The Difference between PVC Flooring vs. Vinyl Flooring: The Guide


First of All: What is PVC Flooring?

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride—aka vinyl!

That’s right—PVC flooring is the exact same thing as vinyl flooring. It’s just a different name for it!

Why the different phrasing? Well, PVC is the third-most produced plastic polymer in the world. It’s used in lots of different applications aside from flooring—like pipes, siding, insulation, and even health supplies. And since many people are familiar with the material, PVC flooring has become a common synonym for vinyl flooring.

And everyone loves vinyl flooring. It’s one of the most popular hardwood floor alternatives out there!

What’s the Difference Between PVC Flooring and Vinyl Flooring?

Again, this is a big question with a simple answer. Nothing.

Like we said, PVC flooring is just another name for vinyl flooring. The two terms are totally interchangeable!

We know: it causes a lot of confusion for people shopping for vinyl plank flooring, or trying to learn about the differences between vinyl vs. linoleum vs. laminate.

But from now on, whenever you see PVC flooring, you’ll know—it’s just vinyl flooring.

Different Types of Vinyl Flooring

Now that we have that sorted out, it’s important to explain that there are three main types of flooring that fall within the vinyl (or PVC) category.

#1. Vinyl Plank (aka Luxury Vinyl Plank or LVP)

Vinyl Plank PVC

Luxury vinyl plank (aka LVP) is the most popular faux wood flooring option on the market. It’s waterproof, you can use it to create all sorts of classic wood floor designs, and the cost to install vinyl plank flooring is way cheaper than the cost to buy and install hardwood.

Vinyl plank flooring can come with a rigid or a flexible core, depending on the product. If you opt for a rigid-core product, you have a few additional options:

  • WPC (wood-plastic composite) cores use a mix of plastic and wood flour to create a bouncy, natural-feeling floor.
  • SPC (stone-plastic composite) cores use a mix of plastic and limestone powder to create an ultra-durable floor.
  • EVP (engineered vinyl plank) floors often mix different types of plastic for added benefits.

And again: all of these options are types of PVC flooring!

The point is, you have tons of choices. And while there are some disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring, the pros easily outweigh the cons.

#2. Vinyl Tile (aka Luxury Vinyl Tile or LVT)

Installing LVT Vinyl Tile

Vinyl tile has the exact same properties as vinyl plank. It can come as a rigid or a flexible product, you can get WPC, SPC, or EVP cores, it’s waterproof, etc.

So what’s the difference between vinyl tile and vinyl plank?

Vinyl planks are made to look like wood. Vinyl tiles are made to look like—you guessed it—different types of floor tiles! We’re talking slate, granite, marble, you name it.

And that means they usually come in square pieces instead of rectangular planks. Again: all of these products—LVP, LVT, WPC, SPC, EVP—are just different types of PVC flooring (aka vinyl flooring).

Additionally: all of these types can be installed as click-together flooring, loose-lay flooring, or glue-down flooring. It just depends on the product.

#3. Sheet Vinyl

Sheet vinyl roll

The third type of vinyl flooring is sheet vinyl. This is the old-fashioned, patterned vinyl flooring you probably remember from the kitchens and bathrooms of your childhood.

It comes in large sheets that are cut to fit your space, and then glued down. It isn’t among the easiest types of flooring to install, but it’s inexpensive and super durable. And yes, it’s also a type of PVC flooring.

The Pros and Cons of PVC Flooring

PVC flooring, like any other type of flooring, has both advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to get the full picture before moving forward with any decisions. Let’s review some of the main ones for vinyl.

Pro: PVC Flooring is Easy to Install

PVC flooring is relatively easy to install, which can be a huge perk. Both vinyl plank (LVP) and vinyl tile (LVT) can be installed as a floating floor. If you’re wondering what is a floating floor?, it’s an installation style that uses snap-together pieces—so the surface doesn’t have to be attached to a subfloor with glue or nails.

That said, if you aren’t keen on the disadvantages of floating floors, you can always buy glue-down or loose-lay PVC flooring products instead.

Con: PVC Flooring Can Be Hard to Remove

One of the downsides of both of these installation styles, though, is that they make PVC flooring rather difficult to remove.

Pulling up glued-down planks isn’t easy to do without damaging them. And with snap-together floating floors, you have to take the entire floor apart if you want to repair a single damaged plank or tile. It can be a hassle!

Pro: It’s an Affordable Faux-Wood Flooring Option

There are some incredible fake wood flooring options on the market—RevWoodhemp flooring—even the best cork flooring ranks pretty highly on the list.

But among these choices, vinyl is one of the most affordable options on the table—so it makes it a great place to start if you’re looking for budget-friendly choices.

Pro: PVC Floors are Waterproof

If you’ve been looking at flooring options, you’ll know the variety is exciting—so what sets the best vinyl plank flooring brands apart?

The biggest differentiator between vinyl plank vs. laminate (the two most common faux-wood options) is the fact that vinyl is waterproof.

Most of the other fake wood flooring choices available are not waterproof. For example, one of the disadvantages of cork flooring is that it can absorb water. This is a huge perk when it comes to choosing vinyl.

Also, remember that waterproof and water-resistant are different. You can find some water-resistant wood flooring options, but none of them will be completely waterproofTeak flooring, for example, is water-resistant thanks to its natural resins and oils. But it definitely isn’t waterproof.

Con: Vinyl Is Not the Most Eco-Friendly Option

If you’re in the market for eco-friendly flooring, you won’t find vinyl at the top of the sustainability rankings. Because PVC is plastic, it requires a lot of resources to produce, and it’s less recyclable than other options.

It also won’t last as long as some other choices like ash flooring or other hardwoods—because solid hardwoods can be refinished for decades of use.

