One of the fastest growing flooring options for residential and commercial uses is luxury vinyl tile. That’s because LVT is extremely durable and features advanced printing technology and texture embossing to give it a wider range of colors and more realistic wood-looks than ever before. Its waterproof, slip-resistant, and anti-bacterial properties mean it can be installed in any room. But, before you pick out your favorite vinyl style based on appearance or performance, there are some important factors to consider like selecting the right thickness. In this guide, you’ll learn what you need to know about which thickness of LVT works best for different installations.
How Thickness Is Measured
When it comes to luxury vinyl tile, there are two important measurements to look at. The first is the thickness of the actual plank itself, and that is measured in millimeters. Vinyl planks range in thickness from 2 mm for lower quality products to 8 mm or more for higher quality products. This measurement varies since luxury vinyl tile is comprised of four-to-five different distinct layers that include a urethane coating, the wear layer, a print film layer, the vinyl core, and the backing.
The first LVT layer is a coating of urethane that protects the all-important wear layer and also provides the right amount of sheen for the product. The second LVT layer is the wear layer that varies in thickness and is measured in mil. More in-depth detail will be covered below, but the clear layer of PVC (vinyl) protects the design and is given embossing to give the planks a more textured look. The third LVT layer is the print film that is made of paper and features the desired color and pattern to create tile that looks like wood or natural stone. The fourth LVT layer is the vinyl core that is often a mix of vinyl with a plasticizer or fiberglass. The last layer that may be included is a backing. Not all LVT products include an attached underlayment, but for the ones that do, they are typically made of cork or foam. Not only does it help reduce noise and hold heat, but it also provides cushion, and the thicker the backing is the more comfortable it will be to walk and stand on.
Durability and Wear Layer
Regarding durability of your vinyl plank flooring, the most important factor to consider is the wear layer. It protects the printed color and pattern from daily wear and tear as well as scuffs, scratches, and dents. The wear layer thickness is measured in mil, which is one-thousandth of an inch, and not to be confused with millimeter. Many American brands convert the metric measurements used by most manufacturers that are based in Europe or Asia, so the wear layer typically comes in 8 mil, 12 mil, 20 mil, and 40 mil. For reference, 1 mm is approximately the same thickness as 40 mil.
The thicker the wear layer the better since once it wears through, the printed pattern will become damaged and result in needing the vinyl flooring replaced. However, products with the highest wear layer tend to cost more. It is recommended for residential installations to include a product with a minimum wear layer of 12 mil and 20 mil or more for houses with active families or pets. For commercial installations, it is best to have luxury vinyl tile with a minimum wear layer of 28 mil. But, for products with a wear layer thicker than 28 mil, some may find that the LVT sacrifices some of its clarity with the print layer underneath for the added durability.
In addition to the thickness of the wear layer, the type of coating may also provide added protection. Some polyurethane finishes are reinforced with either aluminum oxide, a silica beading, or ceramic beading to help resist scratching. The protective topcoat also makes the planks harder and does not require any application of additional waxes or polishes to your luxury vinyl tile.
Is Thicker Always Better?
While the thickness of the wear layer is an important determination as to how long your flooring will last, there is one type of LVT where thickness matters. With click flooring, the thicker the plank the easier installation is because the click mechanism is more secure. Testing and expert feedback reveals that click luxury vinyl tile should be at least 5 mm thick or more.
Another thing to consider when choosing thicker over thinner LVT is the transitions between rooms. Having new flooring that is either too tall or too shallow will create uneven floors that lead to awkward transitions between spaces.
MSI’s Rigid Core vs. DryBack Thickness Difference
The Rigid Core line from MSI is a thicker product because it features a click system for easier installation. Depending on the series chosen, the thickness for the click vinyl plank flooring ranges from 5 mm to 6.5 mm. It is easier to install since it doesn’t require any messy adhesives and can be placed directly over most existing floors or subfloors.
Recreate this look with MSI's Bleached Elm (Photo Credit: Houzz)
The DryBack line from MSI is a glue-down luxury vinyl tile that is typically thinner, anywhere from 2 mm to 3 mm thick. That’s because it does not include the click mechanism. Although it can cost less for the product, you do need to purchase glue and have a more experienced installer complete the job. However, a full-trowel glue installation will keep the flooring in place the best.
Is There a Difference in Warranty and Care?
Make sure that you check to see if the LVT product is rated for residential use or commercial traffic and compare the warranties offered. A longer warranty for industrial use indicates that the modern tile features a thicker wear layer. Also know that many times companies will underrate how long the vinyl plank flooring is expected to last, especially for commercial installs, in order to avoid very expensive warranty claims. While some of the warranty details may differ between products, the same maintenance requirements apply.
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A DIY project in the making, there’s no easier way to replace laminate, tile flooring, or carpet than installing LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile). From prep work and step-by-step instructions to tips, tools, and materials, follow these Vinyl Flooring Installation instructions for everything you need to know to achieve professional results. You could get started today and be done in just a few days – and with professional, polished results. If that sounds attractive to you, read LVT installation best practices for optimal results.
What’s not to love about low-maintenance vinyl flooring? As lovely as they are, they won’t clean themselves. To keep your Luxury Vinyl tiles and Planks looking their best through the years, follow these handy LVT care and maintenance tips.
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