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Vinyl Plank Flooring Thickness: How to Choose?

Have you ever stayed awake wondering what the best thickness for Vinyl plank flooring is? If so, you might be in the middle of a renovation meltdown. Or maybe you’ve spent way too much time watching home improvement shows.

Whichever the reasoning, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the mechanics of vinyl plank. Here’s what you need to consider when determining your floors thickness.

How to Calculate Thickness

To find the depth of a vinyl plank you need to account for the protective wear layer, core, and the backing. To better evaluate your options you’ll need a basic understanding of how companies assemble vinyl planks. In-depth videos and diagrams explaining the process are available online.

Be careful: For actual plank thickness, you’re looking for measurements in mm. You’ll find a wide range here, with lower quality planks falling in the 4mm range and higher quality planks boasting 8mm or thicker. Vinyl plank manufacturers often display the wear layer thickness as opposed to the actual thickness of the plank. As most of these products ship from overseas, they reflect the metric measurement.

Consider if there will be a transition from your vinyl planks to another type of flooring. If so, you’ll need to keep that in mind when calculating the thickness of the planks. Awkward transitions between rooms will make your floors uneven and unattractive.

The next factor to consider is the wear layer.

How to Choose Vinyl Plank Flooring

What’s a Wear Layer?

The wear layer lies between the printed design and urethane finish. This layer is a key factor of how well your floors will hold up over time.

If the wear layer breaks down, the printed design will damage and fade. Better vinyl floors have wear layers that include a protective top coat. This coating often contains additives like ceramic or other substances to increase the hardness level of the planks.

During manufacturing, these substances need to bond to the flooring through the process of curation. If bonding isn’t performed correctly, the coating won’t be effective. Be sure to check your warranty for guidelines on manufacturer defects.

The level of wear on a vinyl plank is measured in mil (one thousandth of an inch). A mil is not the same as a millimeter, as roughly 40 mil equals 1.0 mm (39.4 mil to 1 mm, to be exact).

A thicker layer is more resistant to scratching and denting. Better quality flooring tends to have the highest wear layers but is more expensive. Building professionals tend to stick with a minimum of 12 mil for residential and 28 mil for commercial.

You should look for vinyl planks with a wear layer of at least 12 mil. If you have an active family or an assemblage of pets, consider buying 20 mil or higher. But even with a thicker wear layer, your floors may not last as long as you’d think. Other factors such as plank construction, installation and maintenance will play a critical role.

Cores and Bottom Layers

Some luxury vinyl planks have a solid wood plastic composite core or WPC. WPC does not contain actual wood. Instead, it’s made up of wood flour fused with thermoplastic and calcium carbonates. This type of flooring is free of phthalates and safer for your family.

Planks with a rigid center allow for increased durability and better stability. Solid cores are water resistant and mask minor imperfections in the subflooring, making them a better choice when installing over an existing floor.

The backing or bottom may include corking or other soundproofing material. These layers provide underfoot cushioning. The thicker it is, the more comfortable it will be to stand on.

Some planks have attached underlayment for sound reduction and better heat retention. It’s especially useful in second-floor applications. However, not all vinyl planks come with an underlayment backing.

Many popular brands use bottom layers made of recyclable materials. While environmentally friendly, these backings have been shown to break down quicker.

Do You Need Residential or Commercial?

Another important consideration is the rating. Is it rated for residential or commercial traffic? Both have the same maintenance requirements, but planks appropriate for business settings can hold up to excessive use.

It’s helpful to compare the commercial warranty with the residential. An extended industrial warranty usually signifies a thicker wear layer.

Flooring manufacturers tend to err on the side of caution with commercial customers. By underrating the vinyl plank’s life expectancy, companies avoid costly warranty claims.

In contrast, residential flooring is expected to withstand less abuse over a longer period. If the plank in your home needs to hold up to rolling loads, exposure to grease or extreme use: you should consider the commercial grade rating as a better indicator of how long your vinyl planks will last

Final Considerations

When shopping for vinyl plank; look at the warranty, core construction, wear level, and attached underlayment before making a final decision. Planks with added cushioning are warmer and quieter. Some products also feature built-in vapor barriers within the underlayment.

If your flooring doesn’t include it, you can add an underlayment during installation. On the same token, never add a second layer of padding. If you do, your planks will eventually shift.

If durability is your primary concern, look for vinyl planks with the highest wear layers. Your retailer should provide you with documentation detailing these features.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that more expensive flooring is always the better choice. While that is often the case, sometimes you are paying for the name, not necessarily the quality. Be sure to confirm the product is health compliant and carries safety certifications.

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