Vinyl as a flooring option has become increasingly popular across the U.S., especially in commercial offices, retail stores, and other high-traffic spaces. But vinyl is becoming more and more sought-after by homeowners, as well, for various reasons that relate to cost, durability, and ease of installation and maintenance.
As a flooring professional, however, you know that there is always another side to the story, and while vinyl might be growing in popularity, it might not be the best option, especially when you compare it to hardwood or engineered wood. When providing recommendations to a client, it’s important to let them know the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl flooring, so they can make an informed decision and pick the best flooring option for their specific needs.
What is vinyl flooring, exactly?
Vinyl is a synthetic flooring option usually made from materials like PVC, plastic, or fiberglass, and it comes in various formats, like sheet vinyl, composite tile, or so-called ‘luxury vinyl.’ It’s basically a layer of PVC or plastic covered with an image layer that mimics the look of hardwood, ceramic, marble, and other high-end materials. Vinyl flooring can be easily installed over another layer of vinyl, and it can be glued-down or it can float above the subfloor.
Why is vinyl such a popular flooring option?
Because vinyl is easy to install, easy to maintain and clean, and of course, because it’s much more affordable than hardwood or engineered wood flooring, it’s a very popular option with homeowners and business owners alike. Another reason why vinyl is such a popular flooring option is customization; there are endless colors and patterns to choose from that mimic maple, oak, cherry, and other hardwood varieties, and to an untrained eye, it can be difficult to spot that it’s not real hardwood. Still, a professional will be able to tell the difference between vinyl floors and hardwood floors in a matter of seconds.
What are some of the pros and cons of vinyl flooring?
There are several advantages of installing vinyl flooring in an office space or a residence, from flexibility and ease of installation to design options and of course, cost-effectiveness. However, there are several crucial disadvantages that might convince your client that vinyl is not the best option, despite its lower cost. Over time, hardwood or even engineered wood flooring will prove the best – and most cost-effective – option. Below are some of the most important pros and cons of vinyl flooring that your client should be aware of when making a decision for their space.
Pros of vinyl flooring
- Cost-effectiveness: vinyl is considerably more affordable than hardwood flooring or even engineered wood;
- Durability: when properly cared for, vinyl flooring can last for decades before it needs to be replaced;
- Customization: there are countless patterns and colors to choose from, including wood, concrete, marble, stone, and terrazzo;
- Easy installation process: vinyl flooring is easy and quick to install, either by gluing it down or having it float above the subfloor; it can also be installed above another vinyl floor;
- Water resistance: vinyl is water resistant so you won’t have to worry if you spill a glass of water or have to deal with high humidity in a space;
- Comfort and cushioning: vinyl is a lot softer than hardwood flooring so it provides more comfort and cushioning; there’s a low chance of things breaking in case you drop them onto a vinyl floor;
- Noise absorption: because vinyl is layered and dense, it provides great shock and noise absorption, making it an ideal option for a home office or a high-traffic area.
Cons of vinyl flooring
- Prone to damage: if not cared for and cleaned properly, vinyl can deteriorate very quickly; the soft cushion texture means it’s more prone to scratches, dents, and breakage;
- Discoloration: this is a problem that can occur over time, if the vinyl planks are not cared for properly; the planks can become discolored and the top layer can start to peel off;
- Not waterproof: while vinyl is water-resistant, it’s not waterproof, so it should not be immersed in water, thus it’s definitely not a good idea for bathrooms or even kitchens;
- Difficult to repair/remove: vinyl flooring can’t be refinished or repaired, so in case of heavy damage, the only solution is to replace some or all of the planks; however, if the vinyl flooring has been glued down, it’s going to be very difficult to remove;
- Negative impact on resale value: residential and commercial properties featuring hardwood floors are much more sought-after and considered a bit more high-end; whale hardwood floors can push property values up, vinyl flooring can often have a negative impact on a property’s resale value;
- Not environmentally-friendly: because it’s made of PVC or plastic, vinyl flooring is not environmentally-friendly, and toxic fumes and vapors are a possibility during the installation process.
- Quality inconsistencies: while vinyl does a good job at mimicking the aspect of wood, someone with a trained eye will be able to spot the difference in no time. Unfortunately, the quality of vinyl planks can vary even when buying from the same manufacturer. Ultimately, hardwood has a more elegant, upscale, refined look that not even ‘luxury’ vinyl can replicate.
Conclusion: vinyl is still no match for hardwood
While vinyl flooring is definitely a solid option for homeowners or business owners with a tight budget, or for high-traffic areas like retail stores or offices, it’s still no match for hardwood in the long run. While vinyl can withstand a lot of foot traffic and spills, and is a lot softer to tread on, it can’t be refinished or restored. So, depending on the amount of use and the way it’s cared for, vinyl flooring can last anywhere from five years to twenty years.
With hardwood flooring, you’re getting long-term durability, the ability to refinish, repair, recoat, or restore the planks, an elevated aesthetic to any space, and a boost in resale value, as well. While the initial purchasing cost might be higher, you’ll be saving money long-term as you won’t have to replace the hardwood planks every few years due to damage. Not to mention that hardwood is more environmentally-friendly. If a client doesn’t have the budget for hardwood, a quality alternative to vinyl would be prefinished engineered hardwood flooring. Talk things through with your client to let them know the pros and cons of vinyl flooring, and be sure to check out the First Atlanta Flooring shop to find the right materials and tools for your project.