Pro: PVC Flooring is a Great Choice for Durability

If you’re looking for durability, PVC flooring is a great choice. Luxury vinyl planks and tiles are some of the most scratch-resistant flooring options around.

So whether you have kids running through your home, dogs wrestling on your floors, or just high traffic areas, vinyl flooring is definitely worth considering. Even the most durable wood flooring options don’t hold a candle to the luxury vinyl in terms of durability.

Con: There can be Quality Issues with Some Vinyl Floors

As with most shopping decisions, you should always read reviews before purchasing a product. There are some low-quality vinyl options on the market, and it’s important to avoid them. Example: Pergo Extreme reviews are excellent. Reviews for LifeProof flooring (Home Depot’s in-house brand) on the other hand… not so much.

Pro tip: one of the easiest ways to find a higher quality PVC floor is to look at wear layer thickness. A minimum of 12 mils thick is recommended for residential buildings. Another way to find a high-quality product is by asking your local flooring store.

Is PVC Flooring a Healthy Option?

We’re not going to sugar coat it: vinyl flooring is made of plastics, which means that chemicals are heavily involved in the manufacturing process.

When those chemicals off-gas, they’re known as VOCs—volatile organic compounds. When VOCs off-gas in your home, they can affect your indoor air quality—potentially harming your family’s health.

The good news is that there are low-VOC vinyl flooring options available if you know where to look! Brands like Proximity Mills, for instance, only sell low- and zero-VOC floors.

There are Low-VOC Alternatives

VOCs are in many products, so it’s hard to avoid them completely. But if you want the safest and healthiest options, for a low-VOC flooring option.

There are non-toxic laminate flooring choices, and even low-VOC carpet options on the market. Your best bet is to stick to natural materials instead of man-made. Shop for different hardwood species or natural stone for the least amount of chemicals.

How Long Does PVC Flooring Last?

PVC flooring generally has a lifespan of 12 to 15-ish years. It can last much longer if it’s cleaned and well-maintained, though. But if you go with lower-quality flooring, it may not have that long of a lifespan.

Again: vinyl isn’t the most environmentally-friendly flooring in the world. The best vinyl plank flooring brands offer tons of benefits, but they’ll only last as long as the warranty guarantees—so that’s definitely something to consider when making your decision.

That said,  some companies offer lifetime warranties, so it all depends on the product.

PVC Flooring vs. Laminate Flooring

Vinyl and laminate flooring have a lot in common—affordability, ease of installation, and durability.

Because of this, many of the same arguments made in favor of laminate in the tile vs. laminate and carpet vs. laminate debates also apply to vinyl flooring. However, there are also significant differences between the two.

Vinyl is entirely synthetic, whereas laminate does contain some natural materials. Vinyl also has some benefits that laminate doesn’t—it’s heat-resistant and waterproof. Those factors may be extremely important for you depending on where in your home you’re installing your new floors.

If you’ve been shopping for laminate, it would be a great idea to include PVC flooring in your search as well. Along with wood-look tile, it’s one of the best faux wood options for high-traffic areas. Not to mention, you can find PVC options that resemble everything from wide-plank wood flooring to thin-strip parquet.

Is PVC Flooring Waterproof?

Water Spill on Vinyl Floor

It sure is! All the best types of vinyl flooring are 00% waterproof. This means that PVC flooring is a great choice for bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, kitchens, or even mudroom flooring—any damp spaces or places with a chance of wet feet or spills.

This is the factor that sets it apart from many other surfaces, including nearly all wood flooring types. Even the best engineered wood flooring can’t stand up to water like PVC flooring can. In fact, water issues are some of the only real engineered wood disadvantages out there.

How Much Does PVC Flooring Cost?

Flooring costs vary depending on your location, materials, labor, and more. Here are some of the current national averages for labor and materials to help you make a more informed decision.

PVC Flooring Rolls (aka Sheet Vinyl)

For sheet vinyl, the national average ranges between $3 and $4 per square foot for material and installation. This material cost is cheaper than the other options, but the installation is more difficult—and therefore can be a bit more expensive.

PVC Flooring Tiles (aka LVT)

The national average, according to HomeAdvisor, is $7 per square foot for material plus installation. However, vinyl tiles are still cheaper to install than nearly all types of tile made from natural materials—even porcelain snap-together tile flooring.

PVC Flooring Planks (aka LVP)

LVP is priced similarly to LVT at around $7 per square foot for materials and installation. This is still a more affordable choice compared to the cost to install engineered hardwood floors. Vinyl planks are a great option if you want wood-look flooring without paying the price. Plus, the price of a new vinyl plank floor is similar to the cost to refinish hardwood flooring, but with way less hassle and mess.

Installing PVC Flooring

Vinyl is known as an easy-to-install type of flooring. Many DIYers are able to put this in themselves without issues. Even if you have to hire a professional, it’s a relatively affordable installation compared to the cost to replace carpet with hardwood, for instance

Professional Installation vs. DIY

As with any type of flooring, there are tons of professionals that can install your floor for you. So if you find yourself questioning “what is subflooring” or Googling how to install peel-and-stick carpet tiles… well, we’d recommend finding a top-rated flooring store near you to discuss your options.

How to Care for PVC Flooring

Maintaining any type of flooring is important, and while PVC is much less maintenance-heavy than some other floors (including nearly all types of wood flooring), there are still some best practices.

It’s best to clean with water and a mop weekly. If there are any stubborn stains, using vinegar or gentle cleaners. Make sure to use furniture pads, especially with anything that moves around to protect that top layer of the vinyl. And when you vacuum, do not use a beater bar. By following these tips, you can make your PVC flooring last!

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