6 Best Vinyl Plank Flooring Options, Tested by Home Experts

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6 Best Vinyl Plank Flooring Options, Tested by Home Experts

Vinyl used to be considered the “builder’s special” of residential flooring, a material with a low cost that was matched by its cheap look and plastic-y feel. Times have changed. While today’s vinyl plank flooring can still be cost-effective, it’s so much better looking and hard-wearing, thanks to major improvements in the manufacturing process.

“The available color variations and range of textures are impressive, especially if you're a design buff,” says GH Home Design Director Monique Valeris, who adds that vinyl is “generally easy to clean, waterproof and durable enough to withstand everyday wear and tear from pets."

After more than 20 hours of performance testing in the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute — evaluating staining, abrasion, moisture-resistance and more — our engineers confirmed the durability of today’s top vinyl plank flooring. Our design pros, meanwhile, weighed in on the color and texture options, calling out the ones that will bring the most beauty to any home interior.

These are the vinyl plank flooring options that offer the best combination of form and function.

Once you've perused our picks, read on for more about how we test flooring and advice on vinyl flooring, including installation costs and the best places to shop. And don't miss our guides to other remodeling essentials, including countertops, paint and power tools.

The retailer LL Flooring (formerly Lumber Liquidators) is known to our experts for carrying quality products at competitive prices. That's what we found again with our Lab assessment of its ReNature by Coreluxe line of vinyl plank flooring. "The planks delivered superb stain resistance in our tests, along with solid water resistance," says Alec Scherma, test engineer at the Good Housekeeping Institute.

Our design experts were impressed by ReNature's convincing wood patterns. "LL Flooring’s luxury vinyl planks showcase realistic wood grains and knots," says GH Associate Lifestyle Editor Alyssa Gautieri. "I particularly love the lighter, warm woods, like the Yorkshire Cottage Oak and Augsburg Oak, which are trending right now in interiors." Instead of the usual protective wear layer, the ReNature by Coreluxe flooring has a UV-cured finish. Although our experts say the value-driven vinyl plank flooring is an excellent choice for most applications, in very damp or high-traffic conditions, other products in our round-up of winners might deliver slightly better protection.

Costing under $4 per square foot, LifeProof's planks are priced like vinyl flooring of old, but with more updated styling and performance. Thanks to a 22-mil wear layer, the planks had no trouble fending off scratches in our tough abrasion test and the waterproof construction makes them suitable for bathrooms. Available at major home centers, including the Home Depot and Lowe's, LifeProof is among the most accessible brand of vinyl plank flooring.

Our testers had to work a bit harder removing chocolate and other stubborn staining agents, as the embossed surface had a tendency to trap sticky ingredients. Also, while the LifeProof colors and faux-wood patterns are quite impressive, our design pros weren't as convinced by them as other luxury vinyl products in this review.

Where moisture is a concern, like in a bathroom or kitchen, our experts recommend rigid core vinyl flooring, since the multi-layered construction makes it fully waterproof. Mohawk's SolidTech Plus version aced our water test and was also impervious to stains and scratches. We like the extra-wide 9-inch planks and the fact that you can choose from 25 different wood-look patterns, including naturals, browns and grays.

The premium vinyl product costs about twice as much as our cheapest picks (figure on about $6 per square foot), plus the durable material is harder to install, so we recommend hiring a pro to all but the most intrepid DIYers. But if you don't mind spending more on a vinyl floor, the SolidTech Plus will deliver a polished look for many years to come.

The wood look isn't the only way to go with vinyl plank flooring. Imitation stone and ceramic tile is also popular, whether for a bathroom or front foyer. Our experts like how easily this version from SmartCore clicks together over any clean, firm subsurface, including an existing floor covered in old vinyl or laminate. That makes for a fast and easy upgrade, especially since the product is readily available at any Lowe's home center. We also like that the GREENGUARD Gold certification means this flooring meets stringent indoor air quality emissions criteria. As for its appearance, though you might not mistake the SmartCore for real stone, it comes in an impressive range of design options, including marble, slate and onyx.

Most of the toughest vinyl plank flooring our experts tested falls in the rigid core category. Hartco’s Everguard line is up there with the toughest, boasting exceptional resistance to all manner of scuffs and scratches. That’s why our experts recommend it for high-traffic areas of the home, especially those that see a lot of raucous activity from kids or pets. Despite the stiff construction, the vinyl planks have a surprising softness underfoot, thanks to the padded underlayment. An impressive lineup of 20 design options features traditional or distressed wood finishes in oak and pine. Just note that you'll probably need to bring in a professional for the installation, unless you're an experienced DIYer with a power saw and other specialty tools.

Consider this flexible vinyl flooring if you’re redoing the basement or other part of the home with a concrete subfloor. The 6.5" x 48" planks can be cut to size with a utility knife and glued in place using construction adhesive (the same straightforward installation technique can be use on wood subfloors). Though the material is just 2 millimeters thick, it held up surprisingly well in our abrasion tests, thanks its tough protective wear layer. "It also had no trouble shrugging off our battery of stubborn stains," says Scherma. The one downside is the lack of an attached pad, which means if you want to increase the floor's softness and sound absorption, you'll need to put down a separate underlayment.

Our market analysts began this project by identifying the vinyl plank brands and products that you’re most likely to find in stores and online. Hands-on assessment then took place in the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute.

