Vinyl plank flooring is an ideal product for both kitchens and bathrooms where water and moisture are common. Many people choose to use it elsewhere as well since it’s made to look like wood, but is considerably easier to install and clean, comes with a much lower price tag and does not involve cutting down trees.

Planks made from vinyl

This type of flooring is manufactured in strips, unlike vinyl sheeting that comes in a roll or vinyl tiles that are stuck on individually. This makes it look much more realistic than the other types of flat vinyl flooring. Better still, there are numerous different options from pale ash to dark teak. Specific product examples include:

Luxe Plank, a “luxury” vinyl product from Armstrong (www.armstrong.com). These vinyl planks are manufactured in a variety of hardwood lookalike colors and textures. They are also made in the same widths and lengths of wooden planks, namely 48 in x 4.5 in, 48 in x 6 in and 36 in x 6 in. The product is made with three layers that are topped with a fourth protective layer of urethane for durability. They even have beveled ends and edges for authenticity. There are 33 wood look-alike products in various hues that imitate birch, hickory, maple, oak, pine, walnut, several exotic woods and bamboo.

Congoleum (www.congoleum.com) manufactures a glueless plank and what they call an endurance plank, both from vinyl. Available wood patterns in the no-glue design include bamboo, classic oak, merbau (a tropical wood found in mangrove forests), rustic maple and weathered pine (that has a grayness to it rather than the distinctive golden hues normally associated with pine). All these planks are 6 in x 48 in size. The endurance plank is made in two sizes, 4 in x 36 in and 6 in x 36 in, and in four finishes: cherry, maple, oak and a nebulous “rustic” wood.

Earthwerks (www.earthwerks.com) offers a range of luxury vinyl planks which, apart from bamboo, have nebulous names that don’t indicate the type of wood they imitate. Each of the products is available in anything from three to seventeen colors. Sizes vary and include 4 in x 36 in, 6 in x 36 in, 5 in x 48 in, and 7.24 in x 37.4 in. Some products have square edges while others have beveled edges, and thickness also vary: .080 in, .098 in, 1/6 in, and 1/8 in.

Konecto (www.konectousa.com) has ten wood plank styles, some of which carry wood names, namely ash, chestnut, rosewood and walnut. Konecto planks are designed to be installed over existing floors including real wood, concrete, old vinyl or linoleum, and even ceramic tiles. They simply clip together to form a new “free floating” surface. The planks are 6 in x 36 in size and to cut them, all you do is score with a utility knife and snap.

Nafco vinyl planks (www.nafco.com) are manufactured by the international Tarkett Group that produces flooring throughout the world, including Europe and North America. Their vinyl glue-on planks represent a wide range of wood types including bleached ash, dark pine, maple, beech, mahogany, medium and light oak, pecan, as well as a whole lot of more nebulous types.

Installing plank flooring that has been made from vinyl

Most types are easy to install yourself.

The original plank flooring from vinyl was made with adhesive on one side, and was often called “peel and stick”. Providing your floor surface was clean and dry, all you did was peel off the backing and lay it on the floor. To make sure the flooring stuck, you would simply smooth it out, firmly using a mop, sponge or even just your hand. While these glue-strip products are still available – and often at highly discounted prices – “click” vinyl flooring is rapidly taking its place alongside flooring that requires an adhesive. So-called click plank flooring from vinyl is very similar to more expensive laminate flooring, and superior to the original vinyl planks that received a fairly mixed response in the marketplace.

Either way, each consecutive plank must be laid plumb and level. If your floor isn’t level, you will need to install wooden shims along the walls. And if the floor surface is less than perfect, you will need to level the floor using a good quality cement compound. If the house was well built and the floors were correctly topped with mortar applied and smoothed with a trowel, then you won’t have a problem.

Tarkett has a free online residential installation manual on their Nafco web site that is very useful irrespective of the brand of vinyl plank flooring you decide to install. For instance there is invaluable technical information about subfloors and the surfaces that you can lay vinyl flooring on, including both concrete and wood suspended floors, concrete floors on ground level, and concrete slabs in basements areas. It really doesn’t matter what sort of flooring you are laying, proper site preparation is absolutely essential. Even if a flooring contractor is going to do the work for you, the manual is worth a read so that you can assess the contractor’s responsibilities, particularly in terms of testing concrete substrates.

The installation guide also shows step-by-step how to lay out and install vinyl planks using adhesive.

Konecto also has free online installation manuals that explain how their product is installed without adhesive. They, too, are worth a read.

Advantages of floors constructed using planks made from vinyl

  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • Easy to lay.
  • Most can be laid over existing tiled floors if required.
  • Easy to clean and maintain. A good quality product shouldn’t scratch or scuff.

Disadvantages of floors constructed using planks made from vinyl

  • If an adhesive of any kind is used, it isn’t a good idea on heated concrete floors because the seams may come loose.
  • While it is fundamentally easy to lay, if floors and walls aren’t level and plumb, it isn’t that easy to lay! They cannot be laid on uneven surfaces.
  • Vinyl planks should not be laid on previously painted or varnished surfaces.
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