT (Photo credit: Houzz)
Vinyl tiles have been around for decades, usually considered a quick and cheap option. Today’s LVT flooring, however, is a vast improvement. Luxury vinyl tiles are available in squares, rectangles, and even planks that realistically simulate hardwood flooring. The variety on the market is endless and includes tiles that look like stone, concrete, and ceramic along with wood in every conceivable color and grain pattern.
Sheet vinyl is also available in many colors and patterns, from solid patterned expanses to impressed tile-like or stone-like patterns. Modern sheet vinyl is an attractive option, but if you enjoy customizing your flooring design, it’s important to note that with sheet vinyl you’re stuck with the available patterns.
With LVT, on the other hand, you can create your own design using different colors of tiles, or even cut tiles into shapes such as triangles. Square or rectangular LVT can be installed corner-to-corner or staggered like bricks. Plank LVT can be installed in a herringbone or other pattern to resemble a parquet floor. You’re only restricted by your own creativity.
Vinyl plank flooring is appropriate for any interior room, from bedrooms to basements. It’s especially useful in areas that see a lot of moisture and humidity, such as kitchens and bathrooms, mud rooms, or laundry rooms.
For water repellency, sheet vinyl has the edge. After all, there are no spaces between tiles where moisture can seep in; it’s one uninterrupted surface. However, unless the room will have standing puddles of water on a regular basis, properly-installed LVT is extremely water-resistant as well. Many luxury vinyl tile flooring options can even be grouted between the seams, making them appear more realistic as well as enhancing their water-resistant properties.
LVT can also be used on vertical surfaces, such as accent walls or backsplashes — sheet vinyl is inappropriate for this type of installation. Since it resembles other materials frequently used for wall coverings, it can provide an inexpensive, easy-to-install option that is much more water-resistant and easy to keep clean.
Featured: Ryder LVT
Both LVT and sheet vinyl are known as “resilient flooring,” meaning that they have a degree of softness and “give” beneath your feet. This makes them more comfortable to stand on for an extended period of time, such as when working in a kitchen, than solid flooring types like stone or tile. Some vinyl is even manufactured with an extra layer of padding for this purpose.
As stated, vinyl flooring has come a long way in terms of realism. Luxury vinyl tile flooring, however, has a “photographic” layer that is imprinted to authentically reproduce many other materials, and can even have a 3D look for the appearance of texture without the difficulty of cleaning a textured surface. Wood grain is where it really shines, faithfully delivering the look of natural hardwood — including weathered wood planks or exotic wood species.
Durability and Repairs
With either luxury vinyl tile flooring or sheet vinyl, the durability varies depending on the quality or price point. Both types of flooring include a top wear layer, which protects against scratches and stains, and this can be further enhanced by applying a urethane coating. Most types of vinyl plank flooring come with a 15- to 25-year warranty for residential installation.
No type of flooring is indestructible, however. At some point, it’s possible that either sheet vinyl or an LVT floor will need repairing. Sheet vinyl, particularly the less-expensive options, is vulnerable to indentation or tearing from moving furniture.
Since it’s one large piece, repairs on sheet vinyl flooring are difficult; you can cut out a piece and replace, but the seams may be visible and the pattern may not perfectly match. Replacing the entire floor may be your only option. With vinyl floor tiles, however, it’s simple to remove the damaged piece and replace it.
Create a similar look with MSI's Burnished Acacia LVT (Photo Credit: Houzz)
For do-it-yourselfers, sheet vinyl is a daunting material to work with. Installation of sheet vinyl requires perfectly accurate measurements and cuts — and rarely is a room perfectly square, especially in older homes.
Installation of luxury vinyl tile flooring is a much easier prospect, even for DIY-ers with no experience. Each piece needs to be laid out in perfectly straight rows, so installers must carefully draw lines on the underlayment before proceeding. Since vinyl tiles are individual pieces, the flooring is much easier to handle than a huge roll. Pieces can be cut easily to fit the room’s contours or other obstructions, and any mistakes made in the process will be less expensive to fix.
There’s no question that sheet vinyl is less expensive than LVT. However, the price difference is nowhere near as dramatic as either vinyl option vs. wood, stone, or ceramic tile. When you factor in the advantages of LVT, the added cost is negligible.
Today’s technology has made both sheet vinyl flooring and luxury vinyl tile an option for everyone, not just for the budget-conscious. Available in a wide range of colors and patterns, both options are appropriate for every room in your home. However, if you’re looking for the most realistic of the two, the most durable, the easiest to DIY, and the best value for the money, LVT may be your best choice.
How to Get Professional Results Installing Luxury Vinyl Tile FlooringWhere to Find Luxury Vinyl Tile Flooring That Looks Like Wood FlooringCan Luxury Vinyl Tile Flooring Be Installed Over Regular Tile?You’re Going to Flip Over the New Look of Luxury Vinyl Tile
Get the latest news on our newest offerings, updates, and industry news straight to your inbox!