What is all this LVP, LVT, SPC, WPC stuff?
If you haven’t bought flooring in a while, you might be unfamiliar with new abbreviations like these. But it’s all about one of the most popular flooring products today: luxury vinyl.
Luxury vinyl is a current favorite because it looks great, is durable (in some cases waterproof), cleans up easily and lasts a long time. Best of all, it looks like hardwood flooring at a fraction of the cost.
But it can also be kind of confusing with the different types and styles available. So, we’re going to break down the different types of luxury vinyl flooring and the best places to use them.
First, a Little Background
The word “vinyl” might bring up memories of old linoleum floors, but it’s a bit different. Linoleum, which is made of linseed oil, was created in the 1860s and was popular through the 1950s.
Vinyl flooring, which came about in the 1930s, is made of synthetic materials, making it more resistant and durable. It became popular after WWII and eventually replaced linoleum as a favorite.
It wasn’t until 1972 that vinyl plank flooring was born. Its popularity grew in the 2000s as the glue-down version became a low-cost alternative to laminate, hardwood and carpet. “Peel & stick” versions were later released to cater to the DIYer, then came “loose lay” vinyl which is a flexible plank. These are all still around.
Why is it Called Luxury Vinyl?
The early versions of vinyl planks have been improved considerably. Today’s version is billed as luxury vinyl because of its higher quality materials and more realistic look due to 3D printing.
One aspect of confusion is whether luxury vinyl is just hard planks or flexible material. While the popular styles you’ll see online are mostly rigid-core planks, not all luxury vinyl flooring has a rigid core. It’s available in flexible, semi-flexible, or rigid core options. For clients who want a floor that looks like hardwood, we recommend rigid core luxury vinyl.
Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)
Luxury vinyl plank flooring looks and feels a lot like hardwood, without the warping, water damage or staining of its natural counterpart. Consider it a hardwood alternative for the active family lifestyle.
The hard planks are built of 4 or more layers, starting with a top layer that withstands a lot of wear and tear, a vinyl layer with high-quality 3D printing to mimic wood, a rigid-core layer that gives it durability and in some cases waterproofing, and a cork underlayment for comfort and soundproofing.
Installation is best left to professionals and can be done as a glue-down or floating floor.
Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT)
As the name implies, these are available in tiles or squares. And while they can also imitate hardwood, they’re often used to mimic stone, ceramic, or porcelain flooring.
When we say mimic, we mean in a way that is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Manufacturers have gotten very good at achieving a realistic look, so you end up with a design that looks like real stone, ceramic or porcelain.
Options include floating and glue-down installations. It can be installed with grout as well but looks more seamless without.
What About WPC & SPC?
Think of these as types of luxury vinyl – a subset of rigid-core vinyl only.
Remember, luxury vinyl can have a flexible or rigid core. These names refer to the rigid-core versions (the hard planks) only and describe the makeup of that rigid layer.
These cores are made of 1 of 3 materials: vinyl, WPC or SPC. The last two are hardier, waterproof and often more expensive.
They might also be called Engineered Vinyl Planks or EVP.
Wood Plastic Composite or Wood Polymer Flooring (WPC)
WPC flooring is a type of rigid-core luxury vinyl. In this case the rigid-core layer is made of recycled wood pulp and hardened vinyl (plastic/polymer composites).
It’s known to be lightweight, softer and quieter underfoot compared to SPC, the next option.
Stone Plastic Composite or Solid Polymer Core (SPC)
As you can guess from the name, SPC has a rigid-core layer made of stone rather than wood. In this case, it’s made of powdered limestone with vinyl and plastic composites. Luxury vinyl plank or tile with an SPC core is known to be denser, more stable and stronger. (Stone is stronger than wood after all.)
Which Should You Use Where?
There are a variety of factors to consider when choosing, but we often recommend getting luxury vinyl that’s waterproof and of a greater thickness for more durability.
For active households with pets concerned about scratches and dents: SPC Rigid-Core Luxury Vinyl Plank or Tile
For bathrooms and kitchens: SPC Rigid-Core Luxury Vinyl Plank or Tile. (WPC might be better if you spend lots of time standing in the kitchen, however.)
For high-traffic areas: SPC Rigid-Core Luxury vinyl Plank or Tile
For basements or unheated areas: WPC Rigid-Core Luxury Vinyl Plank or Tile (WPC offers better insulation and warmth, especially with an added pad.)
For areas with subfloor imperfections: WPC Rigid-Core Luxury Vinyl Plank or Tile is less rigid and more forgiving.
Overall best option for a more comfortable feel underfoot: WPC Rigid-Core Luxury Vinyl Plank or Tile
Overall best option for stain resistance and durability: SPC Rigid-Core Luxury Vinyl Plank or Tile
For budget-friendly vinyl flooring: Regular Luxury Vinyl Plank or Tile (Flexible or Rigid Core)
How do you find the right vinyl flooring product for your home? Ask a professional at our Austin floor store.
Unfortunately, the products you’ll find in big-box stores are often the thinner and less durable versions of popular brands.
Read also: Should You Buy from the Big-Box Store?