To determine stain resistance, we applied 2 teaspoons of mustard, chocolate, mud and other stubborn ingredients onto vinyl flooring samples. We immediately tried to remove one of the sticky substances with paper towels and all-purpose cleaner. After one hour of drying time, we tried to clean the other. Most vinyl flooring proved highly stain resistant.

To measure water resistance, our experts dropped 250 milliliters of water on each vinyl floor sample and let it sit for one hour. The best models showed no signs of seepage, thanks to their water-tight joints.

The abrasion test is where our experts saw the most range in results. We use an abrasion machine that delivers hundreds of passes of fine-grit sandpaper, simulating years of foot traffic, to measure wear- and scratch-resistance. Flooring with thick wear layers tends to offer the best wear-resistance.

To assess appearance, our design experts compare samples to determine which have the most convincing patterns, whether its the graining of a wood-look product or the color and veining of one that's meant to simulate natural stone. Finally, our experts take into consideration ease of installation, including how easy the material is to cut, as well as the fit of tongue-and-groove profiles.

When it comes to vinyl plank flooring, generally the less expensive models are more DIY-friendly, though they tend to come with some trade-off in looks and performance. Here are the key factors that will help you land on the perfect vinyl.

✔️ Type: Vinyl plank flooring refers to any flooring with a vinyl top layer. As you shop around, you’ll encounter a few subcategories:

✔️ Thickness: Two specs apply here:

✔️ Underlayment: Better vinyl flooring has an attached pad that can eliminate the need for a separate underlayment during installation (damp basement floors may still need an additional polyethylene water barrier). Whether made of foam, cork or rubber, the backing will help muffle sound, nice for vinyl floors that are being installed on an upper level of the home.

✔️ Authentic patterns: Most vinyl flooring consists of a photo of actual wood or stone that’s sandwiched between a substrate and a clear-plastic protective wear layer. While the latest printing technology can result in incredibly authentic grain and vein patterns, too much repetition can be a giveaway. Typical pattern repeat is every six planks, but some vinyl flooring has a pattern repeat of 10 or 12, creating a more realistic variation across the floor.

Vinyl plank flooring is relatively easy to install, so capable DIYers will only have to carry the cost of tools and materials. Many products are so-called "floating floor" systems, with planks that snap together with a tongue-and-groove profile.

Flexible vinyl flooring is another DIY-friendly option, featuring easy-to-cut planks or tiles that can be glued to any clean, stable substrate, such as concrete, a wood subfloor or even an existing floor made of vinyl or tile. With either approach, a fair amount of complex measuring is needed to get the flooring just right.

If you don’t have the time or skill set, professional installation of vinyl flooring averages $2,500, according to Angi, the home services marketplace. For a single room or area of the home, expect to spend $2 to $10 per square foot (that works out to $400 to $2,000 for a 200 square-foot kitchen). The variation is due to the wide range of quality in the vinyl category, as well as the condition of your existing substrate.

Because vinyl plank flooring is a mass-market product, it’s easy to find and you won’t have to deal with long lead times, unless you choose a specialty item. Here are some of the biggest retailers.

✔️ The Home Depot: With some 2,300 locations nationwide, the biggest home center carries a wide range of vinyl floor products. It’s a big seller of Pergo, a reputable brand that performed well in our latest tests. The Home Depot also offers installation service and a certified technician will even come take in-home measurements, so you don’t have to worry about getting the order wrong.

✔️ Lowe’s: The country’s second biggest home center is another safe bet for vinyl flooring. Its service offerings are even more robust, including in-home flooring measurements, design consults, professional installation and free shipping on flooring samples.

✔️ LL Flooring: Formerly known as Lumber Liquidators, LL Flooring has more than 400 locations across 47 states, plus an excellent website that makes it easy to find the right flooring and receive up to four free samples.

✔️ Floor & Décor: Though LL Flooring has the most locations, Floor & Décor sells the most flooring, so you’re guaranteed to find a wide selection of vinyl floors at all price points. The site has an extensive library of virtual how-to clinics, for those looking to save by installing their flooring themselves.

The Good Housekeeping Institute Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab provides expert reviews and advice on all things home-related, including flooring and other building materials.

Dan DiClerico has covered the residential flooring market for more than two decades. In that time, he has tested every major flooring material — not just vinyl, but also laminate, stone and all types of wood. He also has written countless how-to articles on the installation and maintenance of floors, working closely with professional installers to understand the latest techniques and innovations. Dan is a regular at trade shows and industry events, where he keeps up with the latest trends in the marketplace. In his role at the Good Housekeeping Institute, Dan oversees all flooring testing, working closely with our team of engineers and product experts. He also manages any consumer surveys designed to capture homeowners' experiences with various flooring materials.

For this report, Dan worked closely with Alec Scherma, test engineer at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where he helps create and implement new product testing methodology across home, cooking and cleaning appliances, wellness and tech products and more. Scherma graduated from Drexel University’s College of Engineering with a B.A. in mechanical engineering.

Having written thousands of product reviews and how-to articles on all aspects of home ownership, from routine maintenance to major renovations, Dan (he/him) brings more than 20 years of industry experience to his role as the director of the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. A one-time roofer and a serial remodeler, Dan can often be found keeping house at his restored Brooklyn brownstone, where he lives with his wife and kids.

Alec Scherma (he/him) is the Good Housekeeping Institute’s test engineer, where he helps to create and implement new product testing methodology across home, cooking and cleaning appliances, wellness, tech products and more. He graduated from Drexel University’s College of Engineering with a B.A. in mechanical engineering.

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6 Best Vinyl Plank Flooring Options, Tested by Home Experts

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